3 Best Shoulder Exercises

By: Ehren Allen, DPT, COMT

3 Best Shoulder Exercises Everyone Should Do

There are lots of exercises for the shoulder.  Some are good, some are bad.  But, here are 3 exercises that almost everyone can do that can help to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder and the muscles around it. They can help you avoid shoulder pain.

  1. Bent Over Rows
  2. Side-lying External Rotation
  3. Lateral Raises (in the plane of the scapula)

To learn more about the shoulder, please read this article about a separated shoulder or AC Joint Sprain.

Image of an animated man showing the muscles of the shoulderMuscles of the Shoulder.

Why Shoulder You Do 3 Best Shoulder Exercises?

The quick answer is that doing shoulder exercises helps to keep your shoulders healthy.  The shoulder is a complex set of joints that require tiny muscle and large muscle to fire in sequence to work properly.  It is important to work the smaller rotator cuff muscles and the larger shoulder muscle.  

Do I Need to Workout My Shoulder Blade Muscles?

The quick answer is yes, you should exercise the muscles around the shoulder blade or scapula. The socket of the shoulder joint is at the end of the scapula bone. The 3 best Shoulder exercises include strength exercises for the muscles around the shoulder blade can help to position the shoulder for better function. 

Exercise for the shoulder blade muscles also help to position the neck for better function. 

How To Do The 3 Best Shoulder Exercises

These 3 exercises can help with:

  • Large shoulder muscles
  • Shoulder blade muscles
  • Small rotator cuff muscles

1. Lateral Raises with Thumbs Up

Start with the arms by the side. Choose a weight that you can lift 12x in a set. Keep hand in the thumbs up position. Raise the weights with arms straight to shoulder level. The arms should be halfway between forward and out to the side (about a 45 degree angle).  Repeat 10 to 12X for 3 sets. 

Woman in Starting position for lateral raises with thumbs upStarting position for lateral raises with thumbs up

Woman in End position for lateral raises with thumbs upEnd position for lateral raises with thumbs up

2. Bent Over Rows

Lean forward and rest your arm on a surface.  Pull the arm up with the elbow bent.  Repeat 10 to 12X for 3 sets. 

Woman in Starting position for bent over rowStarting position for bent over row

Woman in End position for bent over rowEnd position for bent over row

3. Side-lying External Rotation

Lay on your side with the elbow bent to 90 degrees. Use a weight that you can lift 12 x in a row.  Raise the weight by rotating the shoulder but keep the elbow bent to 90 degrees.  Repeat 10 to 12X for 3 sets. 

Woman starting position side-lying external rotationStarting position for Side-lying External Rotation

Woman in end position for Side-lying external rotationEnd Position for side-lying external rotation

Doing the 3 best shoulder exercises can help protect your shoulder from injury.  They can also help you to progress better with more advanced shoulder exercises. 

Range Of Motion Exercises

Here are some good shoulder range of motion exercises for the shoulder.

Top 5 Worst Exercises for the Shoulder

There are tons of shoulder exercises out there. But there are definitely some that you should avoid.  Certain positions and exercises can increase your risk for a rotator cuff injury. Read this article from The Jacksonville Orthopaedic institute: Top 5 Worst Shoulder Exercises

Also if you have recently had a shoulder surgery watch our video on How to Properly Put on an UltraSling 4 or Dressing the Upper Body After an Injury or Surgery

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