6 Upper Body Exercises for Sensitive Shoulders

There are several upper-body exercises that are safe for sensitive shoulders. (Photo via Pexels/Karl Solano)
There are several upper body exercises that are safe for sensitive shoulders. (Photo via Pexels/Karl Solano)

There are several upper body exercises that can be easily done if you have sensitive shoulders. The key is to eliminate exercises that exacerbate the condition. So add workouts that strengthen and stabilize the joints without causing additional irritation.

Sensitive shoulders are a total bummer. They can limit upper body movements and force you to skip the gym. Yes, shoulder pain and other discomforts can pose problems in your day-to-day life, but that's no reason to skip your shoulder training.

If shoulder discomfort is keeping you away from regular training, consider adding the following upper body exercises to your workout routine to develop shoulder muscles while keeping the joints away from injuries and pain.

Upper body exercises for sensitive shoulders

Try out the following six upper body exercises that are safe and suitable for people with shoulder discomfort:

1) Incline push-up

Incline push-ups are one of the best upper body exercises that are safe for the shoulder joints.

While standard push-ups target the arms, shoulders, and chest, incline push-ups take the pressure off the shoulders and arms, making it a safe and effective exercise.

To do it:

  • Take a standard high plank position with your hands on a chair, bench, box, or any other elevated surface and your palms flat. Ensure that your hands are positioned at shoulder width.
  • Extend your legs straight behind you with feet at hip distance.
  • Engage your abs and glutes, and bend your elbows to lower your chest. Push gently through your palms, and lower your chest till your arms get fully straightened.
  • Come back up, and repeat. Perform 8-10 reps.

2) Skull crusher

Skull crushers are among some of the best upper body exercises that target the triceps and shoulders while keeping the shoulder joints safe and stabilized.

If you are doing this exercise for the first time, start with a light weight, and be careful during the overhead movement.

To do it:

  • Lie on the floor or bench with your face up and knees bent.
  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand, and move your arms straight over your head.
  • Keep your palms facing towards each other, and position your hands at shoulder width.
  • Slowly bend your elbows, and move the dumbbells towards the floor by the sides of your head. Straighten your arms again, and repeat the exercise.
  • Complete 8-10 reps.

3) Bottoms-up kettlebell press

It's a great exercise to strengthen the shoulders and improve shoulder mobility while keeping the joints safe. Moreover, this exercise also helps improve core strength.

To do it:

  • Stand tall, and grab a kettlebell with your right hand. Place the kettlebell in a bottoms-up position.
  • Hold the handle tightly, and squeeze your glutes as you move the kettlebell straight up. Press the weight by explosively pushing yourself into the floor.
  • Continue for a few reps.

4) Dumbbell front raise

Also called the shoulder front raise, it's one of the most effective upper body exercises that help develop shoulder strength and definition. They isolate shoulder flexion and also target the pectoral muscles (upper chest).

To do it:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and stand ,with your feet at shoulder-width distance. Allow your hands to hang straight in front of you with the dumbbells resting on your thighs.
  • Keeping your back straight and feet flat on the floor, engage your abs, and lift the dumbbells till your arms get extended straight, with a slight bend in the elbows.
  • When your arms get horizontal to the floor, lower the weights back to their starting position, and repeat the exercise.

5) Plank with shoulder tap

This exercise targets the glutes, wrists, arms, shoulders, and core, and helps ease lower back pain and discomfort. Practicing this exercise daily can improve body posture and helps strengthen the abs.

To do it:

  • Get into a plank position with your feet extended behind at hip distance and wrists under your shoulders.
  • Keep your abs, quads, and hips tight, and neck in a neutral position.
  • Maintain this position, and tap your left hand to your right shoulder while keeping your hips and other lower body muscles as stable as possible.
  • Repeat the movement with your right hand to your left shoulder.
  • Continue to alternate, and repeat the exercise.

6) Bent-over row

It's an excellent exercise that works the shoulder and back muscles and also helps improve hip stability. This is a safe exercise that doesn’t irritate the shoulder joints.

To do it:

  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand, and place your arms by your sides.
  • Keep your abs engaged, and slowly hinge forward at your hips while pushing your butts back.
  • Slightly bend your knees, and start to row the dumbbells by pulling them up towards your chest.
  • As you do that, ensure that your elbows are close to your body, and your shoulders are squeezed.
  • Lower the weights to the starting position, and repeat the exercise.


The shoulders are a vulnerable joint in the body, which makes them prone to inflammation, pain, and injuries. With the aforementioned upper body exercises, though, people with sensitive shoulders can continue their training safely to achieve massive shoulder strength and size.

While practicing these upper body exercises, it's important to be mindful of your technique and movements. Most importantly, it's crucial to choose the right weight so that you can perform the reps without compromising on your form.

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Edited by Bhargav
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