4 Corrective Exercises to Strengthen Your Shoulders from Injury

Weightlifters, powerlifters, and functional athletes are all at risk for injury. Injury is an inherent risk that we all must face on a daily basis. Weightlifters spend much of their training day in an overhead position, snatching, jerking, and pressing. Powerlifters apply high amounts of stress on their shoulder complex through bench pressing, low bar squats, and assistance work. Even functional fitness athletes, who in addition to doing very similar movements as weightlifters and powerlifters, find themselves increasing the volume and intensity on numerous other exercises that can elicit optimal fitness with a side of injury.

The shoulder complex lies at the foundation of nearly every exercise that we perform. The shoulder complex consists of multiple joints that are stabilized by connective tissue, all of which allow for range of motion during movement:

  • Glenohumeral Joint
  • Sternoclavicular Joint
  • Scapulothoracic Joint
  • Acromioclavicular Joint

Needless to say, all of these joint are critical for optimal shoulder health and performance.

As athletes, we must demonstrate superior shoulder range of motion (ROM), stabilization, and controlled movement under high loads and velocities, all of which must be trained through movement patterning, connective tissue adaptations, and muscular development. So of the most dominant connective tissues and muscles involved in the shoulder complex are:

  • Levator Scapulae
  • Rhomboid Major + Minor
  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres Major + Minor
  • Trapezius

Corrective and Strengthening Exercises

A dedicated approach to shoulder movement patterning and strengthening allows for the overall development and injury resilience. Neglectful training practices, structural and muscular imbalances, and overuse can result in nagging and sidelining injuries. Here are some of my top go-to exercises to restore shoulder ROM and improve shoulder performance.

Scapular Movement Training

The scapulae must be able to freely move while staying stable via muscular and neuromuscular control. Scapular depression, elevation, retraction, and protraction (and everywhere else in between) is necessary for most athletic endeavors. By learning how to mobilize these movements under finite control, you may decrease your susceptibility to injury.

Retraction Rows

Retraction of the shoulder blades (scapulae) are needed in most pulling, squatting, and pressing movements (not including pullers who embrace thoracic rounding techniques). By stabilizing the shoulder complex via retraction, increased stability allows for improved performance and injury resistance.

Y-T-W Drills

Often seen with baseball and football players who are professional overhead athletes (pitchers, throwers, and quarterbacks), these drills should find their way in nearly all weightlifting, powerlifting, and preventive shoulder programming. Increasing (ROM), strength, endurance, and finite control of posterior shoulder will increase joint stability in snatching, jerking, pressing, and other overhead pulling/pushing movements.

Multi-Directional Pull Aparts

This amazing exercise increase scapular stability, strengthens the posterior shoulder and rhomboids, and helps to balance high amounts of pressing with various pulling angles.

See For Yourself…

Check out these lifts, and the amount of muscular control and activity that is occurring in these high level athletes.

220lb Seated Strict Press

Talk about scapular control. Take a look at the firing of his entire back!

434lb / 197kg Snatch

If you have ever wonders how much your posterior shoulder, traps, and scapulae must work to prevent collapse, take a look.

265lb Powerlifter Repping Out Pull Ups

Look at that scapular control and movement. Stronger back equates to stronger everything!

484lb / 220kg Bottoms Up Overhead Squat

The ability to stabilize nearly 500lbs from a narrow snatch position is something else. Scapular retraction, external rotation, and the traps are all firing!

A video posted by Ma Strength (@mastrength) on

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram

About the author

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Masters in Exercise Physiology from Columbia University in NYC, USA. Mike is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Club Coach (USAW2), and Performance Nutrition Coach. Mike is a sponsored ReebokONE Ambassador specializing in weightlifting, barbell and powerlifting training, and sport-specific strength and conditioning. Additionally, Mike is an Assistant Coach of Strength and Conditioning at NYU and the Co-Founder at J2FIT Human Performance in NYC, USA. Mike is the Founder of The Barbell CEO, a lifestyle brand devoted to the strongest coaches, entrepreneurs, and minds. Additionally, Mike is a co-host on The Fittest League Podcast.