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The best shoulder workouts for strong muscles and healthy joints

Strong shoulders are essential for a healthy life free of pain and injury. And you'll look good while at it

Check out the best shoulder workouts.
Check out the best shoulder workouts. (Istockphoto)

Working out the shoulders has incredible benefits. Shoulder strength are important not just for functional activities in life and joint health, but also for advantages that are felt rather than seen, like confidence. Healthy shoulders equate to a healthy posture which equates to a feeling better. Well-developed shoulders can be such a high motivation to add more to your fitness regime. After all, shoulder muscles respond to exercise quickly, with easy-to-spot visual differences, like how clothes fit you, and more importantly, how you carry stress.

“Stress also strongly impacts the muscular system, causing muscles to tighten and contract. The neck and shoulders are one of the most common areas where muscles tighten due to stress. The higher your stress levels and the longer you remain in a high-stress state, the more neck and shoulder tension you may experience,” states a article titled Why You May Be Carrying Stress In Your Shoulders And Neck

The first suggestion on how to get rid of this is by exercising. And this also means adding some variety and changes to make your shoulder workouts better.The best part about shoulder exercises is that they are easy to learn and execute. And your shoulders will let you know in no uncertain terms if your technique and form are wrong.

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Going cold into a shoulder workout is a recipe for an injury, given how crowded the joint is. Also, your rotator cuff is extremely important to shoulder-functionality and you must warm them up and strengthen them before any kind of lifting. I wrote on this subject a little while back in a Lounge article titled Why You Need To start Caring For Your Shoulders Right Now: “Making sure the rotator cuff has gone through internal and external rotations, that the scapula is ready to contact and retract, and even doing a few light sets before going heavy on the weights will protect your shoulders.” A recent exercise I’ve been doing to warm them up is called shoulder halos, as shown in the video below. This can be done using a kettlebell or a plate.

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The side delts are what makes one look wider and allows for a tapered appearance. “While the front delts and rear delts are helpful to build overall shoulder mass, the key to getting wider shoulders from the front and back view is to grow the side delts,” writes popular fitness blogger Jeremy Ethier in the article How I Grew Wider Shoulders Fast, on his website

The side delts are affected by lateral raises. But Ethier suggests that the conventional dumbbell lateral raise does not offer the muscle a stretch—something that seems to really increase its growth. Instead, he suggests behind-the-body cable lateral raises so that the arm travels farther behind than in the conventional move. This can also be done using a resistance band attached to something on your right side while you exercise the left arm, and vice versa, allowing the arm to travel all the way to the end of the exercise which means a longer stretch.

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You can also do an incline lateral raise on a bench, placing your chest on the bench, which is the inverse form of an incline bench press.

The front delts and the traps (trapezius muscles) should be next on the list after the rotator cuffs and side delts. The overhead dumbbell press is great, but doing the single arm dumbbell press allows you to, as Jeff Cavaliere says in his latest video on shoulders, “stack” the weight in a safe space and use the other arm to make sure you can stack heavier dumbbells. His form is perfect in the demonstration video below and will help you break through the plateau of your max weights.

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“The second benefit is that I am able to keep the joints more stacked with the wrist, over the elbow over the shoulder. This brings more stability [and] this feels much better and alleviates any shoulder pain that I may get on a typical barbell press. Being on the feet also allows me to push-press the final few reps to provide some forced tension for greater muscle building stimulus,” he says in the video.

We now move to the rear delts. One of the most overlooked exercises for this is the hip hugger. Holding weights in both hands on the sides and dragging them up with your elbows back, while maintaining the right posture is an excellent way to grow this part and it is a posture corrector like few other moves.

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“This exercise will give you an excellent contraction directly in the rear delts and is a move that allows you to go heavy in hitting this area. It will allow you to beef up your posterior delts,” states a article titled Best Exercises For Building Massive, Boulder Shoulders.

There are many conventional exercises to add to this, and they all work, but just a slight tweak in approach can change your entire game when it comes to this all important set of muscles.

Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator, podcaster and writer.

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