I remember when I first started getting into weight training, one of the first things I did was pick up an injury in my right shoulder during a bench press session. It put me out of action for a little while, but it also taught me a valuable lesson early on. Protecting your primary muscles from injury is critical, but it’s just as important to work on those vulnerable supporting muscles that come into play when you’re struggling on those last couple of reps.
Your shoulders are comprised of many such muscles, and are involved in just about any movement that involves pushing, pulling or lifting weight above your head. So it’s well worth dedicating some time each week to strengthening this vitally important area and protect yourself. Here are five shoulder exercises to help you do it, roughly in order of difficulty:
1. Wall Slide
Stand against a wall with your head, shoulder blades and butt in contact, and your heels about 6 inches away from it. Now position your arms so that your hands are either side of your head, with the back of your palm and elbows also in contact with the wall. Slide your arms up until they are almost fully outstretched, then return them slowly to the starting position, keeping contact with the wall at all times.
2. Face Pull
Using a cable machine with rope attachment, hold the rope at about chest height with your palms facing downwards. Now pull the cable towards you until your hands are at either side of your head, then release and allow your arms to outstretch into the starting position. Keep your elbows high and behind your wrists throughout the movement. This exercise can also be done with a resistance band wrapped around a vertical pole or rack.
3. Kettlebell Swing
Now we’re getting to some of the more advanced shoulder exercises. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your toes pointing straight forward or slightly outward, and the kettlebell on the floor between your legs. Bend at the knees to pick up the kettlebell, keeping your back straight, head up, and chest out. Swing the kettlebell gently back between your legs, then quickly stand up and punch your hips forward to swing the kettlebell. At chest height, allow the kettlebell to fall between your legs and repeat the movement.
4. Kettlebell Snatch
This is a fairly technical movement, and should be done under the supervision of a trainer if you’re inexperienced. You start with a similar motion to the kettlebell swing, albeit with the weight held in one hand instead of two, and finish with your arm outstretched above your head before allowing the weight to swing back down between your legs. Make sure to maintain a stable, shoulder-width stance and straight back throughout.
5. Serrano Press
This exercise is much harder than it looks, so use light dumbbells if you’ve never done it before. Lie face down on a 45-degree bench or stability ball. Now pick up the weights and raise your arms to your sides as you would when performing a standard shoulder press. Extend the dumbbells above your head in a pressing motion and then return them to the starting position, keeping your arms in line with your torso throughout the movement.
Q: Got any favourite shoulder exercises of your own? Let us know in the comments below.