Resistance Training the Shoulders For Yogis

Once in a while I’m asked by a yogi about weight lifting… it blasts me back to my past in professional athletics, and reminds me of the 20,000 or so hours that I’ve spent in the weight room training myself and others.

Here’s what I tell them – if you’re going to resistance train just one muscle group, it should be the shoulders, and here’s why…

Of all the major joints, it is by far the best off a little more tight than loose (I’ve had 3 surgeries on my left shoulder, and avoided 2 on my right through strengthening). 

From the unique perspective of a yogi, it is a chronically overlooked and under-trained muscle group.


It’s also one of the easiest major muscle groups worked with the least amount of resistance…i.e. a pair of soup cans or even a couple’a cans of soda (or beer) can provide an ideal weight ‘load’ with enough reps and a slow enough count to make for a grueling workout. 

If you have them – or, wish to acquire them – the shoulders are a great muscle group to work effectively with one set of small weights and one set of heavy weights. In making your choice, or your purchase, remember that it counts as a ‘light’ weight for you if you can shadowbox with it and you would also ideally be able to hold the two together to make one giant weight (simultaneously overloading and effectively training the forearms and grip to grow in productive proportion to your new shoulder strength and shred!).

It’s also the easiest and most effective muscle group to work with even a single resistance band – my favorites are made by an old college basketball buddy of mine at Rubberbanditz. You can get yourself a set at RubberBanditz.comHere’s a typical ‘shoulder day’ for me – 3 sets of 10 reps each on:

Side Raises

Front Raises

Shoulder Press


External Rotators

Upright Rows

Reverse Flys

It’s hard to “do the shoulders ‘wrong’” unless you move too quickly through the ‘end range’ of the movement, enhancing the injury potential (this is true for practically all movements). And, absolutely do not skip the supporting cast of external rotators and reverse flys – these two movements are essential for stabilizing the shoulder joint, and counterbalancing chest strength respectively.

Shoulders can easily always be made fresh, and as long as you’re doing shoulder press and shrugs fun… don’t be surprised if those two lifts quickly become the most weight you’ve ever lifted.

Once you master these movements, shake them up by super-setting (doing two movements back to back 10 reps each as 1 single set ex. Side and front raises, presses and shrugs, etc.); or, you can hold one motion static while you ‘rep-out’ another to test the balance…for example, you can hold your right arm straight out in a static front raise while you rep out a side raise with the left arm.

(Also a VERY effective yoga of concentration there)

Because of the type of tissue and frequency of everyday use, the shoulders can benefit by being trained more days than not, and a yogi who’s practicing at least once a week really could also benefit from balancing with at least one other weighted shoulder workout.

In other words, work them as much or as little as you like, as long as it’s once a week 😉

Remember, the major joints correspond so the shoulders are closely linked to the hips, the next best joint to keep nice and tight if you ask me, perhaps more on that another time…

Good luck, Yogis! Keep it tight…




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Justin “Jud” Kaliszewski is the best-selling yoga teacher and renowned creator of Outlaw Yoga. Author. Artist. Adventurer. Take his class NOW at and Find his writing and art at and his presence all over the internet – for an outlaw, he’s shockingly easy to get ahold of.