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3 Basic Shoulder Exercises for the Gym

two women holding dumbells with outstretched arms
Strengthening your shoulders can improve your posture.

It's no surprise that a lot of gym-goers love to work out their shoulders. Not only can strengthening your shoulders help improve your posture, but it can make your everyday life a little easier — like when carrying groceries or children in from the car.

Here are three basic shoulder exercises to try the next time you hit the gym.

1. Shoulder Press

This exercise is known as a "compound movement," meaning it requires the movement of more than one joint. In this case, the shoulders and elbows move to push the weight overhead. Compound movements are great for muscle-building and fat burning because they require more energy. This is also a very functional exercise, as it mimics movements you might do in everyday life — like putting your suitcase in the overhead compartment.

To set up for the shoulder press, hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip (palms facing down), bend your elbows and safely bring your hands up to shoulder height (palms should now be facing upward).

With control, push the dumbbells up overhead so you finish with your biceps next to your ears. Pause for half a second before returning to the start position. Keep the path of the dumbbells as straight as possible. Your stomach muscles should remain tight throughout the movement and your spine should remain neutral.

2. Front Shoulder Raises

This is what's called an "isolation exercise," meaning it focuses on one specific joint and works one area of muscle. To set up, take a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing down. In a standing position, the dumbbells should be resting against your body.

Keeping a slight bend at the elbows (while maintaining rigidity in the arms), raise your arms out in front of you to bring the dumbbells up to about shoulder height, before returning to the start position. Try to avoid internally rotating the shoulders — instead, think about keeping your shoulder blades down and back.

Maintain a neutral spine and tight stomach muscles throughout the movement. Your torso shouldn't move much during this exercise.

3. Lateral Shoulder Raises

This is another isolation exercise, and one of the most popular shoulder exercises. To set up, take a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (with your palms facing inward) and stand with soft knees, a neutral spine and tight stomach muscles.

Keep a slight bend at the elbows while maintaining some rigidity in the arms. Raise your arms out to the side, until your elbows are just below shoulder height. In this position, your body should form a "T" shape. Again, avoid internally rotating the shoulders and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement. Keep your arms raised for a moment before returning to the start position.

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.