The 10 Best Shoulder Exercises For Women

Toned arms start with defined shoulder muscles. These are 10 of the BEST shoulder exercises for women to develop strong, sculpted shoulder muscles at home!

Shoulder Exercises for Women

Jump To 10 Best Shoulder Exercises

How Can I Build Shoulder Muscles At Home?

By doing these 10 exercises for shoulders. 

The most important shoulder muscles in the upper arm are the deltoid muscles and the four rotator cuff muscles:

  1. Subscapularis
  2. Supraspinatus
  3. Infraspinatus
  4. Teres minor muscles

While these muscles are relatively small muscles compared to some of the bigger muscles in the upper body (like the chest, back and biceps); it’s important to strength train the these shoulder muscles.

Especially if you want to avoid a rotator cuff injury.

Benefits of Shoulder Exercises For Women

  1. Prevent shoulder injuries. Shoulder injuries are some of the most common injuries doctors see in regular gym-goers (NBC). Strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint provides more stability, and can reduce risk of injury.
  2. Train multiple upper body muscles. Several of the exercises that engage the shoulder muscles also work the other muscles in your arms — such as your biceps, triceps, and back muscles.
  3. Aesthetics of toned arms. While strength training the shoulder muscles has more benefits than the aesthetics of toned arms, it’s a nice added benefit.

These 10 shoulder exercises for women are designed to target the shoulder muscles from multiple angles to create definition and tone the arms.

Benefits of Shoulder Exercises For Women

The best shoulder exercises in three different workout formats. You can choose the workout format that best supports your fitness goals.

This upper body workout includes both dumbbell shoulder exercises and bodyweight exercises.

Equipment:

Medium set of dumbbells.

I recommend anything from 5 – 25 lb dumbbells.

Note, if you don’t have dumbbells available to you, you can always use filled water bottles or laundry detergent jugs.

Instructions — select one of the workout formats below: 

  1. 20-Minute AMRAP Shoulder Workout — AMRAP or ‘as many rounds as possible’ workout. Set a timer for 20-minutes. Complete 10 repetitions of each shoulder exercise. Repeat as many rounds as possible, or AMRAP, in 20-minutes; taking breaks as needed.
  2. 10-Minute EMOM Shoulder Workout — EMOM or an ‘every minute on the minute’ workout. Set a timer for 10 minutes. At the start of the first minute complete 12 repetitions of the first shoulder exercise. Then rest for the remaining time left in the minute. At the start of the second minute complete 12 repetitions of the second shoulder exercise. Then rest for the remaining time left in the second minute. Repeat this format for all 10 minutes. Option to repeat for a 20-minute shoulder workout.
  3. Make it a Shoulder Burnout Workout that you add onto the end of your upper body workout — Complete 15-20 repetitions of each shoulder exercise one time through. This will ‘burnout’ or fatigue the shoulder muscle at the end of your arm workout. Burnout workouts are great for building muscle. Pushing the muscle to fatigue allows it to grow! I suggest doing this 10-Minute Upper Body Workout, then finish with this burnout shoulder workout.

The 10 Best Shoulder Exercises (see video demo of each exercise below):

  1. Arnold Press
  2. Alternating Overhead Shoulder Press
  3. Neutral Grip Shoulder Press
  4. L-Fly Lateral Raise
  5. Upright Row
  6. Push Press
  7. Shoulder Front Raise
  8. Shoulder Lateral Raise
  9. Inverted Push Up or Pike Push Up
  10. Plank Wall Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercise #1: Arnold Press

Arnold press shoulder exercise

How To Do An Arnold Press:

  1. Hold both dumbbells with an underhand grip (palms facing you), elbows at shoulder-height in front of your body and dumbbells at about eye level.
  2. Engaging your core and maintaining a slight bend in your knees to protect your low back, rotate your palms away from your body as you press the dumbbells overhead.
  3. Reverse the motion, rotating your wrists inward (ending with palms facing you) as you lower down to starting position. Aim to keep your elbows at shoulder height rather than letting them drop down.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercise #2: Alternating Overhead Shoulder Press

overhead shoulder press | dumbbell shoulder exercises

How To Do An Alternating Overhead Shoulder Press:

  1. Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, slight bend in your knees. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, elbows wide and arms bent at 90 degrees, palms facing forward (away from you). Keep your elbows in line with your shoulders, rather than letting them drop down.
  2. One side at a time, press the dumbbell overhead until the arm is fully extended.
  3. With control, lower the dumbbell back to starting position (in line with shoulder). Repeat on other side.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercise #3: Neutral Grip Shoulder Press

neutral grip shoulder press

How To Do A Neutral Grip Shoulder Press:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, soft bend in your knees. Hold a set of dumbbells at shoulder level, palms facing in towards each other (neutral grip).
  2. Engaging the core, press the dumbbells overhead until the arms are fully extended; biceps by ears.
  3. With control, lower back down to starting position at shoulder level.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercise #4: L-Fly Lateral Raise

L Fly Exercise for shoulders

How To Do A L-Fly Lateral Shoulder Raise:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, slight bend in your knees, holding a dumbbell in each hand at hip level, palms facing in towards each other.
  2. With 90-degree bends in each arm at the elbow, squeeze to lift the dumbbells, slightly rotating them as you lift so the dumbbells end parallel to the floor. Lifting just to shoulder height.
  3. With control, return to starting position, palms facing inward.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercise #5: Dumbbell Upright Row

dumbbell upright row exercise

How To Do A Dumbbell Upright Row (video above shown as a sumo squat with upright row):

  1. Start with feet hip distance apart, slight bend in your knees. Hold dumbbells in your hands, palms facing in towards your body.
  2. Leading with your elbows, pull the dumbbells up until your elbows reach shoulder height. Be sure to keep the dumbbells close to your body as you pull them upwards.
  3. With control, lower the dumbbells back down to staring position.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercise #6: Push Press

Push Press dumbbell shoulder exercise

How To Do A Push Press:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, slight bend in your knees, holding dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing in towards each other (neutral grip).
  2. Drop into a shallow squat; about a 2-inch dip. Then press through your heels, and push the dumbbells overhead until arms are fully extended.
  3. Lower dumbbells down to starting position at shoulder-level and repeat.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercise #7: Shoulder Front Raise

shoulder front raise exercise

How To Do A Shoulder Front Raise (video above shown with optional lunge hold):

  1. Stand with feet hip-distance apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in towards your body.
  2. Keeping your arms straight, lift the dumbbells straight out in front of your body until they reach shoulder height.
  3. With control, lower the dumbbells back down.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercise #8: Shoulder Lateral Raise

shoulder lateral raise

How To Do A Shoulder Lateral Raise (video above shown with optional lunge):

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, slight bend in your knees, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing in towards each other.
  2. Keeping your arms relatively straight, with a slight bend in each elbow, as you lift the dumbbells out to the sides of your body. Stopping when the dumbbells reach shoulder height.
  3. With control, return to starting position, palms facing inward.

Bodyweight Shoulder Exercise #9: Inverted Push Up or Pike Push Up

inverted push up or pike push up exercise

How To Do An Inverted Push Up or Pike Push:

  1. Start in standard push up position or high plank position. With shoulder stacked over wrists, making a straight line from head to toe.
  2. Lift or pike your hips upward; you may have to tip-toe your feet forward a bit. Your body should form an upside down ‘v’ shape; aiming to keep your arms and legs as straight as possible.
  3. Bend your elbows, lowering your upper body towards the mat, until your elbows form 90-degree angles.
  4. Push yourself back to starting position, arms straight and hips high.

Note, you could intensify this move even further by performing a handstand push up against a wall.

Bodyweight Shoulder Exercise #10: Plank Wall Press

plank wall press bodyweight shoulder exercises

How To Do A Plank Wall Press:

  1. Start in high plank position – wrists under shoulders, feet hip distance apart, core engaged.
  2. Engage your core to keep your hips as stable as possible. It may also help to take a wider base with your feet. Then lift one hand and press it into a wall about 1 foot in front of you.
  3. Hold this wall press for 3 seconds, then return to high plank position and repeat on the other side.

Bonus Shoulder Exercise for Moms: Overhead Baby Press

This one’s for all my new mamas with littles who love to crawl around during workouts.

If your baby has good head and neck control, feel free to involve them in your shoulder workout with this mommy and baby exercise — the overhead baby press.

Get this full 15-Minute Mommy + Me Workout here.

overhead baby press shoulder workout for women

How To Do An Overhead Baby Press (video above shown with optional squat):

  1. Start with feet hip-distance apart, slight bend in your knees, holding your baby slightly in front of you.
  2. Push up through your legs as you lift your baby overhead. Fully extending your arms.
  3. Then slowly lower the baby back down towards you as you return to the starting position.

What is the Best Exercise for Shoulders?

Of these 10 best shoulder exercises, what is THE BEST SHOULDER EXERCISE?

Most would argue that the dumbbell shoulder press is the best exercise for shoulders.

neutral shoulder press | shoulder workout for women

But I would take it one step further and specifically say the neutral grip overhead press (exercise number 3 in this post, also shown above) is the safest exercise for shoulders.

The neutral grip avoids external rotation of the shoulder muscles which in turn avoids impingements or injuries to the rotator cuff muscles.

Pin this Workout: The 10 Best Shoulder Exercises For Women

Dumbbell Shoulder Workout for Toned Arms

More Upper Body Workouts

The 8 Best Back Exercises For Women

The 5 Best Chest Exercises For Women

The 8 Best Tricep Exercises For Women

30-Minute Upper Body HIIT Workout Video

2 comments
  1. I can’t wait to try your best shoulder exercises. I love your workouts. I’ve been using them for about a year and have seen a huge difference in my body. Thank you so much for the motivation and know how to make strength training a part of my workout routine. I am almost 50 and look better than I have in years thanks to your blog and workouts. Thank you!