7 Best Shoulder Exercises for Flexibility and Strength

Shoulder flexibility and strength exercises are essential for maintaining a healthy and powerful posture. (Image by Miriam Alonso)
Shoulder flexibility and strength exercises are essential for maintaining a healthy and powerful posture. (Image by Miriam Alonso)

Exercises that strengthen the shoulders are essential for maintaining a healthy and powerful posture. Shoulders are extremely complicated joints that we use daily for many activities. Shoulder strengthening exercises are quick, simple, and keep your shoulders healthy in the long run.

You don't need much effort, gear, or costly equipment to strengthen your shoulders when recovering from injuries, warming up before working out, or just in between.


Incorporating shoulder-specific exercises and stretches into your general training routine may improve shoulder mobility and flexibility. These exercises can help you build shoulder strength, enhance shoulder function, and avoid injury.

Importance of shoulder strengthening exercises

The shoulder has a full range of motion of 360 degrees. It is held together by muscles and ligaments. The high mobility is due to the limited contact area of the joint. The rotator cuff tendons stabilize the shoulder joint, allowing it to move in the optimum possible posture.

The shoulder joint's tremendous mobility also makes it vulnerable to damage. As you become older, the rotator cuff loses its suppleness and strength. By the age of 40, many people will have labral (part of the rotator cuff) injury. Sports that entail overhead motions are especially dangerous to the shoulder. Shoulder joints are particularly vulnerable in swimming, basketball, and contact sports. A shoulder injury can also be caused by poor posture.

Here are the 7 best shoulder exercises for flexibility and strength:

1) Overhead shoulder press

This exercise can be performed either by standing or sitting.

  • Start with your feet hip-distance apart and your back straight, holding a dumbbell in each hand and holding the weights at the shoulders with an overhand grip.
  • Press up and bring the dumbbells together over your head, then slowly drop back to starting position.

Keep your abdomen braced, glutes tight, and pelvis slightly inward during the press to avoid arching your back. Only bring the weights to your shoulders. Once your shoulders are fit and used to carrying weight, you can increase the weight to make this a low-rep, high-return muscle builder, but start slowly to avoid injury.


2) Pass-through

The pass-through shoulder exercise improves joint mobility while also working the shoulder's surrounding muscles. A long stick, such as a broomstick, is required for this exercise.

  • Stand with your arms in front of your body and your feet shoulder-width apart. Use an overhand grip and keep your arms wider than shoulder-width.
  • Keep your arms straight and engage your core as you slowly elevate the broomstick or pipe above your head. Make sure you only go as far as it stays painless. For a few seconds, hold the stance.
  • Repeat 5 times after returning to the starting position.

3) Front delt raise

Start this exercise with light weights by standing with your feet about hip distance apart. Slowly extend your arms out in front of you until they are parallel to the floor, retaining a tiny bend in the elbow while holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing back. Hold for a moment, then gently descend with control. Repeat.

Avoid relying on momentum and take your time going up and down. Your wrists should be in a neutral position, not bent. Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions.


4) Reverse fly

The reverse fly is more of a back exercise than a shoulder workout, but it can help you build up that coveted V-shape by strengthening the bottom muscles of the shoulder group and supporting and protecting your entire shoulder.

  • Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly and hinge forward at the hips to a 45-degree angle.
  • In each hand, hold a dumbbell with the palms facing in.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades and keep your elbows slightly bent. Then lift the weights out to the sides.
  • To finish one rep, return the weights to the starting positions.

5) Arnold press

The critical phase of this exercise targets all three deltoid muscles while also working on rotational movement. At the bottom of the lift, it hits the inside shoulder muscles, which helps to strengthen shoulder stability. Feel free to use some of the heavier weights you have sitting around your home gym for this one.

  • Start with a dumbbell in each hand and your feet hip-distance apart, with your back straight and your core engaged.
  • With your palms towards the body, hold the weights at your shoulders.
  • Start by bringing the weights straight up overhead, turning the wrists, facing the palms forward, and then moving back down through the motions.

6) Dumbbell rotation

Warming up the shoulder with a dumbbell rotation prepares it for overhead and throwing motions.

  • Hold a light dumbbell in your right hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise your elbow to shoulder height. Rotate your shoulder to elevate your arm and weight to the point where your hand is towards the ceiling.
  • Before switching sides, slowly return to the beginning position and repeat. On each arm, do 2–3 sets of 12 repetitions.

7) Lateral delt raise

For this exercise, use light weights.

  • Begin by standing with your feet about hip-distance apart, a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing the body, and a slight bend in the elbow.
  • Lift the weights up and out to your sides to begin.
  • Bring the weight back down carefully.

Remember to brace your core, and bring your shoulders back and down when performing this exercise. You'll feel more activation in the lateral deltoid muscle if you rotate your hands slightly higher than your thumbs.


Certain shoulder exercises and stretches are a crucial element of any workout regimen, whether you're an athlete, gym enthusiast, or simply looking to improve your shoulder muscles and joints' health, strength, and mobility.

Consider working with a personal trainer or physical therapist if you're new to shoulder workouts and stretches. They can assist you in executing the moves with proper form and technique.

Edited by Sabine Algur