Nothing says "confidence" like strong shoulders. Though you may not think of them often, your shoulders can actually improve your posture and make your waist look slimmer. That is, if you train them properly.
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In order to prevent injury, be sure to always incorporate all three parts of the deltoid — anterior, lateral and posterior — and focus on your form when exercising. Start with the rear deltoid, as it usually doesn't get as much attention as the other two sections.
Get pumped with these seven moves — and modify them if you have any previous injuries or want to take the intensity down a notch.
1. Rear Lateral Raise and Extension
- Starting on all fours, grab your weight with your right hand and bend your elbow to form a 90-degree angle.
- Lift your left leg off the floor and extend it behind you.
- Inhale as you lift your elbow.
- Hold, then exhale as you punch forward.
- Inhale as you return, and exhale as you lower your elbow to the starting position.
- Aim for 10 to 15 reps per side for 2 to 3 sets.
This full-body exercise focuses specifically on your shoulders, core and glutes. Start with a lighter weight than you would use for a lateral raise (see #5 on this list).
If the extension forward is too much for you, simply raise the arm to the side slowly for two counts and lower for two counts. Keep your core tight and your forearm parallel to the floor.
2. Plank Crawl With Resistance Band Loop
- Place a light to medium resistance band loop around your wrists and get into a high plank. Press your shoulders back and away from your ears. Engage your core by pulling your belly button in toward your lower back.
- Begin walking one hand forward as far as possible.
- Walk forward with the second.
- Return to your starting position one hand at a time and repeat.
- Aim for 10 to 15 reps (forward and back is one), then take a 30-second break before repeating.
Get those postural muscles fired up with this amped-up plank crawl, which targets your anterior and posterior deltoid, rhomboids and core.
3. Arnold Press
- Sitting tall, bring your dumbbells to your chin with your palms facing inward.
- Swing both arms out and away from your body to either side of your chest.
- Exhale as you push the weight overhead, bringing your upper arms to your ears.
- Aim for 12 to 15 reps with a lighter warm-up weight, then add weight with each following set. Go for 3 sets, increasing weight and decreasing reps as you go.
Avoid shoulder-press machines that lock you into a pre-determined range of motion. Instead of leaning against the back of a chair, you'll challenge yourself by engaging your core — and target all three parts of your deltoid — throughout.
4. Front Lateral Raise
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand and roll your shoulders back and down to perfect your posture.
- Slowly raise one arm to 90 degrees with a slightly bent and rounded elbow, keeping your knees slightly bent too. Focus on getting your elbow parallel to the floor.
- Slowly lower that arm to starting position before lifting the other.
- After doing each arm individually, lift both together to finish off.
- Repeat by starting with the opposite arm.
- As each rep has three parts, aim for 8 to 10 total reps.
Never go higher than 90 degrees in a front lateral raise; you could put yourself at risk for shoulder impingement.
5. Side Lateral Raise
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand. Stand tall, rolling your shoulders back and bending your knees.
- Keep your wrists flat and in line with your forearm as you bend your elbows and slowly lift them out to the side, forming a 90-degree angle between your upper-arm and side.
- Lower the weights back down to meet in front of your hips.
- Add weight and decrease reps each set for 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 15 reps.
Once again, keep your forearm parallel to the floor at the top of the lift, and don't raise your hand higher than the elbow.
6. Front to Back Overhead Press
- Sit on an exercise ball to activate your core.
- With the bar extended overhead, slowly lower it down behind your head.
- Then press the bar back overhead and lower in front.
For many athletes who require increased upper-body mobility, such as Olympic lifters and CrossFitters, this move can be used to assess weaknesses. Make sure to use a lighter weight (maybe a 15-pound bar) and focus on form. If you have preexisting shoulder or upper back injuries, sit this one out.
If you are forced to lean forward more than a little when lowering the bar behind your head, this move is probably not for you.
7. Wall Climb
- Start by lying on the floor. Push up to a high plank.
- Carefully place one leg against the wall and start walking your body up into a handstand.
- Once there, slowly walk back out into the plank position and repeat.
- Shoot for 5 to 10 reps.
Keep your arms as straight as possible, and push your shoulders down and away from your ears by engaging your back. Move as quickly as you can, because the longer you take, the harder it gets. And you may want to practice at home on a carpeted floor in case you take a tumble.