The 3 Best Types of Shoulder Exercises To Reduce Pain

What you will learn:

What are the best shoulder exercises to reduce pain?

It’s very rare these days to meet someone that has not suffered shoulder pain. We spend a lot of time at the desk and we simply aren’t as active or as strong as we used to be. Knowing what shoulder exercises to do to reduce shoulder pain can be tricky. But here are three types of shoulder exercises you should be doing and some good rules of thumb when it comes to maintaining healthy shoulders and reducing shoulder pain.

Before looking at shoulder exercises and training, make sure you pass something like the shoulder impingement clearing tests in my 10 Step Self Screen at a minimum because knowing if there are any potential risks or injuries is the critical first step when planning any training program.

The Best Shoulder Mobility Exercises

These type of shoulder exercises are designed to increase or reestablish range of motion and shoulder mobility. They are particularly useful to offset all the hours at the desk and to prepare us for activity.

As the video shows there’s a vast array of shoulder mobility exercises you can do such as:

  • Rib grab and reaches
  • Quadruped rotations
  • Kettlebell halos

Shoulder mobility exercises can be anything that improves thoracic or glenohumeral joint mobility. Completing these after you complete the relevant trigger point work will give the best effect.

Starting in regressional patterns such as quadruped and tall kneeling also help with mobility and stability before you move back to standing.

Shoulder stability exercises

Shoulder stability exercises are probably one of the most overlooked types of shoulder exercises when it comes to shoulder health. Once we have mobilised the shoulder we will then need to add the relevant stability to the joint to allow us to perform.

Shoulder stability exercises should challenge scapula, rotator cuff and/or glenohumeral stability in both horizontal and vertical planes. My favourite shoulder stability exercises are the:

  • The arm bar
  • Banded face pull and;
  • Batwing row

These will help recruit those stubborn muscles of the thoracic (rhomboids and lower traps) after long days at the desk.

Shoulder integration exercises

Once we’ve mobilised and stabilised and we’re ready to start integrating more advanced movements and we can shift outside of traditional barbell shoulder exercises by;

  1. Loading a single side with a dumbbell or kettlebell or;
  2. Starting in a developmental stance e.g. half or tall kneeling

This is a great way to challenge the body, fire up the central nervous and challenge trunk stability. Shoulder exercises such as the bottoms up press, half kneeling press and renegade row are great options here.

How many reps of these shoulder exercises should I do?

Finally, let’s talk about ratios. In order to maintain healthy shoulders, it’s important to utilise horizontal pulling movements more than push movements. This includes vertical pulling as it has a strong emphasis on internal rotation of the shoulder by using the lats. Be sure to maintain a minimum of 2:1, that’s two horizontal pulls to every push (and vertical pull).

What shoulder exercises should I avoid?

As you can see there are a lot of options when it comes to shoulder exercises, but if you’re choosing the best bang for your buck and keeping your push/pull ratio in order there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t build strong, healthy shoulders.

Remember to follow the mobilise, stabilise and integrate approach along the way and stay away from anything that causes you pain. If you’re someone who has had dislocations, bursitis or other shoulder injuries be sure to consult an adequately qualified professional before starting any shoulder strength program.

The best shoulder exercises put into a workout

Complete the sequence below for 2-3 rounds. Use as little rest as possible and add more rounds if required:

10 Kettlebell Halo e/s
60sec Wrist Mobility (Extension or Flexion)
15 Kettlebell or Dumbbell Pullovers


15 Batwing Rows or Lunge Rows
15 Floor Press e/s

Swap floor press for half/tall kneeling press or single arm bench press.

Once completed you can test movements such as your clearing tests to assess the impact of the session.

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