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Building a successful weight program: shoulders that look and perform great

The shoulders are a truly amazing muscle group
Castillo Dominici/

The shoulders are a miraculous joint. They are strong, yet more mobility than any other part of the body. This allows you to lift, push overhead, carry, throw, and many other things. Picture a gymnast holding themselves up on rings, swinging on bar, standing on their hands, performing flips, and the list goes on. It's amazing just how much a fairly small portion of the body is capable of. However, due to this extreme mobility, the shoulder joint is very susceptible to injury. Properly strengthening the shoulder is crucial to avoid injuries, as well as maintain proper posture. Lastly, well developed shoulders create an impressive look for both men and women. Check out these exercises to train the front, side and rear shoulder to look great, and perform great. Shoulder press - front, side, rear: The shoulder press is king for shoulders. This can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells. Press the weights overhead, then lower so the elbows are shoulder height, or just barely below. Keep the shoulder blades together and the back straight. Upright row – side: This is another great strengthening exercise. Hold a barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells in front of your thighs. Pull the weight upward by lifting the elbows up and out to the side. Your elbows always stay higher than your hands. Stop when your elbows are just above your shoulders. To include the rear of the shoulder, use a cable machine so that you are pulling up and slightly in towards your body. Front raise – front: Hold a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or weight plate in front of you. Raise your arms straight out in front of your body to shoulder height, then slowly lower. Side raise – side: Hold dumbbells or kettlebells at your sides. Raise your arms to the side until you reach shoulder height, then slowly lower. For a better contraction, try turning your pinkies up slightly. Bent over raise – rear: These can be performed seated or standing. Bend over at the waist, stopping short of 90 degrees. Using dumbbells or kettlebells, raise the weights to the side, not letting the arms go higher than your back, then slowly lower. Face-pull – rear: Stand in front of a cable machine with the handle face high. Stand straight, and use the rear shoulders to pull the handle towards your face. Stop when your elbows are even with the shoulders.

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