Rehabilitation Exercises to Strengthen Your Shoulders

Dr. Bryan Tan

Orthopaedic surgeon, MBBS (Singapore), MMed (Ortho), FRCS Ed(Orth)

Exercises to Strengthen Your Shoulders

If you are experiencing discomfort or pain in your shoulders, taking care of your shoulder health is essential, regardless of whether you are an athlete pushing your limits or someone dealing with daily strains. A study that discusses the similarity between shoulder pain and lower back pain highlights that shoulder pain should be considered a chronic condition. In most cases, individuals are advised to take an active role in managing their pain, with a focus on retaining movement in their shoulders. In this article, we will explore targeted rehabilitation exercises recommended by specialists for strengthening your shoulders, improving stability, and preventing injuries.


Shoulder External Rotation with Resistance Band

An effective exercise to improve shoulder strength and stability is the shoulder external rotation with a resistance band. This exercise specifically targets the rotator cuff muscles, which are crucial for maintaining shoulder stability and function. Include this technique in your workout routine to reduce tension and develop resilience in your shoulders, which can help prevent tears and injuries.

To perform this exercise, follow these steps:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a recovery band in each hand.
  • Keep your arms close to your body, elbows bent, and forearms parallel to the floor.
  • Pull your shoulder blades down and back, chest out, for the starting position.
  • Inhale, then exhale, and draw your forearms outwards, increasing band tension.
  • Maintain still shoulders; feel the squeeze at the back of your shoulders and between shoulder blades.
  • Inhale, release the band to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 to 12 times.


Man Doing Shoulder Or Back Exercises in Gym

Scapular Retraction Exercises

Proper movement of the shoulder blades is one of the key ways to maintain optimal shoulder function and prevent injuries. Scapular retraction exercises are designed to do just that – they improve your posture and shoulder mechanics by strengthening the muscles around the shoulder blades. These exercises not only enhance shoulder stability but also reduce strain on the surrounding tissues, which lowers the risk of shoulder injuries.

To perform this exercise, follow these steps:

  • Secure the band around a sturdy object at waist height.
  • Take one end of the band firmly in each hand.
  • Keep your elbows at the sides, bent at 90 degrees.
  • Pull the band back to move your shoulder blades together.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Repeat 8 to 12 times.
  • For a greater range of motion, lift your arms out to the sides at shoulder level.
  • Maintain a 90-degree angle at your elbows.
  • Pull the band back to move your shoulder blades together.
  • Return to starting position.


Women Doing Neck Strengthening Exercises On Mat

Prone Y-T-W

For enhanced shoulder mobility and strength, it is recommended to add prone Y-T-W exercises to your workout routine. These exercises specifically target different muscle groups, such as the deltoids and upper back muscles, that are essential for shoulder stability and function. Consistently practising these movements can help to increase shoulder endurance and resilience, which contribute to overall shoulder health.

To perform this exercise, follow these steps:

  • Start with your arms up in a Y position, around 135 degrees.
  • Pull your arms back, contracting the mid-back scapular area.
  • Squeeze your mid-back area, hold for 2 to 3 seconds, and return to neutral.
  • Rotate your thumbs out to form a T.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together, hold for 3 to 5 seconds, return to neutral.
  • Bring your arms to a W position.
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together, and hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
  • Repeat each movement about 5 times, holding for 3 to 5 seconds each time.


Young Man Exercising With Elastic Resistance Band

Shoulder Flexion with Resistance Band

Another useful exercise to add to your shoulder sports injury rehabilitation routine is shoulder flexion using a resistance band. This technique focuses on the anterior deltoid muscles, which are important for overhead movements and shoulder strength. Gradually increasing the resistance can effectively challenge your shoulder muscles, improving their capacity and reducing the risk of overuse injuries.

To perform this exercise, follow these steps:

  • Stand with one foot on the exercise band, and hold the opposite end with your hand.
  • Keep your hand by your side, elbow straight, and maintain slight tension in the band.
  • Maintain good shoulder and spinal posture throughout.
  • Move your arm straight forward and up as far as possible.
  • Control movement back down to the starting position.
  • For strength, perform 6 to 10 reps, 3 to 5 sets with 3-minute rests, 2 to 3 times weekly.
  • For endurance, perform 15 to 25 reps, 3 to 5 sets with under 30-second rests, 2 to 3 times weekly.


Incorporating targeted shoulder rehabilitation techniques into your routine is paramount for maintaining shoulder health and preventing injuries. Dedicate yourself to the recommended exercises, and you will be able to strengthen your shoulders, improve stability, and elevate overall shoulder function. Remember, prioritising your shoulder health today can lead to a more active and pain-free tomorrow. 

If you’re experiencing persistent shoulder pain, don’t wait to see a doctor. Consult with Dr. Bryan Tan, an orthopaedic surgeon and shoulder specialist in Singapore, for personalised advice and treatment options. With clinics conveniently located at Mount Elizabeth Novena and Connexion, accessing guidance and support for your shoulder health is easily within reach.

Schedule a consultation today to strengthen your shoulders and empower your life.

The first step towards shoulder injury prevention is to simply get started.

Now that you’re aware of the different strategies which can help lower your risk of injury, you should make improving your overall shoulder health a priority. Even small habits such as practising good posture or stretching daily can go a long way.

Dr. Bryan Tan Photo

Dr. Bryan Tan

Orthopaedic Surgeon

Sports have always played a big part in Dr Bryan’s life. His interest in sports and varied sporting activities give him a deep understanding of sports injuries and the mindset of an athlete.

Dr Bryan Tan is a fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon, based in Singapore. He completed 2 fellowships in Orthopaedic Sports, Shoulder and Elbow Surgery in Sydney, Australia and Nice, France. Prior to private practice, Dr Bryan was a consultant in the Division of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery in National University Hospital (NUH), Singapore. He is currently still a visiting consultant at NUH where he actively teaches medical students and young orthopaedic surgical trainees. In addition, he travels to regional countries to teach advanced arthroscopic surgical techniques.

  • MBBS(Singapore)
  • MMed (Ortho)
  • FRCS Ed(Orth)

Dr. Bryan has a special interest in keyhole surgery and performs most of his surgeries using advanced, modern keyhole surgical techniques. He regularly visits fellow surgeons from other countries to ensure his skills and knowledge are cutting edge.

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