"Shoulder exercises, when done properly, strengthen muscles that can improve posture," says Mauro S. Maietta, the district fitness manager at Crunch Fitness. They do, after all, hold up your neck and head, which is critical when you're sitting slumped over all day. Plus, they're extra important for functional movements in every day life, like lifting things and reaching high places. "In addition, they compliment full range of motion at the shoulder joint, and are the primary drivers for overhead movements," he adds.
So in addition to focusing on your go-to target spots, you should also be strengthening those shoulders. Here, Maietta and Jon Clinthorne, nutrition communication manager at Atkins, share their favorite shoulder exercises that you can do at home—whether or not you've got equipment to do them with. Plus, done repeatedly, they help the muscles get stronger, while banishing any signs of tension. Win-win.
1. Arm circles
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold your arms out to either side creating a capital "T" with your body. Move them in forward circles for 30 to 60 seconds, then do the same thing in reverse. Try playing with the size and speed of your circles, and for an extra challenge grab a set of weights (or some soup cans!) and hold one in either hand.
2. Pike push-ups
Place your hands underneath your shoulders, the way you would for a regular push-ups, and walk your feet forward so that your hips are lifted into the air, creating an upside-down V (otherwise known as a "pike position"). Bend your elbows so that your chest almost touches the floor, then straighten your arms to push back up to start. To make the move even harder, place your feet on the seat of a chair.
3. Handstand wall walk and holds
Plant your hands on the ground, and walk your feet up the wall for a supported handstand. Aim to hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and increase the time as you get stronger. To amp things up, try adding in a handstand push-up.
4. Pike hold
If you're... advanced, this one's for you. Plant your hands on the ground, and walk your feet halfway up the wall so that you create an "L" shape with your body (your legs should be parallel to the floor). Aim to hold for 30 seconds, and you will feel your shoulders and abs light up.
5. Lateral raises
Grab a set of weights (or whatever household item you can use to sub in for dumbbells) and hold one in either hand. Standing straight up with a slight hinge forward, lift your arms to shoulder height, hold for a beat, then slowly lower down. Be sure to engage your core to reap the full benefits of the move.
6. Lateral lunge to overhead press
With a weight in each hand, stand straight up with your arms extended toward the sky. Bend your right leg into a lateral lunge and bring your right hand to your shoulder while keeping your left arm straight up. Switch sides, alternating presses and lunges.
Planks tend to get all the credit for working your core, but they can actually serve to light up your shoulders, too. Try holding a high plank for one minute, then do the same on either side. Be sure to keep your core tight, and your shoulders stacked directly over your wrists.
8. Push-up plank with shoulder tap
This three-for-one move works your core, chest, and shoulders in one fell swoop. Starting in a high plank position with your arms straight and core tight, bend your elbows to lower down into a traditional push-up. Straighten your arms to return to start, then tap each shoulder one at a time with your opposite hand (be sure to keep your hips square and avoid rocking back and forth). To modify, come down to your knees.
9. Seated shoulder presses
Sitting down with your core tight and shoulders back, hold a dumbbell in each hand at your shoulders. Press the weights from shoulder level straight up over your head, bringing them almost to a touch, then lower. Start with lighter weights, then work your way up to something heavier as you get stronger.
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