3 Exercises to Strengthen the Shoulders

Most top professionals, elite juniors, college players, and high school players incorporate strength training and conditioning into their preparation for competition. But such training is not just for these elite players. The recreational player and beginners can also benefit from this sport-specific strength training.

One area of particular attention when I work with athletes is the shoulders. Having strong shoulders is important to any "overhead" athlete such as volleyball players, softball players and swimmers. Overhead athletes must have strong, well-conditioned shoulders to be effective and remain injury-free.

A well-rounded sports-conditioning program for overhead athletes should include exercises intended to address the entire shoulder, particularly the rotator cuff. Here are three of my favorite exercises that I use to help to strengthen that area:

"Empty the Can"

This exercise will help work the muscles of your upper back and shoulders.  These muscles are instrumental in raising your arm in overhead movements. I recommend using a light weight for this exercise, from two to five pounds.


Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, with relaxed knees (your "relaxed stance"). Hold a single dumbbell in your hand. Place your thumb-side against your thigh.



Lift your arm up and out at about a 45-degree angle from your body, pointing your thumb-side down toward the ground as you lift. Think of pouring out a can of soda. Keep your wrist firm (don't bend it as you exercise).

Lift up to shoulder height, pause for a second or two, and then return to the starting position.


Tip: Don't have a small weight at home? Use an actual can of soup or a filled water jug with a handle.

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