Best Exercises for Shoulder Pain


Fun fact: Did you know the shoulder is the most movable joint in the human body?  

It is a literal ball and socket joint, allowing for the wide range of motion, strength and stability you rely on to perform daily activities:

  • Getting dressed (unless you prefer nudity)

  • Driving + putting on your seatbelt

  • Reaching + grabbing stuff from the pantry shelf

  • Pulling weeds + raking leaves

  • Playing catch with your kids/grandkids

  • Exercising

  • Doing the “staying alive” dance when that Saturday night fever hits!

Basically, anything you are using your arms for requires use of the shoulder.  And, because of this increased mobility, shoulder pain and injuries are extremely common, accounting for nearly 20% of visits to the doctor!

Shoulder pain and injuries may be caused by exercising with improper form, overuse injuries, age, or trauma.

Whatever the root cause, it can definitely make all those simple daily tasks such as driving, combing your hair or even sleeping become painful.

If you have a shoulder injury, deal with chronic shoulder issues or occasionally suffer from shoulder pain, this blog is for you so that you can get back to living pain with full range of motion and movement!

Here’s what you are going to learn:

  • Common causes + how to reduce your risk(s)

  • How exercise improves shoulder health + alleviates pain

  • Best exercises for strengthening shoulders


There are many underlying factors when it comes to understanding shoulder pain. First, let’s talk about medical causes:

  • Arthritis: inflammation or degeneration of one or more joints.

  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Tear: the most common cause of shoulder pain occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles get trapped under the bony area of the shoulder; causing the tendons to become inflamed, damaged or worst case, resulting in a tear.

  • Overuse Injury: damage to bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons as a result of repetitive use/stress.

  • Poor Shoulder Posture/Mechanics: can lead to the shoulder tendons becoming pinched and rubbing against the bony structures of the shoulder.

  • Frozen Shoulder: when the muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments of the shoulder become stiff making movement difficult or painful

  • Bursitis: inflammation of the fluid filled sac (bursa) that protects the joint and helps it to move smoothly.

  • Bone Spurs: bony projections along the bones edges that form over a long period of time as we age.

  • Broken Shoulder Bone: caused by trauma or degeneration.

  • Dislocation of the shoulder: caused by trauma or injury.

  • Shoulder Separation: caused by trauma or injury.

There are also several lifestyle factors:

  • Computer work/desk jobs: any job requiring extended time hunched over a computer/desk can lead to poor posture/body mechanics. Poor posture is a silent, underlying contributor to so much of the chronic pain we experience. Creating a space that is ergonomically friendly is very important and prevents our shoulders from rounding forward and our bodies to cave inward.

  • Handheld technology use: spending endless hours hunched over your phone/tablet contributes to poor posture and you guess it, shoulder pain.

  • Lifting weights with improper form: repetitive, weighted shoulder movements with bad form can cause tendon injury and strain. This is exactly why we always recommend working with our team of certified coaches or other trainers when strength training. If you are doing any exercise wrong, you put yourself at risk for injury.

  • Prolonged driving: driving posture and the way you sit in the car can contribute to back, neck and shoulder pain because your body is fixed in the same position, sometimes for hours on end.


It’s no secret you rely on and use your shoulders for just about everything, and exactly why shoulder health is so important. Chronic shoulder pain is often the direct result of weakened muscles, overcompensating (not using the proper muscles) and poor posture.

And, if you aren’t training and using these muscles regularly, they become weak and performing daily tasks becomes hard!

How do you go about strengthening those muscles? Strength training of course!

Strength training is the most effective type of exercise to alleviate aches and pains because it strengthens the various muscle groups you depend on and need to perform everyday tasks. IF your shoulders are (currently) functioning as they should, all the more reason to be proactive in caring for them!

Benefits of proper strength training to improve shoulder health:

  • Improves posture by pulling shoulder blades down and from the ears and back towards the spine so they sit properly on backside of the rib cage. This takes unnecessary stress off your shoulder joint, neck, and low back.

  • Strengthens muscles around the shoulder joint to create more stability, power and better range of motion. When training, it’s important to pick the proper exercise, pain free range of motion and weights/resistance that allow for a wide variety of movement.

  • Makes life PAIN FREE: you literally use your shoulders every day so why not enhance their function and performance (while reducing pain) so they last longer and you can continue doing what you love?

    For example, getting up and down off the floor, throwing a ball, fishing, painting, paddle boarding, playing with kids, carrying groceries, etc. If you want to continue being active shoulder health is crucial!!


Strengthening the muscles that surround your shoulder increases shoulder stability and mobility and reduces chronic pain. Below are our top 5 recommend shoulder exercises to strengthen the shoulder. You definitely want to add these exercises to your workout routine starting now!

(PS….these exercises are exactly what you perform here at Results Fitness while always working with a coach to prevent, manage and ease the pain):

1. Horizontal Rows: This exercise allows the head of the humerus to remain neutral as you move shoulders away from the middle of the body and strengthens the muscles around the shoulder blade.  This reducing stress on the front of the shoulder and neck while preparing and protecting the shoulder complex for strength training and activities that cause stress to the shoulder joint.

Rows can be performed using a resistance band or weights (barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, cable machine) and focuses on moving the shoulders away from the middle of your body without compensating with the upper traps.

2. Dumbbell Floor Press: If you have shoulder pain or discomfort, this exercise targets the chest, triceps and anterior shoulder muscles to improve strength imbalances on each side. The floor press also allows you the capacity to change the angle of the shoulder and wrist during your lift to help reduce pain while strengthening the shoulder joint.

The dumbbell floor press is performed by laying on your back, pressing weights up and then lowering back down. Laying on the ground versus a bench reduces the tendency of our shoulders to get too low which can cause too much external rotation of the shoulder leading to pain.

3. External Rotation with a Band or Dumbbell: External rotation targets the infraspinatus muscle, one of the most important muscles of the rotator cuff. The infraspinatus’ main job is to rotate the humerus (long upper arm bone) away from the body.

During exercise and life in general, you do lots of movements that place an external load on our shoulder joints (i.e. blow drying your hair, reaching across to buckle your seatbelt, grabbing stuff from the back seat).  Strengthening the infraspinatus using external rotation exercise improves performance and prevent injury, especially when lifting overhead.

4.Front Raise with a Band or Dumbbell:  How many times per day do you lift something up? The lateral raise mimics this everyday movement by adding a small amount of resistance and specifically targeting the anterior deltoid muscle (muscle in the front of our shoulder) responsible for shoulder flexion (i.e. raising your hand up away from your body).

Strong shoulder muscles are required to lift objects safely and pain free and this exercise mimics daily life activities such as putting groceries on the counter or putting objects onto shelves at about shoulder height and is also incorporated into most physical therapy routines following a shoulder injury or surgery.

A front raise is performed by holding a weight in each hand, raising both arms to chest height and then lowering back down to your upper thigh.

5. Lateral Raise with a Dumbbell: Similar to the front raise expect you are raising the weights laterally at your side. Start by holding a weight in each hand palms facing down and raise the weights to shoulder height and then lowering back to your side.

Specifically targeting these muscles ensures joint stability and prevents injury.  Incorporating lateral raises into your strength training routine guarantees you are hitting all sides of the shoulder allowing for a stronger, healthier joint.

The lateral raise specifically targets the lateral deltoid muscle (muscle on the side of your shoulder), which is responsible for shoulder abduction (moving your arms out and away from the sides of your body forming the letter “T”. )


Now that you’re considering strength training to help reduce and prevent shoulder pain, here are a few do’s and don’ts for getting started today:

  • Listen to your body!  If your shoulder becomes sore during any activity, DON’T ignore it.  Trying to push your way through or “tough it out” may only make it worse. If the pain doesn’t subside or worsens once you take a break from the said activity, you may need to consult a doctor.

  • Watch how you move/sit during work.  Check your posture while at work, whether you’re sitting or standing.  If you sit at a desk all day, make sure your workstation is set up to allow for proper joint alignment and posture.  Take breaks every hour to get up, move around and stretch.  If your job requires lifting, be sure to incorporate proper lifting techniques using your legs keeping your back straight.

  • Don’t strain to reach for what you need.  Straining and overreaching can cause undue stress on the shoulder.  Use a stepstool or move objects to lower drawers/cabinets as needed.

  • Check your sleeping routine.  If you sleep on your right or left side and experience shoulder pain on that side, flip to the other side or sleep on your back.  Using a pillow to help prop up the shoulder is also helpful in reducing pain.

  • Increase your shoulder strength.  Come work with the RF coaches or other trainer to ensure you are exercising and using weights the right way with proper form.  Be sure to warm up prior to any strength training routine and start slowly! Avoid lilting too much all at once.

  • Rest and recover.  If you do injure your shoulder, take time to rest and recover.  At the same time don’t limit all shoulder movement.  Incorporate gentle stretches and mobility to keep your arm moving without overdoing it, in your pain-free range of motion.

Share the love:


More from our blog:

Scroll to Top

Fill out the form now and a friendly member of our team will be in touch!