The Best Shoulder Exercises You're Not Doing

Keep your shoulders strong and healthy with these exercises.

The shoulder is a complicated joint. Many muscles must fire correctly and work together to stabilize movement through a full range of motion. If the setup doesn't work properly, you'll end up living in pain or worse—getting seriously injured.

The good news is there are some great exercises you can add to your training plan that will eliminate shoulder dysfunction and help you move and live without pain. The following are some of the methods we use at our New York Sports Performance Gym. Scatter them into your training program, and you will feel the results within weeks.

RELATED: The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

Rhythmic Stabilization and Perturbation Exercises

These exercises will stabilize your shoulder in the socket by increasing the functional strength and endurance of the rotator cuff muscles. They also increase the muscles' ability to unconsciously react to sudden and unexpected forces.

They can be done with a partner, or alone if you have the correct tools.

With a Partner:

Shoulder Perturbation

Grab a swiss ball. Stand tall in front of a wall and pin the ball against the wall using a straight arm. Your goal throughout the exercise is to keep the ball in one spot. Don't let it move. Your partner stands next to you and taps the ball, moving it in different, random directions. Resist all movement.

Stability Bench Press

Buy a PVC pipe from the local hardware store. Use tape to make markers on the pipe to ensure your grip is even. Hang kettlebells or plates from the bar using 41-inch resistance bands. Now bench press. The instability of the bar will force you to fire up stabilizers in your rotator cuff and teach you how to stay tight while moving through a full range of movement.

RELATED: 7 Exercises That Safely Build Shoulder Strength


Grip Ripper

This is a self rhythmic stabilization device that serves the same purpose as the previous two exercises but has numerous advantages over both. The design and size of the grip ripper allows you to train stabilizers through multiple planes of movement while oscillating, meaning all angles and while moving. Plus, you can take the device anywhere and use it any time. Below are some of the exercises you can perform with this baseball training device.

Strength Exercises

Any strength exercise in which you hold heavy weights will activate stabilizers in your shoulders. Two movements that give you the most bang for your buck are the Swiss Bar Bench Press and the Deadlift.

Swiss Bar Bench Press

The swiss bar puts you in a shoulder-friendly pressing position, and the design of the bar forces you to activate more stabilizers to keep the bar in the correct pressing position.

Start by sitting on the edge of the bench with your feet flat on the ground. Lie back and grab the bar. Pull your shoulder blades down and back and create an arch in your upper back. Take a deep breath, filling your abdomen with air and pushing out the muscles of your core. Squeeze the bar as hard as possible and unpack it. Don't lose your scap position. Find a good starting position over your lower chest. Control the bar down as you lower it to your chest. After it touches your chest, explode the bar off your chest by driving your feet into the ground and trying to push your body away from the bar. Do not lose your scap position at the top of the movement.Your scaps should remain down and back throughout.



Load a barbell on the floor with appropriate weight. Stand over barbell so that when you look down, the bow in your shoelaces is directly under the bar. Take a deep breath, filling your abdomen with air and pushing out the muscles of your core. Keeping your back flat, bend over and grab the bar. Pull back on the bar, applying as much tension as possible without lifting it off the floor. Start to pull the bar off the floor until it hits your kneecaps then push away from the ground until you lock out at the top. Lower the weight and repeat.

RELATED: How to Improve Shoulder Strength and Flexibility

Shoulder Mobility Exercises

As described by top strength coach Eric Cressey, the four exercises shown in the above video mobilize your shoulders, allowing you to move through a full range of motion without compensation throughout the rest of your body.

To get quick results, try them.

Exercises To Avoid If You're Already In Pain

Back Squats and Straight Bar Bench Press

These exercises are a staple in most training programs; however, if you have shoulder dysfunction, they could be aggravating and add to the problem. The Bench Press rotates your shoulders internally; the Back Squat, externally. Swap out these exercises and replace them with alternatives until your muscles are balanced and pain is gone.

Substitutes for Back Squats include Front Squats, Goblet Squats, Safety Bar Squats and Trap Bar Deadlifts.

Substitutes for Bench Press include Swiss Bar Press, Dumbbell Presses and Push-Ups.

Speed/ Power Exercises

Performing speed or power exercises like the Dynamic Bench Press, Med Ball Throws, plyometric exercises or any throwing exercises put you at high risk for shoulder injury. Before you include these exercises and modalities in your training program, correct all imbalances using the methods described above.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock