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Updated: Jun 1, 2021

Sitting at a desk all day, looking down at your computer or phone, lifting heavy things at work, and having an unbalanced exercise program (example, doing too many pushups and not enough rows) are just a few of the things that can cause poor posture and tight shoulders.

Over time, tight shoulders and poor posture can lead to more serious conditions, like arthritis and frozen shoulder. To avoid these chronic pains, it’s crucial to incorporate stretching into your daily routine. Holding a static stretch is an effective way to increase range of motion (ROM), while dynamic stretching – moving a limb through its full range of motion – is just as effective.

I have compiled a list of shoulder workouts and stretches that you can easily do in the gym or even at home. This will help keep the blood stay moving in your shoulders and get the flexibility you need in order to continue working out your shoulders.

Shoulder workouts:

Shoulder Press.

The most popular shoulder exercise (as it lies in the name), the shoulder press is a relatively simple concept. You’ll need a bar, or two dumbbells. Stand perfectly straight, legs shoulder width apart. Raise your bar or the two dumbbells over your head, and try to hold for a few seconds before bringing it back down.

If you’re using two dumbbells instead of a bar, bring your dumbbells to touch each other at the top. That way, you’re actually doing the full exercise.

Dumbbell Front Raises.

Grab a dumbbell for each hand, and choose a lighter weight to begin if this is your first time doing this exercise. Stand straight with your legs shoulder width apart. Hold out your arms with the dumbbells and stop when they are level with your shoulders.

Repeat the exercise for about twelve to fifteen reps, and up the weight if you feel it is too light. You should feel it on the sides of your shoulders.

Lateral Raises.

Grab a dumbbell per hand once again. Using the same stance as before (legs shoulder width apart and back perfectly straight), begin to laterally raise both of your arms. Bring the raise to slightly above shoulder level. If you want to feel the burn a little more, bring your arms back down super slowly.

You can transform this shoulder workout into another with a minor adjustment to your stance. If you bend your chest forward, and keep your legs hip width apart, the exercise becomes an upright row. The concept is the same, but you can throw this shoulder workout in for some variation.

Push- ups.

Push-ups, while hated by most, actually work out more than you might think (that’s why they hurt so much). The great thing about push-ups is that they’re versatile. For those of you who feel that they haven’t gotten the regular push-up down yet, you can always modify one, in which you place your knees together on the ground and lift your calves. By doing this, you relieve pressure off your upper body.

Push-ups are definitely a strength and toning workout. Start by seeing how many you can do in a row, and then follow up with another two sets of those reps.

Shoulder Shrug.

And finally, for the last of our shoulder workouts, the shoulder shrug.

Grab a dumbbell per hand, preferably a heavier weight. The exercise is simple, shrug. Lift your shoulder up in an exaggerated shrug, and hold. The longer you hold, the more this shoulder workout will burn, and by consequence, the more it will tone. Recommended hold time is about twenty seconds, but depending on your fitness level, judge it yourself. You wouldn’t want to strain anything!

Shoulder stretches:

Seated Cat Cows.

This dynamic stretch helps to gently open up the front and the back of the shoulders.

Start in a cross-legged seat. You can sit on a yoga block or pillow if your hips feel tight. Bend your elbows and place your hands behind your head, bringing your elbows out wide. Engage your abs.

Inhale to lift your chest and lean your head back into your palms to come into a seated cow position. You should feel a nice stretch through your chest and shoulders.

Exhale to round your spine, bringing your chin to your chest and your elbows together to come into a seated cat position. Continue alternating between cow and cat for 10 reps each.

Wall Down Dog.

This static stretch opens up the front of the shoulders and the chest.

Stand facing a wall. Bend at the hips and place your hands on the wall a little higher than in line with your hips.

Walk your feet back until your body comes to an L-shape. Press your palms firmly into the wall and slowly lower your chest towards the ground to feel a stretch.

Hold for 30 seconds and breathe into the chest and shoulders.

Shoulder Pigeon.

This static stretch relieves tightness in the front of the shoulder and chest.

Lie down on your belly with your legs straight back behind you. Bring both arms straight out to your sides, palms down, so that your wrists are in line with your shoulders. Rest your right cheek on the mat.

Press into your left palm and roll onto your right shoulder. Bend your left knee and set your left foot down on the floor behind your right leg. The knee should point up and you should feel the hip and chest opening. Keep the right side of your head relaxing on the ground.

Hold for 30 seconds and then roll back to your belly. Repeat on the other side.

Cow Face Arms.

This static stretch relieves tightness in the front and top of the shoulder and in the triceps.

Begin in a comfortable seat on a chair or on a yoga block. Hold the end of a yoga strap or towel in your right hand.

Reach your right arm straight up. Bend the elbow and reach your right hand down towards your upper back. Reach your left arm straight down. Then bend the elbow and reach your left hand up your lower back, grabbing the other end of the strap.

Walk your hands towards one another and see how close you can get to having your hands touch. Hold for 30 seconds, then release and shake out the arms. Repeat on the other side.

Overhead Shoulder Stretch.

This static stretch relieves tightness along the top of your shoulder.

Stand with your right shoulder about a foot away from the wall.

Reach your right arm over your head and place your hand on the wall. Your arm should be straight.Gently lean into the wall with your right shoulder until you feel a stretch through the top of the shoulder.

Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.


Ashley Lambeth, ACE-CPT, OES, FNS, SCS | 919-614-2286 | Founder Anna S. Semon, BA Exercise and Sports Science, SCS | Assistant Training Coach

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