3 Great Bodyweight Exercises To Stop Shoulder Pain

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
May 01, 2014

I used to practice martial arts religiously.

When I was in High School I would wake up at 4:30am and practice for 2 hours before heading to school. It was a passion and something that I loved doing.

However, it took a toll on my body.

The martial art that hurt the most was Western Boxing. I spent hours upon hours practicing different punching combinations. And almost every punch was set up with a left jab.

Jab, jab, jab.

Over and over again.

I got to the point where my left shoulder hurt so bad that I dropped out. To this day it is one of my weak areas that I have to pay close attention to. I do extra stretching and strengthening in order to prevent injury and continue with my calisthenics… because this what I love!

One of the most common injuries occurs in the shoulder joint, whether you are boxing or doing any other type of workout.

I asked Rick to share 3 of his best bodyweight exercises to help stop shoulder pain.

He gave me this video to share with you and there is one important factor that I want to emphasize before you watch it.

Knee Health Score 2

Each of these exercises include MOVEMENT. So many people think they need to sit on the sidelines when they have an injury. Our bodies were made to move, yes even through an injury. Don’t be crazy and over do it. However, movement is an important piece of the rehab puzzle.

3 Great Bodyweight Exercises To Stop Shoulder Pain

Below you will find the three exercises spelled out.

I’ll share with you why they are so important and the advantages to each.

1. High to Low Incline Plank

For the Low to High Plank you’ll need a bench. Place your hands on the bench so you are in an incline plank position. As Rick mentions in the video make sure your ankles, hips and shoulders are in line.

Drop one forearm to the  bench while maintaining good alignment. Then drop the other one.

This exercise will help rehab your shoulder because of a couple reasons.

1. Its not super intense yet still strengthens the shoulder.

During the transition period when you are bringing one forearm to the bench you are holding your body up with the opposite shoulder. This helps strengthen all the muscles in the shoulder joint without causing further injury.

2. It targets a full range of shoulder muscles.

As you transition from a low plank to a high plank your body is not perfectly parallel with the ground. At times, you’ll be angled to the left or the right depending on which side you are going to. This is great because it targets a wider range of muscles.

2. Plank Row (With or Without Weight)

Much of the injuries we sustain in the shoulder are due to the muscles around the shoulder being weak. Plank Rows is a great exercise because it strengthens the muscles of the middle back (rhomboids, middle trap).

These muscles insert into the shoulder blade. Once they are stronger they will help provide greater stabilization and help prevent future injury.

While you are doing this exercise make sure you are bringing your elbow back fully to get maximum contraction from the middle back muscles.

3. Plank Rocks

This is one of my favorite shoulder rehab exercises. If you have an injury that is a bit more painful, the other two might be hard to do. This exercise is easier to perform because you are controlling the movement with your feet. Your shoulder muscles are simply contracting to hold you from falling.

Make sure that you stay within proper alignment while you perform this exercise and any other rehab exercise.

Bonus Shoulder Rehab Tips!

1. The Power of Oscillation

If I had to attach one word to effective shoulder (or any joint for that matter) rehab it would be oscillation.

Oscillation simply means “back and forth” movement. Any object can oscillate. However, when it is applied to a joint it does a few things that help with rehab.

1. It reduces friction by lubricating the joints.

2. It’s like a shock absorber. The more you move the joint the more synovial fluid is released into the joint which ads thickness and viscosity. This lubricates and helps with our every day tasks.

3. It transports nutrients and waste and supplies the the cells with oxygen. All important in rehab.

My favorite way to oscillate the shoulder joint is to wrap a light ankle weight around my wrist. I then bend forward and swing my arm back and forth or in a shoulder motion. It feels so good, oscillates the joint and provides for some traction.

2. Change Up Your Speed

If you feel like your rehab exercise is hurting, try changing up the speed.

When you go slower you increase the time under tension which forces your muscles to become stronger. The decrease in speed also allows you to pay closer attention to what your body is telling you.

3. Ice/Heat Combo

Ice is one of the most effective methods for reducing inflammation ever.

Cold therapy significantly decreases pain and swelling. When I practiced medical manual therapy, I frequently recommended this to my patients.

They would say, “Oooh, Todd. But its TOOO cold!

Do it any way.” would be my response.

This is so important, I’ll repeat it.

ICE should become your new best friend if you have an injury.

My recommendation, however, is actually to alternate heat and cold every 15 minutes. IcyHot will not cut it… at least not like a true ice pack and hot rice bag. The cold and hot temperature differences flushes blood flood and nutrients in and out of the joint.


Show/Hide Comments (9 comments)
  1. John

    Dear Todd,
    An excellent article. Please could you publish a similar one for knee rehabilitation?

    Kind regards,

  2. mike

    Useful information !

    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Mike,

      Glad you found the information useful.


      – Todd

      • Michael

        Great info thanks for putting it out there Todd

  3. Matt

    Thanks for this, will definitely give it a try, sore body parts are not nice.

  4. syed riyaz uddin

    Great! What i saw on internet is Shoulder pain occurs mostly by doing wide grip pushups (i dont know about crucifix pushups).to prevent that pain, they recommend to have your hand only shoulder width apart. so, does this article Help me go on with wide grip?

  5. Debbie

    I am pleased to know about the exercise to help with shoulder pain. However, what can you suggest for anyone with wrist pain and how can one go about doing these shoulder exercises if the person finds discomfort in their wrists while performing the exercises.

    Thank you for very much for your time.

  6. Bethany Lee

    Love this Todd. And I need to check out his website. I am going to send this one to a current client who is dealing with shoulder pain.

    • Todd Kuslikis

      Awesome Bethany! Glad you like it. Hope your client rehabs quickly!

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