Man with shoulder pain

If you’ve been experiencing shoulder pain, you’re not alone. Many people suffer from this type of discomfort, which can range from mild to severe. The good news is that there are many ways to relieve shoulder pain. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to relieve shoulder pain through exercises and stretching, and provide guidance on sets, reps, and rest to structure your routine. We’ll also share a video to help you perform these exercises correctly and safely. So, let’s dive in and learn how to alleviate your shoulder pain!

What you will learn in this article:

Why do I have shoulder pain?

Man with shoulder pains trying to understand the cause

The shoulder is by far one of the most complex and mobile joints in the human body. This vulnerability can result in many scenarios, including impingement, inflammation, instability, tearing, dislocation and even fracture. Therefore it’s very important not only to build strong delts but also to take care of your shoulder health by improving stability, building up strong tendons and working against imbalances. 

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, but the socket of the shoulder is very shallow and smaller than the ball. Therefore the joint is inherently less stable than a true ball and deep socket, such as the hip joint. If you do suffer from shoulder pain and it’s not an acute injury which is caused by strong forces like shoulder dislocation, fractures or torn muscles and ligaments you should think about muscle and tendon related problems before anything else. However we still suggest consulting your doctor in the first place and make sure you are allowed to start with recovery training.

The following exercises help to strengthen, mobilize and stabilize your shoulders as well as eradicate limitations through tight muscles. Please keep in mind that you should never work into deep joint pain. So only train with the range of motion and intensity that allows you to do the exercise free of deep pain and never push yourself above this point. If you want to avoid injuries and pain right from the beginning we recommend our comprehensive workouts and mobility course you can find on

Exercises to relieve shoulder pain

Easy Bridge to Side Plank Rotation

  • Man doing an easy bridge
  • Man doing Easy Bridge to Side Plank Rotation

This exercise stabilizes your shoulder in many different positions. Especially the easy bridge part is very important because many people neglect to stabilize their shoulders in an extended position. Always make sure that you never rest passively in any of those positions. The goal is to stabilize your shoulders and make sure that your shoulder blades work actively against the force of your own bodyweight. Like already explained, make sure to work in a comfortable range of motion and adapt the movement to your current abilities and limitations.

Pike Stand

Man doing a pike stand to relieve shoulder pain

This exercise is also about shoulder stability in the first place, but this time in an overhead position. In the pike stand you push your straight arms into the ground, while lifting your body through a scapula elevation. If the pike stand is too hard and you can’t stabilize yourself properly, you can decrease the intensity by doing it with your feet on the ground. You are also allowed to bend your legs because the main goal is to work on your shoulder stability and not your hamstring flexibility. If you have no problems with the elevated pike stand it’s possible to switch to a wall supported handstand.

Active Hang

Man doing a active hang to relieve shoulder pain

Here you simply hang from a bar and try to depress and retract your shoulder blades. To get the most out of this movement we suggest arching your back, because otherwise you won’t be able to get the necessary shoulder blade retraction. Please make sure to keep your arms straight and only pull from your back. If you have massive problems with hanging in an overhead position, we suggest a low bar or rings and modify the movement to a more horizontal body position. 

Prone Arm Circles

  • Man doing prone arm circles
  • Man doing prone arm circles for shoulder pain

This exercise is a mix of shoulder mobility and strength. In comparison to the Arch Up or swimmer you don’t extend your spine and only raise your shoulders as high as possible. Of course we know that this can be very difficult, so if you don’t have the necessary mobility to do it, you can modify it in 2 ways: First, do the exercise on an object so that you have more space between your arms and the ground. Second, extend your spine to a degree that you are able to raise your arms from the ground. Later when you get better you can decrease the spinal extension. When it comes to the arm movement make sure that you do a complete rotation with your hands, so palms facing upwards in the starting and end position.

Movements with Banded Resistance

The next exercises are complex shoulder movements with banded resistanceHere we suggest 3 exercises.

First exercise

  • Man doing band resisted exercise
  • Man doing band resisted exercise for shoulder pain

The first one is a PNF movement. Here you do a shoulder flexion, abduction and external rotation. Always make sure that you choose the right band resistance so that you can move your arm properly into an overhead position without overextending your spine.

Second exercise

  • Man doing an exercise for shoulder pain
  • Man doing shoulder exercises with elastic bands

In the second one you do an external shoulder rotation, stabilize this position and move your arm up and down. This has the benefit that you work the external rotators of the shoulder in a very complex and comprehensive way instead of the regular, one dimensional rotator cuff training.

Third exercise

  • Man doing elastic bands exercises
  • Man doing elastic band exercises
  • Man doing elastic bands exercises for shoulders pain
  • Man doing elastic band exercises for shoulders pain

The third one is the most complex of these band resisted movements. Here you work your shoulder in all positions and directions

Face Pull

Man doing face pulls to relieve shoulder pain

Another good exercise is the Face Pull. Here you do an external rotation in a horizontal shoulder position. Please make sure to use the right amount of weight or resistance so that you can rotate your shoulder and open your chest as much as possible. Similar to the band resisted exercises you can improve the face pull by adding an additional movement while stabilizing the external rotated position.

Tea Cup

  • Man doing tea cup exercise
  • Man doing tea cup exercise for shoulder pain
  • Man doing tea cup exercise to relieve shoulder pain
  • Man doing tea cup exercise for shoulders pain
  • Man trying to relieve shoulder pain with tea cup exercise

The next exercise is called the Tea Cup and is heavily focused around mobility. Imagine holding a cup of tea in front of your body with a straight and forward rotated elbow pit. Now move your hand up and rotate it outward until you are holding the cup of tea above your head. 

Then you move your hand down while keeping the elbow high. At the end you move your hand behind your back and try to hold it as high as possible before you go back the same way back to the starting position. Depending on your coordination and mobility,it might not actually be possible for you to balance a real cup on your hand without spilling any tea. However, your imagination can help you come as close as possible to the desired, spill-free movement.

Stretching to relieve shoulder pain

Ok now it’s time for an overseen topic: Stretching the often overused and tight muscles. Tight muscles can limit your shoulder mobility significantly and can also lead to imbalances and shoulder pain.

Wall Stretch

Man doing wall stretch

One of the most neglected muscles in terms of shoulder problems is the long head of the triceps. The triceps can cause shoulder problems because the long head is attached to your shoulder blade and with that can create poor positioning of the scapula resulting in shoulder pain. 

To solve that you can raise one arm above your head, bend the elbow and reach down your back. Lean against a wall and use the other arm as an assistance. Now you’re leaning into the wall allowing it to move your hand further down your spine. This stretch not only affects the triceps but also the lats which is the next muscle you should stretch. The lats are connected to the upper arm and play a huge role in moving the shoulder in space. If they are tight they can cause massive shoulder limitations, imbalances and pain.

Band Resisted Lat Stretch

Man doing Band Resisted Lat Stretch

Hold a resistance band that is anchored to a pull-up bar, a beam or any other object. From there you lean a bit forward allowing the band to open up your shoulders. After that you rotate your upper body to the banded side, while moving it towards the ground. 

Lat Stretch with Rings

Man doing Lat Stretch with Rings

Here you do the same movement as in the resisted band lat stretch. The only difference is that here you are doing it on rings or a sling trainer and use your bodyweight as the resistance. If you have no bands or rings it’s also possible to do a similar movement with a doorframe or any other object you can hold yourself onto. Besides the stretches we suggest using a foam roller to increase lat flexibility and decrease lat tightness. In addition it’s also possible to add a stretch similar to that on the wall.

Subscapularis Stretch

Man doing Subscapularis Stretch

The last muscle on our list is the subscapularis. Here you need a stick that you place behind your bent arm. Now grab the lower part of the stick and turn your elbow to the side. After that you pull the stick slightly forward. Please make sure to be very careful with the pressure. Your shoulder is very vulnerable in this position. If you don’t have a stick you can do the same stretch in a Yoga pose similar to an eagle. 

Sets, reps and rest

  • Man doing pike stand with sets and reps info
  • Man doing active hangs with sets and reps info
  • Man doing band resisted exercises with sets and reps info
  • Man doing lat stretches with sets and reps info

Now you might ask yourself which of those exercises you should use, how often and for how many sets and reps you should do them. Well, first of all it really depends on the problem itself. So if your main problem are your tight lats you should definitely incorporate lat stretches and work on your overhead mobility. If you have problems with stability and weak external rotators you should focus more on the band resisted movements and face pulls.

If you can’t locate the exact problem you can try this comprehensive sample routine:

  • Pike Stand – 3 sets – 20 – 40 sec. – rest 90 sec.
  • Active Hang – 3 sets – 20 – 40 sec. – rest 90 sec. 
  • Facepull – 3 sets – 30-50 sec. (each side) rest 90 sec. 
  • Lat Stretch – 3 sets – 30 – 60 sec. (each side) rest 60 sec. 

When it comes to training days you have many different options. Theoretically it’s possible to do these exercises every day as long as you don’t overdo it. Recovery and or Preparation is not the same as strength or hypertrophy, so never go all out and avoid muscular fatigue.

Watch how to perform these exercises

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