Many, if not all, women want a sexy back and shoulders. These are some of the features that define a killer body and help sculpt a sexy physique. Additionally, toned shoulders and a sexy back are the perfect accessories for rocking any sleeveless dress or top. But there is a problem; a lot of women do not know the right exercises for these benefits. Here are some of the best exercises to add to a shoulder and back workout for those females who want to improve posture and overall toning.
Shoulder And Back Workout For Females At Gym
If you want to get lean and strong in the gym, you will not want to skip your shoulder and back workouts. Of course most of these moves incorporate weights, which helps increase your overall strength. Some of the shoulder and back workouts for females with weights that you may want to consider include:
Bent Over Row
The bent-over row is a compound exercise that targets most muscle groups throughout your body, specifically your back muscles. It is also known as the barbell row, or the barbell bent over row.
Targeted Muscles: Although this movement primarily targets your back muscles, it also activates your hamstrings, glutes, triceps, and deltoids (1).
Benefits: The bent-over row exercise activates your back muscles to help you build a stronger back. In addition, this movement improves your performance of other compound exercises, such as bench presses, deadlifts and push-ups (1).
How to (1):
- Start by standing in front of the barbell with your midfoot positioned under the middle of the barbell. Maintain a tall posture and a slight knee bend while keeping your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Position your shoulders directly over your hips while keeping your head and neck neutral. Similarly, keep your chin tucked throughout the movement and the weight evenly distributed along each foot. Grip the floor with your feet to increase stability and keep your arms long by your sides but with a slight bend in your elbows.
- Engage your core and pretension your shoulders and hips before lowering toward the barbell. As you do this, you will hinge from your hips and bend your hips and knees.
- Grab the barbell just outside of your knees using an overhand grip. Rotate your arms outward to engage your back muscles, and then press through your feet to stand.
- Hinge your hips back while maintaining a neutral spine and your upper body positioned at a 30- to a 45-degree angle. Similarly, your shins should be vertical. This marks the starting position.
- As you initiate the upward movement, squeeze your lats and pull the barbell toward your hips. Your shoulder blades will naturally retract as you pull the barbell close to your body. Similarly, your upper arms will align with your body as your elbows travel behind you at a 45-degree angle.
- Pause at the top of the movement for a few seconds.
- Slowly initiate the downward movement while maintaining your rowing alignment and straight elbows. As you do this, your shoulder blades will naturally protract, allowing you to return the barbell to the starting position.
- Repeat 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions.
Read More: Increase Shoulder Mobility: Why And How To Do It
The shoulder press exercise is also known as the overhead or dumbbell shoulder press (6). It is one of the most effective full-body strength training exercises and a staple in most balanced weightlifting routines (6).
Targeted Muscles: Triceps, trapezius muscle in your upper back, and deltoid muscles in your shoulders (lateral, posterior, and anterior deltoids) (6).
Benefits: Besides sculpting your back, performing this also tones your arms and entire body.
Variations: If you want a challenge, you can try any of these variations of the shoulder press: Arnold press, military press, seated press, and push press (6).
How to (6):
- Hold two dumbbells in hand and assume a standing stance with your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in your knees. Align your shoulders directly over your hips and keep your posture tall and your neck and head in a neutral position. Distribute your weight evenly along your feet and let your feet grip the floor for extra stability.
- Move the dumbbells above your shoulder height while keeping your palms facing forward and elbows out to your sides. Bring your arms slightly forward, about 30 to 45 degrees forward from your body. Every rep should begin from this position.
- Engage your core and pretension your shoulders and hips.
- Initiate the upward movement by stretching your elbows to press the dumbbells overhead, which will naturally move your shoulder blades. But remember to maintain a neutral wrist position and proper spinal alignment.
- At the top of the movement, pause for a few seconds while maintaining distance between the dumbbells. Also, make sure your arms are long but slightly bent at the elbows.
- Slowly bend your elbows and lower your arms to return to the starting position. Make sure you are pulling the dumbbells down with your lats.
- Complete 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
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Seated Cable Row
The seated cable row is one of the best exercises to perform to target back fat. The compound exercise uses a weighted horizontal cable row machine to work these muscles and those in your arms.
Targeted Muscles: Back muscles (erector spinae, latissimus dorsi in your middle back, rhomboids in your upper back, and the lower trapezius), biceps and triceps (5).
Benefits: This encourages good posture and alleviates stress on your lower back (5). Similarly, it enhances better back definition and core stability.
How to (5):
- Sit on the seated row machine with your feet securely on the foot platform and your entire foot on the platform.
- Bend your legs without arching your spine and grab the cable attachment.
- Stretch your legs to return to your starting position, but maintain a slight knee bend. Similarly, use a neutral grip, keep your palms facing each other, and rotate your shoulders outward to engage your lats.
- At this point, your shoulder blades should be slightly protracted or neutral. Keep your arms long, but with a slight bend in your elbows, feet shoulder-width apart, and maintain a tall posture. Similarly, keep your shoulders directly over your hips, chin tucked, and head and neck in a neutral position to mark the starting position.
- Squeeze your lats and bend your elbows to a 45-degree angle until your upper arm is even with your body. Your shoulder blades will begin to retract as your elbows move backwards. Pause for a second or two.
- Allow your shoulder blades to protract while maintaining your rowing alignment, and slowly straighten your elbows. Your shoulder blades will assume a long position, with your arms extended and slightly bent in your elbows.
- Perform 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions.
Shoulder And Back Workout For Females At Home
One thing the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us is the need to gain flexibility in our schedules. With gyms closed during this period, people had to look for an alternative: working out at home. But, unlike a gym, you have zero to little equipment to work with when exercising at home.
Do not forget the power of using your body weight when exercising. Here are some effective bodyweight exercises to perform at home and target your back and shoulders.
The diamond push-up is a more advanced variation of the basic push-up. Some people may know the move as a triangle push-up (2).
Targeted Muscles: The compound exercise targets your upper and lower body muscles. With proper form, this activates shoulder muscles like the anterior deltoid, chest muscles like the pectoralis major, and leg muscles like the quads (2).
Variations: There are several variations to try of the diamond push-up once you get the hang of the basics. These include the decline, incline, and wall diamond push-ups (2).
Read More: Shoulder Exercises For Women: Tone And Strengthen Your Shoulders
How to (2):
- Start on all fours with your knees and toes flexed and pressed on the floor. Position your hands slightly wider than your shoulder distance, and then connect your thumbs and index fingers to form a diamond shape. Engage your lats by rotating your shoulders and grip the floor with your hands.
- Stretch your legs to lift your knees off the ground and get your body in a push-up position. Keep them together or hip-width apart.
- Remember to engage your core, keep your chin tucked, squeeze your quads and glutes, and pretension your hips and shoulders. This marks the starting position of all reps.
- Bend your elbows and pull your chest toward your hands. Your shoulder blades will retract as you lower towards the floor. Lower until your upper arms are alongside your ribcage. Hold while in this position for a few seconds before lifting your body.
- To return to the starting position, squeeze your chest and straighten your elbows, naturally protracting your shoulder blades.
- Finish the movement by squeezing your chest and triceps.
- Perform 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions.
Reverse Fly With Dumbbells
The reverse fly is an exercise you perform with dumbbells to target your upper back muscles. When performing this exercise you must be careful not to arch your back or swing the weights (7).
Targeted Muscles: With proper form, this exercise targets the posterior deltoids, rear deltoids, rhomboids, triceps, infraspinatus, and other scapular muscles (7).
How to (7):
- Stand with your feet at shoulder width and with the dumbbells in hand. Keep your shoulders over your hips and maintain a slight knee bend. Similarly, keep your chin tucked and your head and neck in a neutral position. Be sure to distribute the weight on your feet evenly and grip the floor with your feet to increase your foot stability.
- Push your hips back so your upper body is at a 30- to 45-degree angle. Keep your arms long and in front of you but with a slight bend in your elbows. The dumbbells should be in hand with your palms facing each other.
- Engage your lats by rotating your shoulders outward while keeping your shoulder blades in a neutral position. All reps should start from this position.
- While maintaining this posture and the slight bend in your elbows, squeeze your posterior delts to start the upward movement.
- Lift your arms until the upper arm aligns with your back. Your shoulder blades will immediately retract as you lift the dumbbells. Make sure your hands are lower than your upper arms.
- Pause at the top for 1 to 2 seconds.
- Slowly lower your arms to the starting position. Lower the dumbbells as far as you can maintain tension on your posterior delts.
- Repeat and complete 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
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The Superman exercise is a staple in back strengthening exercises. It is an excellent complementary exercise to core exercises, such as leg lifts that target the other side of your core (4).
Targeted Muscles: Lower back muscles, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, and abs (4).
Variations: If you want to challenge these targeted muscles further, you can consider trying variations such as the superman to the hollow hold or alternating superman lift (4). But consult your trainer before making these changes.
How to (4):
- Lie on your stomach, face down, with your arms and legs straight but not locked. Keep your back straight and neck in a neutral position.
- While maintaining this alignment, simultaneously lift your arms and legs toward the ceiling to form an elongated “U” shape with your body. As your arms and legs lift off the floor, your back arches.
- Pause at the top of the movement for two to five seconds, then lower to the floor to complete one rep.
- Do three sets of 12 reps.
Dumbbell Overhead Press
The dumbbell overhead press is also known as the dumbbell shoulder press. As the name implies, this exercise uses dumbbells to target multiple muscles throughout your body.
Targeted Muscles: pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders), triceps (arms), glutes, trapezius (upper back), and lower back muscles (3).
Benefits: Dumbbell overhead presses help tone your back and build bigger shoulders. Additionally, the exercise can increase core strength and stability and improve muscle symmetry (3).
Variations: After mastering the dumbbell overhead press, you can consider adding its variations to your routine for further challenges. Some variations to consider are the seated dumbbell overhead press, dumbbell bench press, Arnold press, and dumbbell push press (3).
How to (3):
- Stand upright with feet hip-width apart and a slight bend in your knees. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and position your shoulders directly over your hips. Keep your head and neck in a neutral position.
- Grab two dumbbells and distribute your weight evenly. Keep your posture tall, chin tucked, and grip the floor with your feet to enhance foot stability. Raise the dumbbells slightly above your shoulders, with your palms facing forward and elbows pointed down. Engage your core and pretension your shoulders and hips. This should mark your starting position.
- Maintain neutral wrists and initiate the upward movement by pressing the dumbbells upward. As you press the dumbbells overhead, your shoulder blades should move naturally with your shoulder joints.
- Your arms must be long with a slight bend in your elbows at the top of the movement, with your palms facing forward. Pause at the top for a few seconds while maintaining distance between the dumbbells.
- Bend your elbows to return to the starting position. You should finish the downward movement with your dumbbells above your shoulders without contacting your shoulders.
- Repeat 2–3 sets of 6–12 repetitions.
The lateral raise is also referred to as the side lateral raise. It is one of the practical shoulder-strengthening exercises that also targets your trapezius muscles (8). It is a must-have in your routine to develop strong and broad shoulders.
Targeted Muscles: Anterior and lateral deltoids (shoulders) and upper back muscles
Benefits: Besides getting defined and broad shoulders, lateral raises also stabilize the shoulder joint and strengthen your shoulders (8). In addition, with proper form, this exercise helps you build strength for more rigorous exercises like the barbell bench presses (8).
How to (8):
- Stand tall while holding a dumbbell in each hand, arch your back, and pull your stomach in. Pinch your shoulder blades together and position your feet hip distance apart. Similarly, roll your shoulders back, engage your core muscles, and look straight ahead.
- At this point, your arms should hang by your sides with the dumbbells in your hand. Now, inhale and raise both arms simultaneously, with the weights a few inches out to each side. Raise your arms until your back forms the letter “T” shape. Be careful not to lock your elbows.
- Hold this stance for a few seconds.
- Exhale and slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position by returning your arms down to your sides.
- Repeat and complete the desired reps.
The Bottom Line
Targeted back and shoulder exercises are paramount if you want to tone these areas and lift heavier. You can do so at home, with minimal equipment, or likewise at the gym. Depending on where you choose to work out, several of these exercises will add to shoulder and back workouts for females.
You can consider performing the bent-over row, shoulder press, and seated cable row at the gym. But at home you can complete the dumbbell overhead press, lateral raises, superman exercise, reverse fly with dumbbells, and the diamond push-ups. However, consult your trainer before adding these to your workout plan.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Bent-Over Row Exercise Guide: How to Master Bent-Over Rows (2021, masterclass.com)
- Diamond Push-up Guide: How to Master Diamond Push-ups (2021, masterclass.com)
- How to Do Dumbbell Overhead Presses With Perfect Form (2021, masterclass.com)
- How to Do the Superman Exercise (2021, popsugar.com)
- Seated Cable Row Guide: How to Master the Seated Cable Row (2021, masterclass.com)
- Shoulder Press Guide: How to Master the Shoulder Press (2021, masterclass.com)
- Video: Reverse fly with dumbbell (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- What Do Lateral Raises Do? (2021, medicinenet.com)