Introducing the Best Shoulder Workout

Lateral raises are an effective way to work the stabilizing muscles in the shoulder.
Lateral raises are an effective way to work the stabilizing muscles in the shoulder. (Airman 1st Class Dillon J. Audit/U.S. Air Force photo)

I have received many emails concerning past injuries from readers. There are many types of injuries; this article will focus on the three most common. According to the Navy Bureau of Medicine, the top three sports injury surgeries done on its members are to the shoulders, knees and lower back.

I will continue to focus on exercises to help strengthen these areas in case you are suffering from previous injuries. This article's focus is on the most injured joint in our bodies: the shoulder. It's our most versatile joint. There is no other joint that can lift up, down, forward, backward, rotate left and right, or throw. The only joint in our body built similarly is the hip. But with the shoulder's versatility comes its weakness. It is commonly injured due to tendinitis, ligament pulls, bursitis, dislocations, separations and rotator-cuff injuries. If you have had any of these injuries in the past or you want to help prevent shoulder injuries in the future, try the lightweight shoulder workout below.

This workout is used by many physical therapists, and no heavier than five-pound dumbbells are recommended. Start by using no weights at all and only lift "the air." You will find that the air gets heavy on these small muscles of the shoulder, but these are the muscles that no one exercises. Most people will lift too much weight over their head and cause an injury, mainly because of a lack of stabilization of the shoulder joint. By exercising all muscles in the shoulder, you will build the balance necessary to help prevent injuries and build nice, tone shoulders and arms. Try it below and see for yourself.

The lightweight shoulder workout (with dumbbells)

Do the following sequence of exercises nonstop for 10 reps each:

Lateral raises: 10 (palms down)

Lateral raises: 10 (thumbs up)

Lateral raises: 10 (thumbs down)

Front raises: 10 (thumbs up)

Crossovers: 10 (palms facing away from you)

Military press: 10 (see pics below)

Lateral raise

Keep your knees slightly bent, shoulder back and your chest high. Lift weights parallel to the ground in a smooth, controlled motion, keeping your palms facing the ground. Follow the next seven exercises without stopping.

Thumbs up

After performing 10 regular lateral raises, do 10 lateral raises with your thumbs up, touching your hips with your palms facing away from you and raising your arms no higher than shoulder height.

Thumbs up/down

Continue with side lateral raises. As you lift your arms upward, keep your thumbs up. Once your arms are shoulder height, turn your hands and make your thumbs point toward the floor. Repeat for 10 times, always leading in the up and down direction with your thumbs.

Front raise (thumbs up)

Now, for 10 more repetitions, time to work your front deltoids. Lift the dumbbells from your waist to shoulder height, keeping your thumbs up.


With your palms facing away from you and arms relaxed in front of your hips, bring your arms up and over your head as if you were doing a jumping jack (without jumping). Cross your arms in front of your head and bring them back to your hips for 10 repetitions.

Military press

Place one foot ahead of the other as shown and knees slightly bent to reduce strain on your lower back. Exhale as you push the weights over your head for 10 final repetitions in the mega-shoulder pump workout. Slowly lower them to shoulder height and repeat. Muscles used are shoulders and triceps (back of arm).

Do this routine during any upper-body day workout. Each of the Fitness Books has this great workout explained and placed throughout the books.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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