As the weather warms up, it's time to pack away your heavy sweaters and bring out skin-baring clothing that'll have you showing off your physique for all to see. From bathing suits to dresses to tank tops, summer's calling.
But where to start? If you thought logging countless miles on your Fitbit would single-handedly do the job, you're mistaken. The fastest route to a head-turning body? Strength training. Lifting will yield the shapely results you're after.
In particular, you'll want to focus on building strong, shapely shoulders; capped shoulders really stand out when you're wearing sleeveless tops. Not to mention, they can also help create the illusion of a smaller waistline. If an hourglass figure is what you're after, stately shoulders should be your focus. Working out is only half the battle, though—the rest comes with how you train.
Ashley Hoffmann is here to tell you how to get started, and to share her killer tips for getting your workout in line.1
Never Skip Your Warm-Up
Even if you have the best exercises in your workout program, you'll find yourself in trouble if you don't warm up first. One wrong move and your workout could be over before it's begun. "Many people are susceptible to shoulder or rotator-cuff injuries when they work out cold," says Hoffmann. Warming up is a good first line of defense. "To prevent strain, make sure that you fully stretch and warm up before beginning your shoulder workout."
By adding a warm-up, you'll increase blood flow to the working muscle tissues, allowing you to achieve greater strength and power output.2
Don't Forget Your Rear Delts
The next must for an effective shoulder workout is to make sure you're achieving good balance between the front, medial, and rear heads. Ideally, you should be performing the same number of sets for each, focusing on both compound and isolation movements. When you're choosing exercises, keep in mind that some movements will automatically target certain heads more than others. For example, you'll hit the front heads any time you bench. When doing a shoulder press, you'll primarily call the medial and front heads into play. The rear heads, however, tend to be overlooked.
"Often, the rear delt is neglected," explains Hoffmann, "so you'll want to be sure you emphasize it in particular." Some exercises to consider when targeting the rear delts include bent-over lateral raises, face pulls, and reverse pec-deck flyes.
Choose an Appropriate Weight
When choosing a weight, many women make the mistake of going too light. While you don't want to go so heavy that knocking out one rep is a struggle, you should feel like you're challenging yourself. You never want to sacrifice form to set a PR, but choose a weight that makes you work, especially during the last two reps of each set.
"You want to choose a weight that's challenging, but isn't so heavy that you start using your body's momentum to lift the weight," says Hoffmann. If you have to swing the weight in any way, grab something lighter.
When checking your form, make sure you aren't letting your lower back sway; this is often the first place you'll notice your alignment going. If you aren't careful, it can lead to severe lower-back pain.4
Utilize Advanced Techniques To Increase The Burn
To really shock the shoulders and keep them growing, Hoffmann likes to integrate dropsets and sets taken to complete failure. "This helps ensure that muscle fatigue and intensity are both high, which will then lead to greater results," she says.
With both of these variations, pay special attention to your form and breathing pattern, which should be steady throughout. Ignoring these factors can render your hard work useless.
Place these all-out sets toward the end of your workout, using them as a finishing move to bring about full fatigue.5
Keep Your Rep Range Higher
Finally, you need to tailor your rep range to your specific training goals. For Hoffmann, that means staying in the 8-12-rep range. "I like using a higher rep range for hypertrophy training, which will help sculpt the shoulders quickly," she says. This isn't to say you should never do heavy, lower-rep sets for strength improvements, but when getting summer-ready is the goal, higher rep ranges should be your emphasis.
Take these tips for a test run with Hoffmann's shoulder workout. Done properly, you should start noticing results in just a few weeks!