Best Shoulder Stability Exercises

Many athletes are prone to shoulder injuries, so it is a good idea to use shoulder stability exercises to strengthen the shoulder joints and correct muscle imbalances. It is incredibly important to keep your shoulders healthy if you want to make progress on your fitness journey. To keep your shoulders tip-top, you need to be doing the best shoulder stability exercises.

​The Best Shoulder Stability Exercises

One of the most common setbacks in working out is shoulder injuries. If you make some extra effort to ensure that your shoulders are strong and healthy, you’re much less likely to experience an injury that will derail your progress and you will be able to continue working out full force and seeing more results.

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​Overhead Carries

​​Doing overhead carries is a great way to train your shoulders to work with heavy loads.

To do an overhead carry, clean and press a kettlebell above your head in one hand. Keep your elbow locked and then walk straight for about 30 seconds. Then turn around and come back. Repeat on the other side for the desired number of repetitions.

You will want to maintain a window between your upper trapezius muscle and your neck. If your traps are right next to your neck you will be placing too much stress on your traps.

Woman trying to swing a kettlebell with both hands

​Reverse Dumbbe​ll Flies

​Reverse dumbbell flies are an exercise that anyone, including beginners, can do to increase strength in the shoulder joint and help protect your rotator cuff from injury.

To begin, lie face down on an incline bench. Your chest and stomach should be pressed against the incline. Hold dumbbells in each hand with your palms facing each other. Extend your arms in front of you so that they are in front of the bench at your chest level.

Next, move the weights straight out to your sides and squeeze your shoulder blades when you have reached your full range of motion. Finally, slowly bring the weights back together in front of your chest and repeat. As you do this keep a slight bend in your elbows.

​Lying External Rotation

​One of the best exercises for shoulder impingement syndrome is the lying external rotation. It helps to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles as well as the upper back.

Start by lying on a mat on your side. The arm that you want to work should be on top. Grab a dumbbell to hold in your working hand.

Start with your upper arm resting on your side and your elbow bent so that the dumbbell is pointed towards the floor. While keeping your upper arm in place and elbow bent, rotate your shoulder so that the dumbbell slowly rotates towards the ceiling. Go as far as you can and then slowly return to the starting position.

If you find this move uncomfortable or need more stability, you may want to try placing a rolled up towel in between your upper arm and your body.

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​Full Shoulder Circles with Stability Ball

​For this move, you will need to use a stability ball and one dumbbell. It promotes strength in the rotator cuff while also demanding a lot from your core strength to maintain balance.

Start lying face down on your stability ball with your chest and stomach touching the ball. Hold a dumbbell with one hand while you use your other hand to steady yourself. Begin the move by holding the dumbbell directly out in front of you, then move the dumbbell in a large circle that goes down past your head, behind your back, and then down past your head again. Go slowly and listen to your body as you do this move. Don’t try to stretch yourself further than you are able to go.

​Wall Push Ups

​If doing a regular push up is too much for your shoulders, you can modify it by doing a wall push up. This exercise gives you the ability to safely build up your shoulder strength without pushing yourself too far.

To begin, stand with your hands against the wall. Then step your feet out behind you so that you are at an angle. Keep your shoulders in a neutral position and then bend your elbows to bring your upper body closer to the wall. Finally, push yourself back up to the starting position and repeat. If you find this move to difficult you can make it a little easier by moving closer to the wall. Throughout the move, pay close attention to the connection between your shoulder blades and your back muscles. You should consistently feel that connection.

Eventually, you will build enough arm and shoulder strength that you will be able to move into horizontal push-ups.

Back view of a woman holding a 2kg dumbbell with one hand

​Bird Dogs

​​A bird dog is an exercise that is often utilized for relieving lower back pain but also requires you to work on the strength and flexibility of your shoulders, your abs, and hips.

Start on the ground on all fours. Pull your abs up and keep your spine straight. Extend your right arm straight out in front of you while simultaneously extending your left leg straight out behind you. Point your toes to help you engage all the muscles in your leg. Move your limbs out rather than up because if you bring your leg up too high you will overarch your back. Finally, bring your arm and leg back down and repeat on the other side.

Put your focus on not shifting your weight of your lower body to one side as you do this move. Try to keep your pelvis neutral. If you need help to keep yourself centered, place a ball on your back to test yourself.


​Doing the best shoulder stability exercises can help people who already have shoulder injuries to recover, and help prevent shoulder injuries for all athletes. A shoulder injury can completely derail your training so it is important that you take the time to exercise your delicate shoulder muscles and maintain proper form as you train. These exercises call also help alleviate the neck and back pain of people who sit in the same position for the majority of their day.

Robert Lemus has been a natural competitor for 6 years, starting in Men’s Physique, then Bodybuilding, and then into Classic Physique. He is the Orange County Bodybuilding champion in 2016 for the Musclemania Organization. In 2018, he received his Pro Card with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in Classic Physique.