Beginner Exercises: Shoulders

Shoulders are my absolute favorite to work, but before I began looking into weight training, I didn’t even know people trained shoulders! When I think of a fit man or women, I picture big biceps and not necessarily toned shoulders, but ignoring your shoulders would be a huge blunder  because they are a huge part of your upper body. You need to train every area of your body in order to achieve that overall fit look. Read on for a few of my favorite (and some of the easiest) shoulder exercises to incorporate into your next workout.

Arnold Press: This exercise can be done sitting or standing up, but to begin and practice your form, start on an incline bench at 90-degrees. Hold two dumbbells right about chest level with your elbows bent and your palms facing your body. Raise the dumbbells above the shoulders, and as you do, rotate your palms until they’re facing forward. Raise until your arms are completely extended, pause at the top, then return to the starting position by lowering and rotating your palms back towards you. Tip: If you have a bad back, do not try this exercise standing because it will put too much pressure on that area.

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Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press: Start on the incline bench at 90-degrees with a dumbbell in each hand. Start with the dumbbells at shoulder height to the side and palms forward (forming a box-shape with your arms). Push the dumbbells up until your arms are fully extended, pause, then return to that same box position. Do not lower your arms all of the way until you have finished a set because in doing so you would lose the tension in your shoulders that makes this exercise so effective.

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Standing Military Press: This exercise can be done either with a barbell or two dumbbells, so I would recommend switching it up every other workout. (Sometimes if you use the barbell too much, one of your arms will overcompensate for the other and this can result in uneven muscle growth). Start by gripping the bar a little wider than shoulders-width with your palms upwards and bring the it to rest near the top of your chest. Keep your knees slightly bent and push the bar up until your arms are locked. Slowly lower the bar back down to your chest and repeat. The more slowly you lower the barbell, the more you’ll feel it.

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Dumbbell Lateral Raise: This is one of those exercises that looks deceivingly easy, but trust me it’s not. Start standing shoulders-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight down by your sides, and palms facing inwards. Keep a slight bend in your elbow and lift the dumbbells straight to the side to shoulder-height. Stop when your arms are parallel to the floor, pause, then slowly lower the weight back down. Do not swing the dumbbells, and make sure to squeeze your core throughout the exercise.

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Dumbbell Upright Rows: Stand shoulders-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight and let the dumbbells rest on the front of your thighs. Lift up the weight by focusing on using the sides of your shoulders and bringing the dumbbells up the front of the body until your elbows are slightly higher than your shoulders and the dumbbells are a little above your chest. Pause, the slowly lower back down. Do not use your back in this exercise because it can easily lead to injury, but feel free to use a barbell if you feel that works better for you. Also, don’t hurry the exercise. Keep the tension high and the movement slow.

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Front Plate Raise: Using a barbell plate, hold it around the 3 and 9 o’clock positions with your feet shoulders-width apart. Keep your elbows slightly bent and start with the plate in front of your body, arms extended. Slowly raise the plate until it is a little above your shoulders, hold, then slowly release down to the starting position.

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Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise: This exercise can also be done standing up, but I think that the seated attention allows you to focus on working the shoulders rather than using the legs to support the weight. Start by sitting on the edge of a bench with your feet forward and a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the waist until your back is straight and your chest is almost parallel to the floor. Hold the dumbbells at your sides with inward-facing palms. Keep your body still and lift the dumbbells straight to your sides until they are also parallel to the floor, hold, then slowly lower back down. (These can also be called flyes).

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Check out this video for a great example of a shoulder workout! And if you have not already, ready my post on some of the easiest and most effective exercises for your biceps and triceps.

Remember to always focus on your form, especially in the beginning. Attention to form rather than how much weight you are using can save you from serious injury. If you do find yourself feeling tight and sore, a great thing to do is to use a resistance band such as this one to get a greater stretch on those shoulder muscles. Stretch your shoulders both before and after your workout to release warm the muscles up and to reduce cramping.

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