Whether in the gym, at work or with your family, think about how many times a day you use your shoulders. Every time you lift something, such as a dumbbell or your laptop, or when you raise your arm to wave to a friend or get something off a high shelf, your shoulders are engaged. The front, lateral and rear deltoids, which are the main muscles of the shoulder, work in conjunction with your arms, back and chest to coordinate upper-body movements. Bent-over raises using dumbbells can help to keep your shoulders strong and injury free.
Take hold of a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip, palms facing in toward your body. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine and push the shoulder blades down your back.
Slightly bend your knees. Hinge from the waist to bend your torso forward by 90 degrees, or until it is parallel to the floor. Look forward rather than down; you can slightly lift your head, but avoid fully crunching the back of your neck.
Bring the dumbbells together under your chest; bend your elbows and keep them in close to your torso.
Raise your arms out to the sides to the height of your back, or until the arms are parallel to the floor. Use a semicircle motion and sustain the bend in the elbows. Only move your arms to properly engage the shoulder muscles; the rest of your upper body should remain still.
Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the contraction. Hold for one count and then lower your arms back to the starting position. Complete three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
- Use light resistance to practice form and contract only the shoulders while lifting your arms. Heavy weights can lead to swinging your upper body to gain momentum, which may place stress on your shoulders and back.
- Keep your arms engaged at the bottom of the exercise rather than allowing the weights to hang in your hands; the latter can pull your shoulders out of alignment.
- Consult with a physician before starting a new exercise program.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.