Getting those toned, rounded shoulders doesn't need to involve heavy lifting at the gym. With an isometric exercise routine, you can build strength and flexibility in your shoulder muscles without a weight machine or kickboxing class. Isometric exercises generally include stretching and holding the muscles to allow blood to flush through, building, shaping and firming your shoulders as you see fit.
What is Isometric?
Isometric means that you're exerting force on the muscle without changing its length or moving at the joint. The classic example of isometric exercise is the stretch. When you stretch your hamstrings, for example, your muscle is getting a workout without contracting, and you aren't moving your knee or hip during the stretch. Even though you're not moving the muscle, by holding it tight you're forcing a lot of blood to pump through it, flushing out toxins and elevating the oxygen levels in the muscle. Isometric exercises are thus a great way to increase your muscle's strength and flexibility.
There are many muscle groups in your shoulders, but the primary one is your deltoids. The deltoid muscle comprises several different fibers that work along the front, back and top of your shoulder, allowing you to contract, extend, lift vertically and laterally, and rotate your arm. The lateral deltoid fiber is the muscle that covers the outside of the joint and forms your shoulder's rounded shape. Working out your delts, particularly your lateral deltoid muscle, will strengthen your arms and shoulders.
Most isometric extension exercises for the shoulders will have you position your arm, either bare-handed or with a dumbbell, and hold that position for a predetermined length of time. Some examples of isometric extension exercises are shoulder raises, shoulder rotations, isometric pushups, side deltoid stretches, supermans and supine shoulder flexions.
Isometric stretches pump a lot of blood through your muscles, which can raise both your heart rate and your blood pressure, so if you suffer from high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, consult your doctor before starting any exercise routine. It may be tempting to hold your breath as you hold your stretch, but this is not a good idea. Holding your breath will only increase your blood pressure; make sure to breathe deeply and regularly while performing any isometric exercise. As with any form of exercise, do a quick warm-up and cool-down before and after your workout. Isometric exercise puts a lot of tension on your muscles, and if you're holding a "cold" muscle it could result in a pull or tear. Warm up with shoulder shrugs, rotating your arms in a circle and neck rolls.
Todd Maternowski began writing in 1996 as one of the co-founders of "The Chicago Criterion." He joined the local online news revolutionaries at Pegasus News in 2006, where he continues to work to this day. He studied religion at the University of Chicago.