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When I attempt to do this exercise with 8lbs, I can barely lift my right arm, and my right deltoid actually hurts.

I can lift my left arm easily.

How to strengthen the right deltoid so it is symmetrical to left deltoid?

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    How do you know it is the deltoid? Pain in that area may equally arise from a weak or injured infraspinatus. Can you do the same thing with a lighter dumbbell without any pain at all? - Never push through pain. Never. If lowering the weight does not cause the pain to disappear, then you definitely need medical care. – Mephisto Jun 15 '15 at 2:30
  • If I do exercise without weights then I feel perfectly alright. I will try exercise with weights lighter than 8lbs and see – Rhonda Jun 15 '15 at 9:58
  • If your are not very young and you are fully deconditioned, it is dangerous to do isolation exercises for your upper back with dumbbells without a coach. That is an injury-prone area. I suggest you engage in swimming first for 4 to 6 months to gently strengthen that area. Then you can think about lifting weights. I think it is dangerous otherwise. I wrote this in an answer but it is being erased because of the style I used. I tried to scare you because I think you may be in a dangerous situation for your upper back. In any case, if your are mid-age and deconditioned, I suggest you swim first – Mephisto Jun 15 '15 at 17:56
  • @Mephisto I've been scared by worse. Trust me. – Rhonda Jun 15 '15 at 18:19
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You really should get checked out by a medical professional to make sure you don't have something seriously wrong that you can't work through. Since it's your shoulders, I would imagine the odds are good that you have a rotator cuff problem.

If you can work through it, I'd start doing full range of motion exercises with weights that make it stiff feeling, but stopping well short of pain. The whole "good vs bad pain" thing really is legitimate. Every athlete works through injuries and random problems. The key is that you want to help your body heal and get back to a strong, full range of motion.

The last time I had a partial tear in my shoulder (racquetball injury), I found that doing reverse flies and standing overhead press were key.

Often, a precursor to shoulder injuries is bad shoulder development: isolation exercises, bench pressing, lack of back strength, tight chest, and loose back. Not only do you want to fix things safely, but you want to minimize the chances of having a problem like this again in the future.

  • Shoulder development ... I shall check this. When I do this exercise without weights I feel zero pain ..... – Rhonda Jun 15 '15 at 10:00
  • I can easily do standing overhead press, but the reverse flies are difficult. Not painful, but difficult, requiring 8lbs – Rhonda Jun 15 '15 at 13:22
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    @SohniMahiwal if you can do the overhead press, try it with a bit more weight until you can get to that "stiff" feeling. Especially try fully extending at the top and holding that. If the reverse flies are letting you "feel" the injury but not hurting, I think you're in the right place. Don't worry so much about the weight: use a heavy book if you need something lighter. It's about range of motion and resistance. Don't add more weight until you need more resistance. – Eric Jun 15 '15 at 17:46
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    @SohniMahiwal also, just to emphasize, those overhead presses with enough resistance, locked out for a few seconds at the top, are helping your shoulders to get stronger, tougher, and better balanced. – Eric Jun 15 '15 at 17:48
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    @SohniMahiwal just to add to what Eric has told you -- reverse flyes are very isolated movements, 8 lbs is a good starting point for them. Worry about going heavier once you can do them for a few sets of 15-20 reps. Make sure you're also allowing your elbow to bend slightly while doing them. – Ryan Jun 16 '15 at 3:46

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