Strengthening your shoulder muscles helps keep the notoriously unstable shoulder joint more secure, which helps you stay injury-free while doing everything from lifting weights to flowing through yoga poses. To do so? You *need* quality shoulder exercises and workouts that target the area.
Strengthening your shoulders also does wonders for your posture. Let's say you spend long hours sitting, hunched over your computer or phone—your shoulders have likely adapted by rounding forward. Training yourself to pull them back into proper position (read: shoulders that can relax back and down) can help undo that.
Doing shoulder press after shoulder press won't cut it, though. To reap the biggest benefits (ahem, Jennifer Aniston upper-body vibes), you want to work all of the different muscles around your shoulder joint, including your:
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- deltoids (the three muscles that cover the outside of your shoulder)
- traps (the muscles that run from your neck and spine to your shoulder blade)
- lats (the large muscles that run from your spine to your armpit)
- rotator cuff (the muscles that help keep your arm bone in your shoulder socket)
Since most upper-body movements involve your shoulders in some way or another, you only need to do one exclusive shoulders workout per week. Your shoulder muscles are delicate, so consider it A-okay to start with light weights (like, 3 or 5 pounds) and resistance bands.
The following shoulder exercises are perfect for gym or at-home shoulder workouts.
Time: 25 minutes
Equipment: Dumbbells, resistance band, Bosu ball
Good for: Shoulders
Instructions: Choose 10 moves below. For each exercise, perform three sets of the indicated number of reps, resting as needed between sets. Once you've completed all three sets, continue to the next movement and repeat.
How to: Start with feet under hips, legs straight, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing toward body and weights touching quads. Pull elbows up and out wide to lift the dumbbells to chest. Reverse movement to return to start. That’s one rep. Complete 15 reps.
How to: Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, arms extended straight in front of body and raised to shoulder height, holding a resistance band with both hands, palms facing floor. Engage core and pull fists out past shoulders. Slowly return to start. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps.
How to: Start kneeling on the floor with knees slightly wider than hips holding a dumbbell in both hands directly in front of chest, elbows pointing down at sides. Keep both arms bent and slowly circle the dumbbell around head and back in front of chest. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps in each direction.
Reverse Snow Angel
How to: Start lying face-down on floor with legs extended straight, forehead resting on a folded mat or towel, and arms by sides lifted in line with hips, palms down. Keeping arms straight and palms facing the floor, bring arms out to the side in a wide arc and overhead, bringing biceps by ears. Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep. Complete 12 to 15 reps.
How to: Start in an upside-down “V” position with feet flat (narrow stances as necessary), hands pressed into the floor, and hips in the air. Bend elbows out wide to the sides bringing head to touch the floor. Press through hands to return to start. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps.
How to: Start in a high plank with shoulders over wrists. Keeping palms planted and arms straight, step feet back as far as you can maintain control and level hips, aiming to bring shoulders behind hands and lower body toward floor. Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps.
How to: Start seated with legs bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms straight and behind body, palms pressed into mat with fingertips facing glutes and just a few inches behind them. Lift hips until thighs are parallel to the ceiling. Pause at the top, then lower back down. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps.
How to: To start, stand with knees slightly bent, feet staggered, right foot forward and flat on the floor, left back (heel high), with the middle of a resistance band looped underneath the arch of right foot, hands grasping it by the ends, and arms at sides—swapping the band for a pair of dumbbells is another option. Without bending elbows, raise arms straight up in front of body to shoulder-height. Slowly lower back down to start. That's one rep. Complete 12 reps.
How to: Start in plank position. Bring body into an upside-down "V" position by walking feet toward hands. Take short steps on balls of feet and keep legs and torso straight. Walk feet back into plank. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps.
How to: To start, stand with knees slightly bent, feet staggered, right foot forward and flat on the floor, left back (heel high), with the middle of a resistance band looped underneath the arch of right foot, hands grasping it by the ends, and arms at sides—swapping the band for a pair of dumbbells in another option. Raise arms out wide until parallel to the floor. Return slowly to start. That’s one rep. Complete 12 reps.
Bent-Over Rear Delt Fly
How to: Start standing with feet hip-width apart, knees bent, hinged forward at the hips until back is flat and torso is parallel to mat, holding a pair of dumbbells with arms extended down toward floor, elbows softly bent and palms facing each other. Raise both arms up and out to the sides while squeezing shoulder blades together. Return to start. That's one rep. Complete 12 reps.
Half Turkish Get-Up
How to: Start lying on back with right leg and arm straight on the floor and at a 45-degree angle from body, left leg bent so foot is flat on the floor, and left arm extended up toward ceiling (elbow locked out) holding a kettlebell or dumbbell. Keep eyes on weight, press into right arm, and sit up, coming onto right forearm. Then, press through right palm and left foot to lift hips into air, keeping right leg straight. Slowly reverse the movement to return to starting position. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps per side.
How to: Start lying face-down on mat, with arms extended out to sides so body forms a "T" shape and all four limbs and forehead are on the floor. Make fists with hands and stick thumbs up toward ceiling. Keep arms straight, squeeze shoulder blades together, and lift thumbs up toward ceiling. Pause at top, then lower. That's one rep. Complete 15 reps.
How to: Start standing with feet under hips, arms extended directly in front of body and shoulder level, hands in fists, palms facing inward. Move fists one inch forward while keeping back straight and not leaning torso forward or folding and waist. Pull arms back to starting position. That’s one rep. Complete 12 to 15 reps.
How to: Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a resistance band taut between hands, arms straight at sides, palms facing body. Without bending elbows, pull hands apart and raise arms up overhead and back as far as is comfortable. Slowly return to start. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps.
Bosu Ball Shoulder Taps
How to: Start in a high plank with feet wider than shoulders and hands on top of round side of Bosu ball. Tap right hand to left shoulder, return to start, and then left hand to right shoulder. That's one rep. Complete 12 to 15 reps.
Seated Overhead Press
How to: Start seated in a cross-legged position, butt on ground, back straight, with a kettlebell in each hand, arms bent, elbows narrow, palms facing inward, and weights resting against upper arms. In one motion, rotate palms away from body and press the kettlebells overhead until arms are straight and biceps are by ears. Reverse motion to return to start. That's one rep. Complete 15 reps.
Downward-Facing Dog to Plank
How to: Start in plank position. Lift hips to move into downward-facing dog pose, pointing tailbone up and lowering heels toward the floor. Return to plank. That's one rep. Complete 12 reps.
Bear Plank Shoulder Tap
How to: Start on all fours with shoulders over wrists and knees under hips, then lift knees a few inches off of mat. Keep back flat and shoulders and hips stable, while lifting left hand up off mat, bending at elbow, and tapping right shoulder with left fingers. Replace left hand, then repeat on the opposite side. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps per side.
How to: Stand tall with feet hip-distance apart and dumbbells in hands. Bend elbows to bring the weights up to shoulder-height. This is your starting position. Keeping palms facing inward, core tight, and shoulders square, press left arm straight up until fully extended. Then, slowly reverse the motion and repeat on the other side. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps.