Fitness Articles

The Importance of Training the Shoulder

Give this Crucial Joint a Boost

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The shoulder is the most moveable and unstable joint in the body. The "ball" in the upper arm is actually larger than the socket that holds it, and with the range of motion being so great, it is susceptible to injury.

To remain stable, it must be kept in place by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Therefore, it is very important to make sure these soft tissues are strengthened to keep the shoulder strong, flexible, more coordinated, and conditioned to handle stress.

There are many daily activities that use the shoulder muscles: lifting groceries, any type of manual labor, household chores, raking leaves, handling children, etc. It is therefore critical that they be able to handle stress well. This is especially true for athletes vulnerable to overuse injuries.

Important small muscles that surround the shoulder joint are called the rotator cuff muscles. They are the key muscles that keep the joint functioning properly. Weakness in any of the four muscles can cause instability, which can lead to numerous injuries.

Exercises that strengthen the shoulder and the rotator cuff muscles can be done at home, work or the gym. You can include these exercises in your regular workout routine or do them separately. The rotator cuff muscles are very small, so be careful not to use too much weight or do too many repetitions. Also, it is important to keep a balance between the front and rear rotator cuff muscles. Many people tend to overwork the front muscles by training only the major muscle groups. They work the back, chest, shoulders, and arms, all of which internally rotate the shoulder. As a result, the muscles used in external rotation are under worked.

Below are some examples for a well-rounded shoulder workout. Click highlighted exercises for explanations and demonstrations.

Internal shoulder rotation exercises

Shoulder press w/ Swiss ball and dumbbells
Dumbbell shoulder press
Push-ups

External shoulder rotation exercises

Reverse flyes w/ Swiss ball and dumbbells
Rear delt raises w/ resistance band
Dumbbell lateral deltoid raise 
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About The Author

Joe Downie Joe Downie
Joe, an exercise enthusiast, is a certified physical fitness instructor and high school soccer coach.

Member Comments

  • Thanks for sharing - 9/26/2013 7:02:26 AM
  • I would love to work my shoulders more, I know we do some of these things in the group fitness class that I go to, but I am not sure whether or not we are covering all bases. - 9/18/2013 6:04:55 AM
  • when i froze my left shoulder then 2 yrs later had to have shoulder surgerty on right shoulder in theropy they would have my upper chert with my chin resting on a swiss ball then with dumbells doing flying L's just be carefull not to go to high or use too heavey of a dumbell. - 5/16/2013 10:05:16 AM
  • Having had a frozen shoulder, I can praise these exercises - but, please check with your doctor if you are having any pain because doing these wrong can really do some damage. - 4/30/2013 2:05:59 PM
  • I would love to try this but they say I need my right shoulder replace and I also have pain in my left one too. So is this good for me. - 4/30/2013 9:01:31 AM
  • This corroborates what my OT friend has been saying all along. I used to swim a couple hours a week and I began to have some mild shoulder pain, and when I started to mix it up with some kickboxing, the pain went away. Whatever I was doing with the KB, it was supporting my RTs enough. - 3/26/2013 10:11:06 AM
  • I have been struggling with left shoulder pain for almost 2 years now - I found the explanation to excersice above very tough to visualize and would sincerely appreciate a video demonstration. thanks so much - 10/6/2012 4:12:08 PM
  • What if your shoulder hurts? Can you still do exercise? My left one is hurting and I'm afraid it might get worse. - 7/13/2010 5:16:34 AM
  • This is a start. What I really need is something like a "Couch to 5k" program for my shoulders. - 6/26/2010 8:57:57 AM
  • Good information. I've had trouble with shoulders and neck for the last few years. As I've gotten back into strength training, I've tried to focus on safely building those areas to avoid future problems. I've saved this article and would also like to see demonstrations of these exercises. - 6/25/2010 8:22:39 AM
  • This is timely. I have worked in insurance all my life and we get a lot of rotator cuff injuries just because people are not aware of this information. I really appreciate your bringing this to everyone's attention!! - 3/27/2010 7:15:20 AM
  • SUELEE5
    For someone who overuses her shoulder this is helpful so that I may keep myself strong. - 2/6/2010 9:46:26 AM
  • Joe, This is a great article: very informative and to the point. Thank you! - 11/1/2009 8:53:52 PM
  • CATHEITE
    This article was fascinating to me. I am small boned and sometimes have issues with my elbow joints. I had no idea that the shoulders are the most unstable joint in the body. After reading this piece, I will be more mindful of that area as well. Thank you! - 9/18/2009 10:58:00 PM
  • I really like this article of this excerise, but I have arthrist in both my neck a celvical area where the pain does effect my shoulder, I just recently finished around of shots inthe neck and clavical on left side but pain is going over to the right side which I just found out the arthrist in my neck is worse on my right side. I have asked my dr what excerises and he said low impacted exerises would this be 1 to do? - 9/18/2009 12:53:13 PM
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