Shoulders Defined

“As long as you smile, have sparkly eyes and stick your shoulders back, nobody’s going to notice your bum or your waist or your feet, for that matter.” – Cat Deely

Would you like to minimize the appearance of your waist and hips, without the agony and defeat of a miserable diet? Perform daily tasks with greater ease and less strain on your shoulders – such as schlepping heavy grocery bags or carrying over-filled laundry baskets up your stairs? How about feeling and looking strong and sexy in everything you wear? I bet you think I’m going to try and sell you on a new “magic  pill”, injectable god-knows-what or an over-priced and over-rated exercise device that I bought after watching a 3 hour infomercial. Only to return a week later!

I’m talking about sculpting and strengthening your shoulders with nothing more than a set of dumb bells. Even soup cans will do.  A few sets of pushups thrown into the mix for reinforcement and you’ll be good to go!  By keeping your shoulder workout simple, challenging and consistent you will be stronger, well defined and loving your new look in a just a few weeks. Strong, well-defined shoulders not only look good, they’re essential for everyday activities that involve lifting, extending, and rotating the arms.

A basic anatomy lesson about your shoulders will help you understand the following exercises and why proper form before function is so important.

The shoulder is comprised of three major muscles known as the “Deltoids”. These are the muscles you can see. Anterior (front), Medial/Lateral (middle), and Posterior (rear). You will perform isolated exercises for each deltoid muscle as well as compound exercises that work the muscles simultaneously. Both types of exercises are necessary for shaping and strengthening the shoulders.

I will also encourage you to work the rotator cuff; a smaller but mighty network of muscle tendons that work to stabilize and maintain the integrity of the shoulder joint. (This will be next week’s assignment) The four muscle tendons that connect to the shoulder make up the rotator cuff. Together these four tendons stabilize the upper arm bone to the shoulder socket and allow the wide range of motion in the shoulder. Often we avoid putting energy into something invisible (if I can’t see it than it doesn’t matter attitude) because we want the immediate reward of looking “pumped up.” If you want beautiful strong shoulders that are less injury prone when stressed or over-stressed, than DO the work. Shoulder injuries are painful, can take a long time to heal; keeping you side-lined from enjoying the activities you love.

“Stand up, be bold, be strong. Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength and succor you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future.” -Swami Vivekananda

Following is a list of  simple and effective shoulder exercises that can easily be done in the gym or at home. Choose three of the exercises and mix up the combination for each workout.  Aim for 2-3 sets of each exercise, 8-12 repetitions, 2-3 times a week!  As the exercises become easier increase the number of reps or weight.  Remember, the last few reps of each set should be tough to execute!  5 to 8 pound weights will suffice!  Start light – you can always add more weight!

My three weight training rules:

1.  Form before function!  Sit or stand tall, feet firmly planted, hold your belly tight and look straight ahead. RELAX!

2.  Mind over muscle! Pay attention and move your weights mindfully (with control). Never lock your joints!

3.  Never hold your breath!  Consistent smooth inhales and exhales as you move your weights.

Start with a set of pushups!  I don’t care how you do them just get them done!  Following each round of exercises do another set of Push Ups!  No Kidding!

The following exercises may be done bi-laterally (two arms at a time) or uni-laterally (one arm at a time) Single arm movement may feel better if you are feeling too much strain in your neck while performing the exercises.

1. Shoulder Press- Grip your dumb bells with your elbows into your sides , palms facing each other. Press the bells up and over your head while rotating your palms forward. Lower the bells back down to your starting (neutral) position.  This exercise can also be done with palms facing forward from start to finish.

2.  Upright Row- Stand with your dumb bells and palms in front of your thighs.  Pull your arms up until your elbows are in line with your shoulders. Imagine pulling up two zippers on a jacket. Lower the bells back down!

3.  Front Raise- Set up is the same as the Upright Row.  Raise the dumb bells straight out in front of you to shoulder level. Lower back down.

4.  Side/Lateral  Raises- Stand or sit with your arms at your sides and palms facing into your thighs.  Raise your dumb bells out to the sides and to shoulder level.  Lower back down!  This exercise can be also be done with your arm bent into a right angle or L  shape.

5.  Arm Circles- This one is from the 80′s but one of my favorites!  Definitely use a soup can or light weight for this exercise. Raise your arms out to the sides , slightly lower than shoulder level, palms face down. Make small circles forward than small circles backward.

6.  Bird Raises- Another 80′s favorite!   Raise your arms out to the side halfway between your thighs and shoulders.  Press up and down from there. Don’t press higher than your shoulders or lower than your starting position.

7.  Reverse Bent Over Rows- Stand  or sit on the end of a chair or bench with feet hip width apart. Bend forward from your hips, belly tight, gaze at the floor.  Arms at your sides, palms facing back.  Pull your elbows up and out to the side – gently squeeze into your shoulder blades. Lower back down.

8. Single Arm Reverse Fly- Stand with your left foot forward and right foot back; similar to a runners lunge stance. Rest your left hand or forearm on your left thigh for support and hold your belly tight.  Hold the dumb bell in your right hand with palm facing back.  Extend your arm straight out to the side to shoulder level than lower back down to the inside of your left ankle.  Repeat the set on your left side. Remember to change your leg position.

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  1. Keep up the amazing work!! I love how you wrote this and I also like the colors here on this site. did you create this yourself or did you outsource it to a coder??

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