By Karen Kwan
You want flat abs and toned arms, but have you overlooked strong, sexy shoulders? You’re not alone, says Joanna Zdrojewska of Toronto’s Virtuous Training. “I think it’s because women are afraid of bulking up by lifting heavy weights – but you don’t bulk up, and it’s so important to have this strength as we age,” she says. Zdrojewska sees rotator cuff injuries and postural issues on daily basis. “With weak unstable shoulders, you’ll develop these injuries and when you’re sitting at a desk eight to 10 hours a day, your chest tightens, your shoulders roll forward, your back arches, and then you go to work out and your muscles aren’t firing properly.”
The best exercises for developing stronger shoulders (and back)? To start, she recommends warming up the rotator cuff using light resistance (“These are small muscles so you don’t want to overload them,” she explains). Tubing and internal and external rotations will work well:
Internal rotations: With tube secured to a something sturdy and pulled taut, stand and with your elbow at 90 degrees, pull the tube towards your belly and release.
External rotations: in the same same stance, hold tubing with other hand, the one further away from where the tubing is secured(so that your bent arm is coming across your body) and extend tubing out away from body, and release.
Complete two sets of 15 reps of each warm-up exercise.
Once you’ve warmed up, the two best exercises for your shoulders include rowing and overhead presses. Cable rows/band rows will work the mid-back (traps, rhomboids, posterior delts (shoulders) and biceps). Make sure your shoulders are set, chest is up, and initiate the pull from the back not the arms, says Zdrojewska. Complete three sets of 12-15 reps
For overhead presses, complete 10-12 reps, but you’ll want to start light and progress to a heavier weight when you can manage 10-12 reps. These presses will work the shoulders, pecs and core “Overhead presses are particularly great as it’s a functional movement – it’s something you’ll do daily, say, lifting something up in the kitchen,” says Zdrojewska.)
(And for aesthetics, try some lateral raises (that is, with dumbbells in front of you, raise your up to the side); “They don’t offer any real function, but these raises will make your shoulders look good,” she says).