4 Exercises to Strengthen your Shoulders

4 Exercises to Strengthen your Shoulders

The shoulder is the joint with the greatest range of motion in the human body. This flexibility makes the shoulder a sensitive muscle, so it is essential to keep it strong to prevent the risk of injury or degenerative diseases.

Although there are many complex concepts about shoulder anatomy, today, we will focus on key points so that you understand which regions and muscles can be worked on along your fitness journey.

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Function and Anatomy of the Shoulder

Some of the muscles that are directly associated with shoulder function are:

  • Deltoid: It’s a large triangular-shaped muscle, which gives a rounded shape to your shoulder and connects your upper arm with your shoulder socket. It allows your arm to be elevated or abducted.
  • Pectoralis Major: A fan-shaped muscle located in the anterior chest region, extending from the mid-chest to the clavicle. Its principal function is related to adduction and internal rotation of the arm in the shoulder joint.
  • Serratus Anterior: Another fan-shaped muscle located on the sidewall of the thorax. This muscle stabilizes your scapula, connecting your shoulder blades to your rib cage.
  • Rhomboid Major: It’s a quadrilateral muscle located between the spine and the shoulder blade, on both sides of the back. This muscle is primarily responsible for retracting and elevating the inner border of the scapula
  • Trapezius: It’s a large triangular muscle that stabilizes the scapula, and it’s divided into three parts (upper, middle, and lower). This muscle extends from the back of your neck to part of your spine. It is responsible for pulling your shoulders up (and shrugging), as well as tilting, turning and extending your neck.
  • Rotator Cuff: A group of four muscles that helps to lift and rotate the arm, stabilizing the shoulder within the joint.

Why Should I Strengthen my Shoulders?

In short, the shoulder muscles are responsible for 6 different ranges of motions: flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, internal rotation, and external rotation. This means that by strengthening your shoulders, you can improve your performance for many upper body exercises, as most of these activities are supported by this muscle. On the other hand, weak shoulders can cause posture problems and be more susceptible to injuries – even in simple daily activities.

4 Exercises to Strengthen your Shoulders

1. Overhead Press

This exercise will mainly work your front and side delts and engage your chest, trapezius, triceps and core. In this exercise, you will stand up, engaging your core to adopt a stable posture, holding the barbell with your hands a little wider than your shoulder-width apart.

The exercise consists of raising the bar above your head, stretching your arms, and returning to the starting position (at your collarbone/upper chest). As always, it’s essential to control the movement, doing each rep slowly. You can also perform this exercise sitting, as in the image below:

2. Barbell/Dumbell Shrug

This exercise mainly targets your trapezius and rhomboids, strengthening them for better shoulder stabilization – in addition to improving your posture. To do this correctly, you must stand up, holding the barbell with an overhand grip and contracting your core to ensure correct posture while performing the exercise.

The key is to contract your traps, bringing your shoulders up, slightly angled back. Your arms must remain straight so that you isolate the trapeze and optimize your work in this region. After shrugging your shoulders, slowly return to the starting position and repeat the movement again.

3. Lateral Raise

This exercise isolates your deltoids, strengthening and improving the mobility of your shoulders. It’s a pretty simple move: standing up, hold a dumbbell in each hand, and raise the weights to the sides, up to shoulder level.

Try to return to the starting position slowly to control the movement and hit the muscles more intensely.

4. Bent-Over Reverse Fly

This exercise will target the medial and posterior parts of your deltoids due to the tilt. To perform this movement, slightly bend your hips until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor. Holding the weight in a neutral grip, let your arms drop in the floor direction and pull the dumbbells up, keeping your elbow pointed in the same direction as your rear delts.

The key to this exercise is to stabilize the scapula to isolate the movement and focus only on the shoulders – not your upper back. When leaning, your spine should stay in a neutral posture so that you don’t arch your back.

You can also perform this exercise lying down on a bench, as in the image below:

Things to Consider When Training Your Shoulders

First, as always, we recommend that you look for a personal trainer (or a specialist) if you are not familiar with any of these exercises. This article is for informational purposes only, and because shoulders are relatively sensitive muscles, you should not attempt any of these exercises if you don’t know what you are doing.

Despite being a region relatively sensitive, deltoids are extremely strong. I usually get more results from working with more reps than more weight. When I put on more weight, I can’t perform the exercises with a full range of motion, and sometimes it compromises my posture. When training with less weight and more volume, I feel that I can work the muscle to failure without losing movement quality, which should be prioritized in any workout routine.

If you suffer from health problems or feel pain when performing simpler exercises, see a doctor as soon as possible. Remember that exercise should be used to strengthen your body, not injure it.

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