3 Shoulder Exercises for Weight Training
Dumbbell shoulder press
The dumbbell shoulder press targets the top and center of your shoulder muscles. This exercise also works your upper back and triceps. Use caution if you have lower-back, neck, or elbow problems.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit on a bench with back support. Plant your feet firmly on the floor about hip-width apart. Bend your elbows and raise your upper arms to shoulder height so the dumbbells are at ear level. Pull your abdominals in so there’s a slight gap between the small of your back and the bench. Place the back of your head against the pad.
Push the dumbbells up and in until the ends of the dumbbells are nearly touching directly over your head and then lower the dumbbells back to ear level.
DO keep your elbows relaxed at the top instead of locking them.
DO stop lowering the dumbbells when your elbows are at or slightly below shoulder level.
DON’T let your back arch a great degree off the back support.
DON’T wiggle or squirm around in an effort to press the weights up.
Palms facing in dumbbell press (easier): Do this exercise with your palms facing each other. This position allows your wrists and biceps muscles to help execute the movement.
The lateral raise works the center of your shoulder muscles. Make sure that you use stellar technique if you have neck or lower-back problems.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand up tall with your feet as wide as your hips. Bend your elbows a little, turn your palms toward each other, and bring the dumbbells together in front of the tops of your thighs. Pull your abdominals in.
Lift your arms up and out to the side until the dumbbells are just below shoulder height. Slowly lower the weights back down.
It may help to imagine that you’re pouring two pitchers of lemonade on the floor in front of you.
DO lift from the shoulders; in other words, keep your elbows stationary.
DON’T arch your back, lean backward, or rock back and forth to lift the weights.
DON’T raise the weights above shoulder height.
Bent-arm lateral raise (easier): Start with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle, palms facing each other, and the dumbbells in front of your body. Keeping your elbows bent at 90 degrees throughout the motion, lift the weights until your elbows are at shoulder height.
The bent-arm lateral raise exercise doesn’t give your shoulders quite as good a workout as the basic version, but if you have weak shoulders or a history of shoulder problems, you can do this modified version of the lateral raise exercise.
Seated lateral raise: For a change of pace, perform the lateral raise exercise sitting on a bench, starting with your arms hanging straight down at your sides, elbows slightly bent.
Thumbs-up lateral raise (easier): Do this movement with your palms facing forward and your thumbs pointing upward. This version places the least stress on your rotator cuff muscles and is often used in physical therapy.
The front raise isolates the front portion of your shoulder muscles. Use caution if you have a history of lower-back or neck discomfort.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand up tall with your feet as wide as your hips. Let your arms hang down at your sides — elbows relaxed and palms facing back. Stand up tall, pull your abdominals in, and relax your knees.
Raise your left arm up to shoulder height and then lower it back down. Then do the same with your right arm. Continue alternating until you complete the set. Or, for more of a challenge, do all your reps with one arm and then the other.
DO keep your elbows slightly bent as you perform the exercise.
DON’T arch, lean back, or wiggle around in an effort to lift the weight.
DON’T lift your arm above shoulder height.
Palms-up front raise: Turn your palm up and do the exercise exactly as it’s described in the basic front raise. Try this version if you’re prone to shoulder or rotator cuff injuries.
Diagonal front raise (harder): When the dumbbell is at shoulder height, move your arm a few inches in until the weight is in front of the top of your chest. Skip this version if you have chronic shoulder problems.
Seated front raise (harder): Perform the front raise sitting on a bench with a back support; this position removes any possibility of cheating!
Lying front raise (harder): Lie on your stomach on a bench holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight in front of you (or slightly out to the side), palms facing in and thumbs up. Raise the dumbbells as high as you comfortably can but no higher than shoulder level. You’ll have to use a much lighter weight for this version of the exercise. You can also incline the bench and do the same exercise.