Keep Your Shoulders Strong—5 Key Exercises


As an athlete, you don’t want anything to slow you down. A shoulder injury can not only slow you down, but you will also find the pain hard to live with every day.

Chris Coleman, PT, St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine explains, “Most shoulder injuries come from overuse in sports with a lot of overhead movement, such as baseball, volleyball, tennis, and swimming.”

The most common shoulder injury from overuse is rotator cuff tendonitis. Rotator cuff tendonitis affects the tendons and muscles that move your shoulder joint. If you have tendonitis, your tendons are inflamed or irritated. Rotator cuff tendinitis is sometimes called impingement syndrome because it impinges on your ability to rotate your shoulder.

Recognizing a shoulder injury

If you’re not sure what is wrong with your shoulder but are experiencing pain or mobility issues, the first thing you should do is rest your shoulder.

“Rotator cuff tendonitis usually happens gradually,” explains Chris. “Pain is the most common symptom, but you may also have popping or clicking. The pain will be worse during or after an activity with overhead movement.”

Other symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis, include:

  • Loss of mobility and strength in the affected arm
  • Pain when sleeping on the affected shoulder
  • Pain when reaching behind your back
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling in the front of your shoulder and side of arm

Another common shoulder injury, dislocation, is usually caused by trauma and is more common in football, basketball, and other contact sports.

5 Exercises to Prevent Shoulder Injuries

Your shoulder gets a workout in everyday life, but if you are an athlete, it takes even more of a beating.

“If you don’t keep your shoulder muscles strong, you aren’t supporting your shoulder joint and you become vulnerable to injury,” says Chris.

Chris explains that not only is it important for your shoulder muscles to be strong, but the strength of your shoulder blade muscles and neck muscles are also critical.

Here are five exercises to help you prevent shoulder injury and overuse injuries.

  • Standing rows—Using an elastic band, create a loop and attach to a doorknob or stable object. Stand holding the band with your elbow bent and at your side. Keep your arm close to your side and slowly pull your elbow straight back.
  • Bi-lateral shoulder extension—With band looped around a door knob, stand with arms slightly out in front of body with elbows straight. Extend both arms backward to just beyond your body, keeping elbows straight
  • Bi-lateral external rotation—Using an elastic band, create a loop and attach to a doorknob or stable object. Stand holding the band with your elbow bent and at your side. Keeping your elbow close to your side, slowly rotate your arm outward.
  • Horizontal abduction—While standing, raise your arms in front of you at shoulder level. Using a band, stretch the band out to the side of your body while keeping your arms at shoulder level.
  • Prone abduction and extension—lay on your stomach at the edge of a table with your injured arm hanging over the side. Keep your arm straight and slowly raise it up to eye level. Slowly lower it back to the starting position.

When to Seek Treatment for Your Injury

“If you experience a trauma to your shoulder, I recommend seeing a doctor immediately. It is important to make sure you haven’t fractured any bones,” says Chris.

He also recommends that you rest your shoulder when you start to feel pain. If the pain persists for more than a week after resting, call your doctor. Physical therapy can often help a shoulder injury, allowing you to avoid or delay shoulder surgery.

If you are struggling with shoulder pain, visit or call for an appointment at (859) 212-5600.