How should I do the arm-slides exercise?

Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy
The arm slides exercise restores normal biomechanics and strengthens key muscles involved in rotating, elevating, and stabilizing your shoulder blades. I sometimes begin this as a single-arm exercise to help focus on one arm at a time. I've broken it down into a movement phase and a strengthening phase. Begin strengthening only after you have mastered the movement.

For the movement phase:

Stand a few inches from the wall, so you can comfortably place your elbows and the pinky sides of your hands on the wall. Be sure your neck is not extended but is instead lengthened at the base of the skull.

Slide your hands up the wall into a diagonal direction away from you, creating a "V" shape. When your elbows are level with your shoulders, shrug your shoulders up to assist in elevating your scapulae (shoulder blades). If you have difficulty knowing whether the upper trapezius muscle (located between shoulder and neck) is working, tap it with your other hand to see whether it is firm from contracting and to help develop your awareness of this muscle. Continue shrugging your shoulders as your arms slide up. Remember, a large part of fixing the shoulder blade is that it must rotate approximately 60 degrees and abduct while the arm is raising. Visualize your scapulae rotating under your arms as they rise -- in effect supporting your arms in the overhead position. Stop before you feel any pain, and hold for 5 breaths. Slide your arms down while continuing to shrug your shoulders up toward your ears. This activates and strengthens lengthened or weak upper trapezius muscles. Once your elbows have slid down to about shoulder height again, you can begin to relax your shoulder blades by slowly releasing the shrug. Perform 5-10 repetitions. Your arms should be pain free and able to fully slide up the wall with elevated scapulae.

For the strengthening phase:

Once your arms are fully elevated, squeeze your scapulae together to lift your hands off the wall by only 1/4 to 1/2 inch -- more is not better. Be sure to use your scapulae to lift your hands off as opposed to your shoulder muscles. Lifting with the shoulder muscles may cause pain in the shoulders, whereas squeezing the scapulae together should not.
Fixing You: Neck Pain & Headaches: Self-Treatment for healing Neck pain and headaches due to Bulging Disks, Degenerative Disks, and other diagnoses.

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Fixing You: Neck Pain & Headaches: Self-Treatment for healing Neck pain and headaches due to Bulging Disks, Degenerative Disks, and other diagnoses.

There are two major muscles connecting the shoulder blade to the head and neck. Because the shoulder system isn't working well, continual stress is placed on the head and neck creating...

Starting Position:

Stand against a wall with a tall posture. Your gluteals, shoulders and head should be touching the wall. Your feet are out from the wall slightly. Your arms should out to your sides at shoulder height. Your elbows are bent 90 degrees. The back of your arms and hands and shoulder blades are touching the wall. Draw-in your abdominals by pulling in your navel towards your spine.


Lift your arms overhead while keeping your shoulder blades and arms touching the wall. Do not allow your shoulders to shrug towards your ears, your low-back to arch, or your arms to lift off the wall. Return to the starting to position and repeat for 10 repetitions.

When performing biceps curls proper posture is essential to limit injury risk. Stand with your abdominals draw-in and your shoulder blades back and down. Imagine pulling your shoulder blades into your back pockets. Next, raise the dumbbells to shoulder height by flexing your elbows. If you need to create momentum, arch your lower back, or shrug your shoulders to lift the dumbbell, then the weight is too heavy.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.