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7 Best Shoulder Workouts for Strength and Stability

Published: 12:10 pm, Thu April 4, 2024

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Strong and stable shoulders are essential for daily activities and peak athletic performance. They help with everything from lifting groceries to throwing a punch (hopefully not literally!). That's why you should add sshoulder worlouts in your routine.

The shoulder joint includes several muscles, and it's important to target all of these muscles in your workout routine.

In this post, we'll show you 7 shoulder exercises to incorporate into your routine, along with proper form instructions.

The Best Shoulder Workouts for Strength and Stability

Here are seven shoulder workouts for your strength and stability:

1. Barbell Overhead Press

The barbell overhead press is a classic and effective compound exercise that works multiple shoulder muscles simultaneously. You can perform it seated or standing.

Equipment: Barbell with appropriate weight plates

Steps:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged, and back straight.
  • Unrack the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Palms should face forward. Lift the barbell overhead until your arms are straight but not locked at the elbows.
  • Keep the bar close to your forehead.
  • Slowly lower the bar back down to shoulder level.
Barbell Overhead Press

2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The dumbbell shoulder press offers more freedom of movement than the barbell press, allowing for better individual shoulder engagement.

It’s great for you if you are just starting out or looking to improve imbalances.

Equipment: Dumbbells with appropriate weight

Steps:

  • Assume a seated or standing position with your feet at shoulder-width and your abdominal muscles tightened.
  • Grasp a dumbbell in each hand, raising them to shoulder level, ensuring your palms face forward.
  • Press the dumbbells straight overhead until your arms are almost straight (a slight bend at the elbow is okay). 
  • Lower the dumbbells back down to shoulder level in a controlled manner.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press

3. Lateral Raises

This workout isolates and strengthens the medial deltoids, the muscles on the sides of your shoulders that give them a rounded look.

Equipment: Dumbbells with appropriate weight or resistance bands 

Steps:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and core engaged. Hold a dumbbell in each hand (or resistance band under each foot if using one).
  • Maintain your arms in a straight position (without fully extending the elbows) and lift them outwards until they are shoulder-height.
  • Ensure your palms are facing downwards. Gradually lower the dumbbells back to your sides.

4. Rear Delt Flys

Rear Delt Flyes target the often-neglected posterior deltoids, the muscles in the back of your shoulders that contribute to good posture and rotator cuff health.

Equipment: Dumbbells with appropriate weight or resistance bands

Steps:

  • Stand with a slight forward bend (hinging at the hips) and knees slightly bent.
  • Then, hold a dumbbell in each hand (or resistance band under each foot if using one).
  • Maintain a flat back and engage your core muscles. Keep a slight bend in your elbows as you lift your arms backward and upward up to the level of your shoulders.
  • Palms should be facing each other.
  • Then, squeeze your back muscles at the top of the movement and slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

5. Face Pulls

Face Pulls are internal rotation movements that strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, which help stabilize the shoulder joint and prevent injuries.

Equipment: Cable machine with face pull attachment or resistance band

Steps:

  • Sit at a cable machine with a face pull attachment or stand on an anchor point for a resistance band.
  • Then, grab the handles with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  • Pull the handles towards your face, keeping your elbows close to your body. Imagine you're hugging yourself.
  • Then, squeeze your shoulder blades together at the end of the movement, slowly releasing the handles back to the starting position.
face pulls

6. External Rotations

These exercises counterbalance internal rotation movements and promote overall shoulder health by strengthening the external rotator muscles.

Equipment: You can use dumbbells, resistance bands, or external rotation machines.

Steps: You can perform this exercise seated or standing. 

  • Choose the option that feels most comfortable.
  • Hold a dumbbell resistance band, or position yourself at the external rotation machine.
  • Your arm should be bent at a 90-degree angle with your elbow resting on a bench or pad (if you’re sitting) or at your side (if you’re standing).
  • Rotate your forearm outward as comfortably as possible, keeping your upper arm still.
  • Slowly rotate your forearm back to the starting position.

7. Plank with Shoulder Taps

This bodyweight exercise strengthens your core while adding a shoulder stability challenge. In a plank position, alternate tapping your shoulders to the ground.

Equipment: Bodyweight 

Steps:

  • Get into a high plank position with your forearms on the ground, shoulders stacked over your elbows, and core engaged.
  • Your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
  • Maintaining a strong plank position, tap one shoulder to the ground at a time in a controlled manner.
  • Return your hand to the starting plank position and repeat with the other shoulder.
plank

The Shoulder Muscles

Shoulder muscles are essential for everyday tasks like reaching, lifting, and carrying. They're crucial for various professions and sports, from baseball players to physical therapists.

These muscles work together to move the bones of the shoulder joint smoothly and keep it stable.

Your shoulder is a complex joint involving three bones:

  • the upper arm bone
  • shoulder blade
  • collarbone

But several muscles are involved:

  • The rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulder but are prone to injury due to their location and frequent use.
  • The deltoid covers the shoulder and helps with different shoulder movements.
  • The trapezius, or "traps," helps move and stabilize the shoulder blades.
  • The levator scapulae lift the shoulder blades.
  • The rhomboids pull the shoulder blades together.
  • The serratus anterior rotates and stabilizes the shoulder blade against the ribcage.
  • The latissimus dorsi, although it seems like a back muscle, also plays a crucial role in shoulder function.

These muscles work together for a wide range of shoulder and arm motion. It's important to note that good posture and alignment are key for healthy shoulder movement, as poor posture can limit the range of motion and muscle strength.

Tips for Successful Shoulder Workouts

If you want to start working out, here are some important tips you should follow:

  • Start with lighter weights and gradually increase them as you get stronger. Prioritize achieving the correct form over increasing weights. Perform controlled movements with a full range of motion.
  • Incorporate a variety of exercises to target all the shoulder muscles. Listen to your body and take rest days when you need them.
  • These exercises can be incorporated into your upper body workout routine or as a dedicated shoulder workout.
  • Choose weights or resistance that challenge you for the desired number of repetitions (typically 8-12 reps for strength gains). As you get stronger, you can increase the weight or resistance to keep challenging your muscles.

These are just a few exercises that can help strengthen and stabilize your shoulders. Always choose exercises that are appropriate for your fitness level, and use the proper form to avoid injury.

If you have any existing shoulder injuries or limitations, consult a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program.

Wrapping Up

Are shoulder problems affecting your ability to work, sleep, or do the things you enjoy?  Our expert physicians and therapists at

Lancaster Orthopedic Group

can evaluate the problem and work with you to find the ideal treatment plan.

Contact us at 717-560-4200 to schedule an appointment to start your journey to healthy, pain-free shoulders!

Have questions as you prepare for your joint replacement surgery? Call our office

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