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8 Exercises to Tone Those Shoulders

Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

In order to achieve a balanced physique, you need to pay attention to your shoulders. Toning and sculpting all of the muscles surrounding your shoulder joints will make your waist visually smaller and get you one step closer to an hourglass-shaped figure.

Toned shoulder muscles will also help improve your posture and prevent kyphosis, that unhealthy curve in your upper back that may often be the reason for headaches and neck pain. Here are eight basic exercises that simply always work.

Shoulder Press

Starting with one of the most basic shoulder exercises, shoulder press can be done in myriad ways. The most common gym equipment used for shoulder press are dumbbells. You can also use a barbell, resistance bands, or weight plates. 

Start in a standing position, feet firmly pressed into the floor and separated hip-width distance. Grab your dumbbells and lift your arms parallel to the floor, bending the elbows. Take a big inhale and on your exhale, press up towards the ceiling, extending your arms fully.

Inhale and bring your arms back down to starting position. Repeat 12-15 times. Try not to use your lower back to perform the move. If your dumbbells become too heavy, either switch them up for a lighter set or sit down on a bench, isolating the shoulders fully.

Lateral Raise

Start in a standing position, feet separated hip-width distance, core tight. Grab your dumbbells and let your arms fall to your sides. Take a big inhale, and on your exhale, lift your slightly bent arms to the sides, not lifting higher than shoulder height. You can slightly rotate your hands so your pinky finger goes outward. This activates your side shoulder even more and prevents the front from taking over. Repeat 12-15 times.

Wrist weights

Challenge your workouts with these stylish wrist weights.

Front Raise

Start in a standing position, feet separated hip-width distance, core tight. Grab your dumbbells and let your arms fall to your sides. Inhale and on your exhale, bring your right arm forward, slightly diagonally to the left. Don’t go past shoulder height and on your inhale, return to starting position. Repeat with the other arm. Alternate for 16 total reps.

Reverse Flys

Start in a standing position, feet separated hip-width distance. Bend your knees and slightly bend over, bringing your arms and dumbbells to the side. Inhale, and on your exhale bend your elbows and bring your arms behind you, like you want them to touch behind your back. 

Avoid making a jerking move or using momentum to lift your weight. This usually occurs when you’re using a weight that’s too heavy for you, so it’s best to use a lighter set of dumbbells if you’re struggling with keeping your form. Repeat 12-15 times.

Shoulder pulley

Challenge your shoulders at home with this amazing and convenient pulley.

Upright Row

Grab a kettlebell or a heavy dumbbell and grab it vertically, so you’re only holding its upper part. Come to a standing position and separate your feet hip-width distance. Place your dumbbell in front of your body, arms extended and relaxed. 

Inhale, and on your exhale, bend your elbows and lift your dumbbell straight towards your chin, elbows facing up. Inhale and bring the dumbbell back down. Repeat 12-15 times.

Front Elbow Squeeze

Start in a standing position, feet separated hip-width distance, and core tight. Bend your elbows and bring your dumbbells up like you’re preparing for a shoulder press. Inhale, and on your exhale, bring your arms in front of your face,  trying to make your elbows touch. Inhale and open to the sides.

Keep the height of your elbows the same throughout the entire exercise. Repeat 12-15 times.

Twister Bar

No more excuses for doing shoulder workouts.

Shoulder Taps

Come to a plank position, hands right under your shoulders, legs extended, and heels high. Try to make a straight line from the top of your head to your feet, keeping your hips in a neutral position. Activate your core muscles by lifting your belly button up and tighten your quadriceps, protecting your lower back. 

Try to focus on breathing and preventing your hips from moving too much while you perform the exercise. Lift your left hand, touch your right shoulder, and bring it back down. Lift your right hand, touch your left shoulder, and bring it back down. Alternate your hands and repeat for a total of 20 repetitions.


Start in a plank position, solidifying your foundation. Keep your hips aligned and prevent them from lifting or dropping. Breathe through the exercise and start replacing your left palm with your left elbow, right palm with your right elbow, and then back up to the left palm, and right palm, respectively. Repeat the full movement 10 times.


Great resistance bands for your shoulder workouts

Shoulder exercises are intense but really effective. Once you finish with your workout, take some time to properly stretch your shoulders and reap all the benefits from your hard work.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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