If you're neglecting to work your shoulders during your strength-training routine, it can start taking a toll on your appearance -- your once-modelesque posture disappears and is replaced with forward-slumped shoulders and a hunched upper back. To avoid this, give your workout a makeover and include lateral raises that target the front, back and sides of your shoulders. Before you know it, you'll walk around proudly, showing off your strong, chiseled shoulders that also make your waistline seem smaller. To get optimal results, learn proper exercise form and because shoulder muscles are small, use lightweight dumbbells so it's easier to stabilize your shoulder joints.
Front Lateral Raises
Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip. In this grip, your thumbs wrap under the dumbbells and your remaining fingers go over the dumbbells.
Stand in a shoulder-width stance with your knees slightly bent and your toes pointed forward. Pull in your tummy to tighten your abdominal muscles, keep your back straight and extend your arms down so the dumbbells rest in front of your upper thighs.
Rotate your hands inward so your palms face outward and your thumbs are closer to your body than your pinky fingers. This is your starting point.
Raise your arms diagonally in front of your body until you reach shoulder-height, or go slightly past shoulder-height. Hold this position for one second and lower the weights down to the starting point. Immediately start the next repetition.
Rear Lateral Raises
Hold a set of dumbbells with an overhand grip and take on a shoulder-width stance with your knees slightly bent and your toes pointed forward.
Bend forward at your hips until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles and extend your arms toward the floor while keeping your elbows slightly bent. Turn your hands so your palms face each other.
Raise your arms out to your sides until your upper arms are level to the floor. Halfway on your way up, slightly rotate your hands so your pinky fingers are above your remaining fingers. Pause one second at the top of the exercise, and slowly lower the weight down to the starting point. Start the next repetition right away.
Side Lateral Raises
Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip and spread your feet shoulder-width apart, making sure to point your toes forward and slightly bend your knees.
Engage your abdominal muscles to help keep your back straight. Lean your shoulders slightly forward, extend your arms down and hold the dumbbells close together in front of your thighs with your palms facing each other. This is your starting position.
Raise the dumbbells out to your sides while keeping your elbows slightly bent. Pause one second when your upper arms reach shoulder height and slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Immediately start the next repetition.
- Do reps and sets according to your own fitness level. Eight to 12 repetitions per set is a standard number.
- Exhale as you raise the weights up, and inhale as you bring them back down.
- Alternatively, do one set of lateral raises with your left arm before switching to your right arm.
- Do lateral raises in front of a mirror so you can monitor your form.
- Avoid using momentum to lift the weight up, and don't drop the weights down as you return to the starting position -- use your shoulders to control the dumbbells.
- Get your doctor's approval before starting a new strength-training regimen, especially if you have medical conditions, health concerns or injuries.
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.