Top 9 Shoulder Exercises For Seniors [+ The Worst Ones]

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Lilian Wamaitha is a passionate writer and avid cyclist with over 4 years of experience in blogging. As a lifelong learner, she is driven by her curiosity to discover and learn new things. This curiosity and passion eventually sparked a love for the senior writing niche. She has written countless articles to help seniors find their footing in this world through healthy and holistic living. She’s passionate about seeing the seniors in society live a more fulfilling life to the end. Follow her on LINKEDIN. Read her LATEST POSTS. Learn more about her HERE.

Looking for some of the best shoulder exercises for seniors?

We’ve got you covered below.

We’ll take you through the top 9 best moves to try, then look at some of the worst shoulder stretching exercises for older adults.

We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

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Best Shoulder Exercises for Seniors

Before we begin looking at these shoulder exercises, I just want to remind you to call your doctor or physical therapist first.

In addition to shoulder exercises, consider including posture exercises for seniors and back stretches for seniors in your routine. It’s just always a good idea to run new exercise routines by a medical professional, especially if you have pre-existing conditions or injuries.

Now, let’s take a look at some simple exercises geared towards strength-training the muscles in and around your shoulders.

For each of these exercises below, we’ll share a video demonstrating how to do it, along with a step-by-step tutorial.

#1 Diagonal Shoulder Raises

Diagonal shoulder raises are aimed at strengthening your chest muscles as well as the upper arms. 

This will end up giving you more independence so that you can do things on your own even if it’s something as simple as cleaning your hair.

Strengthening your arms and shoulder joints will help improve your range of motion as well as flexibility.

How to Do it

  • Start with your arms by your sides and holding a weight on one hand. You can do this in a standing position or while sitting. 
  • Lift the arm with the weight to your side across the body ensuring that the arm faces outwards at the end. Keep breathing and make sure that you are neither holding the weight too loosely or too tightly. 
  • While you are doing it, make sure that your upper body stays upright and that the elbow extends fully. 
  • Go back to the original position and transfer the weight to the other arm. 
  • Repeat the motion ensuring that you do at least 10 repetitions on both arms. 
  • Then go back to the start position and do 10 repetitions.

#2 Standing Shoulder Rolls

The shoulder rolls are aimed at strengthening and stabilizing your shoulder blades so that it’s easy lifting heavy objects. It also improves mobility especially when you are shrugging your shoulders. 

How to Do it

  • Begin in a comfortable position when sitting or standing with your feet apart and few pounds of weight on both hands. 
  • Raise your shoulders towards your ears and then backward and down. Do at least 20 reps. 
  • As the shoulders are coming up and down, makes sure to breathe out. Also, lift your ribcage, and tuck your chin in as your flex at the knees. 
  • To do it right, make sure that only your shoulders are moving. Your elbows should remain extended to the ground.  

#3 Lying Shoulder Press

This shoulder exercise is a gentle stretch that is meant to promote chest and shoulder mobility. It also makes for a great rehab exercise.

If you are looking to have more independent when you are reaching forward of lifting with both hands, then this is an exercise you must try a couple of times a week. 

How to Do it

  • Start by lying flat on the floor on your stomach. The head, torso, and lower body should all be lying flat on the ground. 
  • Hold a pair of dumbbells on both hands making sure that your elbows are slightly bent to prevent injury. 
  • Stretch your arms forward making sure that your elbows are pointed outwards. Do at least 10 reps. 
  • Breath out when you are stretching your arms outwards and in as you bring them back towards the body. 

Shoulder Stretches for Seniors

Shoulder stretches are a great way to prepare your body for more intense workouts.

They can also help relieve tension on the shoulders and improve your overall posture in the long run. Here are a few shoulder rehabilitation exercises that you can try:

#1 Quadruped Thoracic Stretch 

This stretching routine is meant to strengthen your shoulder muscles as well as the arms. 

How to Do it

  • Begin on an all-fours position and then stack the hands under the shoulders and the knees under the hips. Making sure that your back remains straight and that you are only engaging your core.
  • Place the left hand on the back of the head making sure that the elbow is pointed out. Make sure that your hand is only resting lightly on the head such that there isn’t any pressure on the neck. 
  • Rotate the head and shoulder slowly towards the right hand. 
  • Reverse the movement by rotating the shoulder towards the left hand making sure that the elbows are pointed to the ceiling and hold the position for about 3 seconds.
  • Go back to the starting position and repeat the exercise for about 30 seconds and do the same for the other side. 

#2 Child’s Resting Pose

The child’s resting pose is a common yoga stretching routing meant to stretch the shoulder muscles as well as the spine. 

How to Do it

  • Find a yoga mat and kneel making sure that your knees are wide and the feet are touching.  
  • Sit back on the heels stretching as far as you can go and then stretch forward such that you are folding in front and your stomach is resting on the thighs. 
  • Stretch the arms in front of your body making sure that the forehead is resting on the mat. You should feel a stretch in the back as well as the shoulders, glutes, and hips. 
  • Press your shoulders and chest gently towards the floor for a deeper stretch and hold for about 30 seconds. 

#3 Spine Mobility Side Windmill Stretch

This is a common shoulder exercise for seniors that target the shoulder muscles, the arms, and the spine to improve mobility and stability.

How to Do it

  • Start by lying on your side (you can start with the right side) and bring your knees towards your stomach bending them at a 90-degree angle. The hips should also be bending at the same angle.
  • Bring your arms together and extend them outwards to the right. 
  • Open the body slowly and bring the left arm over to the left side making sure that the shoulder blades are lying flat on the floor. 
  • Reverse slowly and go back to the original position. Do at least 10 repetitions before switching to the other side and repeating the stretch. 

Seated Shoulder Exercises for Seniors

If you experience back pain, you can still incorporate exercises that strengthen your upper body into your routine with these easy seated shoulder exercises. 

#1 Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Workout

The seated dumbbell shoulder stretch is meant to help improve mobility, shoulder, and arm strength while opening your chest cavity. 

How to Do it

  • Find a chair and sit with your back straight and facing forward holding two light dumbbells in both hands. You don’t want to overstretch the shoulder blades that you end up hurting yourself in the process. 
  • Holding the dumbbells at shoulder level with your palms facing in front, lift the dumbbells towards each other stopping just before they touch. 
  • Hold the position for a few seconds and then resume your starting position. Do at least 10 repetitions. 

#2 Seated Side Shoulder Workout

The workout is meant to improve your shoulder as well as spine mobility while still strengthening your arms.

How to Do it

  • Sit on the floor making sure that your back is straight and that the shoulders are relaxed. 
  • Lean to the right with the right hand on the floor to support your weight leaning at the waist. Stretch the left hand out and bring it over your head and hold for about 10 seconds before returning to the starting position. 
  • Next, lean to the left and this time let your left hand be on the floor supporting your weight at the elbow and bring your right hand over your head.
  • You should feel a stretch on the side and the shoulder blade.  
  • Do at least 5 repetitions on both sides. 

#3 Seated Triceps Workout

The triceps workout is meant to stretch your shoulder and the back to improve shoulder strength and posture.

How to Do it

  • You can start by sitting on the floor or a chair but make sure that the shoulders are relaxed. 
  • With your left palm facing upwards, extend the left arm in front and raise it slowly over the head to touch your upper back or the shoulder.  
  • Using your right hand, put pressure on the left elbow and press it back until you feel a stretch at the back and the shoulders. Hold the position for about 10 seconds and then go back to the starting position. 
  • Do the same with your right arm and make sure that you do 5 repetitions of the exercise. 

Worst Shoulder Exercises for Seniors

a senior in the red shirt trained by a lady for some should exercise

As you age, your joints become more prone to injuries. While shoulder exercises are great at improving mobility and helping you become more independent, some exercises can do the opposite.

As you get into a regular exercise routine, avoid these shoulder exercises:

The Overhead Press

As we age, one of the things that decrease is our back mobility.

The overhead press targets the back and the shoulders and while it is a good exercise routine, if you are over 50 it can end up causing serious back and shoulder injuries due to the added pressure. 


In your bid to get some exercise going to strengthen your aching body, deadlifts are a no go zone.

This is because they can cause serious back pain even if you used to do them when you were young. A better alternative would be using light dumbbells to do the deadlifts.

One-arm Row

Incorporating this exercise routine is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is when you do it the wrong way as most people do.

If you are to do it, ensure that you are initiating movement from your shoulder blades and that you are using a light weight to better control your movements.

Why Shoulder Stretching Exercises for the Eldery?        

As we age, our bodies slow down and we become a little bit sedentary. There are many reasons for this from arthritic pain and general body aches, to other health-related issues.

You may think that your days of needing to workout regularly are over, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Incorporating exercise into your routine can keep your heart in better shape, improve your mental health, and even keep your brain sharper.

One of the areas that you cannot ignore in your golden years is the shoulders. Shoulder exercises can help strengthen your shoulders, upper back, and arms and give you more independence as you get older. 

The same exercise a few times per week can help reverse the muscle deterioration that is common with aging.

Shoulder stretches for seniors are important since they can help loosen tight muscles and strengthen your shoulder, arm, back, and chest muscles.

The stretches also help to release any tension while increasing flexibility and helping extend your motion range and prevent injuries.

How to Use These Shoulder Exercises

You can use shoulder exercises to strengthen your spine, back, arms, and shoulder blades. As you grow older, doing some things like even simply reaching over or lifting your grandkids become difficult.

Shoulder exercises help to strengthen your upper body reducing your dependency on other people to accomplish some tasks like washing your hair.

You can also use shoulder exercises to better improve your balance, stability as well as posture.

Benefits of Shoulder Exercises

By strengthening your upper body through shoulder exercises, you can significantly enhance your posture.

When you combine shoulder stretches and strengthening exercises, you gain the flexibility and strength that you need to perform tasks on your own.

Exercising your shoulders also helps prevent injuries like when you hit the golf course. A good shoulder strengthening exercise routine should help work out all the muscles on the shoulders. 

Final Word

Growing old doesn’t mean that you abandon everything you used to do because you think that your body is not strong enough.

While old age comes with its own fair share of problems, getting into a regular exercise routine can help counteract some effects of aging like aches and pains.

Shoulder exercises are for instance very important if you are looking to regain your independence.

With good shoulder exercises, you can strengthen your upper body so that you have better mobility as well as flexibility. It could also mean better posture and little to no back pain.  

Looking for some of the best shoulder exercises for seniors? Here you can find the right stretches and the proper ways to do them. Dive in!

What are your favorite shoulder exercises for seniors? Share below!

11 thoughts on “Top 9 Shoulder Exercises For Seniors [+ The Worst Ones]”

  1. I really enjoyed your article on shoulder exercises for seniors. The inclusion of both the top exercises and the ones to avoid was very helpful and considerate. The clear instructions and explanations made it easy to follow along. Well done!

  2. I love these exercise suggestions and they are perfect for anyone of any age to be honest. I love exercising and am bookmarking this post to come back to to use with my father in law 😉

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