Scorching your shoulders

Believe it or not, they have a lot in common with the Greek atlas of deities: just like this mythical character, sometimes it feels like you have the world on your shoulders. From the mental ailments that cause you to anxiously push them forward to the demanding physical tasks you give them, your shoulders slap for you every day – which is why you need to highlight them in your exercise program.

Since regular squeezing and flying can become unnecessary, we developed this exciting solution: four effective exercises that you may not know about, but which will soon become your favorites.

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The nitty gritty

First, a little anatomy lesson: The shoulder is a ball and socket joint made up of numerous muscles, ligaments and tendons. The largest muscles are called deltoids (also known as "delts"), which are made up of three heads: anterior, lateral, and posterior. Although each has their own functions, in the broadest sense they work together to move your arms.

While it might be tempting to skip training one or more of these Delts heads, all three are equally important. Why? One word: aesthetics. "If you want to create sculpted shoulders, exercising all three delts is critical," said Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, California. Since you can see your shoulders from the front, back, and sides, each area should be defined for the greatest wow factor.

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Well balanced

But looks aren't the only reason. "If the three heads of the delts are not considered equally, it can lead to imbalance, dysfunction and ultimately pain," explains Durkin. By exercising all three delts heads, you can prevent pain, add beautiful muscles to your body, and improve the functionality of your shoulders.

Sizzling your shoulders

Do this workout two to three times a week on non-consecutive days, doing two to three sets of 12 to 20 repetitions for each exercise. Since these exercises are complex, start with lighter weights (see “Shoulder Pads”).

Pull and push dumbbell

Target muscles: anterior and lateral deltoid muscles

Configuration: Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in one hand with your palm facing the front of your thigh.

Action: Bend your knees to crouch. As you stand up, pull the dumbbell upwards. Rotate your arm to point your hand up, then extend your arm above your head. Slowly reverse the movement and repeat the process. When you're done, switch arms.

Training tips: Keep your breathing calm. Keep your knees behind your toes. Don't lean on your non-working side.

Einarm-Hinter-Delt-row

One-armed rear delt row

Target muscles: posterior deltoid muscles

Configuration: Stand next to an exercise bench and place one knee and hand on the surface. Hold a dumbbell in the other hand, arm extended toward the floor, and palm behind you.

Action: Bend your arm to row the weight up until your upper arm is parallel to the floor. Your palm should still be pointing behind you, and your arm should be bent at a 90-degree angle as shown. Slowly return to the start. When your set is ready, repeat on the other side.

Training tip: Avoid neck strain by looking down on the floor in front of the bench.

Pull the side lift forward

Pull the side lift forward

Target muscles: anterior and lateral deltoid muscles

Configuration: Stand up and hold a dumbbell in one hand. Your palm should be facing towards the side of your thigh as shown.

Action: Keep your arm straight and slowly raise the dumbbell to one side. From this position, move your arm smoothly in front of you. Next, bend your elbow to pull the weight back towards your shoulder. Reverse the movement to complete one rep. Finish your set and repeat on the other side.

Overhead dumbbell arc

Overhead dumbbell arch

Target muscles: anterior and lateral deltoid muscles

Configuration: Hold a light dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart or wider. Extend your arms toward the floor with your palms facing forward.

Action: Lift both weights in an outward and upward arching motion, keeping your arms straight until the weights are above your head. Backward to return to the start. Repeat for the rest of your set.

Training tip: This exercise requires extremely light weights. Try it out without getting the hang of it.

Shoulder security

Because the shoulder joints are so fragile, they can be easily injured, so Durkin takes some precautions when exercising the shoulders.

For starters, use lighter weights when you start exercising. "Because the shoulder joint is made up of so many small muscles, using light weight and high reps helps prevent injury," says Durkin, adding that the first time you build shoulder strength, you may want to do 15 to 20 reps per set.

Only when you have a basic foundation for shoulder strength and, more importantly, when you are not in pain, should you consider increasing the intensity by using heavier weights and doing the number of repetitions per set to decrease.

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