Upper body training is becoming increasingly popular with women at the gym, and with good reason. It’s all well having a nice pair of legs, a good set of glutes and a flat or ‘toned’ stomach, but you can’t ignore the rest of your body. How many times have you heard people making comments about guys skipping leg day. We definitely shouldn’t be skipping upper bod day, either.
One upper body part, which will give you a major advantage in terms of your overall figure, making your waist look smaller, and your bum look bigger all in one go, are shoulders. Having nice, rounded delts will have an impact on your overall package, and who wouldn’t want that?
Where to begin?
You’ve probably seen all the many (many, many…) booty workouts on social media, but where are the upper body videos? You’ll need to start with a bit of inspiration, and fortunately, more and more girls are now sharing their upper bod workouts, making it easier for you to get your head around how to grow those muscles.
But, let’s take it back to basics: Bodybuilding.com’s extensive database has pretty much every exercise you’ll ever need, with instructions on how to do them, and videos to go with it.
For shoulders, you’ll be looking for deltoids (delts: the main part of your shoulder, the ‘capped’ bit), and the trapezius (traps: the muscle which runs from your neck, to your shoulder and down into your back).
This is because you’ll want to be hitting all parts of your shoulders in order to see the most growth and progress – which, when you think about it, is obvious.
It’s pretty simple when it comes to your shoulders: hit the front, the back, the top and the sides. Raises are great for the front of your delts, and any form of front raises will hit them.
You can do them with a plate, dumbbells or a barbell. Hold your chosen weight at arms length in front of you, and raise it upwards in line with or past your face. Make sure your stance is strong, and don’t swing when you lift the weight in front of you. The pressure should be on your shoulders, so don’t take it off them by using the momentum of the weight coming down to push it back up again.
Your traps play a key role in the growth of the back of your shoulders, as well as your rear delts – which you’ll often find yourself hitting on back day, with exercises like lat pull downs. For the traps, any form of shrugging exercise helps with their growth. I have also found that deadlifts have helped to strengthen my traps – remember, a lot of muscles can grow when you’re not specifically targeting them, but they are recruited in compound lifts such as a deadlift.
In terms of your rear delts, if you want to target them on shoulder dear, bent over rear delt flyes are a key exercise. You’ll need light dumbbells for this, and they can be done a number of ways. My favourite way is this (head on a bench is optional, I never do it.).
Your best friend for the sides of your shoulders will be dumbbells and cables. You could superset front raises with side raises, which is a common exercise you’ll find in a weights room.
You can also focus on unilateral training here, and one exercise I always pick on shoulder days is cable side raises, using the handle attachment, superset with cable pull outs (having the cable, sans attachment, and pulling it out in a line across my body and back again).
Get it above your head, and you’ll be hitting as essential part of your delts. The two best exercises for this are seated (or standing, if you prefer) dumbbell press or standing barbell press.
Keep your core tight and again, don’t use the momentum to push the weight back up – it’s cheating! They are the most common shoulder exercises you’ll see, and the ones you’re likely to see more progress on in terms of strength and working your way up the weights.
Learn to love upper body day – most importantly, shoulder day – as much as you love training legs and glutes. You’ll definitely thank yourself later.