Shanda Yakich is a wife and mother of two young boys. She fell in love with health and fitness after her own transformation 20 years ago when she revamped her sedentary lifestyle to lose 30 pounds and cut her body fat in half. She knows the struggle of balancing family, career, and heath. She is triple certified in fitness, nutrition, and behavior change. Shanda is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified trainer and a certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.

Shoulder Exercises for Women Who Want to Tone and Firm

Best Shoulder Exercises for Women Who Want Beautiful Deltoids!

It’s all about shoulder exercises!

What woman doesn’t want sexy shoulders and be able to rock that tank top! 

Defined delts create an illusion of a smaller waist, making your body look proportionate and giving you that hourglass figure.

A majority of women have no shoulder definition or strength because their shoulders get overlooked in their workouts most of the time. Shoulders are important muscles to exercise and shoulder workouts for women should be a fundamental part of your weekly exercise routine. Not only does developing your shoulder muscles build strength, but creating well-defined shoulders also will make you look and, more importantly, feel better.

The good news? Shoulder muscles are relatively easy to strengthen!

Benefits of Exercising the Shoulders:

  • Increase strength in your shoulders (AKA deltoids) 
  • Enhance posture
  • Help make everyday daily tasks easier, such as picking up your little ones, passing food around your table, lifting a suitcase, playing catch with your kids, carrying groceries, and other household chores
  • Prevent upper body injuries 

Anatomy of the Shoulder 

deltoid

Why women need to include shoulder exercises 

The muscles in your shoulders are called deltoids and they cover your shoulder joint in a triangle shape.

Your deltoids stretch from the top of your shoulder to the clavicle at the front and the scapula at the back and attach to your upper arm bone. The deltoids work to help you raise and rotate your arms, as well as assist your chest muscles, and protect you against dislocation when you carry heavy objects. 

There are three heads of the deltoid: the anterior or front deltoid, the medial or lateral deltoid, and the posterior or rear deltoid.

  • Anterior deltoid: The anterior deltoid lifts your arm to the front and rotates your arm in. The primary strength exercise for anterior delts is front raises, which you can vary by using different hand positions – palms facing in, palms facing down.
  • Lateral deltoid: The lateral deltoid abducts or extends your arm away from your body. Exercises for the lateral/medial deltoid include any form of lateral raise, as well as an upright row – particularly with a wide grip.
  • Rear deltoid: The rear deltoid extends the arm behind the body and rotates your arm out. Exercises for the rear/posterior deltoid include face pulls, reverse cable fly, and bent-over rear delt raises. With rotation as one of its functions, by varying your hand you position can create variations to any standard movement.

You use your shoulder muscles more than you may realize, not just when you exercise but every time you reach to grab something up high, vacuum the floor or clean windows. 

Basically, we use your shoulders for a lot of daily routine activities. To help strengthen and prevent shoulder injury or instability you must include shoulder exercises in your workouts each week.  

Important side note: Before you jump directly to your shoulder exercises, you must dedicate at least 5 minutes to warm up

Here are a few of my favorite warm-up exercises:

Neck circles – 1 minute

Squat to arm raise – 1 minute

Arm circles (small circles forward) – 1 minute

Arm circles (big circles backward) – 1 minute

Shoulder forward rolls – 30 seconds

Shoulder backward rolls – 30 seconds

Best shoulder exercises for women

(Note you can use bands, free weights, cables or kettlebells when completing these exercises to add resistance.)

Lateral Raise

Starting position – Stand tall and position your feet shoulder-distance apart, hold dumbbells down in front of your thighs, with palms facing each other (neutral grip).

Movement –  Engage your core and raise arms out to your side until elbows are shoulder height, keeping your elbows slightly bent. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a second and then lower weight down slowly.

Repeat for 10-15 reps x 2-3 sets.

lateral raise

Upright Row

Starting position – Stand tall and position your feet shoulder-distance apart, hold dumbbells down in front of you with your palms facing your thighs.  

Movement – Keeping the dumbbells close to your body,  engage your core and raise dumbbells up to chest level by extending out your elbows wide. Hold for a second and then lower weight down slowly. (Tip – Use your elbows to drive the movement.  As you lift the dumbbells, your elbows should be higher than your forearms)

Repeat for 10-15 reps x 2-3 sets.

upright row

Front Raise

Starting position – Stand tall and position your feet shoulder-distance apart, hold dumbbells down in front of you with your palms facing your thighs.  

Movement –  Engage your core and raise arms out in front of you to shoulder height keeping your elbows slightly bent.

Hold for a second and then lower weight down slowly.

Repeat for 10-15 reps x 2-3 sets.

front raise

Overhead Press

Starting position – Stand tall and position your feet shoulder-distance apart, raise dumbbells up to a 90 % angel overhead, with palms facing out and elbows at shoulder height. 

Movement –  Engage your core and raise arms up overhead bringing dumbbells together overhead.  Please make sure not to lock out your elbows at the top.  Hold for a second and then lower weight down slowly.

Repeat for 10-15 reps x 2-3 sets.

overhead press

Posterior/Rear Deltoid Flye

Starting position – Stand tall and position your feet a little wider than shoulder-distance apart, bend at the hips, lean your body forward and bend your knees slightly.  Extend your arms down with your hands facing each other (neutral grip). Keep your back flat, engage your core. 

Movement – Engage your core and raise arms out to your sides until elbows are shoulder height. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a second and then lower weight down slowly.

Repeat for 10-15 reps x 2-3 sets.

flies

Plank Walk

Starting position – Lay on your stomach, place your hands under your shoulder, place your feet hip-distance apart.  Engage your core and raise your body up to a full plank position.

Movement – Walk your hands and feet to the right for recommended reps and then move to the left for the same reps. (Tip – keep your core tight and keep your shoulders down during movement)

Repeat for 10-15 reps x 2-3 sets.

plank walkArnold Press

Starting position – Stand tall and position your feet shoulder-distance apart, raise dumbbells out in front of you up to a 90% angel with elbows at shoulder height and with palms facing you.

Movement –  Engage your core and raise arms up overhead and rotate palms to face out as you raise the dumbbells up.  Please make sure not to lock out your elbows at the top.  

Hold for a second and then lower and rotate arms back in and down slowly to starting position (palms facing you).

Repeat for 10-15 reps x 2-3 sets.

arnold press

Dumbbell Swings

Starting position – Stand tall and position your feet a little wider than shoulder-distance apart, angle your toes out slightly.  Grasp one dumbbell with both hands and hold down in front of you.

Movement –  Engage your core and lean your body forward, pushing your hips back and bending at your knees into a squat position.  Keep your back flat and your elbows slightly bent, swing the dumbbell down in between your legs and then swing up to eye level. (Tip – when going down into the squat position keep your body weight in your heel and use your hips to drive the movement forward.)

Repeat for 20 reps x 2-3 sets.

dumbbell swings

Scaption raises

Starting position – Stand tall and position your feet shoulder-distance apart, hold dumbbells in front of your thighs, with palms facing in a V position. 

Movement – Engage your core and raise arms up in a wide V position until elbows are shoulder height,  keeping your elbows slightly bent. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a second and then lower weight down slowly.

Repeat for 10-15 reps x 2-3 sets.

Scaption raises

Dumbbell Skiers

Starting position – Stand and position with your feet shoulder-distance apart.  Hold dumbbells at your sides with palms facing in (neutral grip).

Movement –   Engage your core, bend at the hips, lean your body forward and bend down in a slight squat position. Keep your back flat and your elbows slightly bent. Swing the dumbbells up overhead and back down by your side in a controlled manner.

Repeat for 15-20 reps x 2-3 sets.

I recommend picking 2-3 of the above exercises 2 x per week to include in your workouts.  Rotate through the exercises by changing it up weekly. 

Creating a balanced shoulder workout program for women is key to strengthening the muscles of the shoulder complex and help to build those strong, sexy shoulders. 

Important side note: It is so important to cool down and stretch for 5-10 minutes after your workout. You want to take this time to reduce your heart rate, cool down your body temperature and return your muscles to their optimal length-tension relationship. 

I also like to include a scoop of LadyBoss Recover in my cooldown time.  LadyBoss Recover helps reduce muscle soreness, enhance muscle recovery post-workout, and support lean muscle tissue and best of all it tastes like a watermelon Jolly Rancher. 

These shoulder exercises for women help correct your posture, strengthen your shoulders, and help you get defined delts. 

All women MUST do shoulder exercises. Not only do strong, defined shoulders make you look sexy, they also help you build strength and help improve your posture.

So, start working those shoulders ladies!!

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Coach Shanda, NASM, CPT, BCS, PES, FNS
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