Best Shoulder Exercises and Workouts for Women

Whether you want toned arms for tank tops, to get back in shape after an injury, to ease recurring neck and back pain, or to stand up to a stressful situation, shoulder exercises should be on your list of go-to’s for a good workout. “The shoulder is the most movable and unstable joint in the body,” according to Fitness Instructor Joe Downie. Shoulders are fundamentally injury-prone because the ball (humerus) that creates mobility is bigger than the shoulder socket (glenoid) that holds it. Building strength around the shoulder supports this socket. Additionally, an American Psychological Association study found that good shoulder posture can boost self-esteem, lower fear, and improve your mood.

Shoulder Muscles

  • Deltoids (delts): The triangle-shaped muscles that connect the collarbone, upper arms, and shoulder blades. Each deltoid has three parts that influence the shoulder’s range of motion.  A full shoulder workout will work all three areas of the deltoids. 
  • Front Deltoid: This delt lifts the arm in the front of your body, flexing the shoulder. The front delt is connected to your pectoral muscles. Pressing movements are among the best front delt exercises. 
  • Lateral Deltoid: This muscle raises your arms to the side, rotating the shoulder. The lateral deltoid is also called the side delt, meaning you’ll want to do shoulder lifts to the side to work it out. 
  • Posterior Deltoid: The posterior delt extends your arms behind you. Working the posterior delt strengthens your back and improves posture. Rowing motions are particularly helpful back and shoulder exercises. 

Your Shoulder Workout Routine

Shoulder Exercises for Muscles

There’s a common misconception that it takes women longer to build muscle than men – but according to a 2016 study, men and women build upper body muscle at the same rate. Don’t think though that by doing shoulder exercises for women you’ll get bulky fast – it takes a long time to build muscle mass. You’ll need to first develop the muscles to look sleek and toned. According to Women’s Health Magazine, shoulder workouts are ideally done twice a week, after a warmup.

1. Scapular Wall Slide


The wall slide is a great arm and women shoulder workout for increased mobility and healthy posture. And, it’s an easy at-home shoulder workout that only needs a wall. Stand with your spine, head, and posterior pressed up against a wall. Raise your arms to a 90-degree bent elbow position, with the length of your arm and backs of your hands pressed flat against the wall. Slowly straighten your elbows, keeping the rest of your body against the wall as you go. Lower your arms slowly when you’ve reached full extension, maintaining contact with the wall. Do 10-12 raises and lowers. 

2. Lateral Raise

Raises are common dumbbell shoulder workouts. A lateral raise will work your side delts. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. With a light knee bend, loose elbows, hips pushed slightly back, and a long spine, raise your arms up 90-degrees out to your sides. Try about 10-12 reps at an unhurried pace. 

Need a set of dumbbells for shoulder exercises at home? Buying them individually can save you money by selecting the size you need. Alternatively, if you’re looking to work up to higher weights, a set can keep you moving seamlessly up the strength ladder. 

3. Overhead Dumbbell Press

Shoulder dumbbell exercises are important as they work each arm individually. Barbell shoulder exercises can subconsciously favor the stronger shoulder, enhancing existing muscle inequalities. For the overhead dumbbell press, stand with feet hip-width apart. Keeping a long spine and neck, lift your arms from a 90-degree bent elbow position to extend overhead. Bring arms slowly back down to the 90-degree angle. Do 10-12 repetitions. 

4. Landmine Raise

Try the Landmine Raise next time you’re at the gym. Set up a barbell in a landmine unit. Holding the end of the barbell, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, the bar in front of you. Use the barbell to raise your arm 90-degrees, like in a lateral raise. 

5. Swimmers

Swimmers, or “Around the World” exercises, promote increased flexibility. Swimmers can be done easily at home. Lie on the floor with your arms forward and lifted, legs lifted, head and chest off the floor. Circle your arms out, squeezing your shoulder blades together as your arms move back as if pulling through the water. Reverse the movement for one full rep. 

6. Military Press

military press for women

The military press is one of the best shoulder workouts for mass. Stand with your feet together, instead of hip-width apart. Use less weight than you would for a standard overhead press. Core engaged, lift the barbell from the rack with bent knees. Feet together and back straight, lift the barbell up on an exhale. At full extension, your biceps should be in line with your ears, and back should never be arched. Lower the bar to below chin level. Move through reps slowly for this more difficult position.

7. Half-kneeling Archer Row

One of the most graceful cable shoulder workouts, this move is all about stability. With one knee on the ground, the other at a 90-degree angle, grasp a resistance band between your hands. Extend the opposite arm from your knee on the ground, looking up towards the extended arm’s hand. Pull the resistance band as if arching a bow, then bring the hand still at your chest up towards the extended elbow. Draw it back down, adding and releasing tension slowly on the band. Engage your core with each pull. Try 12 reps before changing sides. 

Resistance bands are much more portable and lightweight than dumbbells, making them easier than free weight shoulder exercises to build a routine around, especially for frequent travelers.


Your shoulders are one of the most important muscles to exercise regularly and safely. From barbells to dumbbells, at-home exercises, and gym memberships, there are many ways to tone your shoulders and increase your flexibility, mobility, health, and confidence. Remember to warm up and cool down after a workout. Get started today! 

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