Shoulders that are sculpted and beautifully proportioned can look phenomenal on both women and men – they help to make the stature look more imposing by giving the illusion of a narrower waist and broader top. For women especially, great shoulders can create a fantastic balance between the hips (lower body) and the rest of the upper torso, accentuating curves to promote the ‘hourglass’ shape. This post contains my favourite 4 exercises for targeting the shoulders – a helpful little reminder as approach holiday season 🙂 ! Click MORE for the how-to & to get the details on my outfit 🙂
The shoulders are comprised of a number of individual muscles (not just the infamous anterior / posterior deltoids), as well as a huge number of slow and fast-twitch muscles fibres. Because of this, I think you have to hit the muscles from as many angles as is possible; changing up the repetitions and frequency will help. However, for the biggest aesthetic impact, those muscles you should concentrate on the most are the superficial ones, the deltoids. With most shoulder exercise, I’d rather not to start too heavy, but instead focus on more reps with limited rest-time in between. The combo of light weights, quick activity, high-repetitions and limited-downtime is the best route to a ‘cut’ look on the shoulders.
When I remember, I try to ‘feel’ the muscle I’m working, and whilst that’s something I look to achieve with every exercise, it’s especially the case when working out my shoulders. If I struggle to feel the muscle I want to target, I’ll sometimes ask a gym buddy to gently touch the shoulder muscle I’m trying to work, which helps to focus the mind. And then you can really relish that burning sensation! Below are four of my favourite exercises to engage and exhaust the shoulders. Enjoy!
1) BENT-OVER LATERAL RAISES (as below pics)
A. Stand a shoulder-width apart with your knees slightly bent. Lean forward from the waist maintaining a straight back.
B. Hold the dumbbells with slightly bent elbows.
C. As you inhale raise the dumbbells to your sides.
D. Exhale and return to starting position. Push together your shoulder blades at the end of the movement to work the lower part of the trapezius, teres minor, rhomboids and infraspinatus.
Targets: the entire shoulder area especially the posterior deltoids.
2) DUMBBELL PRESSES (as below pics)
A. Stand up, or if you prefer, sit on a bench keeping your back straight. Hold the dumbbells with an overhand grip. Lift to your shoulders , palms facing forward. Seated position is preferable to avoid hyperextension on the spine.
B. Inhale and simultaneously press your hands up.
C. Exhale as you lower the weight. Repeat x 12.
Targets: Deltoids, especially the medial deltoids and the upper trapezius, triceps and serratus anterior.
3) LATERAL RAISES (as below pics)
A. Stand up tall, keep your knees slightly bent whilst maintaing a strong and engaged core. Let your arms hang to the side.
B. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and slowly raise the dumbbell to shoulder level, keeping your elbows slightly bent. Internally rotate the upper arm (humerus) at the movement as if you are ‘poring a jug of water’. This will best activate the medial / rear deltoids.
C. Return to starting position. To make the exercise more effective start at different positions – hands to the side, hands in front, and behind by glutes to work the medial deltoids entirely.
Targets: It isolates almost entirely the medial deltoids, and also targets the supraspinatus. If you go higher than shoulder level you put more emphasis on the upper trapezius. I only go to shoulder level as I only want to mainly target the medial deltoids and as a woman don’t care to develop my trapezius too much.
Weight: I never go to heavy with this exercise (but keep it challenging) and tend to aim to execute many reps starting at least 20 reps, with very little recovery time in between sets. I work until I feel a ‘burning’ sensation.
4) FRONT RAISE (as below pic)
A. Stand tall with your feet about a half a shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbells with an overhand grip in front of you, resting on your thighs. B. As you inhale raise the shoulders forward to shoulder level. C. Exhale as you bring the weight down to starting position. Repeat x 12. Targets: Mainly works the anterior deltoids & upper pectorals and a bit less on the medial deltoids.
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