Upper body training doesn’t stop at the curls and the bench press. When you want a nice defined upper body that can carry weight (and let’s face it: that looks great in a tank top), you can’t forget to train those shoulders.
Your shoulders are actually made up of two different muscle groups – the rotator cuff, which stabilizes your joints, and the deltoids, which are the powerful shoulder muscles that control movement and give your shoulders their shape. Since your shoulder joints have a huge range of motion and carry a lot of weight throughout the day, you’ll want to follow a complete training program that targets both of these groups.
Now, while including shoulder workouts into your home fitness routine might seem daunting without loads of machines or equipment at first, in reality, there are plenty of options to build them at home.
Shoulder training is actually one of the easier upper body muscle groups to hit at home since you can do plenty of effective exercises using lighter weights than what you would normally use for your arms and chest, chest, and back.
Since home fitness is a different beast than working out at a fully equipped gym, here are a couple of tips and exercises so that you can easily incorporate shoulder workouts into your at-home workout routine.
Tips For Getting a Good Shoulder Workout at Home:
1. Don’t Forget Bodyweight
If you regularly hit the gym, it might seem like your shoulders will be left out to dry without machines.
Well, I have news: your body is a machine! Implementing the right moves and set structures (you’ll see suggestions below) can really target your shoulders more than you think.
Also, consider focusing more on eccentric-style training. This is when you focus on going slow and controlled on the lowering, or extension, phase of a movement. For instance, if you’re doing pull-ups, you would pull up, then lower slowly, instead of simply letting momentum bring you down.
This style of training is proven to be one of the quickest ways to build and strengthen muscles.
2. Grab Some Versatile Equipment
Because you can get good shoulder work without a ton of heavy weights, dumbbells and/or kettlebells can be used to cover the majority of your workouts. If you’re focusing on building, grab a heavier set. If you’re looking for more sculpting or using weights in a HIIT/cardio sessions, go lighter!
If you can’t get your hands on any weights, resistance bands are also a great and budget-friendly option for working out your shoulders.
3. Structure Supersets
To really target and fatigue any muscle group, especially if you’re only using your bodyweight, you’ll want to add some supersets to your regime. This can look like structuring a workout where you’re stacking, say, kettlebell swings with pushups immediately following.
Supersets directly or indirectly work the same muscle group, so you get a well-rounded fatigue.
Shoulder Workouts You Can Do At Home:
Most of these workouts can be done with a single pair of dumbbells, resistance bands, or with no equipment at all.
• Elevated Wall Pushups
If you’ve got a wall, you’ve got weight! Instead of just doing a regular pushup, you can optimize your own bodyweight to add weight to your upper body by propping your feet up on a wall. Simply get on all fours facing away from a wall, walk your feet back and up, then perform pushups.
The more elevated your feet are (the higher up the wall) the harder these will be.
• Shoulder press
Presses are a classic weightlifting move that you can perform with dumbbells. Start with your arms level with your shoulders and elbows bent up at a 90-degree angle. Press up with control so that your arms are straight up, then return to your starting position.
• Lateral raises
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and start with your arms at your side. Lift both arms to the side until they are about level with your shoulders and the back of your hands are facing up, then return to your sides. For more of a challenge, you can perform these one arm at a time and with heavier weights.
These raises can also be performed with a resistance band instead of free weights. Step onto a band that allows for the full range of motion, hold on to the other side of the band with your hand, and perform the same movement.
• Front raises
Similar to lateral raises, you will begin with your arms at your side. Raise your arms straight in front of you until about level with your shoulder, then return to the start. If you like to superset, you can combine front raises with lateral raises, even performing each at the same time with opposite arms. Again, you can do these with bands instead of free weights.
Reverse flys are an excellent tool to target both your back and shoulder muscles. Hinge at the waist so you are leaning forward and your arms hang straight down, then use your upper back and shoulder muscles to pull your arms out to your sides so they are about level with your back. Return with control to the start and repeat.
• Arnold presses
These exercises give you the benefits of a traditional shoulder press while also incorporating rotation movement for an all-around shoulder workout. Start by performing a shoulder raise, then stop when your arms become shoulder-level and rotate them forward, keeping them at shoulder level so that your weights are in front of you and you are staring at your forearms. Hold for a moment, then rotate back to your shoulder press position. Press and repeat.
Shrugs are a great exercise for building your traps and giving you that big shoulder and upper-back look. Simply hold your weights at your side and repeatedly shrug your shoulders high – this works especially well when you’re working with heavier weights.
An excellent option for those with minimal equipment, pushups use your own body weight to work your shoulders. Keep your elbows in, back straight, and core engaged to get the most out of these. Also, don’t forget to throw in some of that eccentric training: go slow and control on the lowering phase for as many reps as you can.
Shadowboxing, either with lighter dumbbells or just your arms, is an excellent and fun way to get those shoulders cut. Go all out – if you have a bag handy, even better!
With any of these moves, make sure you are paying close attention to your form, especially if you’re going for burnouts. You should feel fatigued, but when form starts being compromised, it’s time to slow down.
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Working out a home can be a challenge from the norm, but trust me: you can still make impressive gains with very, very minimal space and equipment. Cheers to sculpting those shoulders, anywhere!