Arms and shoulders, two of the areas of your body that are constantly on display when wearing vests, tank tops, dresses – the list goes on, although even when you aren’t revealing your shoulders they do effect how your tops can look on you.So this article concentrates on the exercises that you can do to work on those areas. If you do a full body workout then you are likely to be exercising your arms and shoulders anyway but maybe you want to try some different moves, maybe you want to work more on your arms and shoulders to get them toned, better defined muscles or more shapely, maybe you want to be stronger – whatever your reasons are these exercises will give you great results.
Posture also plays an important role in how your upper body looks, remember being told to keep your shoulders back when you were younger? As there is more to it than just keeping your shoulders back I will be dedicating a future article just to posture and what you can do to improve it, especially as it can instantly help you look slimmer, taller and more confident.
All the exercises mentioned below involve using weights, so make sure you choose a weight that lets you complete the set so that the last couple of reps are difficult but can still be performed without losing form. If you can do more than 12 reps then the weight is too light if you cannot complete 12 reps or you start to lose your form then you need to go lighter. Once you have completed these exercises for a few weeks you will notice that you need to increase the weight.
I see a lot of ladies at the gym lifting weights that are too light, don’t be scared to lift heavy (you are not going to suddenly have big bulging muscles and look like a man), by picking the right weight you will see results faster.
The amount of sets and reps you complete can be changed depending on your goals.
Alternating Front and Lateral Raises
Muscles used: Anterior deltoids (front of shoulders)
You will need dumbbells for this exercise.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart and your arms straight down with palms facing your legs.
- Keeping your back straight, slowly raise both arms up straight out in front of you until they are at shoulder height .
- Pause and then lower your arms back down to start position and then rotate your hands so the weights are now to your sides and complete a Lateral Raise as per below, once you have finished the lateral raise complete a front raise.
- Keep alternating between Front and Lateral Raises for 3 sets of 12 reps (so you will complete a total of 12 front raises and 12 lateral raises).
Don’t raise your arms above shoulder level and be careful not to arch your back when raising the dumbbells.
Muscles used: middle deltoids (middle shoulders), upper trapezius (upper back)
Similar to the above exercise but with your arms raised to your sides instead to the front.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart, arms straight down by your sides.
- Raise the weights up so your arms are straight out to your sides and level with your shoulders.
- Lower your arms back down to your side, rotate your hands so the weights are to the front of your body with your palms facing your legs and complete a Front Raise as per instructions above.
- Alternate between Front and Lateral Raises until you have completed 3 sets of 12 reps (total of 12 Front and 12 Lateral Raises).
Rest for 30-60 seconds between each Set.
Muscles used: Deltoids (shoulders), trapezius (upper back) and triceps (back of arms).
- Using a barbell stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold the bar with hands positioned slightly wider than shoulder width.
- The bar should be at shoulder height with your palms facing forward and elbows pointing down.
- Press the bar directly upwards with your arms extended overhead, keep your core braced throughout the move.
- Lower the bar back down to your shoulders and repeat for 3 sets of 12 reps. Rest for 30-60 seconds between each Set.
This exercise can also be performed with dumbbells.
Bicep Curls – 21's
Muscles used: Biceps
Using dumbbells or a barbell.
The Bicep Curl is a common move but what makes this exercise different, and more challenging, is that we will be breaking down the move into 3 parts, with each part of the exercise being repeated for 7 reps – so a total of 21 reps when all three parts have been completed – hence the name being 21’s!
First Part of Exercise – 7 Reps
- Holding the barbell (or dumbbells), with your hands approx shoulder width apart, in an underhand grip. The bar should be resting in front of your thighs with palms facing outwards.
- Now slowly bend your elbows and raise the bar up until your arms are at a 90 degree angle (so you are only doing half a bicep curl as the bar is not going all the way up to your shoulders).
- Lower the bar back down to the starting position and repeat the movement for a total of 7 reps.
- On your last rep don’t lower the bar back down as you will move straight into the next part of the exercise.
Second Part of Exercise – 7 Reps
You will move straight into this exercise on your 7th rep of the first exercise.
- The barbell should be out in front of you with your arms bent at 90 degrees, now continue to bend your elbows and raise the bar to your shoulders (the second half of a bicep curl).
- Pause and slowly lower your arms back down so they are at the 90 degree angle .
- Bring your arms back up to shoulders and repeat this movement for 7 reps.
- On your last rep return the bar back down so it is in front of your legs and move straight into the third part of the exercise.
Third Part of the Exercise – 7 Reps
This will be the complete bicep curl movement.
- From the starting position with the bar resting on the front of your legs and palms facing outwards.
- Slowly bend your elbows and raise the bar bringing it all the way up to your shoulders.
- Pause and then slowly lower the bar all the way back down so it is in front of your legs.
- Repeat for 7 reps.
This may not sound hard but it is more challenging than it sounds, give it a go.If you are not finding the last few reps of the third part of the exercise difficult then you need a heavier weight.
Overhead Tricep Extensions
Muscles used: Triceps
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart knees slightly bent.
- Raise the dumbbell over your head with two hands so that both hands are supporting one end of the dumbbell (the dumbbell will be vertical with one end supported and the other hanging below it).
- Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head until your arms are at 90 degrees.
- Keep your elbows in tight so they don’t push out to the sides, keep your wrists straight and your spine in neutral.
- Press the weight back up and repeat for 3 sets of 12 reps. Rest for 30-60 seconds between each Set.
Muscles used: Triceps
One of my favourite exercises for my triceps, don’t be intimidated by it’s name.
You will need a bench and a barbell to perform this move.
- Using an overhand grip hold the barbell with your hands approx shoulder width apart, lie back on the bench with your feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping your core tight straighten your arms towards the ceiling so the bar is above your chest. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your upper arms still, slowly bend your elbows and lower the bar down until it is a few inches away from your forehead.
- Now slowly straighten your arms pushing up toward the ceiling and raise the bar back to the starting position.
- Repeat until you have completed 3 sets of 12 reps. Rest for 30-60 seconds between each Set.
Remember to keep your core tight throughout the move. Your upper arms should not move during the exercise
Aim to complete these exercises at least 2 times per week, but ensure you leave a day between to rest to allow your muscles to recover, you can still work other muscle groups that you have not used.