Shoulder Workouts for Women

Sculpt This, Not That: Get Shapelier Shoulders

Superset your way to super shoulders.

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Shoulders are a standout muscle. Not only can they be seen from all sides of your body, making aesthetic balance a priority, but they also need to be strong all the way around for optimal performance in sports — and in life.

The shoulders consist of three deltoid muscles — anterior (front), lateral (side) and posterior (rear) — and all three heads need to be developed and trained equally for best results. These four moves work your shoulders 360 degrees around, and our “Sculpt This, Not That” tips help maximize each move.

The Shapelier Shoulders Workout

Complete the moves in each superset back-to-back with no rest in between. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between supersets. Begin using a lighter weight for more reps, and increase your weight and decrease your reps with each set.

Superset 1

Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press 4 15, 12, 10, 8
~superset with~
Bent-Over Rear-Delt Dumbbell Raise 12, 12, 10, 10

Superset 2

Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Wide-Grip Upright Row 4 12, 12, 10, 10
~superset with~
Leaning Lateral Dumbbell Raise 10, 10, 8, 8 (each arm)

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press

Sit with your feet flat on the floor for stability, and hold a set of dumbbells on either side of your head with your palms facing forward. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and raise them so they are level with your shoulders. Extend your arms and press the dumbbells overhead and in toward one another, so at the top, your arms are straight and the inner dumbbell heads are nearly touching. Slowly reverse the move to return to the start.  

Sculpt This, Not That: Lifting your chest slightly keeps your shoulders in the ideal position for targeted work — directly over your hips — protecting your upper back from unwanted stress and keeping the lateral and anterior delts directly engaged. Also, don’t “clang” the dumbbells together. This takes the tension off the muscles you’re wanting to target — and also makes you look like a noob.

Barbell Wide-Grip Upright Row

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and hold a barbell in front of your body with a wide overhand grip. Leading with your elbows, pull the bar up along the front of your body in a straight line as high as you can; at the top, your elbows should be bent about 90 degrees. Slowly lower back to the start.

Sculpt This, Not That: You’ll often see this movement done using a narrower grip, usually about shoulder-width apart or closer. But a wide grip increases the engagement of your lateral and posterior delts, whereas the closer grip relies heavily on your anterior delts. 

Leaning Lateral Dumbbell Raise

Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing inward and grasp a fixed object, such as a machine or rack, with your left hand. Stand with your feet together and positioned close to the rack, then lean away from it with your body straight. Your body should be at about a 45-degree angle to the floor with your working arm hanging perpendicularly. Keeping your arm straight, slowly raise the weight up and out to the side in a smooth arc until your arm is parallel with the floor. Slowly lower the dumbbell along the same path back to the start. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.

Sculpt This, Not That: This leaning lateral raise variation creates a more complete and intense contraction at the very top because of an increased range of motion, and it allows you to focus on each deltoid separately, helping correct strength and development imbalances between your sides. To make the most of every rep, think about leading the motion with your elbow versus with your wrist and hand. This focuses the tension on the lateral delt and also reduces stress on the smaller, delicate rotator-cuff muscles in your shoulder complex. 

Bent-Over Rear-Delt Dumbbell Raise

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent, and hold a set of dumbbells in front of you with your palms facing inward. Keep your back straight and hinge at your hips to fold forward until your torso is about 45 degrees with the floor. Bend your elbows slightly, then raise the weights up and to the sides, leading with your elbows and lifting them to shoulder level or slightly above. Lower slowly to the start and repeat right away. 

Sculpt This, Not That: In order to direct the work onto your rear delts, relax your traps and avoid shrugging your shoulders. Also, elbow bend is key: A slight bend means your rear delts are engaged and working hard; a bigger bend moves the work inward to your upper back and traps.