Strong shoulders are the unsung heroes of the upper body: they’re powerful, mobile, and can be highly attractive in tank tops and strapless dresses. They’re also one of the most frequently used muscle groups in the upper body. “Whenever you do anything with your arms — push, pull, lift, press — you’re going to engage your shoulders,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., and Openfit’s senior fitness and nutrition content manager. That means you’re using your shoulders not only during targeted shoulder workouts, but also during upper back workouts, arm workouts, and even daily activities like stretching, carrying groceries, and lifting up your toddler.
Your shoulders are also two of the most versatile joints in the body with the greatest range of motion, Thieme says. “But that unparalleled mobility also makes them vulnerable to injury,” he explains. That’s why it’s so important to actively strengthen your shoulders by regularly doing shoulder exercises. To help you get started, we pulled together a list of some of the best moves.
Before you dive into a shoulder workout, it’s helpful to understand the different parts of the shoulder muscle. There are two layers of musculature to the shoulder: the rotator cuff and the deltoids. Both parts of the shoulder are important, but they serve different functions.
“The muscles that stabilize each joint are those of the rotator cuff — the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis,” Thieme explains. “But it’s the deltoids — the muscles on top of the rotator cuffs — that give shoulders their shape and drive most shoulder movements.” There are three parts of each deltoid — the anterior (front), lateral (middle), and posterior (back).
How to do Shoulder Workouts at Home
“Building stronger shoulders are just as easy to do at home as it is to do in a gym, and you don’t need a ton of equipment,” Thieme says. You can use your body weight, but it helps to have resistance bands and/or dumbbells. “Dumbbells and bands increase the variety of exercises you can do, and thus can potentially accelerate your results,” Thieme explains.