If you neglect to exercise your shoulders, know this: strong, toned shoulders can make your waistline appear smaller and improve your posture. Even if you work your arms and upper back, if your shoulders are weak, your upper body might not look as good as it could. For overall shoulder balance, do strength-training exercises that target the front, side and rear of your shoulders. Before you know it, your toned, shapely shoulders will have you rushing to the store to buy tank tops to show off your hard work.
Front Dumbbell Raises
Front dumbbells raises work the front of your shoulders. To do this exercise, grasp a set of dumbbells, come to a shoulder-width stance and position the weights horizontally on the front of your upper thighs. Suck in your tummy to support your lower back -- just pretend you're wearing a bikini. Raise your left arm up in front of you until it's parallel to the floor. Pause one second and return it to the starting point. Repeat this with your right arm. Keep alternating your arms and complete three sets of 12 repetitions.
Side Dumbbell Raises
To target the sides of your shoulders, do side dumbbell raises. While in a shoulder-width stance, hold a set of dumbbells in front of your upper thighs so your palms are facing each other. Pull in your tummy to engage your abdominal muscles and raise your arms out to the sides. Rotate your hands slightly forward on your way up so your little fingers come up first. When your upper arms are parallel to the floor, pause one second and slowly return to the starting position. Do this 12 times and complete three sets.
Bent-Over Reverse Flyes
To do bent-over reverse flyes and target the back of your shoulders, come to a shoulder-width stance and hold a set of dumbbells in your hands. Bend forward at your waist and bring your upper body parallel to the floor. Extend your arms to the floor directly under your shoulders, keep your elbows slightly bent and face your palms toward each other. Raise the weights out to the sides until they're at shoulder level. Pause one second and slowly lower the weights to the starting point. Repeat this 12 times and do three sets.
Alternating Overhead Dumbbell Press
If you're pressed for time, do alternating overhead dumbbell presses to work the front and side of your shoulders. To do this two-for-one exercise, sit on a bench and hold a set of dumbbells in your hands. Bend your elbows outward, raise the weights up to shoulder height and turn your hands so your palms face each other. Engage your abdominals and press the left dumbbell straight up to the ceiling. Keep your elbow slightly bent at the top of the exercise. Pause one second and as you lower the dumbbell down, press the right dumbbell up to the ceiling. Keep alternating your arms and complete three sets of 12 repetitions.
Don't start a new exercise routine if you have injuries or health conditions -- consult your doctor beforehand. Avoid showing off and lifting too much weight if you're new to strength training. Start with light weight so you can develop good form -- look at yourself in the mirror so you can check your form, or have a personal trainer monitor your form. As you get stronger, increase the weight to stay challenged. Always use enough weight so the last repetition of each set is challenging to complete.
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.