November 3, 2022
Author: Shelby
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  • Star Exercise of the Week: Shoulder Flexion Using Pulleys

We’re visiting one of the classic tools used on RangeMaster: the pulleys

Pulleys promote what is called active assisted range of motion. This is the phase of training between passive range of motion (where the muscles are in a more relaxed state with an outside force moving you through the range) and active range of motion (the muscles are actively moving you through the range on their own). 

Many times, when recovering from a shoulder injury or surgery, the ability to move the arm a certain height or direction is limited due to pain and tightness. The range of motion is restricted.

In order to regain full functional use of the arm, the best sequencing in the rehab process is achieving full passive range of motion -> active assisted range of motion -> active range of motion.

Today, we’ll be focusing on practicing shoulder flexion using the pulleys.

Should flexion is a sagittal plane motion, but often can be confused with abduction (a frontal plane motion) and scaption (a diagonal angle between flexion and abduction).

This is a necessary motion for reaching overhead.

Now that we know what we’re doing, let’s go!


Step 1: Starting Position:

  • While you could technically situate your chair a couple different ways with the pulleys, for simplicity’s sake, I would recommend sitting with your back against the door the pulley is attached to.
  • While seated, make sure you’re sitting nice and tall.
  • Squeeze the shoulder blades down and back to active a good posture.
  • Hold the pulley handles so that the palms are facing each other.
  • The elbows should be tucked in and the shoulders down.


Step 2: The Motion:

  • The arm not needing the stretch will pull directly down on the pulley strap, which will then lift the working arm up directly up towards the ceiling.
  • Don’t try to go as far as possible right away, especially if you’re still experiencing shoulder pain. Ease your way into the motion. 
  • Every time you go back up, see if you can push your range a little further.
  • Do NOT push into an increasingly painful range. It’s okay if the range is a little uncomfortable, but we’re trying to avoid making pain worse.
  • Each time you raise the arm, hold the top of the stretch for 5 seconds, then slowly return to your starting position. 
  • Repeat 10x, rest, then perform a second set.


The pulleys are a great tool to gently re-introduce an active muscle contraction during functional motions.

Remember, it’s called active ASSISTED range of motion. Feel free to play with how much assistance you’re actually giving the healing arm. Maybe you start with 75% assistance (the helping arm gives 75% effort while the injured arm does 25%), and gradually increase the amount of effort given by the injured arm over time, as tolerated.

Feel free to check out the Shoulder Pulleys Guide on the RangeMasterU site for further info!


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About the Author Shelby

Shelby Green is a Florida-licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), currently practicing at St. Anthony’s Resource Center Outpatient Rehabilitation in St. Petersburg, FL. Shelby received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of South Florida, followed by her DPT from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Shelby has 6 years clinical experience practicing in both the acute care and outpatient rehab settings. Specialties include orthopedics, with additional training in specific manual therapy techniques for pain management, as well as extensive training as a Certified Lymphedema Therapist.

Shelby is a Tampa, FL native, which is where she and her husband currently reside. Their favorite activities include spending time with family and anything outdoors, such as walking, bike riding, and going to the beach.

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