Shoulder Workouts for Women: Sculpt, Tone, and Strengthen Your Arms

Shoulder workouts for women: woman lifting dumbbells

If you want to increase your strength and up your gym selfie game, you came to the right place! This article will show you everything you need about shoulder workouts for women. But first, let's talk about why it's important to exercise those upper body muscles.

Grab your favorite protein powder, your go-to blender bottle, and let’s get started. 

Benefits of Shoulders Workouts

Shoulder workouts for women: woman flexing her bicep

Shoulders play an essential role in supporting upper body workouts, stability, posture, and adding to your physique’s overall aesthetics.

If you want to show your shoulders some love, we’re here to help! Before we give you a round-up of our favorite shoulder workouts for women, let's go over why you should regularly work out this muscle group.

1. Improves Upper Body Workouts

Many shoulder exercises also engage other upper body muscles such as the triceps and chest. All these muscles help improve your upper body strength and your arm and upper body aesthetics. Strength matters, but so does your selfie game! 📸

Training shoulders allows you to do more with your upper body workouts, such as including “push” and “pull” exercises.

2. Prevents Shoulder Injuries

If not appropriately trained, shoulders can easily get injured during workouts. By strengthening your shoulder muscles, you increase strength and stability, thus preventing or reducing the risk of shoulder injuries.

3. Improves Stability and Mobility 

Shoulders are one of the more complex joints in your body that require attention. By exercising and strengthening your shoulder muscles, you improve your shoulders’ stability. 

The rotator cuff muscles play a key role in stabilizing other parts of the shoulder like the scapula, serratus anterior, and pec minor muscles.

3 Major Shoulder Muscles to Work Out 

Shoulder workouts for women: woman sitting on a kitchen counter while drinking Cira

There are three major shoulder muscles to focus on in our workouts. The entire shoulder muscle group is called the “deltoids”, or “delts”, and is composed of three major muscle groups: the front deltoid, lateral deltoid, and posterior deltoid.

1. Front Deltoid

The front deltoid is on the front of the shoulder, just above the pectorals. This muscle helps you flex your shoulders, supports chest (pecs) and back (lats), and helps you stretch your arms.

Two exercises that target your front delts are pressing exercises and frontward movements.

2. Lateral Deltoid

The lateral deltoid is on the outer side of our shoulder, just between the front and posterior deltoids. The lateral deltoid supports shoulder rotation. One of the most common exercises for our lateral deltoid is the lateral raise.

3. Posterior Deltoid

Also called the “rear delt”, the posterior deltoid is located at the rear part of the back of your shoulder. Its primary role is to support rear arm movement, such as in a rowing motion.

8 Best Shoulder Exercises for Women

Shoulder workouts for women: group of Cira women at the gym

Now that you know the importance of working out your shoulders, it’s time to talk about the exercises you can add to your workout routine. For this article, we have eight exercises that will target the different parts of your delts.

Grab your pre-workout, start stretching, and get ready for a killer workout!

1. Band Pull-Apart

Shoulder workouts for women: woman using a resistance band on her arms

This exercise is not only a killer shoulder workout. If you engage your muscles correctly, it can support your abs as well. Band pull-aparts target muscles in your upper back and shoulders, helping to increase your upper body strength while supporting shoulder health and stability. They can help with compound exercises as well! If you love band workouts like this one, add any of these 12 band workouts to your next strength training.

How to do it:

  1. To start, stand up straight and grab a resistance band. Place your hands inside the resistance band, positioning your elbows at a 90-degree angle, holding your hands within the band one foot apart.
  2. From there, stretch the band by pulling your arms away from each other. Stretch as much as you can and hold for a few seconds before slowly returning to the original position.
  3. That’s one rep. Repeat the exercise for 10-15 reps, and then repeat for 2-3 sets.

2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Shoulder workouts for women: woman doing a dumbbell lateral raise

This exercise calls for dumbbells, but there are different variations. We’ll cover the basic lateral raise. Grab your dumbbells, and let’s go! 

How to do it:

  1. To start, stand on the ground or sit on a bench, your feet slightly apart from each other. You can also stand with slightly bent knees and slightly bend your torso forward. Grab a dumbbell in each of your hands, palms facing one another. 
  2. Raise both of your arms sideways until they are parallel to your shoulders. 
  3. Then, slowly lower them until they are in their original position.
  4. That’s one rep. Repeat the exercise for 10-15 reps, and then repeat for 2-3 sets.

3. Rear-Delt Fly

The rear-delt fly is a popular exercise for a good reason. This shoulder strengthener not only works out your primary muscles, the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids, but also secondary upper back muscles, rhomboids, and the erector spinae. 

For an extra “oomph,” add dumbbells

How to:

  1. To start, stand on the ground, feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Slightly bend your knees, torso bent at an 80-degree angle.
  3. Keep your hands at your side and facing inward. Grab a dumbbell in each hand. 
  4. Lift both of your arms sideways until they are parallel to your shoulders. Then, slowly lower them until they are in their original position.
  5. That’s one rep. Repeat the exercise for 10-15 reps, and then repeat for 2-3 sets.

4. Upright Row with Kettlebell

Shoulder workouts for women: woman lifting a kettle ball using both hands

In one swift movement, the upright row strengthens your upper back muscles, shoulder muscles, and biceps. This movement activates all the shoulder muscles

How to do it:

  1. To start, stand on the ground with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. For the starting position, grab the kettlebell with both hands letting your arms hang naturally in front.
  3. Lift the kettlebell until it is at chest level. Do not lift beyond this, as it will strain your neck. After lifting it, hold for a few seconds before slowly lowering it to the original position.
  4. That’s one rep. Repeat the exercise for 10-15 reps, and then repeat for 2-3 sets.

5. Front Raise With Kettlebell

Woman doing a kettlebell raise

The front raise helps to work out your shoulder muscles, upper chest, and front delts. The kettlebell adds more resistance to the movement, increasing the workout’s effectiveness. 

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the kettlebell with both hands and in front of your body. 
  2. With your knees bent, swing the kettlebell until your arms are straight in front of you. 
  3. Swiftly bring the kettlebell back down to the starting position in front of your body.
  4. That’s one rep. Repeat the exercise for 10-15 reps, and then repeat for 2-3 sets.

6. Commando

Woman doing a commando plank

If you don’t have a ton of time to work out but want to get in a good workout, this compound exercise is a great option. Compound workouts exercise multiple muscle groups, giving you a killer workout. Whether you add it into a HIIT workout, use it to round out cardio, or use it as a warm-up, it helps work out your shoulders, abs, arms, and triceps

How to do it:

  1. To start, get in a plank position. Your feet should be hip-width apart, and forearms extended on the mat.
  2. Releasing your right forearm, place your hand facedown on the mat, pushing your body upward.
  3. After placing your right hand on the mat, do the same with your left. You are now in a push-up position.
  4. From the push-up plank position, bring your right arm back to the elbow plank position, followed with your left arm.
  5. Repeat the exercise for 10-15 reps, and then repeat for 2-3 sets.

7. Push Press (Dumbbells)

The dumbbell push press is a popular compound exercise that works your shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, core, quads, deltoids, trapezius, triceps, and forearms. Talk about getting a bang for your buck! While you should always stretch before you work out, it’s especially important with this exercise, as it works so many muscles. 

How to do it:

  1. To start, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. 
  2. Then, rest the dumbbells on your shoulders, with your palms inwards and your elbows bent. 
  3. From your starting position, bend your knees slightly and then bring them back up. 
  4. As you are straightening your legs, raise the dumbbells above your head, keeping your palms inward.
  5. That’s one rep. Repeat the exercise for 10-15 reps, and then repeat for 2-3 sets.

8. Standing Shoulder Press

Woman doing a barbell shoulder press

The standing shoulder press is one of the most common exercises for boosting shoulder support and strength. This exercise uses a barbell you fully extend over your head, straightening your arms. 

How to do it: 

  1. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip .
  3. Slowly bring the barbell towards your chest until it rests right below your collarbone. You are now in the starting position
  4. Using your arm and shoulder muscles, start to straighten your arms, pushing the barbell up towards the sky. 
  5. When your arms are fully extended, bend your elbows and slowly bring the barbell down to your chest again. 
  6. Repeat the exercise for 10-15 reps, and then repeat for 2-3 sets.

Shoulder Workouts for Women FAQs

Two happy women wearing Cira gym clothes

Now that you’re well on your way to mastering your shoulder toning regime, let's go over some of the most commonly asked questions! 

1. ​Can I Add Shoulder Workouts Into My Full-Body Workouts? 

Short answer — yes! Long answer, it's up to you. Full-body workouts often include exercises that workout your shoulders, as they work out every major muscle group. If you already have a full-body workout lined up, add in a few of the above exercises to target your shoulders.

2. How Many Times a Week Should I Lift Weights?

This is another matter of personal preference. Some people prefer to lift light weights daily, while others prefer higher weighted strength training 2-4 days a week. This depends on your goals and what you feel comfortable with. 

3. Can I Combine Shoulder Workouts With My Arms Workout

Yes, it's a great idea to combine your arm workout with your shoulder workout . That way, you can rest those upper-body muscles for a few days while you focus on the other major muscle groups.

Get Ready for Sculpted Shoulders

Woman stretching on the floor

We hope you enjoy these shoulder exercises we put together. You can complete them at the gym or incorporate them into a home workout.

Either way, these upper body workouts will help you sculpt your arms and get closer to the infamous Jennifer Aniston look every single day. 

While we love these eight shoulder exercises, there are many more to try out. For other workout ideas, try these leg workouts for women and full body band exercises

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