Many shoulder exercises work other muscles at the same time, such as
biceps, triceps and different back muscles…which gives them a big bang
for the buck.
Shoulder muscles are not as big of a muscle group as the chest, back or legs, but they are big enough to count and include in your exercise plan when it comes to losing weight and looking good!
As far as looks go, strong shoulders can give a guy that broad, strong
look. For a woman, they give that healthy, sculpted appearance that
many envy when they see movie stars on the red carpet in their sexy,
Shoulder exercises can give you “that something extra” that gives you that strong, healthy outline that people recognize and admire…even though they may not be able to put their finger on it.
Well defined shoulders on a man or woman will make their waist appear SMALLER!
The Major Shoulder Muscles and What They Do:
The shoulder muscles move your upper arm in all directions - to the front, sides and to the rear…so there are a lot of moves that work them! Most shoulder exercises involve many other muscles, but the main ones are the DELTOIDS or “Delts”…..
Anterior Head of the Deltoids (front of shoulders):
Raise your arm to the front. Putting a can of beans up on a shelf and lifting a child use these muscles. They are working with the medial head when you lift something over your head, and they also assist the chest muscles in pushing moves like pushups, dumbbell presses and the Arnold Press.
Medial Head (side of shoulders):
Raise your arm out to the side. Flap your arms like a chicken, and you are working these! And of course, any move where your arm is raised out to the side is using these as well. Overhead presses are popular moves for this muscle.
Posterior Head (rear of shoulders):
Pull your arm to the rear. Rowing a canoe, pulling on a pair of pants and pullups work these muscles. These muscles work in conjunction with a lot of back exercises when you pull on something.
Most of the lifting and pulling moves you can do to work your shoulders also work your biceps, triceps, back, chest and forearm muscles. So this means you burn more calories AND sculpt your other muscles as well!
If you are worried by flabby arms or if you want to add some definition to your upper arms, then read on!
Two popular exercises for the shoulders are lateral raises and front raises. These can be done with hand weights, kettlebells, medicine balls, cable machines, or exercise bands. The shoulder joint is the only joint moving with these two moves.
If you are familiar with the concepts of SAVING TIME with multi-joint exercises that I talk about so much on EGTLW, then you may wonder why I mention these two moves…
Single joint exercises like this can be combined with other moves at the same time…for example; lateral raises or front raises could be incorporated with squats or lunges!
The overhead press is a great multi-joint exercise
(also heavily works the triceps)…it is usually done with dumbbells or a
There are also many different types of exercise machines in gyms that work the shoulder as well. Just like a lot of exercises, there are different variations that you can do with overhead presses.
Upright rows are a super shoulder exercise that also hit the traps of the upper back. Upright rows can be done with a barbell or individual handheld weights or resistance bands.
I personally prefer my hands to move independently as they do with dumbbells or bands because I feel like with a barbell my shoulders cannot move as freely and it puts them in bind. Upright rows can also be combined with other exercises, such as “supersetting” them with other shoulder exercises, or incorporating squats or lunges.
One of the many great combination moves is the clean and press. It combines a deadlift with an overhead press!
One of the variations of an overhead press I like a lot is the Arnold Press. Yes, it is named after THE “Arnold”! I feel like the rotating action on the way up hits the muscles more thoroughly.
Boxing is also an amazing shoulder workout! You can work out with a partner who holds mitts for you, you can hit a heavy bag or speed bag….or just shadow box! Boxing is also a great cardio workout.
Two advanced techniques I really like are called “pre-exhaust” and “post-exhaust”…
this is where you use single joint exercises with multi-joint exercises together to really make those muscles BURN! If you have been working out for a while, then you can use these techniques to shock your muscles out of boredom from time to time.
Other techniques include using resistance bands to pull from different angles while you lift and also doing moves one arm at a time to hit the core muscles. Sitting on a stability ball can also add a fun dynamic to working out and also hits the core!
Question: Should I stand up or sit down while doing shoulder exercises?
Great question! Of course, they can be done either way, but I have my preference:
Standing up. Here’s why…
many people do them sitting down because…well…they see others sitting down and that’s what they see in bodybuilding magazines. The reason some people prefer sitting is because they feel they can focus and isolate the shoulder muscles better that way, which is true.
Sitting – especially on a bench or chair with a back rest – can also take some of the strain off of your lower back if you have a tendency to lean back when lifting weights over your head. No arguments there! So why stand? Simply because by standing up, you are using more muscles! More core muscles and leg muscles come into play, which means a more productive exercise.
When standing and doing shoulder exercises, stand erect with good posture. Keep your core tight and strong, and slightly bend your knees – never lock them. DO NOT lean back! I have found that if I feel like I am going to lean, I put one foot in front and slide the other foot slightly back and try to center myself above them. This makes me feel more stable and takes a lot of the pressure off of my lower back.
There is a lot of variety with shoulder exercises! They can be combined with other moves to increase calorie burn and cardio, and many of them work other muscles – especially the triceps, which can help with the flabby arm syndrome. If you are not doing shoulder exercises now, then I expect you to add them to your workout routine!