Jillian Michaels Shares Her Go-To Shoulder Workouts

Strong and sculpted shoulders help frame your entire physique, but the aesthetic benefits are only one of the reasons you should include shoulder exercises in your workout regimen.

If there's one woman who knows how to build stronger shoulders, it's the workout queen herself, Jillian Michaels. (Image: Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images Entertainment/GettyImages)

While it's not a requirement to memorize the anatomical names of all the muscles that make up your shoulders, you should know that this muscle group aids in several critical movements such as raising your arms in front of you, overhead, out to the side and behind you and lowering them back down. No wonder it's so important to keep these muscles strong!

Why Strong Shoulders Are Important

Jillian Michaels, world-renowned health and wellness expert and author of the recent book, The 6 Keys: Unlock Your Genetic Potential for Ageless Strength, Health, and Beauty, tells LIVESTRONG that training the shoulders is a must, especially for performing everyday tasks like picking up a child, shoveling snow or hauling groceries. "There are hundreds of daily chores we use our shoulders to perform," she says.

Plus, if you don't keep the shoulder muscles strong and working in unison, Michaels says the physical load and stress go to all the wrong places, like the joint capsule, ligaments and tendons, which can result in injury. That's why she says it's crucial that your shoulders are strong enough to handle the physical stress.

Tips to Keep Your Shoulders Safe While Lifting Weights

But working your shoulders isn't as simple as pumping out a few dumbbell shoulder presses at the gym every now and again. So follow these safety tips Michaels to make sure your shoulder workouts aren't doing more harm than good.

  • Don't lift heavier than you can manage with perfect form for a minimum of eight reps.
  • Make sure to study the form of each exercise with a visual reference before performing the movement.
  • Use dumbbells rather than barbells when training your shoulders so you can train each shoulder independently and the stronger arm doesn't compensate for the weaker arm.
  • When doing any type of rotation exercises, use bands instead of weights. This is because the force is applied from the inside out or the outside in (where you want it). However, if you use dumbbells the force is coming from gravity, which is pulling the weight down instead of from the right or left.
  • Do not train your shoulders more than twice a week.
  • Make sure to let your shoulders recover at least two days in between training sessions.

Shoulder Workouts for Your Upper Body Routine

Ready to sculpt and strengthen your shoulders? Here are two of Michaels' go-to shoulder workouts.

Jillian Michaels' Shoulder Workout #1

Do each of the following exercises for 30 seconds, doing as many reps as you can with good form. Perform the entire circuit three times through.

1. Push-Ups

HOW TO DO IT: Lie facedown on the floor. Start with your hands wider than shoulder width apart alongside your chest, thumbs in line with your armpits. Push yourself up into a plank. Your feet can be hip-width apart. Keep your eyes looking down and your spine long. Engage your core and lean slightly forward as you inhale and lower your body toward the ground. Drop until your arms are in a 90-degree angle. Exhale and press back up.

2. Shoulder Press With Dumbbells

HOW TO DO IT: Sit on a weight bench with your back tall. Grab the dumbbells and position them at the sides of your shoulders with your elbows below your wrists and your palms facing out. Press the dumbbells up, extending your arms overhead. Lower your arms to the starting position.

3. Reverse Flys

HOW TO DO IT: You can either do this exercise standing or seated. If sitting (recommended for beginners), sit on the edge of a workout bench, a dumbbell in each hand and your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend forward at the waist so your upper body is parallel to the floor. Let your arms hang straight down under your chest, with your palms facing each other. Exhale and raise the dumbbells out to the side until they're parallel to the floor. Hold for a beat. Inhale and slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

4. Anterior Raises

HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your back straight and a dumbbell in each hand. Position your arms in front of your thighs with your elbows straight. Lift one arm until the dumbbell is slightly higher than your shoulder (don't lock your elbow). Return to the starting position and repeat with your other arm. Continue by alternating arms.

Jillian Michaels' Shoulder Workout #2

Do each of the following exercises for 30 seconds, doing as many reps as you can with good form. Perform the entire circuit three times through.

1. Bent Over Wide Rows

HOW TO DO IT: From standing, bend over at the hips with your knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand (with a palms-down grip) and maintain a flat back throughout the exercise. Let your arms hang down to start, and then pull the weights up to your chest, elbows out to the side. Slowly lower the weights and repeat.

2. Bench Dips

HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the edge of a bench. Place your hands on either side of your hips, fingers wrapping over the edge. Plant both feet on the floor and scoot your hips off the seat. Bend your elbows, lowering your body. Keep your torso upright, hips as close to the bench as possible. Stop when your shoulders are level with your elbows or just before. Your elbows should stay directly over your hands throughout the movement. Straighten your elbows, pressing yourself back up to the start position.

3. Lateral Raises

HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbells (facing each other) in front of your thighs, bending your elbows slightly. With control, raise your arms so your elbows are shoulder height. Return to the starting position.

4. External Shoulder Rotation With Resistance Band

HOW TO DO IT: Secure one end of a resistance band to an object at elbow height. Take the other end of the band, wrap it around your hand and hold onto it. Stand so that the band stretches out in front of you and across your body. Bend your elbow 90 degrees so your forearm is parallel to the ground but your upper arm is close to your body. Start with your hand in front of your body, and then rotate your arm out to the side, keeping your elbow in place, and pause. Slowly reverse the movement back to the start.

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