Shoulder Workouts for Women

The 30-Minute Shoulder-Sculpting Workout

Too busy to train? Get the results of an hourlong workout in just half the time with this ultra-efficient shoulder routine.

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The shoulders can be a challenge to train in a hurry. 

It’s a relatively smaller muscle group on average, sure, but it also involves three distinct “heads” — the anterior (front) head of the deltoid, the middle head and the posterior (rear) head. That means you can’t just do some presses and lateral raises and think you’ve accomplished your goals. Instead, you need moves that target each unique area but without the redundancy that can bog down a typical routine.

To accomplish that feat, we tabbed expert trainer Rachel Hall, who called on her experience as the fitness director of Body FX and her certification in Pilates mat and reformer training to sculpt and define the deltoids from front to back in 30 minutes flat.

“This workout uses an approach called ‘complex training’ and supersets to deliver effective results in a more time-efficient method,” she explains. “This type of resistance training is excellent for enhancing both strength and power, while the supersets improve muscular endurance and hypertrophy, essentially creating greater gains in a shorter period of time.”

For those unfamiliar, complex training pairs heavy resistance moves with power exercises, which prompts improvements in force and velocity. “The idea is that the heavy loads stimulate the nervous system, from which there is an increase in muscular force produced for the follow-up power exercise,” Hall says.

The workout also keeps equipment to a minimum — just dumbbells and bands (Hall suggests super bands from Body FX) — which also helps cut down on the time you need to get from start to finish.

The Sculpted Shoulders in 30 Workout

You’ll complete each exercise listed below as supersets, aiming for minimal to no rest in between. Only take enough time to physically switch from one exercise to the other within the superset, about 30 seconds max in between supersets, and up to 60 seconds between each of the five pairings that make up the session.

Superset Exercise Sets Reps
1 Dumbbell Front Raise to Lateral Raise

Banded Face Pull
3 12-15

2 Dumbbell Bent-Over Y Flye

Banded Rear-Delt Flye
3 12-15

3 Dumbbell Arnold Press

Banded Squat to Overhead Press
3 12-15

4 Dumbbell Figure-8

Banded High-Pull
3 12-15

5 Dumbbell Sword Pull

Banded Half-Kneeling Rotational Press
3 6-8 per side


Exercise How-tos

Dumbbell Front Raise to Lateral Raise

Stand holding dumbbells in each hand at your sides, your abs tight and chest up. Keeping your arms straight, raise both dumbbells simultaneously to the front of you while also turning your wrists — at the top, your palms should be facing down, your arms parallel to the floor. Reverse the motion to bring the dumbbells back to your sides, then lift your arms laterally out to your sides, again keeping your core tight and elbows open, stopping when they reach a point parallel with the floor. Continue this pattern, with one rep to the front followed by one to the side equaling one full rep.

Banded Face Pull

Start seated on the floor with your legs extended, and loop a light or medium band around the bottom of your feet. Grasp the other side of the loop in each hand so you form a square shape with the band. Now pull with your arms and bend your elbows to bring the band toward your face — your elbows should remain high and back as you try to get your thumb next to each cheek. Pause at the point at which your elbows are bent 90 degrees, then return to the starting position slowly and under control.

Dumbbell Bent-Over Y Flye

With a dumbbell in each hand and your chest up, back flat, knees slightly bent and eyes fixed on a point on the floor just ahead of you, bend over at your hips until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Let the dumbbells hang directly beneath you with your elbows fixed in a slightly bent position. From there, powerfully raise the dumbbells forward and upward, with your thumbs pointing up and palms facing forward, so your arms form a “Y,” stopping the ascent when they reach a point parallel with the floor. Lower the dumbbells back along the same path under control.

Banded Rear-Delt Flye

Assume an athletic “ready” stance, feet set hip-width apart, a slight bend in your knees, and your core tight. Fold the band in half and hold either end with your arms extended out in front of you to shoulder height, palms facing down. With your elbows remaining straight but not fully locked out, flex your rear delts to pull each end of the band apart, your arms going out to each side. Pause for a one-count when you pull the band as far apart as you can, then slowly return to the start.

Dumbbell Arnold Press

Assume an athletic “ready” stance holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level in a front “rack” position — palms facing you, elbows fully bent. With your eyes focused forward, core tight and elbows aligned under your wrists, press the dumbbells overhead in an arc while simultaneously twisting both wrists so that by the time you reach full elbow extension, your palms are facing away from you in a pronated grip. Reverse the motion to return to the start. Note that your elbows will naturally shift outward as you twist on the way up and then come back in tighter to your torso on the way down.

Banded Squat to Overhead Press

Stand on the inner portion of the band with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the other end of the band in both hands. Lift your hands to shoulder level, keeping your elbows down to your sides. Drop into a squat, stopping when your thighs reach a point parallel to the floor, then drive through your hips and legs to stand back up as you, in one smooth motion, extend your arms to press the band overhead. Pause for a beat in the overhead position, then lower it back to the start and immediately begin the descent into the next rep.

Dumbbell Figure-8

Start in an athletic “ready” stance with your feet set hip-width apart, slight bend in your knees, core and glutes tight, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Extend both arms directly out in front of you and slowly draw a figure-8 pattern with the dumbbells — as large as you can without rocking your torso — with one figure-8 equaling one rep. (You also can do this exercise holding one dumbbell in both hands, if you prefer.)

Banded High-Pull

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, a band under the middle of each foot. With your arms down and elbows straight, hold the band with an overhand grip so that it forms a square shape. At the start, your hands should be in front of your hips. From there, bend your arms as you raise them — your elbows should point out to the sides as you pull the band up toward your chin. Once your hands reach chin level, pause and squeeze for a moment, then reverse the motion under control.

Dumbbell Sword Pull

Assume an athletic “ready” stance with your feet set hip-width apart, a slight bend in your knees, your core and glutes flexed for stability, holding one dumbbell in your left hand. Begin with the dumbbell at your right hip, torso turned toward the right side, then slowly rotate your upper body as you lift the dumbbell up toward the left, as if you’re drawing a sword. As you do so, rotate your palm so that your thumb points toward the back wall in the top position — maintaining a slight bend in your elbow to protect from hyperextension. Reverse the motion to return under control. Do six to eight reps with your left hand, then switch the dumbbell to do six to eight reps with your right hand.

Banded Half-Kneeling Rotational Press

Hook the band around an anchor point so that when kneeling next to the anchor, the resistance is shoulder height. Get into a half-kneeling position facing away from the anchor point with your left leg forward and your right leg back. Grasp the band in your right hand, raising your elbow 45 degrees out from your body. Maintain resistance in the band as you rotate your torso slightly toward the anchor to load the movement, then rotate away from the anchor point as you press your right arm straight forward while you also extend your elbow. Perform 10 reps with your right hand before switching sides for another 10 reps.