Shoulder Exercises for Women That Want More Strength Without Bulking Up

Strengthening your shoulders probably isn’t high on your list of priorities when it comes to working out, but it should be. They’re often neglected, but strong shoulders can prevent injuries and make everyday activities easier. Here are the five best exercises to start with.

5 Bent-Over Rows

Consider this exercise your all-over shoulder toner. Just like arm circles, it targets not only the shoulder muscles (deltoid and trapezius), but your triceps and back muscles (latissimus dorsi). How to do bent-over rows: Take a 5- to 10-pound weight in each hand and hinge forward from your hips until your chest is parallel to the ground. Don’t lock your knees or arch your back. Let your arms hang straight down from your shoulders. Pull the weights up toward your chest until your elbows are touching your waist, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top. Lower back down to the start and repeat.

4 Fly Presses

Even though this exercise primarily strengthens the chest, it also recruits the deltoids to stabilize your arms and your trapezius as you release the weight and open your arms back up. How to do fly presses: Using the fly press machine at the gym, select a weight that you can comfortably lift and sit with and arm of the machine on each side. Grab each side with a hand and press them together towards the center of your chest. Slowly release to the starting position, keeping your arms at shoulder level the entire time.

3 Arm Circles

Don’t let the simplicity of this exercise fool you. Arm circles will really work your shoulders and all connecting muscles. And like shoulder presses, they engage your core muscles and challenge you balance. How to do arm circles: Start in the same position as lateral raises with your arms out to the side of your body with a 3- to 8-pound dumbbell in each hand. Keep your arms level as you circle them forward in small movements for 10 counts. Do the same in reverse for another 10 counts. Again, circle forward but this time with larger circles for 10 counts and in reverse one final time for 10 counts.

2 Lateral Raises

Are your shoulders ready for a challenge? This is definitely it. But if it gets too difficult, you can scale this exercise by choosing lighter weights or bending your arms at the elbow during the range of motion. How to do lateral raises: Hold a 3- to 8-pound dumbbell in each hand and your sides. Place your feet shoulder-distance apart and inhale as you raise the weights away from your sides and up to shoulder level so that you body makes a T shape. Slowly lower back down to the start without resting at the bottom.

1 Shoulder Presses

Anytime you lift your arms over your head, you’re using your deltoid muscle, and this exercise helps strengthen and stabilize it. It also engages your core muscles, so make sure you tighten those muscles when you’re raising the weights. How to do shoulder presses: Stand up straight with a 5 to 10-pound dumbbell in each hand. Raise the weights so that they are at shoulder level and your elbows are pointed out to the side. Straighten your elbows and push the weights up over your head, keeping them directly over your shoulders. Slowly lower back down to the start. Make sure to keep your back straight and your core tight. And don’t shrug your shoulders at the top, either.

These exercises, done two to three times a week, are the foundation for lean, sexy shoulder that will definitely turn heads. Including these or some of the best arm exercises will tone your upper body and improve your functional strength.

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