Do you want sexy, defined shoulders without ever having to touch a dumbbell? Just head to the machine section of the gym floor. Cable machines offer the most versatility when it comes to shoulder workouts, but you may also find a few selectorized machines — the type which change the weight with the insertion of a pin — to work this important muscle.
The cable cross machine isn't just for your shoulders. You can work just about every muscle group using these parallel pillars fixed with moveable pulleys. Because the cable cross allows you to move in multiple directions, rather than fixed on one plane, it's particularly beneficial to working the shoulder, which moves up and down, right to left and in circles.
Some exercises to try on the cable cross machine include:
Lat Raises: Fix the pulley at the lowest level and attach a single handle. Stand with your left side facing the pulley and hold the handle with your right hand. Step away from the pulley to feel slight resistance. Pull your right arm straight up and away from your body and return to the start for one rep. Repeat on the other side. This works the medial deltoids, or top of your shoulders.
Front Arm Raises: Place the pulley at the lowest level and attach the rope handle. Straddle the pulley, with your back to the pillar. Grab the rope handle and raise it up in front of you, between your legs. Move slightly away from the machine to create tension and raise and lower the handles with straight arms. This works the anterior deltoids, or fronts of your shoulders.
Upright Rows: Fix a straight bar to the cable set at the lowest pulley. Face the pillar and hold the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Pull the bar up to your chin and release back down to the front of your thighs to complete one rep. This works the medial deltoids.
Rear Delt Fly: Stand in the middle of a cable cross machine. Set both pulleys to the lowest height and attach a handle to each cable. Grab the right handle with the left hand and the left handle with the right so that the cables cross in front of you. Bend forward from the hips and open your arms out straight, with a slight bend in your elbows, as you pull the shoulder blades together. Return to start to complete one repetition. This works the posterior deltoids, or backs of the shoulders.
Seated Shoulder Press
Several variations of this machine are available. You'll find ones that mimic a seated military press, in which you sit on the seat and push the handles straight up overhead. You'll also find ones that are slightly reclined and act more like an incline chest press, working your upper chest along with the fronts of the shoulders.
Which one you choose depends on your goals, of course — do you want to work mostly shoulders or combine them with a chest workout? From there, it's largely a matter of personal preference. Some machines may fit your body more comfortably, you may prefer a specific grip or just find that certain machines seem to run more smoothly.
The Smith machine looks like a squat rack but the bar is fixed to the machine via gliding rails. Use it for a multitude of exercises, including shoulder presses. It's perfect if you're interested in using free weights, but not certain you can handle the pressure of a loose bar.
Stand and fix the bar at chest height. Hold it with an overhead, shoulder-width grip. Plant your feet and press the weight up and overhead; release back to your chest to complete one rep.