Closed-Chain Exercises for the Shoulder


Closed-chain exercises are generally used for rehabilitation of your shoulder after an injury. Also called closed kinetic-chain, this type of exercise focuses on movement patterns rather than isolated muscles, according to the Journal of Athletic Training. Based upon the fact that your body is composed of dynamic units, which work together, closed-chain exercises stimulate weak or injured tissue while protecting your joints. Your shoulder unit consists of your collar bone, or scapula, and your rotator cuff along with various tendons and ligaments. The sequential movement patterns of closed-chain exercises strengthen your shoulder musculature.


In closed-chain shoulder exercises your hand or hands remain in a fixed position while your body moves. Keeping your hand stationary stabilizes the supporting muscles of your shoulder without putting unwanted stress on the joint and its supporting connective tissue. This is why closed-chain exercises are ideal during the early rehab process.

Wall Exercises

Some closed-chain exercises are performed against a wall. One example of this is the scapular clock exercise. This is completed by standing sideways, arm's length from a wall. Extend your arm and press your palm flat against the wall. Point your fingers to the 8 o’clock position. Press firmly against the wall for 10 seconds, then move your fingers to the 9 o’clock position. Repeat this motion for every hour on the clock up to the 4 o’clock position. Hold the press for 10 seconds after each move. Keep your scapula drawn inward throughout the exercise.

The Plank

The plank and its many variations are good examples of closed-chain exercises that are completed on the floor. The plank is performed by getting down on your hands and knees. Extend your arms and press your palms into the floor. Straighten your legs, allowing only your toes to touch the floor. Keep your core tight to form a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold this position for approximately 30 seconds.

Stability Ball Exercise

The shoulder ball slap is a closed-chain shoulder exercise that requires a partner. Sit on a bench or on the floor with the ball next to you at arm’s length. Raise your arm to the side and place your palm firmly on top of the ball. Your partner slaps the ball in multiple directions. Continue to press down against the ball, trying to keep the ball stationary for 20 to 30 slaps. When choosing the size of your ball, keep in mind that your hand should be directly in line with your shoulder


Pushups and pushups-with-a-plus are also closed-chain exercises that strengthen your shoulders. Perform pushups with a plus by moving your hands close together on the floor. Push up and lower yourself down, allowing your shoulder blades to move close together and then apart. Do not lower yourself all the way to the floor. Working your shoulders is the focus of pushup with a plus. Work up to eight repetitions.