Amy Updike, NLA For Her-sponsored athlete and IFBB Bikini pro, loves transforming her body with targeted workouts designed to build muscle and sculpt curves.

"Shoulders are one of my favorite muscle groups to lift with," says Updike, "I like to do this workout once a week for muscle building and to help make the shoulders appear more round and athletic."

Begin the workout by warming up with a couple of lighter exercises in the 20-rep range. Add more weight as you drop to sets of 12-15 reps. Finish up with heavy double dropsets at the end. This all-over shoulder workout should take 45 minutes to complete.

Shoulder-Transformer Workout
Side Lateral Raise
2 sets, 20 reps (warm-up)
+ 7 more exercises


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Warm-up: Lateral Raise and Around-the-World

As Updike explains, the shoulder is an easily-injured joint, so it's important to adequately warm up. You'll use the first two exercises as your warm-up, choosing lighter weights for the lateral raise and completing 2 sets of 20 reps.

"During the lateral raises, keep your body upright, your shoulders back, and your elbows up," coaches Updike. "You're using light weight, so use good form."

Shoulder Transformation Workout

The second warm-up exercise is around-the-worlds using a weight plate. Do 2 sets of 10 rotations in each direction.

As you perform each rep, move your shoulders and elbows around with each rotation.

"Focus on bringing that plate around your head instead of just spinning it at the top," Updike says.

You're still warming up, so stick with a lighter weight for now, and stretch during your rest periods to increase your mobility and prevent injury.

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Seated Arnold Press

Now that you're warmed up, move on to the heavier exercises. Updike's first choice is a classic shoulder builder, the Arnold press.

"I like this exercise because it's a compound movement that targets both the front and medial deltoid muscles," explains Updike.

Indeed, the dynamic, multi-planar motion of this lift has made it a popular shoulder-building exercise since Arnold Schwarzenegger made it famous.

Shoulder Transformation Workout

Hold dumbbells in front of your chin with your arms parallel to each other and your palms facing you. Rotate from your shoulders as you bring the weights out and back, so your palms face forward as you press up. Extend your arms but don't lock out your elbows at the top. Follow the same path in reverse as you return to the starting position. Complete 4 sets of 12-15 reps.

Front Raise With a Plate

This exercise is great for isolating the front delt. To increase muscle size, think about increasing the time under tension as you lower the plate. Control the weight, don't let it fall.

"I want you to use a neutral hand position, and bring the weight up to your shoulders," says Updike. But stop there. "If you go above shoulder height, you take the tension off the muscle," she says.

Use a weight you can lift slowly and under control for 4 sets of 12-15 reps.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Reverse Fly

You've worked the medial delt and the front delt, so now it's time to focus on the back of the shoulder. When performing this exercise, you're going to bend over by hinging forward at the hips, keeping your core tight and your knees slightly bent. Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing each other so when you lift the weights up, your palms face the ground.

"Do your best to squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of every rep," says Updike.

Keep your back straight and try not to swing your body as you work through 4 sets of 12-15 reps.

Upright Row

With your entire shoulder complex primed and ready to go, reach for some heavier weight, in this case a barbell. Use an overhand grip, hands close together. As you pull up the bar, bring your elbows up and out with each rep.

"Don't ever sacrifice form to lift heavier weight," cautions Updike.

Shoulder Transformation Workout

Keep your back straight and avoid using momentum as you lift the bar for 4 sets of 12-15 reps.

Lateral Raise Dropsets

You're almost done. For the final exercise, you're going to do double dropsets. You only have to complete 7 reps at each weight, so don't be afraid to go heavy.

"I like to finish with these double dropsets because I feel like it fatigues and helps build my shoulder muscles," says Updike. "Lateral raises are one of my favorite exercises to build that nice round appearance in the shoulder."

Keep your body upright and your core tight as you raise your elbows with each rep. Complete 7 reps with your heavier set of dumbbells before dropping down—without resting—to the lighter weight for another 7 reps. Again with resting, drop down one more time for a final 7 reps. Once you've finished the double dropset, you can rest. Repeat this process for each of your 4 sets.

About the Author

Heather Eastman, NSCA-CPT

Heather Eastman, NSCA-CPT

Heather’s mission is to use her passion for fitness and her knowledge of training and nutrition to educate and motivate others to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle.

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