Throw out those shoulder pads and build up defined, strong and sexy shoulders with weight training. The wider your shoulders are, the slimmer your waist will look. But beware of over-training. Shoulders have a lot of mobility, which makes them easy to injure. Free weights are a great way to challenge and improve your shoulder muscles, but should be used only one day a week.
Once a Week
Targeted shoulder weight-training once a week is all you need to build your muscles. When you are pushing dumbbells up to the sky and feeling the burn, you are stretching and tearing tiny muscle fibers that your body will then rush to fix and build up bigger than before. This is traumatic on your poor, hard-working shoulders and dangerous to overdo. The trick is to do effective exercises with weights that target the three major areas of your shoulder over the course of a single session, once a week.
Six Sets a Session
The shoulders are complicated; don't assume you can push weights over your head a few times and call it quits. The three major areas of the shoulder are the anterior deltoid, which is on the front of your shoulder and gets activated during chest and biceps exercises, the medial deltoid, which is on the side of the shoulder and gets activated during side raises, and the posterior deltoid on your back, which is activated by rows and pushups. One free-weight exercise per section of your shoulder is enough for your weekly session. Make sure to use weights that are heavy enough that doing 12 repetitions feels nearly impossible to complete. Do at least three sets to guarantee muscle growth, but never do more than six sets.
Tearing those muscle fibers starts the muscle-building process, but this process isn't complete until your body is given time to recover. Even when exercising, you need to give your shoulders from one to two minutes recovery time in-between each set. Giving your body a break helps you keep good form, so you avoid injury, and ensures an anaerobic workout instead of an aerobic one. A nutritious diet will help build muscle too, so put lots of protein on your plate to bulk that muscle up.
Even though you are only doing one major shoulder session a week, there are things you can do every day to improve your progress. If you spend your day crouching over a computer, or hunching over a steering wheel, you could be tightening your chest and drawing your shoulder muscles in, making them look smaller. Get off your duff at work once every hour and stretch your chest for 60 seconds. Add a few stretches into your daily routine to maximize your weekly workout.
Meredith Berg received her B.F.A. in directing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Now living in Los Angeles, she works as a film and television writer, comic-book editor and director of plays and films. In addition, she loves tackling paleo recipes, workout routines and DIY projects.