Editor’s note: This post was written by Stephanie Smith, writer at Bodybuilding.com, and published with permission by Skinny Mom.

All too often, abs are the stars of summer. Everyone’s yearning for that shredded six pack, harping that abs are made in the kitchen, and crunching and planking their way to a mid-drift bearing level of fit. Shoulders are the overlooked stepchild. But, with summer in full swing, shapely shoulders are in high demand. Between the skin-bearing sun dresses, spaghetti strapped tanks, and occasional tube tops, sculpted shoulders are perfect addition to hot-weather fashion.

Back and Shoulder Muscles kettlebell

Not only are defined shoulders a great way to give the illusion of a smaller waist and a tight, toned upper body, they also translate well to life outside of the gym. From carrying groceries up a flight of stairs to tossing a football with the kids, they make most arm movements easier. And, if you don’t strengthen them, you’re putting yourself at risk. According to the American Council of Exercise, 69 percent of people will report shoulder injuries at some point in their life. Don’t be a statistic; get ready to move sculpted shoulders to the top of your summer wish list with a workout that will hit the anterior, middle and posterior delts and leave heads turning.

1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press: If you want shoulders that pop, the seated dumbbell press should be in your arsenal of moves. It’s a foundational exercise that will bring up your delts—the large group of muscles your shoulder’s composed of—with ease. Why are strong delts important? With the shoulders being the most moveable joint in the body, building up muscles, ligaments, and tendons so that they’re stable is key to preventing injury.

  • How To:
  1. With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Start lighter.
  2. Bracing your core, bend your elbows. Then, raise your arms above your head. Lower until your elbows are at shoulder height and parallel to the floor in a 90-degree angle. Click here for more info.


>> Insider Tip: While a seated shoulder press means you’ll be able to move more weight, realize that numbers aren’t everything. Standing dumbbell shoulder presses stimulate better shoulder growth and translate other benefits to the rest of your body—like stabilizing your core and working on your balance.

2. Dumbbell Side Raise: Kiss those shoulder pads goodbye. Dumbbell side raises are great because they isolate the lateral deltoid—or the side delts for short. Most people pay attention to their anterior delts, the mirror muscles at the front of the shoulder. This exercise will target your middle head and keep your muscular development well rounded.

  • How To:
  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and start with them at your sides with the palms of your hands facing you.
  2. Remain still and upright. Bend your elbows slightly and keep your hands titled forward, as if you’re pouring a glass of water.
  3. Bring your arms up until your upper arm is parallel to the floor and pause at the top. The dumbbells should never go higher than shoulder height.
  4. Lower and repeat. Click here for more info.


>> Insider Tip: Looking to make your side raise extra challenging? Lean into it. By holding on to a stationary pole or piece of equipment with your non-working arm and leaning towards your working arm, you’ll have to fight against gravity to get that weight up.

3. Plate Front Raise: Hit your front delt with this easy, minimal-equipment move. All you’ll need for this isolation exercise is a plate. Start light—maybe around 10 pounds—and adjust weight as needed.

  • How To:
  1. Stand feet hip-width apart. Hold a plate with your hands at 3 and 9 o’clock. Keep your arms extended while maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, and let the plate rest at waist height.
  2. Without swinging or bending, exhale and slowly raise the plate until it’s right above shoulder level.
  3. Slowly lower and repeat. Click here for more info.

front raise

>> Insider Tip: No plate? No problem. Use dumbbells or pre-set barbell instead.

4. Dumbbell Upright Row: Upright rows are a great movement because they hit your delts, traps, and rhomboids. With this one compound movement, you’ll be engaging the majority of your shoulder and upper back muscles. By using dumbbells instead of a barbell, you’ll be forced to lift unilaterally. This means you’ll engage the stabilizer muscles in your rotator cuff, improving stability and balance with each shoulder.

  • How To:
  1. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with a pronated (palms facing your body) grip that is slightly less than shoulder width apart. Rest the dumbbells on top of your thighs.
  2. Lift the dumbbells straight up as you exhale. Make sure to keep them close to your body and make sure your elbows, which should be slightly bent, drive the motion.
  3. Continue to lift until the dumbbells until they reach your upper chest. Lower and repeat. Click here for more info!

Upright Row

>> Insider Tip: Form is key with this movement. Your elbows should drive the motion. As you lift the dumbbells, your elbows should always be higher than your forearms.

5. Reverse Fly: The reverse fly strengthens the posterior shoulder and upper back—that’s enough of a reason to make it a part of your workout. You might wonder why you’re incorporating upper back exercises in your shoulder routine, but remember that everything’s interconnected. Stronger upper back muscles help balance shoulder strength and limit risk of injury.

  • How To:
  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and hinge at your hips until your torso is parallel to the floor.
  2. Keeping your palms facing in, raise your arms out to your sides until they’re at 90 degrees (and shoulder level).
  3. Contract your shoulder blades, holding for a second, before lowering the weights. Click here for more info!

Reverse Fly

>> Insider Tip: Don’t be surprised if you have to grab a set of lighter dumbbells for this movement—the reverse fly is typically done with a focus on form and full range of motion rather than weight. Complete a few reps and choose whether you want to do this exercise seated or add that extra challenge by standing.

Summer Shoulder Workout: There’s no one best exercise for targeting shoulders but, if you want to work all three heads, this workout will do just that. Rest for 60-90 seconds between movements.