The Only 5 Shoulder Exercises You Need to Perform

Want to lift high and avoid rotator cuff injury? These five dynamic movements will ensure your shoulders stay strong and mobile.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shoulder injuries caused people to miss a median of 26 days of work — more than any other body part. Why? Well, shoulders are the most movable and unstable joint of the body. Since they work through such a wide range of angles and motions, there’s more that can go wrong.

The shoulders are a ball and socket joint like the hip,” says Raphael Konforti, MS, CPT, Youfit Health Clubs’ National Director of Fitness. “Any move you make with your arms involves the shoulders – especially picking up your little ones.”

Most people work out their shoulders with rigid presses and raises. But such motions don’t challenge stability very much and all the little muscles that form the rotator cuff go unchecked. Such stagnation can lead to injury.

“Shoulder health and optimal function rely more on the muscles that support the shoulder joint and shoulder blade — like the rotator cuff and lower traps,” says Konforti. “And these muscles need to function at a high level.” In addition, the lats and chest also help support shoulder function and movement.

So, what does this mean? It means you need to do some shoulder work that’s a bit more dynamic to ensure that all the muscles involved in the joint are strong. Konforti provided a five-exercise workout comprised of exercises that do just that. Perform this workout once a week to strengthen your shoulders. “The variations of the presses, specifically the single arm overhead dumbbell press and the bottoms up kettlebell press both add an extra stability challenge,” says Konforti.

Standing Barbell Overhead Press

Complete 3 sets of 8-12 reps resting 60-90 seconds between each set.

Standing with your feet hip-width apart, grasp a barbell at shoulder height with both hands using a shoulder-width grip. Keeping your core engaged and spine in a neutral position, exhale as you press the bar overhead, keeping the elbows directly underneath the hands. The bar should finish directly overhead. Slowly lower the bar back to starting position and repeat.

Single Arm Dumbbell Overhead Press

Complete 3 sets of 8-12 reps resting 60-90 seconds between each set.

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, curl a dumbbell up to shoulder-height in one hand and bring your arm out to your side so your elbow is in line with your shoulder and at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your core engaged and spine in a neutral position exhale as you press the dumbbell overhead keeping the elbow directly underneath your hand. Slowly the lower the dumbbell back down so your elbow is at 90 degrees and repeat. Once all reps are complete on one side repeat on the opposite side.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Complete 3 sets of 12-15 reps resting 60 seconds between each set.

Start standing hip-width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand. Lifting with the elbows, raise the arms up until they are in line with the shoulders, pause, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting position and repeat.

Single Arm Bottoms Up Kettlebell Overhead Press

Complete 3 sets of 12-15 reps on each arm resting 30 seconds between each set.

Start seated holding a kettlebell in one hand. Lift the kettlebell up to shoulder height gripping the handle so that the bell, or ball part, of the kettlebell is above your hand. Slowly press the kettlebell up focusing on stability. Pause slightly at the top then slowly lower the kettlebell back to starting position and repeat. Once all reps are complete on one side repeat on the opposite side.

Cable Face Pull

Complete 3 sets of 12-15 reps resting 45 seconds between each set.

Stand facing a cable tower with a rope attachment. Grab the rope with an overhand grip. Pull back with the elbows and finish the movement by bringing your hands next to your ears. Pause, then slowly lower back to starting position and repeat.

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