There’s a lot of reason to focus on strengthening your shoulder muscles. For one thing, stronger shoulders mean wider shoulders, and wider shoulders make your waist look smaller. For another, your shoulder muscles are essentially the capstones to your biceps and triceps: They take the whole buff arm thing and add length and definition, raising it to another level entirely.
The good news about shoulder workouts is that these smaller muscles respond quickly to stimulus, meaning you’ll see results in a matter of days or weeks, not months. The muscles you’ll be building are your anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids, occupying positions, as the names imply, at the front, side, and back of the shoulder. Other muscles, like the teres major, rotator cuff, and trapezius, are involved in many shoulder exercises as well.
The series of moves here take about 20 minutes, and should be performed twice a week for best results.
Upright Barbell Row
Stand with your back straight, holding a barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. (Use enough weight to do 10 reps.) Straighten your arms so that the barbell rests against your quads. Bend elbows out to the side and engage shoulders to hike the barbell up toward your chin. Hold for a second, then release. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, back straight, arms by your sides. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward. (Use enough weight to do 10 reps.) Keeping elbows soft, raise arms directly out to the sides. Hold for a second, then release. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.
Using a squat rack, weight a barbell for 10 reps. Standing with feet hip-width apart, place the bar behind your neck and place hands in a wide overhand grip. Exhale, lifting bar off rack and directly overhead. This is your starting position. Inhale, and as you do, bend elbows out to the sides and lower bar in front of you to about collarbone level. Exhale and straighten your arms overhead again. This is one rep. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
Dumbbell Front Raise
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, back straight. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing your thighs. (Use enough weight to do 10 reps.) Raise your right arm directly out in front of you until the dumbbell is parallel with your shoulders, palm facing the floor. Hold a second, then release. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides. Do 3 sets. (Alternately, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand and alternate reps between right and left side, one for one.)
This move activates your posterior deltoids, one of the harder shoulder muscles to engage. Sit at the end of a bench, a dumbbell in each hand. Bend forward at the waist so that your chest is against your thighs. Lower arms to the floor, palms facing inward. Exhale and raise arms directly out to the sides, allowing your elbows to bend slightly and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower back to floor. 10 reps, 2 sets.
This move engages the trap muscles along with your deltoids, making it a great overall shoulder exercise. It’s simple and effective. Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, feet hip-width apart. Exhale and lift your shoulders as high as you can, as if you are trying to touch your shoulders to your ears. (Keep your arms straight.) Release. 10 reps, 3 sets.
Named after the OG himself, you’ll learn to love the move Schwarzenegger invented because it works your deltoids from multiple angles, giving you mega bang for your workout buck. Start sitting on a bench, dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward, arms straight by your sides. Bend elbows and raise hands so that the dumbbells are tucked beneath your chin, palms facing chest. This is your start position. Swing elbows out the sides and straight your arms as you lift the dumbbells overhead, rotating your shoulders so that your finish the move with your palms facing forward, arms straight above you. Release, rotating your shoulders again back to the start. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.