Compared to joints like the knees, elbows and wrists, shoulders have an enormous range of motion. There are many movements you can do, including pressing and pulling, horizontally and vertically. In fact, most upper-body exercises work the shoulder muscles in one way or another.
The main muscle that covers your shoulder is called the deltoid. It can be broken into three parts: anterior (front), middle and rear. When you do a pushing exercise like a bench press or pushup, you work the anterior part. Overhead pressing movements work the anterior and middle. Pulling movements like rows or pullups work the rear.
To work all parts of the deltoid you need to press, pull and lift weights overhead. Shoulder workouts can be tricky, because the deltoid is small relative to bigger muscles like the glutes or lats. Even the chest muscles are big relative to the shoulder. That means your shoulders will get tired quickly, even in a seven-minute workout. Using different types of exercises lets one part of your shoulder rest while the other works.
In this workout there are pressing and pulling movements. There are also vertical and horizontal movements. The variations allow you to keep working for nearly the entire seven minutes.
For the workout, you’ll do each exercise for 20 seconds. After the sixth exercise you’ll rest for 30 seconds, then repeat. When you’re doing each exercise, do as many reps as possible. Keep all your equipment close, because there won’t be much time to change as you move through the circuit.
Curl and Press
Even though this is a shoulder workout, the curl and press gives you a quick break from holding the weights up on each rep. When the weights are by your sides your shoulders can relax for a moment, which you’ll appreciate as the workout progresses.
The move: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand with your arms relaxed by your side. Turn your palms up and curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Then, press the dumbbells overhead until your elbows are straight and rotate the weights in as you go up. Bring your hands back down to your shoulders then back down to your waist.
Upright Row, Barbell
This is a barbell exercise, but you can replace it with dumbbells if need be. If you do, follow the same instructions as the barbell exercise.
The move: Start standing with your hands on a barbell, shoulder-width apart. Then, pull the barbell up in front of your body until it’s at chest-height. As you pull up stay tall and try not to lean back. Keep your elbows above your hands at all times. Lower the barbell back down to your waist under control.
Front and Lateral Dumbbell Raise
Time to exchange your heavy barbell for a pair of light dumbbells. This is a difficult exercise, so choose something near 10 pounds or even less.
The move: Stand tall with dumbbells in your hands. Keeping your elbows straight, lift your arms up in front of your body until your arms are parallel to the ground. Then, lower them back down to your waist. Next, you’ll raise your arms out to the side with your elbows straight. Raise your arms until they’re parallel to the ground.
This is one of the best exercises for your anterior and middle deltoid. It’s a strong movement that allows you to use heavy weights, so grab a challenging pair of dumbbells.
The move: Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand. Bring the weights up to your shoulders and turn them out so your palms are facing forward. Press the weight straight up, without turning your hands, until your elbows are locked out. Think about trying to touch your biceps to your ears. Then, lower the weight to your shoulders.
With this banded exercise, you’ll work the rear deltoid, which is a weaker muscle than those in the front. Use a lighter band and focus on doing the movement correctly for as many reps as possible.
The move: Stand with your hands on a resistance band. Put your hands at the ends of the band. Hold your arms out straight in front of you with your arms parallel to the ground. Pull the band apart until it touches your chest, then return to the front. If you want to make the exercise more difficult, move your hands in closer to the center.
Combining a triceps and shoulder exercise helps you get some extra reps in at the end of the circuit when your shoulders are tired.
The move: Start seated on the edge of a bench, box or chair. Put your hands next to your hips at the edge of the box. Walk your feet out so your butt is in front of the bench. Slowly bend your arms until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Then, press yourself back up until your arms are straight. You can make the exercise harder by straightening your knees.
Changing the equipment you use or the way you perform an overhead press can also change the way your shoulder muscles are recruited. For example, twisting your hands out as you press up activates the medial deltoid more, according to a 2017 study published in the Indian Journal of Public Health Research & Development. This variation is also known as the Arnold press.
You can recruit your anterior deltoid more if you use dumbbells, compared to kettlebells. A research paper published in the International Journal of Exercise Science showed dumbbells were better at activating the front of the deltoid because the weight from kettlebells is off-center.