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BIM Lab: 5 Exercises for Stronger Shoulders 

The shoulder is, or at least should be, a very mobile joint. In order to optimize the range of motion you have, as well as improve shoulder flexibility and function, achieving good shoulder stability is key. 

If you want stronger shoulders, then here are 5 great exercises that will help to improve your shoulder health!

 

1. Wall Slides with Foam Roll

Complete 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps of this exercise as part of your warm up, or pair while resting during working sets of a lower body exercise.

What will this help?

This exercise will work on your scapular motor control during shoulder flexion as well as lumbar-pelvic stability. It will also strengthen the serratus anterior muscles as well as the external rotators of your shoulder.

Coaching Cues:

  • Get into a tall-kneeling position close to a wall. Keep your glutes tight and chin slightly tucked – think about having a “long neck”
  • Don’t let the band pull your wrists together or let your elbows flare out, keep your hands stacked directly in line with your elbows
  • Push your chest away from the wall before you start rolling up
  • Don’t worry about how high you go, focus only on going as high as you can while keeping all of the above in check

 

2. Side Lying Powell Raise

Complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps of this exercise towards the end of your workout.

What will this help?

This exercise targets the mid-traps as well as your posterior deltoid while forcing you to stabilize against the rotational force that is created.

Coaching Cues:

  • Lie on your side with your shoulders and hips stacked and make sure to set your core to ensure your spine is neutral
  • Use a light weight so that you can horizontally abduct without shrugging your shoulder
  • The end position should be where your top hand is stacked directly over your shoulders

 

3. Scapular Protraction

Complete 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps/side (quality of movement is more important than quantity) of this exercise as part of your warm up, or pair while resting during working sets of a lower body exercise.

What will this help?

This exercise will help pattern scapular motor control with protraction and retraction. This helps to isolate, better recruit, and strengthen your serratus anterior muscles. The serratus anterior muscle primarily acts to stabilize the scapula against the thoracic rib region in movements such as a push-up.

Coaching Cues: 

  • Get on all fours and tuck your chin in. Your head, torso and hips should be in a stacked position
  • Your weight should be evenly distributed throughout your full hands and fingers, not just at the base of your hands/wrists
  • In the starting/top position, press your body away from the roller and protract your shoulder blade (or think about making your arm longer to move your shoulder blade away from your spine and around your ribcage)
  • Without bending your elbow, pull your shoulder blade back towards your spine (scapular retraction), and touch your fingertips of the opposite hand to the floor
  • Make sure you shoulder does not shrug – keep it away from your ear

 

4. Banded “W” to “Y’s”

Complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps of this exercise towards the end of your workout.

What will this help with?

This exercise targets the external rotators of the shoulder as well as the lower and upper traps. The goal is to help build eccentric control of the lower traps without having the upper traps take over. This is easier said than done!

Coaching Cues

  • Complete this exercise in a tall kneeling position so that you can focus on maintaining your rib position. Your goal is to keep your ribs stacked over your pelvis, which means conscious control of not letting your ribs flare or letting your lower back arch
  • Start with a band in front of your hips so that you have to pull up on a diagonal to get to the “W” position. This is an easier pathway to gain scapular control as opposed to to pulling just outwards (which is if you were to start the movement with your hands at chest height)
  • Raise hands up and out into a “Y” position rather than just going straight up. At the top, take a moment to ensure your shoulders are not shrugged. If they are, then gently pull them back down

 

5. Single-Arm Row with External Rotation with Raise

Complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps/side of this exercise towards the end of your workout

What will this help with?

This is a progression to the “W” to “Y” drill and allows you to focus on building unilateral shoulder strength and stability. This exercise targets the external rotators of the shoulder as well as the lower and upper traps. The goal is to help build eccentric control of the lower traps without having the upper traps take over. Again, this is easier said than done!

Coaching Cues:

  • Use a light band! The goal of this exercise is not to challenge yourself with resistance but more so to focus on keeping the right muscles engaged
  • Assume a half-kneel position with the knee of the working arm down 
  • Keep your elbow out and pull straight back and then externally rotate so that your hand is in line with your ear. Make sure your hand is able to stay pulled back as you reach your arm overhead
  • Raise your hands up and out into a “Y” position rather than just going straight up. At the top, take a moment to ensure your shoulders are not shrugged. If they are gently pull them back down

We hope you found this exercise series helpful and if you have any questions or want to know more about any of the exercises featured in this post, please feel free to email Andrea at andrea@balancemotion.com. 

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