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A PT Reviews the Internet’s Most Popular Shoulder Workouts

The program that I’ve developed is structured around functional goals like moving your body and the objects you interact with.  -Burke Selbst, physical therapist

It’s easy to find great exercise content online. With a few simple clicks you can access more exercises for every part of the body than you could possibly do in a month of workouts. Are these exercises any good for you? If you brought these workouts in to your physical therapist, which ones would they keep and which ones would they get rid of? What would they add to make sure your shoulder workout was complete? 

As a physical therapist, my priority is the health of your musculoskeletal system. I’m more concerned with your ability to carry groceries and put them in the car than with your ability to isolate and develop the individual fibers of your anterior deltoid. This is important because the program that I’ve developed is structured around functional goals like moving your body and the objects you interact with, and not the size or appearance of your muscles. I’ve spent the last 21 years studying which exercises give my patients the greatest bang for their buck, and have the largest impact with the simplest and fewest moves. This is important because most of my patients are not planning to spend three hours in the gym every day. If I can get them to do 3 moves each day, I consider that a win.

A couple of real world examples to illustrate this point: One recent case involved a gravel cyclist who came in for rotator cuff repair. She needed the endurance to manage 3 hours of bumpy cycling. Which shoulder exercises are good for treating that? In another case, a patient wanted my help training to get her Kayak off and on the roof of her tall SUV. In both cases we used the general principles outlined in my video and developed a set of moves with just the right amount of resistance to create adaptations and lasting strength and endurance gains.

One important note that I didn’t mention in the video – while I only ended up reviewing a few websites in the interest of time (as I mentioned in the video, I really could do this all day!), the sites I looked at and a brief scan of other top search results did show programs that featured and seemed to be designed just for men. It is well worth pointing out that women need shoulder strength too!! Both my examples above were women. You can choose weight appropriate for your strength and goals, and do these exercises without fear or worry, and they will have tremendous benefit!

Lastly, this program assumes a healthy shoulder that you’d like to improve. If you’re in the stages of rehabilitating your shoulder, don’t do these exercises without first getting  advice from your expert PT. The moves will likely be similar, but the timing and resistance will probably change.

Thanks for watching, this video was a lot of fun to do and I hope you enjoy it!

The exercise program: 

Burke and the Internet Build a Better Shoulder Program

Twice a week or three times in nine days

Gold’s Gym

  • Overhead Press
  • Plank Dumbell Raise

Man of Many

  • Front Raise/forward raise – dumbbells, plate and/or bands
  • Bent over Lateral Raise/back fly – vary alignment of arm; with dumbbells or bands
  • D1 PNF Shoulder Extension

Men’s Journal

  • Robbers (high ER – lei, and or robber style motion)
  • Scapular stability face down, I’s, Y’s, T’s W’s
  • Olympic Lifts – Only if you have a good coach!
  • Chest Press – dumbbells, bands, barbells etc, upright or faceup
  • Deadlift
  • Farmer’s carry

Burke’s Additions

  • Prone row with external rotation
  • Sidelying shoulder external rotation
  • Standing shoulder internal rotation, elbow out at 90 degrees
  • Prone W Scapular retraction
  • Shoulder flexion w/serratus activation with resistance
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Burke Selbst PT OCS gcfp

Lover of all things movement. Inspired by success stories great and small and coming back stronger.

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