15 Unique Shoulder Exercises to Make you Look Good, Move Well and Build Strength

Pressing, pulling, strength, mobility and recovery, these exercises will bulletproof your shoulders.

10 Shoulder Exercises – Single Arm Landmine Push Press

Use of the landmine is a great way to introduce unilateral movements to clients. It provides a little more stability than a dumbbell or a kettlebell since it isn’t entirely free, but anchored at one end.

When teaching complex movements like the push press, having this little touch of stability from the anchored landmine can be useful. In this way we are using FBB moves to make some complex motor pattern learning more accessible.


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11 Incline Bench Prone Dumbbell Reverse Fly

The reverse dumbbell fly is a great way to target the rear deltoid and rhomboids. By laying flat on a bench like this variation you can really isolate and focus on the fly without having to worry about supporting your bodyweight in the hinged position as you would in a bent over reverse fly.

Consider this for beginners who are learning still to hinge correctly, or if you want to really isolate those rear deltoids.


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12 Shoulder Exercises – Standing Dual Arnold Press

The Arnold Press is seen throughout many of our Functional Bodybuilding programs because it teaches great vertical pressing mechanics. .

During a vertical pressing pattern (or overhead press) the shoulder blade should be allowed to upwardly rotate and elevate slightly in order decrease impingement between the shoulder blade and arm bone.

The Arnold Press was originally intended to build boulder deltoids (which it certainly can), but can also be utilized to improve vertical pressing mechanics, build a strong front rack position, and improve stability around the shoulder blade.


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Resistance bands are a useful tool to achieve this aim. Here are some examples of great scap strengthening exercises that you can use them for:


Use a band that provides a moderate resistance and perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps.


Named after the shape your body and arms make when you perform the exercise. Use a light resistance band for this and perform 10 reps in each position I,T, and Y before resting, do 3 sets in total. Its also worth noting that these can be done with light dumbbells while lying face down on an elevated bench.


Excellent for strengthening scapular retraction, aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.


Don’t be put off by the gruesome name, these can be really beneficial for shoulder health and mobility.

CrossFit doesn’t feature a lot of heavy rowing movements (the rowing machine is mostly quad dominant) so athletes tend to develop weaker lower and mid traps around the scapula compared to their dominant upper trapezius muscles which are constantly worked from exercises like cleans and deadlifts. To balance out your back strength, include barbell or dumbell rows in your training. Rowing movements are great for your shoulder and scapular health as well as having a strong carryover to weightlifting.

Also, always being mindful of the position of your scaps during a WOD can go a long way to improving their function and save you from injury.

When doing pull-ups, toes to bar, push ups, ring dips, bench press or almost any upper body exercise, make sure you are actively pulling your scaps down and back and soon this stronger position will become second nature.


Finally, it’s important to mention that massage can really help to unglue tissues around your scapula. Spending years in bad shoulder positions can cause the muscles to stiffen and knot, so to help them activate properly use a lacrosse ball, tennis ball or ‘peanut’ and place it in the area between your scapulae and spine. Apply some gentle pressure by leaning against a wall or lying on the floor and move the ball up and down this area and wherever you feel a few lumps or knots, keep the ball in there until you feel it start to loosen. Spend five minutes on the left and right side and after you’ll feel like you’ve got a brand-new set of shoulders.

Incorporating these exercises into your training, either as a warm up or post-WOD accessory work will only take about 30 minutes a week but will go a long way to making you a stronger athlete and keep you CrossFitting for years to come.

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