Shoulder Isometrics: Strength & Rehab

The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the human body. While mobility is important, the stability of the shoulder girdle is essential, especially throughout its entire range of motion.

Muscles serve as our dynamic stabilizers. 

Strength and Conditioning

Building strength and achieving hypertrophy involves deliberately training your muscles with specific frequencies and at specific intensities.  Popular workouts tend to include complex lifts like push-press, squats, etc.  Having strong stabilizing muscles for the involved joints will allow for a healthier, cleaner, and, when appropriate, heavier lift. 

Isometric exercises can add tremendous value when training stabilizers if you program your workouts to target the entire range of motion at that joint.

If weight training is fairly new to you, or you are recovering from an injury, incorporating isometric exercises into your shoulder workouts can serve as a great starting point.  Similar to a pyramid, it is critically important to build a strong foundation first before progressing to heavier more dynamic lifts.  As such, before pursuing more shoulder intensive lifts such as the Shoulder/Over-head Press or Push-Press, we strongly encourage you to build-up/protect the myriad of stabilizers which allow your shoulder joint (GH joint) to provide stable movement. 

Even if you are a healthy, seasoned weight lifter, isometrics can still add value. These exercises can improve recovery, strengthen the stabilizer muscles at the shoulder, and can lock-in your form which in many cases can help bust through plateaus.


Because the shoulder is extremely mobile, there is always an inherent risk for injury even with the most basic of movements inside or outside the gym; that is why we always urge our readers/clients to invest time and energy into thoughtful preventative strength training.

Some common impairments that occur at the shoulder are:

  • Rotator cuff tears

  • Generalized weakness

  • Tendinopathy

  • Ligament tears

These injuries can all result in instability and all have their respective healing times. Rehab specialists commonly use isometric exercises in order to facilitate and strengthen muscles in a controlled environment.  Since the shoulder is at a fixed angle, it eliminates stressful movement, which can further irritate an existing injury.  Also, in the case of an early stage rotator cuff tear, you do not want to stretch or load the muscle to any extreme. This circumstance is a perfect setting for isometric training since the length of the muscle does not change.

Exercise to Ask Your Trainer About

  • Scapular Retraction with band

  • Internal/External Rotation with band

  • Anterior/Posterior Deltoid Wall Push

  • Shoulder Abduction


  • Budhota A, Tommasino P, Hussain A, Campolo D. Identification of shoulder muscle synergies in healthy subjects during an isometric task. 2017 International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics (ICORR). 2017. doi:10.1109/icorr.2017.8009235.

  • EMG and force production of some human shoulder muscles during isometric abduction. Clinical Biomechanics. 1986;1(2):116. doi:10.1016/0268-0033(86)90124-5.

  • Sabour S. Reproducibility of isometric shoulder protraction and retraction strength measurements in normal subjects and individuals with winged scapula; methodologic and statistical issue to avoid misinterpretation. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. 2017;26(4). doi:10.1016/j.jse.2017.02.001.