We’ve all seen the ads for those gadgets that help you stay upright as you sit at your desk or commute to work. You can nip your bad shoulder posture right in the bud with these light dumbbell exercises instead!
Poor posture is on the rise – mostly because so many of us work at a desk for long hours at a time. Sitting with your arms hunched over a keyboard quickly leads to chest and shoulder tightness, which can lead to shoulder weakness. If you don’t regularly work to combat the negative effects of your desk job, this muscle tightness can cause serious pain in the shoulders, back, and neck.
The best way to combat poor posture is through strength training and stretching. When it comes to strength training the shoulders, you’ll want to focus on the rotator cuff muscles – the ones that stabilize the shoulder – and the deltoids, which make up the top of the shoulder. Start working these important muscles with high reps of light weights to help you develop shoulder strength and mobility.
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Try this shoulder routine to get started. We’ll use a pair of inexpensive, lightweight dumbbells to bring strength and overall balance back into those tight shoulders. We recommend starting with 3–5 lb dumbbells and practicing these exercises up to 1–2x a week. Once you get stronger, you can increase the weight of the dumbbells or the number of reps.
Alternating Shoulder Press | 10 reps per side
This exercise targets one of the small rotator cuff muscles and the deltoid on top of the shoulder.
- Start seated, kneeling, or standing and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows and hold the dumbbells right above each shoulder. Engage your abs.
- Exhale as you press your right arm straight above your head. Keep it slightly angled forward.
- Inhale to lower it back down, then switch sides. Alternate arms for a total of 10 reps per side.
Arnold Press | 10 reps
This exercise improves shoulder mobility while strengthening the rotator cuff muscles.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows to hold them up in front of each shoulder, and turn your palms to face your body. Engage your abs.
- Exhale as you press the dumbbells up, rotating your palms to face away from you as you straighten your arms above your head. Keep your arms angled slightly forward.
- Inhale to lower back down to the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps.
T Shoulder Raises | 5 reps
Increase your mobility as you target the tops of your shoulders. Make sure to keep your neck relaxed the entire time. Once you get comfortable with this exercise, challenge yourself to 10 full reps!
- Begin kneeling or standing. With a dumbbell in each hand, straighten your arms down by your sides and engage your abs.
- Inhale as you lift your arms straight out to the sides so that the dumbbells are in line with your shoulders. Then, keep them at shoulder level as you exhale and bring them forward until they are shoulder-width distance apart.
- Inhale to open your arms back out to the sides and then exhale to lower them back down towards the floor. Repeat for five reps.
Lateral Shoulder Circles | 8 reps per direction
This shoulder posture improving exercise enhances your mobility and strengthens all of the rotator cuff muscles, as well as the delts.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest your arms down by your sides.
- Keep your arms straight as you lift your arms out to the sides until they are in line with your shoulders. Turn the palms to face forward.
- Breathe slowly as you take 8 small circles in a forward direction. Then, reverse direction.
Race Car Driver | 20 sec
This exercise may seem easy, but it’ll make those shoulders burn!
- Use both hands to hold the ends of one dumbbell.
- With straight arms, lift the dumbbell straight forward until it is in line with your shoulders. Engage your abs.
- Rotate the dumbbell so that one side of it is down and the other is up. Then, rotate it back to center, and then to the other side. Continue rotating back and forth for 20 secs.
Rear Delt Fly | 10 reps
Sitting unnaturally rounds the shoulders forward. This exercise fixes your shoulder posture by re-strengthening weakened rear delt muscles.
- Stand up and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bring a little bend into your knees, tilt your pelvis slightly forward, and then hinge at the hips to bring your chest about parallel to the ground.
- Keep your abs engaged and squeeze your shoulder blades towards one another as you reach your arms straight towards the ground.
- Bring a small bend into your elbows and exhale as you “fly” your arms out and up. Squeeze your shoulder blades at the top, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps.
Straight Arm Kickbacks | 15 reps
Fix your shoulder posture and strengthen your rear delts and triceps with this simple exercise.
- Start standing and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees and hinge at your hips to lower your chest about 45 degrees towards the ground. Engage your abs and draw your shoulder blades together to keep your back flat.
- Keep your arms straight as you lift them up and back until you feel your rear delts and triceps activate.
- Pulse up an inch and then lower back down an inch for 15 reps.
Pushup Plank | 8 reps per side
You can set those dumbbells aside for this last one! This total body exercise will combat poor shoulder posture by strengthening the whole upper body.
- Begin in a forearm plank. Tap your knees down for a modified version if you need to.
- Place your right palm under your right shoulder and then your left palm under your left shoulder to press up to a high plank.
- Then, slowly lower down to your right forearm and then your left forearm to come back into your forearm plank position.
- Repeat for eight reps leading with the right arm, then do eight reps leading with the left arm.
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