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Shoulder Exercises

Looking for the best shoulder exercise to give you firm broad shoulders? Strong defined shoulders are key to an in shape physique and therefore a good shoulder exercise should always be part of your program.

Shoulder Exercises

It’s no secret that women find broad shoulders attractive on men and our workouts will show you how to pack on some serious shoulder muscle.

WorkoutBOX contains great shoulder exercises, that help you build big, wide shoulders in order to give you that “v-shape” look. Soon you’ll be too big for your gym vest and be turning sideways to walk through doors!

Arm Circles, Dumbbell, Backwards

Beginner
Arm Circles, Dumbbell, Backwards
The backward arm circle exercise works the entire shoulder girdle. Start with a light weight because if you are not used to doing them you'll soon find it hard going and the tendency then is to fall into poor t 
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Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Arm Circles, Dumbbell, Forward

Beginner
Arm Circles, Dumbbell, Forward
The forward arm circle exercise works the entire shoulder girdle. Start with a light weight because if you are not used to doing them you'll soon find it hard going and the tendency then is to fall into poor te 
more...
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Arm Circles, Dumbbell, Two Way

Beginner
Arm Circles, Dumbbell, Two Way
Two Way Dumbbell Arm Circles are an effective exercise for developing and strengthening the shoulders. Make sure you use a controlled motion when performing this exercise. Below you will find a video tutorial a 
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Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Arnold Press, Alternating, Standing

Intermediate
Arnold Press, Alternating, Standing
The arnold press is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by pressing overhead while rotating the arms. This exercise works all the deltoid muscles in one movement. Alternating the 
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Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Arnold Press, Seated

Beginner
Arnold Press, Seated
The arnold press is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by pressing overhead while rotating the arms. Performing the exercise whilst seated, encourages good technique. Below you' 
more...
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Arnold Press, Standing

Beginner
Arnold Press, Standing
The arnold press is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by pressing overhead while rotating the arms. Below you'll find a video guide and step by step instructions that describes 
more...
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Behind the Neck, Military Press, Barbell, Seated

Intermediate
Behind the Neck, Military Press, Barbell, Seated
Targets : Rear Shoulders View Exercise

Burpee Press, Dumbbell

Advanced
Burpee Press, Dumbbell
The Dumbbell Burpee Press is a 3-in-1 exercise that works your shoulders, chest and legs. This is a very tough exercise, so it's only for the experienced fitness expert, or the very brave. Below you will find a 
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Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Dumbbell Row, Plank, Single Arm

Intermediate
Dumbbell Row, Plank, Single Arm
This single arm plank dumbbell row is a fantastic exercise for improving core strength and stability whilst strengthening the whole back. It can be quite challenging if you are a beginner. Practice first withou 
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Targets : Rear Shoulders View Exercise

Front Raise, Alternating, Static Hold

Intermediate
Front Raise, Alternating, Static Hold
The alternating dumbbell front raise is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by extending the arm in front of the body with the elbow extended. Including a static hold in the move 
more...
Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Front Raise, Cable

Intermediate
Front Raise, Cable
Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Front Raise, Cable, Alternating

Intermediate
Front Raise, Cable, Alternating
Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Front Raise, Dumbbell

Beginner
Front Raise, Dumbbell
The front raise is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by extending the arm in front of the body with the elbow extended. This exercise is excellent for working primarily the fro 
more...
Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Front Raise, Dumbbell, Alternating

Beginner
Front Raise, Dumbbell, Alternating
The alternating dumbbell front raise is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by extending the arm in front of the body with the elbow extended. t will help to broaden the shoulder 
more...
Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Front Raise, Dumbbell, Static Hold

Beginner
Front Raise, Dumbbell, Static Hold
The front raise is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by extending the arm in front of the body with the elbow extended. This exercise is excellent for working primarily the fro 
more...
Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Front Raise, Eccentric

Beginner
Front Raise, Eccentric
The Eccentric Front Raise is an effective exercise for developing and strengthening the shoulders. You may find the eccentric motion difficult, but it will promote muscle growth. Below you will find a video tut 
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Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Front Raise, Flutters

Intermediate
Front Raise, Flutters
Front Raise Flutters are an effective exercise for developing and strengthening the shoulders. The constant movement of the flutter motion will help stimulate muscle growth. Below you will find a video tutorial 
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Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Lateral Raise Machine

Beginner
Lateral Raise Machine
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Lateral Raise on Exercise Ball

Intermediate
Lateral Raise on Exercise Ball
Targets : Mid Shoulders View Exercise

Lateral Raise, Dumbbell

Intermediate
Lateral Raise, Dumbbell
The lateral raise with dumbbells is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by extending the arm to the side of the body with the elbow extended. Start with a light weight to perfect 
more...
Targets : Mid Shoulders View Exercise

Lateral Raise, Dumbbell, Bent Over

Intermediate
Lateral Raise, Dumbbell, Bent Over
The bent over lateral raise is an effective exercise for developing the delts and lats, and is performed by bending at the waist and lifting dumbbells to the side of the body with the elbows bent. Squeezing the 
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Targets : Rear Shoulders View Exercise

Lateral Raise, Dumbbell, Static Hold

Intermediate
Lateral Raise, Dumbbell, Static Hold
The lateral raise is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by extending the arm to the side of the body with the elbow extended. Including an isometric hold increases the time unde 
more...
Targets : Mid Shoulders View Exercise

Machine Pulldown, Neutral Grip

Beginner
Machine Pulldown, Neutral Grip
Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Machine Pulldown, Underhand Grip

Beginner
Machine Pulldown, Underhand Grip
Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Military Press, Barbell, Seated

Beginner
Military Press, Barbell, Seated
The military press is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by pressing a bar overhead, extending the arms. Also known as the shoulder press, the overhead barbell press hits multip 
more...
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Power Jerk

Advanced
Power Jerk
The power jerk is an effective exercise for developing explosive power, and is performed by bending the knees, pressing overhead, and dropping under to catch the weight. Below you'll find a video guide and step 
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Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Push Press, Barbell

Advanced
Push Press, Barbell
The barbell push press is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by pressing overhead, extending the arms, only slightly using the legs. Using the legs allows you to gain momentum f 
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Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Push Press, Dumbbell

Advanced
Push Press, Dumbbell
The dumbbell push press is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by pressing overhead, extending the arms, only slightly using the legs. Using the legs allows you to push more weig 
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Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Reverse Flyes, Dumbbell

Intermediate
Reverse Flyes, Dumbbell
The dumbbell reverse flye targets the rear shoulder (posterior deltoid) muscles. Performing reverse flyes with dumbbells is quite a challenging exercise, so start with a relatively light weight to perfect the m 
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Targets : Rear Shoulders View Exercise

Reverse Flyes, Dumbbell, Exercise Ball

Intermediate
Reverse Flyes, Dumbbell, Exercise Ball
This exercise is excellent for developing strong muscular shoulders. It really targets the rear shoulder muscles. Performing the movement lying across an exercise ball helps to isolate the shoulders for a more  
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Targets : Rear Shoulders View Exercise

Scarecrow Rotators

Intermediate
Scarecrow Rotators
Scarecrow Rotators are an effective exercise for developing and strengthening the rotator cuffs. Your rotator cuff helps stabilize your shoulder joint, so this exercise is extremely important for shoulder healt 
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Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Shoulder Press Machine

Beginner
Shoulder Press Machine
The shoulder press machine is a great way for beginners to start developing a strong, powerful set of shoulders. A broad set of shoulders are the pinnacle of toned muscular body and using a seated shoulder pres 
more...
Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Shoulder Press, Cable

Beginner
Shoulder Press, Cable
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Shoulder Press, Cable, Alternating

Beginner
Shoulder Press, Cable, Alternating
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Shoulder Press, Dumbbell

Intermediate
Shoulder Press, Dumbbell
The dumbbell shoulder press is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by pressing overhead, extending the arms. It hits multiple muscles and will help develop big powerful shoulders 
more...
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Shoulder Press, Dumbbell, Alternating

Intermediate
Shoulder Press, Dumbbell, Alternating
The military shoulder press is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by pressing overhead, extending the arms. Performing the exercise whilst standing places more emphasis on the c 
more...
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Shoulder Press, Dumbbell, Neutral Grip

Beginner
Shoulder Press, Dumbbell, Neutral Grip
The shoulder press is an effective exercise for developing the deltoids, and is performed by pressing overhead, extending the arms. The neutral hand position works different areas of the deltoid muscles and pla 
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Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Shoulder Shrugs, Barbell

Beginner
Shoulder Shrugs, Barbell
Develops the upper shoulders to build a broad strong sloping neckline. Can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, cables or any other suitable resistance equipment.
Targets : Upper Shoulders View Exercise

Shoulder Shrugs, Cable

Beginner
Shoulder Shrugs, Cable
Develops the upper shoulders to build a broad strong sloping neckline. Using a cable machine provides a safe and effective option for beginners that will give you decent results.
Targets : Upper Shoulders View Exercise

Shoulder Shrugs, Dumbbell

Beginner
Shoulder Shrugs, Dumbbell
Shoulder shrugs with dumbbells develops the upper shoulders to build a broad strong sloping neckline. Can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, cables or any other suitable resistance equipment. Below you'll  
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Targets : Upper Shoulders View Exercise

Upright Row, Barbell

Intermediate
Upright Row, Barbell
The upright row exercise works the upper, mid and rear shoulder muscles most intensely. It also works the front shoulders, biceps, forearms and back to lesser intensity. It's a great upper body exercise and wil 
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Targets : Upper Shoulders View Exercise

Upright Row, Cable

Beginner
Upright Row, Cable
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Upright Row, Cable, Alternating

Beginner
Upright Row, Cable, Alternating
Targets : Shoulders View Exercise

Upright Row, Dumbbell

Intermediate
Upright Row, Dumbbell
The dumbbell upright row is an effective exercise for developing the lats and traps, and is performed by lifting the weight and bringing the elbows towards the ceiling. It's a great upper body exercise and will 
more...
Targets : Upper Shoulders View Exercise

Upright Row, Dumbbell, Alternating

Intermediate
Upright Row, Dumbbell, Alternating
The upright row is an effective exercise for developing the lats and traps, and is performed by lifting the weight and bringing the elbows to the ceiling. Alternating the movement increase the time under tensio 
more...
Targets : Upper Shoulders View Exercise

Water Pump

Intermediate
Water Pump
Targets : Front Shoulders View Exercise

Some Shoulder Workouts you should try

Beginner Shoulder Routine
Beginner Shoulder Routine
Level : Beginner
» View Workout
Killer Shoulders Workout
Killer Shoulders Workout
Level : Advanced
» View Workout

FEATURE ARTICLE

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Shoulder Exercises


Men often choose to perform shoulder exercises for mass: western standards of fitness have created a crazy ideal image of the male body, which includes massive, broad shoulders and a trim waist. Think Dwight Howard, Kai Greene, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, even. Women, on the other hand, might want a slimmer, rounder shoulder, to enhance their femininity – or simply to increase upper body strength. Last, but certainly not least, many choose to work out their shoulder muscles gently, as a means of physiological therapy of recovering from sustained injuries. We cover all these different types of shoulder workouts in the following. First, however, here’s a primer on the anatomy of the human shoulder and the many different ways in which it can be put to good use.

Shoulder workouts for newbies: A bit of anatomy

In many respects, the shoulders are possibly the most intensely used set of muscles in the upper part of the human body. Think of any simple, day-to-day activity, from writing to baseball, and you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that the shoulder muscles are involved. For professional baseball pitchers and swimmers the shoulders are vital. This probably has a lot to do with their ability to rotate to nearly 360 degrees – and yet, in spite of their versatility and high degree of usefulness, many people seem unable to develop muscle mass in the shoulder area to the extent to which they desire it. Why is this? It probably has something to do with not knowing enough about the anatomy of the human shoulder. In order to properly exercise a particular muscle group, one needs to first understand how it is structured. As such, if you’ve been wondering why all your hard work hasn’t managed to help you build more mass, read up. You might learn things that surprise you.

The structure of shoulder muscles, or deltoids

Anterior deltoids

The anterior head of the shoulders serves to flex your shoulders. They are located in the frontal segment of the shoulder and are also able to perform medial rotations. The best type of exercise for the anterior section of your shoulders in the shoulder press, ideally performed with a barbell. When performing deltoids exercises, most people will only focus on workouts that engage the anterior head of the shoulders. Not only is this inefficient, but it’s also dangerous. Shoulder presses are great, so long as they’re combined with exercises that also rely on the middle and posterior portions of the shoulder girdle. Otherwise, you risk developing an massive anterior head, but one that is supported by narrow middle and posterior heads.

Middle deltoids

The middle head of your shoulders is what enables you to perform abductions. This is the segment of this muscle group that you can see in the middle, as well as from the side of the shoulder. The middle head is best exercised through side laterals with dumbbells, adjusted for weight and form.

Posterior deltoids

The posterior head of your shoulders is what helps you extend this muscle group, as well as the arms attached to said shoulders. It also helps your perform lateral rotations and it is situated to the back of the shoulder. This sub-group of muscles is best exercised while bent over, with your head rested on the bench, and with a set of dumbbells that will effectively help you raise your deltoids. Bear in mind that dumbbells allow for a higher ROM (range of movement) than barbells.

In order to avoid instability or imbalances, which come with the risk of sustaining injuries, you must focus on stabilization during the above exercises. Additionally, always remember that the average-sized shoulder muscle group actually consists of three smaller groups of muscles. As any bodybuilder would tell you, from the Ronnie Colemanto Jay Cutler and Phil Heath, each segment of the shoulders needs to be properly exercised – and there is ample opportunity to do this, given the fact that the human shoulder is able to rotate to nearly 360 degrees, i.e. an (almost) full circle. You can work out your shoulders in numerous different ways, either with cable machines, other gym equipment, or simply with weights. For mass, most bodybuilders recommend a low number of press reps, combined with moderate numbers of reps for isolating the different subgroups that make up the shoulders.

Shoulder exercises for men

Before diving straight into the exercises and workout routines for the shoulders, it’s important to remember that the deltoids are a small muscle group, with a rather delicate articulation. The shoulder joint is highly susceptible to injury, which is why it’s best to keep the weights at a minimum to moderate mass and focus on the number of reps, as well as on the pace at which you execute them. In other words, work out at a sustained speed and take no more than 30 seconds of rest in between exercises. Try to push for 10 to 20 reps and increase the weight used as the number of reps decreases while you plough through the sets. This is a principle employed by many established workout programs, such as Arnolds Mr. Universe routine, P90X, and Insanity Bootcamp.

You may also notice that many of the shoulder exercises for men listed below are performed in a seated position. In fact, numerous bodybuilding trainers and pros like Greg Plitt and Scott Herman, encourage remaining seated while you work out your deltoids. There are several arguments behind this approach:

-          Dumbbell raises will make you swing back and forth as you become increasingly tired from the effort. By remaining seated, you will be able to control the intensity of the movement. You also won’t waste your energy away by constantly trying to hold a steady position – you will have more energy to spend on performing the exercise at hand.

-          Repeated presses can determine you to arch your back more than necessary. A seated position will provide more support for your back, steady you, work your bicep and tricep arm muscles, while also diminishing the risk of back and/or shoulder injury.

Without further ado, here are the best exercises for shoulder, aimed at men who want to put on muscle mass in this area. Many of them are for advanced users, while many also target back muscles, such as the trap group, plus arms (biceps, triceps), core, and much more.

The seated lateral raise

While seated on a bench, with a dumbbell in each hand, lean forward slightly and keep your back as straight as possible. Slowly and smoothly raise the dumbbells on both laterals, with your elbows slightly bent, into an angle of about 30 degrees. Raise your arms up to the point where the dumbbells are at the same level with your shoulders, all the while maintaining steady tension in your deltoids. Also make sure you’re keeping a steady pace throughout the reps.

The seated alternating dumbbell front raise

Sit upright on a bench, with a pair of dumbbells in your hands. Alternate lifting each arm and dumbbell straight in front of you, with your arms ever so slightly bent, into a ten degree angle. Don’t lift the dumbbells above the top of your head, as going any higher will cause you to release the tension stored in your deltoids, on which you’re relying to build muscle mass. Once one arm has been lowered as low as you want it to go, proceed lifting the other one. As with the previous exercise, keep a steady pace throughout this exercise.

The rear deltoid machine

As the name suggests, this compound move involves a special machine, which is a dual pec-dec/rear-deltoid piece of equipment. While most gyms have such machines, in case yours doesn’t, you can always perform bent-over laterals, or laterals using the rear cable machine. For this exercise you need to sit with the bench right in front of you and hold the handles out before you. Slightly bend your elbows, to create the necessary amount of tension, then pull the arms on the machine toward the back, in a move that’s similar to a butterfly stroke in reverse. Make sure you’re not wiggling back and forth on the bench, in order to extend your arms more than necessary. When you’re at the peak of this motion, make sure your applying pressure through the rear head of your deltoids. Resume the initial position, then repeat.

The seated dumbbell press

For this exercise you’re going to need a bench that supports your back, as well as a pair of dumbbells. Holding a dumbbell in each arm, lift them to shoulder level, then extend your arm straight up. Make sure you’re not excessively arching your back and then extend upward, without completely straightening your elbows – keep them slightly bent throughout this exercise. This exercise can also be adapted to suit the different sections of your deltoids: if you bend your elbows to your laterals, you’ll be working out your posterior deltoids more and if you bend your elbows toward the front, then it’s your front deltoids that are going to be bearing the brunt of the effort. Whatever you do, make sure not to overexert your shoulder joints. The key is to apply as little pressure to the joints as possible, while working your muscles as much as you can.

The static hold dumbbell front raise

You can perform this exercise both while seated, as well as while standing up. Grab a hold of the bar of a single dumbbell with both hands, extend your arms in front of you and keep them extended at shoulder level for as long as you can. Of course, the span of time you cover is going to depend on your form, as well as on the weight you’ve selected for your dumbbell – aim for any amount of time between 20 seconds and a full minute, but also make sure you’re feeling the burn in your shoulder muscle.

The clean and press

For this exercise you’re going to need a barbell and one with a wide grip, too, so as to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your shoulder joints. Begin in standing position and arch your lower back. Keep it arched for the duration of the exercise and then begin to slowly bend your hips down, as to bring your torso closer to the ground. Extend your hands shoulder width apart, then also spread out your hips, to make sure you’ve got enough support to raise the bar. Once you’ve lifted the bar past your knees, jump and shrug it, to be able to catch it at shoulder level. Focus on your abs, tighten your core, then press up the bar right over your head.

The high pull

This is another move that makes use of a barbell with as wide a grip as you can find, but for this exercise you needn’t focus on using heavy weights. Like the above exercise, the initial position for this one is also standing, but you need to grab a hold of the bar with your arms extended to double shoulder width. Push the bar upward with both your hands, until it has reached the level of your chest and the upper part of your arms is parallel to the ground. Push out your chest, arch your upper back and lift the bar up.

Shoulder exercises for women

When it comes to weightlifting, women often step into the process with the unjustified fear that too much of this type of exercise will cause them to bulk up to hulk-esqueor Arnold-like proportions. It’s true that, when done the wrong way, weightlifting can have such effects – but you’d have to put in a very intense workout, for sustained spans of time. And it’s equally true that, unlike men, most women don’t work out to bulk up, but simply to achieve the body image of their dreams. They want muscle definition. That being said, a shapely, round pair of shoulders, supported by strong traps, can look incredibly feminine and enhance any silhouette.

What’s the perfect accessory for that favorite little black dress of yours, or for those sexy sleeveless tops you coveted at the mall? A strong, lean pair of deltoids. The following six shoulder exercises for women are based on the slow lifting of heavy, yet safe weights. What’s a safe weight for womens workouts?, you may wonder. The answer lies in how well you can execute a particular exercise: if you can’t do it in proper form, or without having to swing the weights around, perhaps it’s time to adjust your dumbbells to your own size and strength. At the same time, bear in mind that the final counts in your last set of repetitions should be relatively difficult to perform, so don’t go too light and easy on yourself either. Here are our top six shoulder exercises for killer women’s workout routines. Feel free to check out video instructions on YouTube, if you’re not sure how to perform some of them in proper form.

The front dumbbell raise

You start out in a standing position, with your knees soft, not locked tightly into place. Extend your arms forward, with your knuckles pointing ahead and keep the dumbbells in the frontal plane of your body. As a side note, if you’ve just started lifting weights, you can also use a weight plate instead of dumbbells – many beginners find it easier to lift plates. Raise the weights to the level of your shoulders and no higher. It’s important not to swing the weights in the air, or to use any swing momentum to lift the weights – this kind of move will not benefit your deltoids in the least. During the movement, which should be performed slowly, your lower back should be aligned with the front part of your thighs.

The seated bent-over rear shoulder head raise

You start this exercise in seated position, on the flat surface of a bench. Keep your feet firmly and flatly on the floor. Bend over, so that your chest is not only touching your knees, but almost supported by them. Hold the pair of dumbbells forward, right in front of your shins, with your two palms facing each other. Keep your spine in neutral position – not too tense, yet not too relaxed either. Keep your eyes on the floor at all times. Lift the weights out to the laterals by opening the arms in reverse. This move should activate your posterior deltoids. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down, then repeat.

The bent-over dumbbell rows

With your feet spread out at hip-width distance and the dumbbells in your hands, bend over until your torso is almost drawing a parallel line to the floor. Your knees should be slightly bent, while your hips should be pushed a bit backward. Make sure your chest is straight and you’re not hunching forward with your lower back. In the beginning of the move, your dumbbells should be aligned end to end. Then proceed to pull them upward, by bending your elbows to the laterals. Feel how your shoulder blades are touching each other on your back. Slowly bring the weights down into the initial bent-over position. Make sure your chest is not collapsing in while you revert to initial position.

The chest-fly hand-off

Lie down on a mat, with your back straight, your knees bent into an approximately 45-degree angle, and your arms lifted straight up, over your chest. You should only be holding one dumbbell – and one of the lightest ones you use. During the move, your elbows should be slightly bent and pointing toward the laterals. Then proceed to open your arms to the laterals, as if you were giving someone a very ample embrace. Then raise your arms back up over your chest and hand the dumbbell to the other side. Each handoff is one repetition.

Shoulder cycles

You begin in standing position, with your feet at hip-width distance and a light dumbbell in each hand. In the beginning, you should be holding the dumbbells close to your body. Then raise your arms right in front, in a parallel line to the floor, with your hands facing each other. Amply open your arms, into an almost 180-degree angle, but don’t fully complete this angle. Lower your arms back to your sides: when they’re back down, you’ve completed one cycle. Complete 6 such cycles, then switch. In the alternate movement, you should first raise your arms to the laterals, then close them in to the center, then lower them down.

The overhead triceps extension

In standing position, with your feet hip-width apart, raise a heavy dumbbell over your head, with both hands. Your arms should be bent at the elbows and your upper arms stuck to your ears. Make sure not to alter the position of your elbows and reach up with your forearms, until you’ve positioned your arms right over your head. Bend your elbows again into the initial position. For added difficulty, you can increase the weight of the dumbbells, or even use a complete pair.

Shoulder exercises without weights

Most shoulder exercises that you’ll find out there, online, in downloadable .pdf form or otherwise, involve weightlifting of some sort. However, some of the most difficult and effective workouts for shoulders are based on exercises without dumbbells, barbells, or any other type of weights. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense: after all, what do you think is more difficult – lifting 100 lbs or being able to do a pushup with the support of a single hand? Both are impressive and both involve a lot of hard work, effort and motivation, but somehow the latter seems more incredible than the former. That’s simply because a pushup or hand-stand involves a massive amount of focus and coordination, as well as great overall body strength levels.

The 5 shoulder exercises without dumbbells, a barbell, or resistance band, which we’ve listed below, are all difficult, so consider yourself warned. Their level of difficulty comes from the angle at which your body is positioned during the actual exercise. And since the shoulder can rotate almost a full 360 degrees, you can expect some significant variation in the types of exercises you’ll find below. Given their level of difficulty, it’s best to select one or two exercises on the list below, work on them until you’ve perfected them, and then move on to the following ones. Which ones you choose is entirely up to you, your goals, your level of fitness, and your dedication to improving shoulder strength and mass.

The single-arm plank

This isometric exercise is probably one of the most underrated of them all, when it comes to strengthening several muscle groups in the human body. As anyone who’s ever had anything to do with fitness can tell you, the plank is perfect for building up core muscle strength. However, it also works wonders for your shoulders and the best way to put it to work in this sense is by reducing ground contact. Simply lift one arm and one leg off the ground. Your body will then have to put up with even more instability and work up an effort toward regaining its stability. If you’re new to planking, try this with three points of contact (i.e. with your foot on the ground) at first. For extra effort, slightly push the remaining arm in front – it will give your shoulder muscles an even bigger ‘run for the money’.

Shoulder push-ups

Shoulder pushups are also known as decline pushups – essentially, they are a variation on the theme of a push-up that specifically targets your shoulder muscles and helps them get big. To perform them, start in the original pushup position, with your arms at shoulder-width distance and your hands aligned with your ears. Support your lower body by propping your feet up on a step, bench, chair, or whatever other elevated surface you have at your disposal. In this position, your mass is being supported by the front part of your body, which means your shoulders are carrying most of the load. Continue with the pushup by lowering your body until your chest touches the ground, then return to the initial position by raising your body until your arms are fully extended.

Hand-stand push-ups with the wall

To begin, stand on your hands, with your feet propped up against a vertical wall for support. Your hands need to be positioned at shoulder width, while your hands should have all fingers spread out, with the index fingers on both of them pointing straight ahead. Glue your ears to your shoulders, in what is otherwise known as the ‘hollow body’ position. You should be facing the wall and the only part of your body that’s allowed to touch the wall is your toes. Lower your body toward the wall by pushing your head and shoulders forward and keeping the lower part of your arms in vertical position. At the end of each pushup, your head and hands should be forming a triangle shape. Push yourself back up into a handstand position, with your ears glued to your shoulder throughout the whole exercise.

The one-arm push-up

The name of this exercise for the shoulders ought to be self-explanatory, but trust us when we tell you it’s one of the most difficult exercises that only involve one’s body weight. It is, of course, essential, to know how to maintain proper form, if you actually want to see results. Start off in pushup position, but with only one arm for support. Your feet should be spread slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, but be aware that the wider you make the distance between them, the easier the exercise will be. Your supporting arm should be placed directly underneath your torso. Lower your body as slowly as possible at first, to make sure you’re fully controlling the movement, as well as your entire body. Engage your core for extra strength and support.

The human flag

This is by far the most difficult exercise on our list and should not be attempted until you are sure your upper body is strong enough to handle it. The point of the exercise is to support your full body weight and hold your body in planking position by using nothing except for your arms and a vertical bar. It’s important to be aware of the correct positions of the two arms: the bottom one should be turned toward the bar, to get a good grip on it, while the top arm should be facing upward and pulling your body away from the ground. To work your way up to the perfectly parallel plank position, start by holding your feet off the floor, but with your legs parallel to the pole.

Shoulder pain exercises

All of the above is about how to build muscle mass and improve the overall appearance of your shoulders, for men and for women, with dumbbells and without them. But what about those of you who have sustained shoulder injuries by doing something as innocent as jumping rope or Crossfit, or during a workout as intense as an ultimate full body circuit. What do you do if you suffer from a frozen shoulder, shoulder impingement syndrome, orsimply are in too much physical pain to consider any of the workouts described above? There is still hope – and it comes in the form of shoulder rehab exercises. Shoulder exercises for pain rehabilitation are simple to perform and easy to integrate into a daily routine; but before we start listing them, perhaps it would be appropriate to tell you a thing or two about recovering from shoulder injuries or illnesses like arthritis, as well as about proper form when working out your shoulders.

First off, know that, by and large, shoulder muscles can recover well from harm. Check out bodybuilding forums and websites and you’ll read stories of fitness enthusiasts who sustained shoulder injuries serious enough to require surgery. Even bodybuilding legend The Rock has been through it! But after recovery, all these folks were able to grow muscle mass in the afflicted area and enhance the size of their shoulders. They went back to their insane lifting programs; yet one thing to bear in mind after recovery is that a return to lifting should be done judiciously and intelligently. There is such a thing as ‘smart’ weight lifting, and then there’s stupid lifting. The former will help you develop mass in places you previously thought it impossible, while the former risks ruining your shoulders for good. And the only way to lift intelligently and strengthen your shoulders is to do so when you are in perfect form. Only then can you afford to push your limits and see how hard and heavy you can lift. Any other circumstances risk endangering your body, since even TRX, when done in bad form, dislocates injured shoulders. No ego boost is worth that much pain.

Now, if you’re experiencing shoulder pain, you should first figure out what caused it. Perhaps you’re suffering from bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa sac around the shoulder joint, which may or may not have arisen from the neck, jaw, etc.. Other frequent ailments of the shoulder include tendonitis of the shoulder’s rotator cuff, dislocated shoulders, and injuries sustained to the shoulder blade. Arthritic pain is also frequently cited as a root cause for shoulder difficulties, as are torn ligaments, and adhesive capsulitis. Muscle separation and dislocations are particularly risky if left untreated for longer spans of time.

In all of the above cases, you will first have toundergo medical treatment, before you even consider PT. Then, make sure you change your workout routine, for no amount of rest will be enough to cure a dislocation: once you resume your regular training program, the pain will be back with a vengeance. Remember that your shoulders also include a subacromial area, as well shoulder blades. Ignoring the sub-acromial space during workouts can cause you to go sore, or, in medical terms, it can provoke muscle and ligament inflammation. Similarly, a poorly used scapula will cause pain in your shoulders.

That being said, read on for some highly efficient shoulder exercises for recovery, for dealing with the pain, and for slowly working your way back into shape. The first part is all about stretching exercises, which work toward strengthening your shoulders again, in order for them to be able to support your upper bodyweight. Only after the pain subsides can you consider light exercises such as rhythmic aerobics, leg lifts, pendulum lifts, or a Theraband workout. But don’t despair: if you dream of lifting weights again one day, we’re here to tell you that this is certainly possible, with the right type of pain relief exercises.

Wall stretches

For starters, focus on loosening up any tight spots in your shoulder muscles, with a very easy stretching exercise called the wall stretch. It’s actually surprisingly effective, given how easy it is to complete. All you need to do is stand up straight facing a wall, all the while making sure that only the tips of your fingers can touch the wall. Then start walking toward the flat surface, as the fingers on both your hands are also climbing higher and higher up the wall. Eventually, you will end up with both arms stretched upward, your fingers stretched as far up as they can go, and your whole body literally up against the wall. Try to put in these stretches each day and see if the pain improves. Aside from helping with separated shoulder muscles, they work great in the way of shoulder pain prevention, too.

Doorframe stretches

This is another stretching exercise you might want to work in before you begin performing shoulder exercises for pain, especially since they work both your shoulders, but separately. Start with one shoulder, then move on to the next one, and stretch them both equally, to make absolutely sure you’ve relieved any possible source of tension in your deltoids. You’ll only need an open door and its respective frame. Stand in the doorway, with one arm outstretched to a 90 degree angle to one side. Point the lower part of your arm upward, so that it’s leaning against the doorframe, then stretch out your upper arm to one side. Then, slightly bend over and take very small, very slow steps. If the area in between your shoulder blades is sore, this particular stretching exercise should help relieve the pan. Similarly, it’s a good stretch for chest and upper back muscles.

Overhead shoulder stretches

The third and final stretching exercise on our list is probably also the most effective one for tense up shoulders, as well as for stiff muscles. It’s also ridiculously easy to complete, as you can see in the pictures of it that you can find online: simply raise each arm in turn, right above your head, then bend them at the elbow. You’re aiming for a position in which your forearm and palm are tucked away behind your head and your fingers are touching the shoulder of the other arm. Try to push a little and force your hand to slide down the upper part of your back. It might require a bit of an effort, if your muscles feel particularly stiff or sore, but it will help you relieve more tension in the long run. Aside from its efficiency, this exercise is also great for an often overlooked part of the deltoids, i.e. the posterior head of this muscle. It also involves the tricep muscle, as an added benefit. When performing this stretch, whether at home or at the gym, make sure you allot an equal amount of attention to both arms, so that they’re both stretched properly.

Foam roller stretches

If you’ve injured your shoulder and/or neck, one good way of dealing with the pain is through foam roller massage stretches. You can apply this principle to your upper back by crossing your arms to touch the opposite shoulders. This will help relieve tension in your thoracic wall, if at the same time you tighten yore core and lift your hips. Your head should be in neutral position, as you roll the tube down to the midsection of your back. You can also improve rotator cuff pressure by rolling the roller down under the shoulder blades and then moving your body back and forth. Breathe normally and allow your muscles to decompress throughout.

Heavy pulling/rowing

Often enough, it’s that simple: you focus so much on pushing and pressing that you forget all about the importance of pulling and rowing movements. As your chest muscles develop, your back fails to follow suit. In turn, your shoulders bear the brunt and slump forward, eventually becoming sore. The takeaway here is to increase the number of pulling exercises you put in, in order to strengthen your upper back. Your shoulder blades should be pulled down and toward the back throughout your routine, in order to foster good posture for your shoulders.

Pushups

Yet another simple tip: lay off the bench presses for a while and focus on pushups. While they’re highly efficient for developing chest muscle, bench presses tend to lock your shoulder muscles into a tensed-up position, which, in time, will cause you pain. This is not the case with pushups, which are great for the shoulders. They allow the shoulder blades to move freely, strengthen muscle groups like the serratusanterior, which stabilizes the strength of your shoulders, and also continue to develop chest muscle. For added points, you can try propping your feet up on a bench or adding some weight on your back.

Soft-tissue relief exercises

A lot of people overwork their chest muscles, but almost completely ignore the importance of developing a strong upper back. Not only is this a bad idea in general, but it’s also particularly detrimental for the shoulders. In order to deal with the imbalance, they will have to slouch forward to support your newly bulked up pectorals. The best way to deal with this side effect, as well as with impinged shoulders or pinched nerves is a trifecta of solutions, which also helps the shoulders become better rounded in the long run. Essentially, you will want to regain proper posture, while also working toward longer, leaner chest muscles. Stretching definitely helps, but so does working out the softer tissue underneath your chest muscles. Start out simple, by tossing a lacrosse or tennis ball – if this hurts at first, don’t get discouraged. Bearing the pain is worth it in the long run, as it will help you deal with particularly painful, tense, and fibrotic chest muscles.

T-spine massages

You don’t need a professional masseuse for this T-spine massage, which takes its name from the area of the spine on the backside of the thorax, i.e. the thoracic spine. It’s situated in the mid- to upper back and it’s meant to enhance your mobility and flexibility. Unfortunately, if exercised improperly, or when in poor form, it tends to get a bit tight and tense, preventing your shoulders from moving to the extent to which they are able. Luckily, a simple massage, which you can apply to your own back, will help relieve some of the tension. You need to reach overhead with your right arm, then go as much back down as you can. Meanwhile, reach as far up your back as you can with the left hand. The goal is to have your hands touching, or at least to bring them as close together as possible. If they’re not even close, then your shoulders and thoracic spine are both stiff and tight, which will cause a decrease in mobility as well as pain in your shoulders.

Exercises with mobile weights

Barbells, bands, the kettlebell, and weight machines are great, if used judiciously. If you overuse them, however, they will definitely cause some problems in your shoulder area. Since they require a fixed position of the arms, they also force your shoulders into positions that are not natural to them. In turn, this applies far too much pressure on your shoulder joints. Instead, barbells, cables, suspension machines, and other devices, allow your shoulders to bend, twist and turn in far more natural ways. Consider making the switch and also pay attention to the direction in which your shoulders are rotating: they should go clockwise when you pull and counterclockwise when you push, on your dominant arm.


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