When people talk about their favorite exercises, shoulder workouts are rarely mentioned at the top of the list. But the truth is that most shoulder exercises not only work the targeted area but can strengthen the core and work your entire arm.
How the Shoulders Work
The shoulder muscles are responsible for moving the arms away from the body. Therefore nearly every upper body exercise you do, your shoulder muscles become engaged in that activity.
Because they are involved in so much of your upper body workout, exercises that focus on strengthening the shoulder muscles also have the effect of increasing your ability in those other exercises.
It is also important to work out those muscles specifically because depending on your workout, the shoulder muscles can become unbalanced with the front muscles (which contract when the arms are forward) becoming stronger and the back muscles becoming weaker.
Military Press and the Abdominals
One of the most recognizable shoulder exercises is the military press. The military press involves lifting a weighted bar or dumbbells from shoulder level to above your head.
This exercise can be performed in several ways, either sitting or standing, with the bar in front or behind your head and with dumbbells in any of those positions.
What many people don’t know is that the military press is also a great abdominal exercise especially if you do not use a bench or a machine with a back rest.
While lifting the weight over your head, it creates an unbalanced situation for your body, forcing your abdominal muscles to contract to maintain balance. Also because of the motion of the exercise is in a vertical manner, the oblique muscles are worked as the arms are raised and lowered.
Lateral raises are one of the best workouts for the shoulder because the arm is raised without the help of the biceps or triceps. Throughout the exercise, the arms are kept straight at the elbows which keeps the bicep from complete contracting and helping with the lift.
That does not mean, however, that the arm muscles are not strengthened by this exercise. In fact, the arm muscles are engaged in order to keep the arm steady and straight and you could see results in your biceps, triceps and forearm.
Like the military press, there are several variations of the lateral raises. The most common is simply standing with a weight in your in hand and raising it straight up in front of you until your arm is parallel to the ground.
Other variations include raising your arm straight up from your side. Another exercise in the lateral raise family which really works the back muscles of the shoulder is one where you lay on your side with your arm holding the weight hanging in front of your chest. Raise the weight so your arm is straight in the air, perpendicular to your body and then return to the start.
Lateral Raises as Part of a Shoulder Burn
A good way to help strengthen your shoulders is by doing a shoulder burn at the end of your workout. A shoulder burn consists of doing light weights and three exercises in a row.
This strengthens the muscles after a long workout and also stretches the muscles.
The exercise begins with lifting the weight in front of you like a basic lateral raise but continuing so your arms are straight up in the air. This will help your shoulders regain their range of motion after the workout. 10 reps with each arm switching arms in between each rep.
Then move to a side lateral raise with the weight being lifted directly to your side until shoulder level. 10 reps of these.
The burn is finished off with a windmill exercise. Hold the weight in front of your hips with your palms facing forward. Bring the weight straight out to your side and then straight over your head and return to the start position. The motion for your arms is the same as making snow angels. Do 10 reps of these as well.
Care is Needed When Dealing With Shoulders
Because shoulders are worked with nearly every exercise, be careful not to overwork them. Using lighter weights especially when doing exercises like the shoulder burn is preferable to avoid those types of injuries.
Its also important with shoulders not to “push through the pain” as this part of the body can be unstable and any pain could be the start of a serious problem.