Coordination Exercises for Upper Extremities

Hispanic man juggling at beach

Coordination involves the synchronization of your muscles to produce particular movements, ranging from tapping a balloon into the air to a complex balletic sequence or martial arts form. While basic coordination relies on the use of your eyes and ears, more advanced types of coordination depend on your body's proprioceptors, which act as an internal gyroscope sensing your body's location in space. By performing coordination exercises for your upper extremities, you can improve the dexterity of your hands, arms and shoulders in various movements.

Working Left and Right

Performing different movements with the right and left arms can improve coordination and develop your non-dominant side. When you were a kid, think of the exercise in which you patted your head with one hand and rubbed your belly with the other hand. For example, begin a shoulder rotation exercise by standing with your feet hip width apart. Extend your arms in front of you with palms facing each other. While slowly rotating one arm clockwise, rotate the other arm counterclockwise. Make full circles with your arms, opening up your shoulder joints. Repeat the exercise, reversing the direction of each arm.


A spiraling exercise in which you move an object from one point to another in a rotating path -- figure-eight or corkscrew -- requires that you coordinate the joints in your upper extremities through more than a one axis of movement or plane of motion. For example, begin by standing and holding a medium-sized rubber ball in your right hand with palm facing down. Draw the ball to your armpit, raising your elbow to your side until your shoulder rises to your ear. Turn your fist clockwise and raise the ball overhead. At the peak position, the ball should sit in the palm of your hand with your fingers pointing behind you as if you're holding a tray. Return to starting position by reversing the spiralling movement. Perform eight to 12 reps and then repeat the exercise with your left arm.

Playing With a Balloon

Tapping, catching and passing a balloon overhead can help you to work on upper-extremity coordination and also boost core stability. For example, sit erect on the edge of a chair, holding a balloon with your right hand by your right shoulder. Exhale and extend your right arm to the ceiling, centering the balloon over the top of your head. Lifting your left arm overhead, pass the balloon from your right hand to your left. Draw the balloon to your left shoulder to complete the exercise. Inhale and repeat the exercise, passing the balloon from left to right. Perform 10 passes, reversing direction on each pass. Also tap the balloon from a seated position and to catch it with both hands. Repeat the catches six to eight times, progressing to 12 reps.

Using a Noodle

Because your center of buoyancy and center of gravity constantly change in water, aqua exercises with a pool noodle will hone coordination and balance. Stand in chest-deep water with feet shoulder width apart. Place the noodle behind your back, holding it with both hands. Pull the noodle to your right side, using only your right hand and extending your right arm at chest level. Slowly return to starting position and then repeat the exercise to your left. A second exercise is to walk through chest-deep water with the noodle balanced vertically in your palm. To increase the difficulty, repeat the exercise but balance the noodle on your fingertips.