5 Moves to Strengthen Your Shoulders
by Jari Love
Getting to the gym is hard enough as is, and the wait for equipment once you’re there makes it even worse. Fortunately, you can get a great workout without any dumbbells, barbells, or fancy machinery. These Weight-Free Workouts focus on a different muscle groups each time to show you how to build strength, even when you don’t have access to a gym. With these moves, any time can be workout time.
Whether you typically don a suit or a more casual T-shirt, strong shoulders are the key to a broad, great-looking upper body. As wonderful as it feels to look like a model in your favorite clothes, aesthetics become a lot less important when you consider the vital role shoulders play in everyday life. Anything involving pressing, pushing, throwing, and basically any arm movement, relies on the shoulder joint. Its composition makes this joint the most flexible in the body, but all that movement makes it extremely prone to injury.
By addressing both strength and flexibility with these five exercises, you’ll be able to keep your shoulders in great shape. This can benefit everything from your basketball game to your ability to change a lightbulb. And yes, you’ll also look stellar in your clothes.
Despite the silly name, this exercise is a serious challenge for your back, chest, arms, abs, and shoulders. Though isolated moves to target your shoulders specifically are important, these types of full-body moves will help build your coordination. It won’t do you any good to have strong shoulders if you aren’t able to use them in conjunction with the rest of your body. It’s also a good idea to balance your shoulder workout days with other workouts so you don’t stress the area too much, which could lead to a tear or other injury.
Begin standing with your feet almost touching and your hands at your sides. Bend at the hips, keeping your knees straight but not locked, until you can reach the floor with your hands. Use your hands to walk yourself forward until you are in a plank position with your palms on the floor directly below you shoulders. Perform one pushup, then walk your feet towards your hands while keeping your palms planted. When you get close to your hands, switch to walking with your hands to perform the next sequence. ACE Fitness suggests aiming to cover 10 to 15 yards. As the move becomes easier, perform several pushups in each downward phase to increase the challenge.
- Prone Ys
Working at a desk all day has a tendency to force most of us into a hunched position. Unfortunately, this bad posture becomes the norm even after we’ve stepped out of the office. In order to open your shoulders back up, you need to take things in the opposite direction. According to Muscle & Fitness, this exercise often doesn’t require any weight to pose a challenge. There isn’t really any limit to the recommended number of repetitions, so you can keep going until you’ve exhausted your muscles. If you’d like a little added resistance, water bottles will do the trick.
Most people do this move on a bench, but a stability ball or even the floor will also work. Lie down and extend your arms above and slightly out to the side so they form a “Y” with your head in between. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, then raise your arms up. Hold the position briefly, then carefully lower your arms back down. You can also perform the move one arm at a time.
If this move is extremely challenging, it’s a good sign you have some weakness or lack of mobility. In this case, try performing a sequence by changing the direction your arms are pointed.
- Feet elevated pike pushups
Handstand pushups are great for shoulder strength, if you can manage to stay balanced. That’s sort of a tall order for guys who don’t have a gymnastics background, so feet-elevated pike pushups are a great starter move. Switching to a pike position, meaning your butt is raised towards the ceiling, forces more of the load onto your shoulders and raising your feet increases the intensity even more.
Get into a standard pushup position, but raise your feet onto a bench or a step. Next, form your body into an upside-down “V” by bending your hips and pointing your butt towards the ceiling. The goal is to have your torso and upper body as vertical as possible. From here, carefully lower yourself until your head is just above the ground, then push straight back up. Men’s Fitness suggests four sets of 12 repetitions. Depending on your fitness level, you may need to start with fewer.
- Neutral-grip sternum chin-ups
Most people only switch their grip on the bar when they vary their chin-ups or pullups. Choosing a different bar position offers some advantages as well. Bodybuilding.com recommends chin-ups with a neutral grip, where you grasp two bars so your palms face one another, to pose more of a challenge for the core muscles and the rear shoulder.
These muscles, technically called the posterior deltoids, often get a lot less love than the anterior and medial ones. Neglecting this area will could lead to injury and also prevents you from getting as strong as possible as they assist with every type of shoulder movement. Weak posterior deltoids can also lead to a hunched appearance, and nobody wants that.
To perform this move, you need a set of parallel bars positioned relatively close to each other. You can find these at the gym and likely at a park. Grasp the bars with an overhand grip, and pull yourself up. As you reach the top, pull your shoulders together and lean back slightly. Keep pulling until your chest is just about even with the bars, then lower yourself back down.
- Doorway stretch
Many guys are all about working on their deltoids, leaving the tiny rotator cuff muscles forgotten. They play an important role in helping you raise and rotate your arms and they’re among the most frequently injured muscles. We’ve already addressed strength, but we’ll finish with a move to improve flexibility. The University of Rochester Medical Center explains that these muscles don’t get a very good supply of blood on their own, which makes it tougher to recover. Since stretching encourages blood flow, it can go a long way toward keeping your rotator cuff healthy.
All you need to get a good stretch for these shoulder muscles is a doorway. With your arms pointed downward, grip the edges of a doorway, then lean forward until you feel a gentle resistance. Hold it briefly, then release. The key is to keep the stretching gentle. The only thing worse than not working on flexibility at all is pushing it too far, so remember to only go as far as you can without discomfort.
Jari Love – original creator of Get RIPPED! DVD series and group exercise classes. The hot-selling and critically acclaimed Get RIPPED! series enables individuals of any fitness level to burn up to three times more calories than the traditional weight-training program, and has received rave reviews from fitness critics throughout North America since the first title debuted in late 2005.