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5 Exercises For Pain Free Shoulders


Upper body cross syndrome is a way to describe a pattern that occurs in the upper body, particularly those that train in the gym and then sit at a desk for most of the day. Tightness of the pectoralis major and minor, along with tightness of the upper trapezius and levator scapular is what occurs (See Figure 1).

This tightness causes muscles like the lower and middle trapezius and deep neck flexors to be inhibited and weak, leading to a muscular imbalance.

The most effective way of fixing this is getting a soft tissue treatment and combining it with corrective exercises that will strengthen the weak muscles.

Figure 1: Upper Body Cross Syndrome

Try the 5 exercises below in the gym, combined with some soft tissue treatment as a great start to improving your shoulder health.

1) Shoulder Dislocates

  • 4 sets of 12-15reps.

The aim of this exercise is to stretch the internal rotators of the shoulder. As the dowel passes over your head, go slow through the portion where you feel the greatest stretch.  


2) Subscap Stretch

  • 4 sets of 30sec each side.

The subscapularis muscle is responsible for medial rotation of the glenuhumeral joint. In most cases of shoulder pain, this muscle is involved.

3) Prone Bilateral Trap 3 Raise - 30 Degree Incline

  • 4 sets of 6-8 reps

The movement is to be done in the gym with a controlled tempo and the focus should be on muscle recruitment, not using momentum to lift the weight.  This exercise trains the scapular retractors, performing the correct technique is essential as doing the movement incorrectly will often make the issue worse.

To start the movement, retract your shoulder blades, keeping your arms straight and ensuring your are not using your upper traps. If you feel your upper traps doing all the work, try thinking of pulling your shoulder blades into your back pocket. Keep your thumbs up throughout the movement to increase activation of the scapular retractors. 

4) Cable Facepull

  • 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Set the cable height at about chest level and grab the rope with a pronated grip. Retract your scapular and try pull the middle of the rope to your nose.

5) Cable External Rotation from the Hip

  • 4 sets of 10-12 reps

To perform this exercise, set the cable at hip height with a single handle attachment. Start with your weaker side as it will dictate how many reps you perform on your stronger side.

Stand with good posture, retracting your scapular as you place your other hand on your hip. Pin the elbow to the body and externally rotate your arm outward, using your shoulder as the pivot point.


The Author - Ben Thompson

Ben Thompson is the Owner and Head coach of Movement Enhanced. He trains a wide range of clients with goals ranging from fat loss, strength, rehabilitation and athletic development. With a thorough understanding of the technical and theoretical components involved in training, he helps clients achieve their goals across these areas. View Profile.

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