Shoulder Workouts

Girls Who Lift – Best Shoulder Workouts for Strength

Girl, you’re looking to get strong AF and we’re all about it. Being stronger helps you slay every workout, feel healthier and transform your body. To help you hit your goals, we’ve pooled our expertise to bring you the best shoulder workouts for strength.

When you think about building strength, many immediately think of a ripped core, powerful legs and toned arms. A lot of the time, the shoulders get neglected for girls, whereas they’re often the star of the show for dudes.

Well not today girl. We’re here to show you why it’s so important to focus on your shoulders and teach you how to grow those muscles for some serious strength.

Perfect a powerful upper-body with this guide to the best shoulder workouts for strength.


Woman doing lateral raises

Why do you need to work shoulders?

You might not think it, but strong shoulders are a key player when it comes to your big lifts and they’re essential for building all-round strength. From powering through a huge deadlift, to bringing the groceries into the house, pretty much anything that uses your arms relies on strong, sturdy shoulders.

Aside from the benefits in the weights room, building strong shoulders is a good way to avoid injury. The shoulder is one of the most moveable joints in the body, giving your arms a huge range of motion. Because of this, it’s also one of the most unstable joints you have.

The ball of the upper arm doesn’t actually fit inside it’s socket, because it’s too large. Due to this and it’s huge range of movement, it can be vulnerable to injury.

To hold it in place and to protect you from any potential shoulder injuries, you need to reinforce the joint with strong muscles.

Whether you’re trying to protect your body from unexpected strains, or to bolster your big lifts, these are the best shoulder workouts for strengthening your body.

On top of that, strong shoulders are the undeniable sign of a girl who knows her sh*t in the weights room and it contributes to giving you that gorgeous hour glass figure.


What makes the best shoulder workouts?

It’s all good standing there and smashing out a few military presses, but if you want some real strong shoulders, you need to train smart. The shoulder is a very complex joint and you need to cover all three heads of your delts and the external rotator cuff. The best shoulder workouts will work all of these.

By working these separate muscle groups, you’ll have a strong, flexible joint you can rely on to smash out a killer set on the bench press.


Best shoulder workouts

To ensure you’re working every element of your shoulder, we’ve created a workout that addresses all the areas we mentioned earlier. Here’s how it works…

Woman performing a cable raise as part of the best shoulder workout


External rotator cuff exercises:

The rotator cuff is the muscle that keeps the head of your arm in place within the socket in your shoulder. It’s a pretty much essential to keeping the joint in place and providing you with a full range of movement.

These are small, delicate muscles, so we recommend taking a real light weight, somewhere between two and 10 pounds. Start with about six reps and as you grow stronger, you can build up to 12 reps. Perform three sets of each movement.

Lying dumbbell external rotation:

  1. Lie on your side with a light dumbbell gripped in your upper hand
  2. Tuck that elbow in to your body
  3. Create an L-shape by bending the elbow so you’re holding the dumbbell directly outwards
  4. Slowly, keep your elbow tight against your body, but move your arm out sideways in a smooth arcing motion
  5. Stop when the dumbbell is vertical, or you can’t go any further. Don’t go past parallel, as you risk overextending the muscle
  6. Return to the start position by moving in a controlled motion until your lower arm is point downwards again

Cable External Rotation:

  1. Set the cable machine so it sits at around elbow height
  2. Stand side on to the machine and choose a very light weight to start with
  3. With the arm furthest away from the cable machine, take the handle and pull it across your body
  4. Tuck the elbow into the side of the body and the cable out in front of you so your arm creates an L-shape
  5. Keeping your elbow tight to your side, let the cable pull your arm in so your forearm is across your body
  6. From there, externally rotate your shoulder by keeping your elbow still and pulling the cable across and away from your body until your arm is pointing to the side
  7. Return to the start position with your forearm across your stomach in a smooth, controlled movement


Deltoid exercises

The shoulder joint is supported by three heads of the deltoid muscle. The anterior (front) head, the lateral head (side) and the posterior head (back) work in unison to give you the full range of movement in your shoulder. Here’s how to work your delts for a strong, stable shoulder.


Dumbbell shoulder press

This movement will work all three heads of your deltoids, developing strength in a well-rounded way. When your arms are fully extended, it’s the anterior or front head of the muscle that takes most of the strain.

  1. Sit on a bench with a high back, like a chair
  2. Pop the dumbbells up with the help of your knees and raise them up to just outside your shoulders. Your palms should be facing forward and your elbows directly below them
  3. From this position, push the dumbbells directly up until your arms are extended
  4. Return to the start position with the weights just outside of your shoulders

Perform 4 sets of 8 reps at a challenging weight.


Woman depicting the two parts of a bent over reverse fly

Bent over reverse flyes

This movement really focusses in on the posterior head which sits at the back of your shoulder. You can build strength on this one with a relatively light weight, so don’t go for anything too big to start with – trust us, it’s a real burner.

  1. Take a dumbbell in each hand
  2. Break at the knees and hinge at the hips until you’re as horizontal as you can go. Don’t go past parallel to the ground and keep your weight on your heels to avoid tipping forward
  3. Let your arms hang below you and bend at the elbows slightly
  4. Raise both arms outwards until your elbows are aligned with your shoulders
  5. Squeeze your scapulars together at the top to feel the burn in your back and delts
  6. Return to the start position in a smooth, controlled motion, don’t let your arms drop quickly

Perform 3 sets of 8 reps.


Lateral raises

As the name suggests, this movement puts the main focus on the lateral head of your deltoids. For extra muscle building potential, lower the weights in a slow, controlled motion and you’ll really feel the burn.

  1. Take a dumbbell in each hand
  2. Stand in a neutral position with your arms hanging by your sides
  3. Flex at the elbow slightly to create tension
  4. Raise both arms up and out until they are level with your shoulders
  5. Lower your arms back down to your sides

Perform 4 sets of 8 reps.


woman doing a bench press as part of the best shoulder workout

Bench press

This compound movement is fundamentally a staple of the chest workout. However, it recruits a huge number of upper body muscles, including the deltoids. Just as the shoulders are key to building a strong bench, the bench can help you achieve your goals, so it’s definitely worth including to get your shoulder muscles working in a functional way.

  1. Lie on the bench with the bar directly above your face
  2. Grip the bar at around shoulder-width apart
  3. Push the bar up and out of the rack and hold it with your arms completely straight and the bar above your upper chest
  4. Bend your arms and bring the bar down so it touches your chest, just at the nipple line
  5. Push the bar back up until your arms are completely straight again

Perform 5 sets of 5 reps.


The final word

For a strong, injury resistant upper bod, the best shoulder workouts will really drill into those smaller muscles. Work these movements into your usual routine and watch the strength gains come rolling in.

What’s more, by drilling in to the smaller, stabilizing muscles, you’ll bring additional strength and power to your bigger lifts, like the bench and deadlift.

Building strength in your shoulders is an all-round win girl, so what are you waiting for? Get started on those powerful deltoids today.


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