Yoga-Inspired Shoulder Strengthening Exercises

Guy@Gaiam by Guy@Gaiam | November 4th, 2013 | 4 Comments
topic: Fitness, Health & Wellness, Yoga

Yoga for guys: Strengthen your shoulders

In my youth, I had terrible experiences with my shoulders separating and dislocating at various times during sports. I had my first reconstructive surgery at 18 years old on my right shoulder. This was the result of a year’s worth of extreme snowboarding accidents. Three years later, I was back on the operating table — this time for my left shoulder. After the second surgery, my upper body was extremely tight. Over the years, I had developed major issues with larger muscle groups in my upper body trying to overcompensate for the smaller, weaker muscles surrounding both of my shoulder joints. Even after months of physical therapy, I was worried I might have complications with my shoulders for the rest of my life.

In one of my final physical therapy sessions, my therapist recommended a series of shoulder exercises to help me regain functional strength in my shoulders and to train other areas of my upper body to stop overcompensating.

I refused to do the exercises. Not only was it going to hurt, but I didn’t want to risk putting my shoulders in harm’s way again. All I could think about was another painful dislocation. But I reluctantly began moving in and out of what I would later discover to be a yoga Vinyasa flow, or Sun Salutation. And guess what? It felt pretty good.

I went home and practiced the flow over and over again for weeks until I had complete confidence in both my shoulders’ strength and was able to rotate them completely, without pain. My doctor had told me I may never be able to perform certain movements again with my shoulders, but today, I have almost 100 percent full range. I can throw a ball faster than before, and I know my shoulders are stronger than ever without the slightest indication of instability.

Today, I have refined my yoga practice and continue to practice with a sense of purpose because I’ve experienced many other dramatic improvements in my health and wellness.

I think a lot of people — men especially — have misconceptions about the benefits of yoga, perhaps mistakenly believing you have to already be thin and flexible. If this is your belief, I encourage you to try the following yoga-inspired routine. It’s similar to the routine I was first taught by my physical therapist. If you do any type of weight training, you’ve likely felt joint pain in your shoulders, knees and/or hips. This routine will help stabilize these joints and build supporting muscle. As you’ll see in the video above, even after many years of practicing my shoulders still wobble as the smaller muscle groups work to stabilize the weight of my body. This is a great stretching and strength workout in general with cardio benefits when performed in a circuit.

If you have experienced severe shoulder instability including separations and/or dislocations, please see a doctor first.

Hindu Push-Ups

Max out on as many Hindu push-ups as you can. Similar to a Chaturanga in yoga, make sure to exhale through the push-up and inhale on your way up. Keep your legs as straight as possible throughout this exercise.

Plank Dog Pointers

Moving into plank position, exhale while bringing your opposite arm and leg out to a point. It’s important to focus on your core, keeping it tight and stable. Hold for three seconds on each side.

Side Plank Pose

The tendency is to push your butt out. Keep it in line with your body. Use your core to stabilize your hips. Try not to sag downward in the middle. Hold for three seconds on each side. I do a push-up in between sides for added strength training.

Repeat the sequence.

yoga for men

Related Articles:

Shoulder Supplement: Daily Dose of Movement to Erase Shoulder Pain

Video: Sun Salutation How-To from Rodney Yee

Yoga for Men: The Guy’s Guide to Embracing this Ancient Practice (a Q&A with Tommy Rosen)


  1. Great story and great form – bravo! Thank you for sharing this, as I look forward to adding your 3 moves into my sun salutation daily. I have been working on a hip dislocation from car accident for over a year. Great to see a gentleman whom is not a famous instructor for a change offering up positive storkes for yoga. May it inspire other men to add yoga to or create their own daily home practice. Well done!!

    Kristina | August 19th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  2. I liked your version of sun salutations but can suggest you keep your elbows in for a better work out. you will work both triceps and biceps. I liked the scooping motion and will add that to my class along with the one arm and leg lift from the plank . thank you

    brigid feydo | September 5th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. Thank you for the video, I will add to my routine!

    Stan | March 3rd, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  4. Good form. Nice to see a stocky guy that’s able to practice as well.

    jonathan | August 7th, 2011 | Comment Permalink

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