The Single Best Shoulder Strengthening Exercise

Mitchell Starkman, Physiotherapist, The Movement Centre

2 April 2018

If you can only do one shoulder strengthening exercise, which one should it be? Well, we wrote a post on the Top 5 Shoulder Strengthening Exercises To Do At Home if you have a bit more time. However, for those of you who are on a bit of a time crunch, and looking for that one hard-hitting exercise to improve your shoulder strength, then this is the one!

If we only have the time to tackle one muscle in the shoulder, we are most certainly not going to be focusing on the glamour muscles (like the chest, biceps, and triceps). We are going to be focusing on the most forgotten about muscles of all – the rotator cuff. More specifically, the external rotators of the shoulder. This is your Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus and Teres minor. These muscles do a tremendously important job of stabilizing and centralizing the shoulder joint in the socket. If these little guys are not firing well, your whole shoulder could be out of whack and that my friends is a problem!

In fact, weakness in these muscles can often lead to Shoulder Impingement which is the most common shoulder issue. If you want to learn more about this condition and if it applies to you check out our Ultimate Guide For Shoulder Impingement.

So what is the single best shoulder strengthening exercise anyway? The Side-Lying Shoulder External Rotation. This has to be one of the best and most often overlooked exercises. In fact, this shoulder strengthening exercise has been found in the research over and over again to be one of the most effective exercises to strengthen and retrain the rotator cuff. At home, using something as simple as a soup can, or even half-filled water bottle will do the trick as a resistance. This can also be a super helpful exercise for correcting and improving your shoulder posture.

If you need any resistance band we recommend this bulk set of bands (affiliate link). We’ve created a full write up post on this shoulder strengthening exercise if you need a full review.

What if you’re struggling with pain?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! If you are having issues or trouble with your shoulder, we recommend you check out the PhysioReady Shoulder Impingement Program. It’s an entirely online program dedicated to getting your shoulders pain free and feeling awesome.

You can also check out our Ultimate Guide to Shoulder Impingement where we teach all you need to know about what the heck is going on with your shoulder and show you how to fix it!  Or if you’re looking to stretch out those shoulders of yours, check out our Top 5 Shoulder Stretches Exercises To Do At Home. We also created a post on the Top 5 Shoulder Strength Exercises To Do At Home if you’re looking to beef up your shoulders.

Authored by:

Mitch Starkman

Mitch Starkman

Physiotherapist and Founder

A Toronto-based Physiotherapist with a passion for sports, orthopedics, and human movement. Mitchell’s goal is to understand how the site of pain is impacted by the entire body – rather than pinpointing a specific disturbance. He is also the founder of - a website geared toward giving people the tools they need to self-manage, treat and prevent their injuries.

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