Everyone’s all about sexy shoulders right now. And who can blame them? I hear delts are the new abs, after all.
Nicely capped shoulders balance a full hip and create the illusion of a slim waist. Plus, keeping your shoulders healthy and strong is good for your posture and the health of your rotator cuffs. Weak shoulders can lead to injury just from everyday tasks like picking up a heavy bag (or toddler!)
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Your shoulders are actually made up of several different muscles and it’s important to train them all, both for better health and the best physique.
It’s easy to train your shoulders the right way when you follow along with this 30-day shoulder challenge! The simple exercises in the shoulder challenge will build strong shoulders and sculpted deltoids over the course of 4 weeks. You’ll start seeing results fast as you complete the daily workouts.
The workouts are short and sweet and you can do them at home or at the gym. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy! You’re going to feel the burn as you tone your shoulders and build beautiful delts!
Ready to dive right in and reveal your best shoulders yet? Just click the button and you’ll get full access to the list of exercises, helpful shoulder sculpting tips, and the complete 30-day challenge!
Shoulder Workouts for Women that Work
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Dumbbell shoulder press is a classic lift that will help you build strong, sculpted shoulders. For the challenge, try doing them standing instead of seated. The standing version will make you use your core and glute muscles to stabilize. Remember, the more muscles you train, the more calories you burn!
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and with a slight bend in the knees. Hold a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders with palms facing towards each other and arms bent. Brace your core and press the weights overhead until your arms are straight. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Dumbbell Push Press
Think of this move as a more powerful dumbbell shoulder press where you can “cheat” by using your legs. By using your legs to initiate the push, you’ll be able to use more weight than you can on the regular shoulder press. This should help you increase your weight so you see results faster.
Set up as you would for the dumbbell shoulder press. Bend your knees, squat down slightly, and then explosively push up with your legs while pressing the dumbbells overhead. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Front raises work your front and middle deltoids, plus other stabilizing muscles around the rotator cuff. It’s a simple exercise that delivers big results for rounded shoulders.
Stand, grab a pair of dumbbells, and let the weights rest at arm’s length by your sides. Raise both arms straight out in front of you until they are parallel to the floor. Pause and lower the weights to the starting position.
Lateral raises target the medial deltoid which is located on the side of the shoulder. You’ll want to select a light weight for this challenging shoulder exercise.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and keep a slight bend in the knees. Hold a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip down at arm’s length. Raise your arms straight out to your sides and stop when the weights are just below shoulder height. Pause briefly and return to the starting position.
Rear Lateral Raise
Rear lateral raises are more than just a shoulder exercise. They also train many of the muscles of the upper and middle back. They’re one of the best lifts for shaping your rear deltoids.
Grab a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip. Hinge at the hips, slightly bend your knees, and let the weights hang down at arm’s length. Your gaze will be down at the floor throughout the lift. Without moving your torso, bring your arms straight out to your sides until they form a T-shape with your body. Lower the weights to the starting position and complete all reps.
YTLs are a series of 3 raises done all together: Ys, Ts, and Ls. YTLs work your shoulder muscles from all directions, all while strengthening your upper back muscles. You’ll need an incline bench and very light weights. Even if you lift regularly, it’s not uncommon to use 2-3lb dumbbells for this exercise. If you want to try it without weights, make a fist and stick both thumbs up. For all 3 raises, lie with your chest on the pad of an incline bench. Your feet or toes can be on the floor.
Ys – Let your arms hang straight down from your shoulders. Raise your arms up at a slight angle until they form a Y shape in line with your body. Lower and repeat all Ys before moving on.
Ts – Let your arms hang straight down from your shoulders. Raise your arms straight out to your sides until they form a T shape in line with your body. Lower and repeat all Ts before moving on.
Ls – Let your arms hang straight down from your shoulders. Pull your elbows up to shoulder height, with a 90-degree bend. Your knuckles will be facing out. This is the starting position. Without changing the position of your elbows, rotate your upper arms up and back. Your head will be between your forearms in this position. Rotate back down to the starting position and repeat.
Although kettlebell swings are primarily a lower body workout, they have the added benefit of building nicely capped shoulders. Because kettlebell swings use so many different muscle groups, they’re great calorie burners. And if you do plenty of them at once (as you do in the 30-day challenge!), you’ll get a big blast of cardio too.
Grab a kettlebell handle with both hands and hold it in front of your body at arm’s length. Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, hinge at the hips, bend your knees, and sink into your heels. Thrust your hips forward, straighten your legs, and swing the kettlebell up to chest height. Remember, it’s the power generated by your hips that causes the ‘bell to swing up, not your arms. Squat back down, allow the kettlebell to come down between your legs, and repeat the prescribed number of swings.
About Toning Your Shoulders and Sculpting the Perfect Deltoids
You won’t get perfectly toned shoulders by adding a few shoulder presses once a week. If you want really balanced shoulders with deltoids that pop, you need to work the various shoulder muscles from all angles.
The exercises in the 30-day shoulder challenge are designed to create healthy, strong, and sexy shoulders. You’ll work all 3 heads of the deltoid (anterior, posterior, and medial) and the 4 muscles of the rotator cuff, plus your rhomboids and traps.
Working all of the muscles will give you a more balanced physique. But it’s also important for health and injury prevention. Having healthy shoulders will help you lug around heavy groceries and put your own bag in the overhead bin. It’s also a good way to alleviate neck pain, as your neck muscles will try to take over when shoulder muscles are too weak.
Think building your shoulders will make you too broad or masculine? Quite the opposite!
Toning your shoulders helps create an hourglass physique. Even for apple shapes, having balanced shoulders creates the appearance of a slimmer waist. Who doesn’t want that?
Throughout the 4-week challenge, you’ll gradually increase your reps. Be sure to choose your weights carefully. While I’m not the kind of personal trainer who usually tells women to chose a conservative weight, do be cautious with the raises and YTLs. Your tiny rotator cuff muscles are doing a lot of the work and you don’t want to injure them. Start with a light weight for the raises and work your way up as you can. You can always use “big girl” weights on the dumbbell push presses!
Now that you’ve got all the knowledge you need to build sexy shoulders, you’re ready to start day 1 of the challenge!