14 shoulder workout tips and exercises to reduce pain during push-ups, pull-ups and dips

4 workout tips and 10 exercises to avoid shoulder pain and have delts for days

Fit female athlete pressing a barbell with weight plates over her head in a CrossFit gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Your shoulders are some of the most complex areas of your body from a mechanical point of view. No other joints are under so much pressure and have such a broad range of motion – no wonder shoulders are so prone to injuries. However, these injuries and niggles can be easily avoided by following these shoulder workout tips. Don't miss another workout because of shoulder pain! 

Contrary to popular belief, it's not how hard you go in the gym that matters the most in building muscle or losing weight but how well you can optimise recovery. Shuffle your cards right, and you'll be able to work out more often and efficiently, making it easier to achieve your fitness goals.

Whatever your exercise goal, you'll likely need to use your shoulder joints and tendons to get there. The shoulders are heavily involved in many different exercises such as the bench press, deadlift or even squats; you can't avoid not looking after them.

Popular internet fitness personality and CrossFit athlete Marcus Filly shared four training principles and 10 functional bodybuilding moves to help you keep those delts strong and healthy.

Marcus Filly's 4 shoulder training principles

Before he goes on to list the best shoulder exercises, Marcus shares four training principles that can help avoid injuries in the first place. These are:

  • First rep is slow and controlled: This allows the muscles and tendons to familiarise themselves with the movement
  • Use static/isometric contractions regularly: Isometric moves utilise muscles without overusing the joints.
  • Limit complex and fast movements: These are taxing on the joints and therefore you should include them in your routine sparingly, if possible
  • Pain scale 3 out of 10: "If it hurts more than 3 out of 10, I just don't do it", says Marcus

As Marcus explains in the video, the above principles helped him recover from shoulder injuries. However, your body is probably different from his so adopt these principles to match your workout needs. Some of the tips, such as using controlled reps first, can be taken on as is, but the pain scale is definitely something you'll need to alter to your requirements.

Marcus Filly's 10 shoulder exercises to avoid injuries and help recovery

Marcus broke his list of 10 shoulder exercises into five movement sections: pushing, pulling, isometric, rotation/rotating cuffs, and dynamic/carries. This differentiation could help you seamlessly integrate these exercises into your workout schedule, even if it's a push-pull-leg routine or a full-body workout.

The ten exercises are:

  • Pushing
  • Landmine press – It's like a Smith Machine for your shoulder press
  • Eccentric-focus push-up – Lower the body slowly
  • Pulling
  • Face pull – Can be performed with a cable machine or resistance bands
  • Elbowing row – Similar to one-arm rows but with more emphasis on shoulder movement
  • Isometric
  • Dip support – Hold the starting position of the bodyweight dip
  • Side plank – An excellent core exercise
  • Rotation/Rotating cuffs
  • Dumbbell external rotation – Works well as a warm-up move 
  • Band pull apart – An essential exercise before any upper back workout
  • Dynamic/carries
  • Turkish get-up – One-move full-body workout
  • Kettlebell rack carry and hold – Simple yet effective

There you have it! Apart from the landmine press, most exercises can be performed using minimal home gym equipment: everyone should have at least a couple of dumbbells and kettlebells post-lockdown, right? Haven't got any? All you need is the Boxbell 3-in-1 adjustable dumbbell/kettlebell and all your home workout needs will be met.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.