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Top Strength Exercises to Reduce Shoulder Pain

Top Strength Exercises to Reduce Shoulder Pain

Written by
October 27, 2017
Updated September 6, 2018

If you’re like me, it’s been years since you’ve trained with a Hammer Strength machine and maybe it’s been a while since you’ve worked with barbells as your “go to” strength builder.

You’ve probably become infatuated with Kettlebells, SandbagsSteel Maces and Battle Ropes. I mean if you haven’t then how did you end up reading this? Leave this page right now and go get a Muscle and Fitness

It’s easy to see why kettlebells and other tools we use at the Onnit Academy interest people. They are multi dimensional. They are challenging to learn. They train your nervous system like nothing else can.

Your brain becomes a supercomputer, and with a few years you become connected to your movement like never before.

But, with this new excitement and drive for training in new and possibly unfamiliar planes of motion territory, comes danger. It’s possible some of these moves, take you a little too far and you have tweaked a shoulder or had a little funky muscle tension in your hip.

It’s these two ball and socket joints that have a pretty high degree of complexity. To keep that joint stable we rely on several smaller stabilizing muscles to keep the joint working correctly.

These are the opposite of the prime movers or “mirror muscles” as I like to call them. Either you can’t see them, or you don’t know what their purpose is, so guess what happens? You ignore them. You don’t train them and they don’t do their important synergistic jobs.

On the other hand, you may OVERUSE them by repetitious daily movements such as typing, wrenching and even driving. This can be equally as bad, if not harder to fix, than the untrained side of this muscular equation.

Repetitious movements can become a mental habit as much as physical, therefore the overuse of certain muscles can become an ingrained habit to get he job done faster.

Even as I am typing this, I am focusing on keeping my shoulders and head from migrating towards the computer screen. In the tech driven world we live in today, we must do our best to avoid the computer driven upper crossed syndrome!

So, if you are looking to increase your functional strength and power using the tools we love, and keep it going until the day you do your last Turkish Get Up, make sure you take care of your hip and shoulder stabilizers.

Top Strength Exercises to Reduce Shoulder Pain


Increase synovial fluid movement and warmth in the joint itself

● Halos

Grab your Hyperwear Sand or SteelBell

● Battle Ropes Internal /External Twists

Don’t forget INHIBIT tightness, but that will be in another chapter of this series.)


The Slackers ! – Increase neural connection to the fellas who aren’t doing their job very well.

● Wall Slides

● No Money Drill

● Floor Press Internal/External Rotations With SteelBells or Kettlebell Floor Press


Stable Overhead Shoulder

● Barbell “Bouncy” Presses  

I’ve used this technique for overhead stability since 2009. It seems very popular in powerlifting circles now with the addition of bamboo bars etc.

Use higher reps or change tempo and/or Time Under Tension (TUT)

● Bottoms Up Press 

This is one of those exercise that just forces you to work slower and gather more Time Under Tension. A great grip and balance exercise as well.

● Landmine Overhead Lunges

A great tool for developing strength to handle changing load and placement for the shoulder. You can see videos of this here.


Stable Lateral Shoulder

● ArmBar Get Up / TGU / Windmill

Do a few sets of 3-5 each arm Also try a small blue Kamagon Ball

Landmine Press to External Rotation

Do a few sets of 2-5 reps each arm

Stable Neutral Shoulder

● Ring Static Holds or L-Sits

If you don’t have rings you can use two plyo boxes or large heavy kettlebells that have a wide flat base, hold for TUT

Pushup Position Stability

● Plank Lateral Swing

WORLD PREMIERE!!! Just kidding, but I’ve done this a long time and have never witnessed it performed by anyone else. Great for frontal plane lateral stability. Shoot for time and distance of swing.

Start with just a few inches of motion progressing to larger swings once your are able to be stable on supporting arm.


Plank SteelBell Drags

A safer version of the top to bottom sagittal plane Plank Swing.  Just drag a heavy SteelBell or SandBell from hips to overhead like you were painting a fence.


When To Incorporate

Due to the possible intense nervous system activation of these exercises, it is best to perform them early in the workout, or on off days when your shoulders are fresh.

These are not exercises to take to failure or push to your limit. These exercises are used to “dial in” your muscular control and stability so you don’t get injured when you lift heavy during your main sets.

That being said, don’t injure yourself doing these. Take it light and progress.

Variables to Use

Here are just a few examples of how you can change up these exercises as you progress.

Time Under Tension (TUT)

Perform exercises slower or for longer duration than normal. Kettlebells, Mace, and Bulgarian Bags are usually performed at faster speeds. Make sure you can be stable in slower speeds as well.

Proprioceptive Challenge

Bands, Sloshpipes, Steelbells, etc . You’re used to Steel. Its Predictable. Changes in weight and center of mass provide the nervous system to stay on guard.

To all my MMA friends and Basketball players (basically any athlete really) when was the last time you fought a robot or a piece of concrete? Exactly. People move they can be rigid or flex under pressure.

They fight back, sometimes unpredictably. Im a fan of water proprioception. Keep it light to start and do your best to control the wave.

Workout Placement

While not recommended for beginners, some advanced trainees may test these exercises as supersets or tri sets while fatigued. Be smart about it though. It wouldn’t be a good idea to test out a plank swing for 60 seconds after you did a max effort of power cleans.

You could use something such as,  one minute of kettlebell snatches on each side followed by an L-Sit for a certain time.


I’m not even getting onto that subject here. Progressive loads with occasional deloading will allow your body to continually make strides towards your goal without over training.

But if you stay using ten lbs for the rest of your life on these exercises, you wont get much more stable strength. Find an increase you can handle safely until it becomes really easy. Then move on.

I’m hoping that some of these tactics I use to keep strong and stable will benefit you as well.

Top Strength Exercises to Reduce Shoulder Pain


Bored with bodybuilding after reaching the national level in 2009, Joe Daniels opened Swing This Kettlebell and Strength. From be- coming an IKFF Coach operating in an 800 sq ft studio, the benefits of a minimal yet highly effective approach to fitness has grown to a 5500 sq ft functional training facility within 4 years. Focusing on injury prevention, competitive kettlebell sport training and stress relief, Swing This Kettlebell and Strength has hosted seminars and trained hands on with some of the top athletes and coaches of the kettlebell world. Our philosophy has remained the same. You have to enjoy your training at all stages. Live your life. Your training time should make your life outside that time more enjoyable and fulfilling.
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