Backless dresses, bikinis and tank tops are all important reasons for strengthening your shoulders. But, even more essential is getting strong shoulders to help your upper body be more agile, in both everyday and physical activities. The deltoids, which are the major shoulder muscles, are separated into three parts, the anterior, middle and posterior. Lateral raises work the entire muscle group, though an emphasis is placed on the middle deltoid. Even out imbalances by doing raises one arm at a time.
Hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Rest your left arm by your side or use it to help you stabilize by holding onto a wall or sturdy piece of exercise equipment. Engage your abdominal muscles. Push your shoulder blades down your back and elongate your spine. Slightly bend your knees.
Hinge your torso forward slightly at the hips. Maintain a straight back and keep your neck in line with your spine. Put your right hand in front of your pelvis. Slightly bend your elbow approximately 10 to 30 degrees.
Raise your right arm out to the side; maintain the slight bend in your elbow. Lift the arm up until the elbow is at shoulder-height. You should feel the contraction in your front and lateral deltoid.
Hold the contraction for one count and then lower your right arm back to the starting position. Repeat for eight to 12 repetitions. Repeat on the left side.
- Use the elbow as your guide when raising your arm, rather than the dumbbell. The weight should be positioned lower than the elbow due to the bend in the elbow. Stop raising your arm when your elbow is at shoulder height.
- Use the shoulder muscles to lift your arms; avoid swinging your arms or using momentum.
- Perform slow, gradual movements when raising and lowering your arms.
- Discontinue the exercise if you feel any pain in your shoulders or upper back. Consult a physician regarding any pain as well as 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.