A woman facing to the left of the frame is working out her shoulders in a blue living room.

Shoulder Exercises At Home: Re-Build Strength

The shoulder (a mobile joint) is one of the most vulnerable joints in the human body. You can move it in almost any direction you please. But this also makes it one of the most susceptible joints to injury and pain.

A shoulder injury can quickly become a chronic and persistent problem. It can make reaching for objects up high difficult and it can wake you up at night or make falling asleep a problematic task.

Now, perhaps you’ve been struggling with persistent shoulder pain for quite some time. With the gyms closed and access to your regular rehabilitation, such as physio, less available, you’ve felt stuck. And persistent pain isn’t exactly a place you want to be stuck in.

Or maybe you think strengthening your shoulders is a good idea (which it absolutely is!). It’s an area you’ve never really focused on but you’ve decided to change things up.

Below, we’ve outlined the best shoulder exercises for those with chronic shoulder pain - all of which you can do within the comfort of your own home - and those without. We have shoulder exercises with equipment and without, along with modified variations.

It’s time to get rid of your pesky shoulder pain and say hello to a life where the pain isn’t holding you back.

Or perhaps it’s time to be proactive and strengthen your shoulders to prevent the possibility of future injury (and to tone up!).

So, what shoulder exercises should you be doing? Let’s take a look!

What Are The Best Exercises For Your Shoulders?

The exercises below should in no way replace the advice given to you by your physical therapist, doctor, or other health professional.

Further, if any of these shoulder exercises cause pain, try to only go to the point before pain. If the pain persists, do not continue with the exercise. This may be doing more harm than good.

With these things in mind, let’s go full-steam ahead.

Without Equipment

Here are some classics that you can do at home on a budget.

Exercise #1: Plank Taps

Plank taps are an easy and quick shoulder exercise that targets the major stabilization muscles in the shoulder. It will provide initial strength. It works on core and upper body strength and is a great beginner move for core stabilization. Plus, all you need is your own body to do it - no equipment necessary - and a space big enough to plank to perform it.

How To:

  1. Begin in a full plank. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders. And your body should form a straight line from your head to your toes.
  2. Tap your left shoulder with your right hand.
  3. Then, tap your right shoulder with your left hand.
  4. Continue to alternate sides for 10-12 repetitions.
  5. Perform at least 2-3 sets.

Exercise #2: Plank Pillars

This is another plank exercise that targets your shoulders. Pillar planks also strengthen your spine and abdominal muscles! Your body weight is a wonderful tool to strengthen this joint. And this exercise is harder than it sounds - trusts us, your shoulders will be burning!

How To:

  1. Begin in a full plank with your hands directly below your shoulders.
  2. Lower to one forearm, then the other.
  3. Go back up onto your hands.
  4. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions and perform 2-3 sets.

Exercise #3: Half Supermans

Half supermans work the posterior part of the shoulder. This can help recorrect posture by, again, preventing the shoulders from caving forward and preventing rounding of the back. It also tones up the posterior shoulder and upper back.

How To:

  1. Lay facedown on a comfortable surface.
  2. Place your arms out with your elbows bent to 90 degrees with your palms facing down.
  3. Gently lift your chin and chest up and off the ground, along with your arms.
  4. At the same time, pinch your shoulder blades down and back.
  5. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
  6. Repeat 10 times for 2-3 sets. Aim to perform this exercise every other day.

With Equipment

Guess what? You can still do these exercises without equipment. We suggest adding equipment or resistance as you go on to get the full benefits of this exercise.

Exercise #1: Overhead Shoulder Presses

Overhead shoulder presses are excellent for strengthening the deltoids, pecs, triceps, and trapezius muscles. You can use dumbbells, a barbell, or even a medicine ball. However, many individuals tend to do this exercise in a way that may cause shoulder impingement issues. Here’s how to do it right and gain strength!

How To:

  1. Begin sitting or standing tall.
  2. Hold a weight in your right hand (or start with no weight).
  3. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees at shoulder height. Your pinky should face forward to start.
  4. Slowly extend your arm straight up. As you do this, turn your palm to face forward (this will prevent impingement).
  5. Slowly lower your arm back down to the start and return to the pinky facing forward.
  6. Repeat 10-12 times per side and perform this 2-3 times every other day.

Exercise #2: Rows

Rows are a great exercise for the shoulders and upper back. Grab a resistance band (or standing with dumbbells) for this exercise, get in proper form, and get rowing.

How To:

  1. Begin sitting with the ends of the resistance band in each hand. Wrap the band around your feet.
  2. Start with your arms straight in front of you and a bit of tension in the band.
  3. Slowly pinch your shoulder blades down and back, and bend your elbows, bringing your arms back alongside your body.
  4. Pause, then straighten your arms.
  5. Repeat for 10-12 repetitions and 2-3 sets.

Exercise #3: Lateral Raise

The lateral raise targets the lateral deltoid, as well as muscles in the rotator cuff. You can also do this exercise forward for a more well-rounded shoulder program.

How To:

  1. Hold a weight in both hands. (You can also use a resistance band if you prefer.)
  2. Gently pinch your shoulder blades down and in, and bring your arms straight up out to your sides. Stop at shoulder height.
  3. Slowly lower, and repeat.
  4. Perform 10-12 repetitions and 2-3 sets.

Shoulder Exercises With Modifications

If you are experiencing pain in your shoulders, arms, or back - these modified exercises should help you build strength. Why? Building strength in these areas can help relieve pain and improve our overall well being. Strengthening the shoulder joints is one of the best things you can do to bounce back after injury or take a proactive approach to prevent injury.

However, you don’t want any exercise to cause pain. If pain occurs, ease off or stop the exercise. You also want to incorporate stretches to improve flexibility and mobility of the shoulder to also prevent injury and accelerate healing after injury.

Exercise #1: Shoulder Blade Pinches - Instead of Rows

The shoulder blade pinch exercise aims to bring the shoulders back, correcting alignment and preventing the shoulders from caving forward. This can help prevent muscular strain, as well as pressure on other structures in the shoulders due to compensation.

Bonus: This one is also great for correcting your posture!

How To:

  1. Sit or stand up tall.
  2. Gently pinch your shoulder blades down and in. Ensure you don’t shrug your shoulders.
  3. Hold here for 5-10 seconds.
  4. Perform the above steps 8-10 times and 1-2 times per day.

Want more? Learn more about how to improve your posture.

Exercise #2: Raises - Without Weight

Raises are another good rehab exercise to target the shoulders, without causing any harm. The best way to do this is simply by practicing the movement alone, minus any weights or bands.

How To:

  1. Stand tall and gently pinch your shoulder blades together.
  2. Begin with your arms at your sides.
  3. Slowly bring your arms up to shoulder height at your sides.
  4. Slowly lower, then bring them up to shoulder height in front of you.
  5. Perform this exercise 10 times for 2-3 sets.

How Often Should You Work Out Your Shoulder Muscles?

Some exercises can be performed every day. However, the general rule of thumb is to give yourself at least one full rest day in between shoulder workouts.

This gives your body the time it needs to fully recover. If you’re still sore, take an additional rest day before working your shoulders again. It’s always important to listen to your body.

Gain Shoulder Strength At Home - Starting Today!

Working out at home can be just as effective as at the gym - that is, if you know what to do! Start with the exercises above. Choose your exercises based on your resources and what you need.

Remember, everyone starts somewhere. Go slow and listen to the cues your body is giving you. If you intend on adding weight or leveling up your resistance band, do so gradually. Your body will adapt! But too much, too quickly can send you a few steps backward. Instead, take your time. Slow and steady always wins the race!

Want more fitness tips? Here’s how to get motivated when exercising!

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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