The Best Shoulder Warm-up Before Lifting

The shoulders take a serious beating during strength training, making the warm-up a critical part of the workout to prevent injury. Having dealt with shoulder injuries myself, I can attest to how much better my upper body lifts are when I consistently warm-up the shoulder complex before overhead pressing and pulling.

Grab a band, a foam roller, and five minutes. Here are the best five warm-up exercises for healthy, pain-free shoulders.

Band pull-aparts

There are many pull-apart variations to choose from, and I show you a few below. The goal is to activate the rhomboids, trapezious, and rear delts, promote shoulder stability and balance, and improve scapular movement before loading with a barbell.

By performing band pull-aparts from different positions, grips and scapular movements, you can optimize your lifting while promoting healthy shoulders and posture.

Mini-band press outs/flyes

Similar to band pull-aparts, the mini-band press outs, or scapular flyers, also primes the upper back before exercise. As a prehab tool, I like it to activate the rhomboids and teach clients how to stay out of their trapezius. This is also a nice option if all you have is a mini-band and can’t perform the traditional band pull-apart


Band “No Money” with External Rotation

Most people are weak in their lower traps and serratus anterior, which is why I love this exercise because it hits you exactly where you need it most! It’s great for scapular stability, glenohumeral mobility, and by far a staple before any kind of bench pressing.

You can use this one between sets or dump it all in your warm-up for 2-3 sets.


Foam Roller Wall Slides

Like the above, this exercise hits exactly where most people are weakest – the serratus anterior. I find most people have zero clue how to engage their serratus before an overhead lift and end up looking like a wobbly noodle as a result. 

Begin with your forearms on a foam roller. I like to stand at an angle away from the wall with a slight posterior pelvic tilt to ensure my core stays engaged throughout the movement. Focus on rolling the foam roller upwards in a controlled manner without shrugging the shoulders.

If you are involved in any overhead sports (tennis, softball, volleyball, baseball, golf) this drill should be a staple.

Taking care of your shoulders means staying out on injury. I include some variation of all these exercises in the BarbellSTRONG Coaching programs because they are simple, effective, and necessary for anyone slinging around a barbell. 

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