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3 Exercises For Invincible Shoulders

Shoulder injuries will derail your progress for months, leaving you unable to do any of your favorite lifts.
Imagine if you couldn’t do any of your favorite upper body exercises? What if you couldn’t even squat or deadlift because your shoulder joint was so weak and painful?


Shoulder injuries typically stem from a muscle imbalance or weakness.1.2 Luckily, there are three easy exercises you can do to improve stability and balance between muscle groups, leading to better mobility, strength, and posture.

Slam, Crunch, Pop

That’s the order of events that left me unable to lift my arm up, not even parallel to the ground.

I had gotten lazy with the exercises I should have been doing, and my shoulders were imbalanced and weak. Sure, I could lift quite a bit of weight, but the tension in my shoulders had them primed for injury.

All it took was a fall after my snowboard caught an edge.


I pounded into the ground on my forearms.


The sound of bones and tendons rubbing against each other as my right shoulder left its socket. I grabbed my elbow and pushed my arm back in.


The result? Six to eight weeks of limited movement and no heavy lifting.

I was disappointed. I was frustrated. My progress had stalled and my motivation was shot.

Eventually I had had enough.

I researched all the common shoulder exercises, focused on the most effective ones and threw out the ones that were a waste of time.

The end result was a quick routine that I could tack on to the end of my workouts or do on cardio/rest days. I quickly incorporated it into my morning ritual, and it has helped me remain injury free every since.

Pay attention, because these three moves will fix imbalances and prevent months of problems down the road.

shoulder exercises injury

You may have a shoulder injury (unlike this soccer player who is probably faking it).

Band Shoulder Dislocations

Hold an exercise band in front of you with an overhand grip down at your hips, with your hands a bit wider than your shoulders. I recommend starting with a light band, at least until you are comfortable with the exercise.

With straight elbows, raise your hands like you would for a front shoulder raise. Continue until your hands are over your head and slowly move the band behind your body.

Rotate your arms until the band touches your back side, then reverse the motion and return to the starting position. As you get stronger and more flexible, aim to tighten your shoulder circles by pulling your hands closer together. You can also upgrade to stronger exercise bands or wrap the ends of the band around your hands to shorten them.

Shoot for 10-15 reps. This exercise should get easier after each set as your shoulders loosen up.

shoulder exercises band dislocation

Band shoulder dislocations. (Image courtesy of Men’s Fitness).

Band Pull-Aparts

Hold an exercise band out in front of you with an overhand grip, with one end in each hand. Your elbows should be straight, with your arms parallel to the floor. Space your hands so that there’s tension in the band when your hands are just a little wider than shoulder width.

Keep your arms parallel to the ground as you stretch the band horizontally as far as you can.

Hold the stretch, then return to the starting position by allowing the band to pull your hands back together. Remember to keep tension on the band between reps so you don’t lose the muscle contraction.

This is the basic version, but there are tons of variations you can use:

  • Elbows bent to 90 degrees

(your upper arm stays at your side and rotates)

  • Elbows bent to 90 degrees with a bent-over body so your hands are near your face (your upper arm stays at your side and rotates)
  • Overhead pull-aparts
  • Underhand grip for any of the above versions

Try to mix and match during each workout. Aim for high reps (25-50) since this is a stability exercise that uses small muscles. It’s also great for your posterior delts and rotator cuff muscles.

As you get stronger, you can upgrade to stronger exercise bands and continue to add more reps over time.

shoulder exercises band-pull-apart

Band pull aparts.

Skin the Cat

This exercise is similar to band shoulder dislocations, except your your hands don’t pass over your head. Instead, they pass over your hips while you hang from a pull-up bar.

Confused? Don’t worry.

It might sound intimidating at first, but it’s really effective and a lot of fun.

Before attempting this exercise, you should be able to do the following:

  • 10 strict pull-ups
  • 10 hanging straight-leg raises from pull-up bar
  • 10 reps of RDLs with your bodyweight + 10% on the bar with an overhand grip
  • 15 band shoulder dislocations (with good form)

I also recommend having a spotter until you can perform the exercise comfortably.

(Don’t worry if you don’t meet these requirements just yet – I’ll provide an alternative exercise at the end of this section.)

Take an overhand grip on a pull-up bar, with your hands a little wider than shoulder width. Use your core to pull your feet up until they touch the bar while raising your hips up to parallel with your shoulders.

Bring your feet between the bar and your body, pulling your legs and hips through until your hips pass over your shoulders.

Once your feet are on the other side of the bar, lower your legs and your hips in a slow and controlled fashion as deep as you can go. You’ll feel a massive stretch in your anterior delts and biceps.

Hold the stretch briefly before pulling your legs back through to the starting position. If you feel too much stretch or start to lose your grip, be ready to let go and land on your feet.

See why those prerequisites are important? Primarily, they’ll help your grip to be strong enough to ensure you can hold yourself. They’ll also make sure your hamstrings, glutes, and back are strong enough to control the movement.

When you’re first starting out, just work on completing one rep with great form. Then aim for sets of five and hold the bottom position for a second or two on each rep. To make progress on this exercise, you’ll want to add reps and extend the amount of time you spend in the stretched bottom position.

As a bonus, this move also works your abs, core, upper back and traps — all the muscles that are crucial for looking good naked.

Plus did I mention it looks cool as hell?

If you don’t meet the prerequisites, you can start with the barbell anterior shoulder stretch. To start this exercise, stand facing away from a barbell that’s just a little above hip height.

With your palms facing forward and your elbows straight, pull your hands as far back behind you as possible. From there, bend your body forward to bring your hands up behind you until they reach the barbell. Grab the barbell with a shoulder width grip, keeping your palms facing forward.

Stand up straight again so that the barbell forces your arms up and back while your elbows remain straight. You should feel a nice stretch in your anterior delts and biceps.

This is essentially the same as the bottom of Skin the Cat, only you’re not hanging and you can better control the amount of stretch.

Hold the stretch position for 15-30 seconds before coming out of it.  You can increase the stretch over time by squatting down to raise your hands higher behind you.

This is a great exercise to do until you can complete the prerequisites, but performing Skin the Cat should be your ultimate goal.


Strong, Flexible, Healthy

These moves will improve improve your posture, making you feel lighter and more mobile. Plus, you’ll feel confident that your shoulders can bear the burden of heavy lifting without crumbling into a pile of dust.

I recommend creating a quick circuit like this:

  • Band Shoulder Dislocations x 10-15
  • Band Pull-Aparts (switch between variations) x 25-50
  • Skin the Cat x 1-5

(or Barbell Anterior Shoulder Stretch x 15-30 seconds)

Repeat the circuit three times, either at the end of your workout or on cardio/rest days.

When you stretch your shoulders and work on your stability muscles, you will improve your strength and range of motion. Include these three exercises in your daily routine and I promise you’ll feel incredible.

About the Author

Tim BerzinsTim Berzins (Berzinator) owns and operates Berzinator Fitness Designs, a training and online coaching company based just outside of Philadelphia. With a focus on maximizing aesthetics, Tim is never satisfied with the status quo. Sign up for Berzinator’s free newsletter to get exclusive workouts, killer info, and tons of free stuff.


   1 Page, Phil. “Shoulder Muscle Imbalance and Subacromial Impingement Syndrome in Overhead Athletes.” International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 6.1 (2011): 51.
2 Wang, H.K., and T. Cochrane. “Mobility Impairment, Muscle Imbalance, Muscle Weakness, Scapular Asymmetry and Shoulder Injury in Elite Volleyball Athletes.” The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 41.3 (2001): 403-10.