Shoulder Strengthening Exercises

The following shoulder strengthening exercises are designed to improve the strength of the muscles of the shoulder. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Begin with the basic shoulder strengthening exercises. Once these are too easy, add the intermediate shoulder strengthening exercises. As your strength improves, the advanced exercises can then be added to the intermediate program.

 

Shoulder Strengthening – Basic Exercises

To begin with, the following basic shoulder strengthening exercises should be performed approximately 3 times daily. As your shoulder strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, frequency or duration of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze
 
Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise standing or sitting with your back straight. Your chin should be tucked in slightly and your shoulders should be back slightly. Slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together as hard and far as possible provided it is pain free (figure 1). Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.

 


Shoulder Blade Shrug 
Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise standing with your back and neck straight. Your arm should be at your side, slightly away from your body with your palm facing forwards as demonstrated. Slowly elevate your shoulder blade towards your ear as far as possible provided it is pain free (figure 2). Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times on each side.

 

 

Shoulder Blades Forwards Against Wall 
Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise standing with your back and neck straight and your hands against the wall as shown (figure 3). Your shoulder blades should be squeezed together fully in this position, your elbows straight and you should be leaning into the wall slightly. Keeping your back straight, slowly bring your shoulder blades forward allowing your arms to lengthen. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times provided it is pain free.

 

 

Static Rotator Cuff Contraction 
Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise standing with your back and neck straight and your shoulders back slightly. Keeping your elbow at your side and bent to 90 degrees, push your hand out against the other hands resistance as hard as possible provided it is pain free (figure 4). Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times on each arm.

 

 

Shoulder Strengthening – Intermediate Exercises

The following intermediate shoulder strengthening exercises should generally be performed 1 - 3 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Ideally they should not be performed on consecutive days, to allow muscle recovery. As your shoulder strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, number of sets or resistance of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

External Rotation vs Resistance Band 
Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise standing with your back straight, shoulder blades back slightly and holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 5). Keeping your elbow at your side and bent to 90 degrees, slowly move your hand away from your body keeping your shoulder blade still. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions as far as possible provided it is pain free on each side.

 


Internal Rotation vs Resistance Band 
Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise standing with your back straight, shoulder blades back slightly and holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 6). Keeping your elbow at your side and bent to 90 degrees, slowly move your hand towards your body keeping your shoulder blade still. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions as far as possible provided it is pain free on each side.

 

 

Pull Backs vs Resistance Band 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise in standing or kneeling with your back straight and holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 7). Slowly pull your arms backwards, squeezing your shoulder blades together as demonstrated. Hold for 2 seconds and return to the start position. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided it is pain free.

 

 


Pull Downs vs Resistance Band 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise in standing or kneeling with your back straight and holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 8). Keeping your back and elbows straight, slowly pull the resistance band to your hips as demonstrated. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided it does not cause or increase symptoms.

 

 

Adduction vs Resistance Band 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise in standing or kneeling with your back straight and holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 9). Keeping your back and elbows straight, slowly pull the resistance band to your hip as demonstrated. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided it is pain free on each side.

 

 


Forwards Elevation vs Resistance Band 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise standing with your back straight, holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 10). Slowly raise your arm to the level of your shoulder, keeping your arm and back straight as demonstrated. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided it is pain free.

 

 

 

Side Elevation vs Resistance Band 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise standing with your back straight, holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 11). Slowly raise your arm to side, level with your shoulder, keeping your arm and back straight as demonstrated. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided it is pain free.

 

 

Push Ups 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise in the push up position as demonstrated (figure 12). Keeping your back and neck straight, slowly straighten your elbows until they are straight, then return to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided it is pain free. This exercise can be performed on knees if too difficult.

 

 

Shoulder Strengthening – Advanced Exercises

The following advanced shoulder strengthening exercises should generally be performed 1 - 3 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Ideally they should not be performed on consecutive days, to allow muscle recovery. As your shoulder strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, number of sets or resistance of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

 

External Rotation at 90 Degrees vs Resistance Band 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise standing with your back straight, shoulder blades back slightly, arm side elevated to 90 degrees and holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 13). Keeping your elbow bent to 90 degrees, slowly move your hand backwards against the resistance band keeping your shoulder blade and elbow still. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions as far as possible provided it is pain free on each side.

 

Internal Rotation at 90 Degrees vs Resistance Band 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise standing with your back straight, shoulder blades back slightly, arm side elevated to 90 degrees and holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 14). Keeping your elbow bent to 90 degrees, slowly move your hand down and forwards against the resistance band keeping your shoulder blade and elbow still. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions as far as possible provided it is pain free on each side.

 

Dumbell Press on Swiss Ball 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise holding light weights and lying on a Swiss ball as demonstrated (figure 15). Keeping your back straight and the Swiss ball still, slowly straighten your elbows and then return to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided it is pain free.

 

 


Shoulder Press on Swiss Ball 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise holding light weights and sitting on a Swiss ball as demonstrated (figure 16). Keeping your back straight and the Swiss ball still, slowly straighten your elbows and then return to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided it is pain free.

 

 

Seated Row 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise sitting on a seated row machine with your back and neck straight as demonstrated (figure 17). Slowly pull the handle towards your chest, bringing your elbows backwards and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided it is pain free.

 

 


Lat Pulldown 

Begin this shoulder strengthening exercise sitting on a lat pulldown machine with your back and neck straight as demonstrated (figure 18). Slowly pull the bar down towards your chest, bringing your elbows to your side as shown. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided it is pain free.