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7 Shoulder Exercises for Strength and Stability

Sculpt your upper body through this shoulder strength training that can improve day-to-day function and prevent injuries.

by goldsgym

Sculpting your shoulders doesn’t require a lot of equipment or training – just a set of dumbbells.

Dumbbells are versatile and easy to use, and they can strengthen more than just your muscles. They work your brain, too, as you try to balance and coordinate the movements. And because dumbbells engage more muscles to balance the weight, they help build greater overall stability in the area of focus.

Shoulder strength training can reduce your risk of injury by strengthening your core muscles, which makes you more stable and lessens imbalances.

Good technique is always key, so we asked Andy Coggan, director of the Fitness Academy at Gold’s Gym, for tips and a few of his favorite shoulder exercises.

Assess yourself

Before beginning your shoulder strength training, you should assess your body and shoulders.

“Start by keeping your arm by your side the entire time. Complete one full shoulder circle going front-to-back, and then another back-to-front,” Coggan says. “You want a good range of motion in this movement, without pain. If you experience any discomfort, talk to a Gold’s Gym trainer before starting these exercises.”

Do shoulder workouts twice a week

Doing shoulder exercises twice a week gives the muscles ample time for growth and recovery. Start with this approach:

  • First 10 minutes: Stretch the upper body, shoulders and back muscles.
  • Next 20 to 30 minutes: Shoulder exercises (listed below) paired with upper body training, such as chest, back and arms.
  • Next 5 to 10 minutes: Light stretching.
  • Last 10 to 20 minutes: Cap it off with cardio or high-intensity interval training.

Choose your weight

One of the biggest mistakes a beginner can make is choosing either too much or too little weight.

  • Assess: Try 10 reps in good form. If you can easily go past 10 in good form, try a slightly heavier weight.
  • Tweak: If you’re struggling to get 10 or need to engage other muscles to finish the rep, you’ve gone too heavy. Go down about 5-10 pounds.
  • The sweet spot: If you can do 10 reps with great form and feel like you have just 1-2 reps left in the tank, you found the perfect weight for you.

Change it up

There’s more than one way to train, Coggan says. And actually, doing the same thing repeatedly is a common mistake, he says. Bodies begin to adapt to an exercise and need variety to continue making progress. Just make sure you’re doing the basics right.

Gold’s Gym trainers, who can introduce a wide range of workouts, can make sure you’re using proper technique. Here, Coggan offers four exercises to try, as well as modifications for each fitness level.

1. Dumbbell front raise

This exercise is an effective move to isolate your anterior deltoid muscles, or the front of the shoulder. Standing, hold dumbbells in front of you with your palms facing your legs. Keep your elbows and knees slightly bent as you raise your arms straight in front of you to shoulder level. Slowly return to the starting position.
The goal: Four sets of 12 reps. Rest about 60 seconds between sets.

  • Beginner: Move up and down at an even pace. Two seconds up, two seconds down. Don’t lock out the elbows or lean back during execution.
  • Intermediate: Try decreasing the rest between sets to 30 seconds, and combine front, lateral and reverse fly shoulder raises in one sequence.
  • Expert: No rest between sets. Combine front, lateral and reverse fly shoulder raises in one sequence.

2. Dumbbell lateral raise

Lifting laterally activates your posterior deltoids and upper-back muscles. Standing, hold dumbbells with your palms facing each other. Keeping your elbows and knees slightly bent, raise your arms out from your sides in wide arcs to about shoulder level. Slowly return to the starting position.
The goal: Four sets of 12 reps. Rest about 60 seconds between sets.

  • Beginner: Move up and down at an even pace. Two seconds up, two seconds down. Don’t lock the elbows or lean back during execution.
  • Intermediate: Try decreasing the rest between sets to 30 seconds, and combine front, lateral and reverse fly shoulder raises in one sequence.
  • Expert: No rest between sets. Combine front, lateral and reverse fly shoulder raises in one sequence.

3. Reverse fly

This exercise targets your posterior deltoids, as well as the rhomboid and middle trapezius muscles of your upper back. Standing, hold dumbbells with your palms facing each other. Bend your torso forward, forming a 45-degree angle with the floor. With elbows slightly bent, raise the dumbbells up and out to the sides until they are parallel to the floor. As you lift the weights, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together.
The goal: Four sets of 12 reps. Rest about 60 seconds between sets.

  • Beginner: Hold your spine in a strong, flat neutral position throughout the movement. If you are not strong enough to do this on your own today, use a bench set to an incline to support yourself.
  • Intermediate: Try decreasing the rest between sets to 30 seconds, and combine front, lateral and reverse fly shoulder raises in one sequence.
  • Expert: No rest between sets. Combine front, lateral and reverse fly shoulder raises in one sequence.

4. Seated military press

Along with building anterior, medial and rear deltoid strength, this exercise also targets the upper back. Sitting, hold a dumbbell in each hand, and raise both weights to shoulder level with palms facing out and elbows bent. Press the weights up and toward each other as you straighten your arms. At the top of the movement, keep a slight bend in your elbows. Slowly bring down the weights, and return to the starting position.
The goal: Four sets of 12 reps. Rest about 60 seconds between sets.

  • Beginner: Use a bench with a back support to support your body throughout the shoulder press and decrease the demand on your abs and back. Focus on full range of motion from shoulders to arms straight, with your arms in line with your ears.
  • Intermediate: Remove the back support and slow down the movement for a two-second lift and a two-second descent.
  • Expert: Stand up. Consider including an explosive lift while continuing to lower the weights slowly and under control.

5. Standing dumbbell shoulder press

Lifting weight overhead from a standing position engages all the muscles of your shoulders and upper arms and works your core as it stabilizes. To begin, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, squeezing your abs and your glutes tightly throughout the movement to maintain a straight back. With the dumbbells at shoulder height, press the weight straight up until your arms are fully extended. When your arms cover your ears, you’ve achieved a straight-up position.
The goal: Three sets of eight reps. Rest about 60 seconds between sets.

  • Beginner: Keep the weight down and aim for 10–12 reps.  Focus on good form and proper body position.
  • Intermediate: Superset the presses by doing the dumbbell front raise for 10 reps immediately after your set is finished. The 1-2 punch will have your shoulders really burning.
  • Expert: Try one arm at a time. Be sure to lighten the dumbbells slightly at first as this will really challenge your core in a big way.

6. One-arm dumbbell push press

This combines shoulder work with full-body power development, increasing your strength in overhead pressing movements in a big way. The heavier load makes it a big core challenge that really gets your heart rate up and will leave you feeling like you just ran sprints.  Start in the same position as the standing shoulder press, but with a dumbbell in only one hand. Begin the movement with a slight knee dip (think quarter squat depth). Rapidly extend your knees and hips to create driving power that will push the weight explosively with one hand over your head to a full lockout. Slowly lower the weight back down to shoulder height to repeat for reps.
The goal: Four sets of 6 reps per side. Rest about 90 seconds between sets.

  • Beginner: Most beginners should focus on more basic movements that do not involve a power component. Straight shoulder presses would be the best bet.
  • Intermediate: Try doing six sets of 3–4 reps with heavier weights that will challenge your strength to a greater degree.
  • Expert: Hold two dumbbells and alternate sides from one rep to the next.

7. Plank dumbbell shoulder raise

This exercise combines a proven core development exercise with a staple shoulder developer, making it extremely effective and time efficient. Holding the dumbbells, start in a plank position supported on your hands and on your toes. Begin with your feet a little bit wider than shoulder width. Move your feet in if you need to increase difficulty. From this position, alternate reps lifting one arm off the ground and straight out in front of you until it lines up with your body (parallel to the ground).
The goal: Three sets of five reps per side. Rest about 60 seconds between sets.

  • Beginner: Complete the movement from hands and knees, rather than toes.
  • Intermediate: Complete as directed if you’re an intermediate.
  • Expert: Bring the feet in as close to each other as you can while maintaining a good flat back position and not shifting your hips. This will make the exercise much more difficult quickly, so just move in a little bit at a time.

 

More workouts to try:

The Most Important Workout You’ll Ever Do
5 Exercises You Should Be Doing But You’re Not
Resistance Bands For Beginners

goldsgym

goldsgym

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