Chest and shoulder exercises should play an important role in any workout plan. Having strong chest muscles (pectoral muscles) will enhance your posture and strengthen your back. When you push a door open or push a couch, your chest muscles are used. The shoulder joint is the most flexible joint in the body, so the shoulder muscles need to be strengthened to prevent injury. Reaching to put an object on a high shelf or throwing a baseball rely on utilizing your shoulder muscles.
Toning the chest and shoulders both contribute to overall upper body strength. Targeting these areas also help you perform other exercises. For example, strong chest muscles help you do goblet squats (in which a weight, such as a dumbbell or kettlebell, is held at the chest). Strong shoulder muscles also help when doing lunges with a heavy bag held overhead. Here are exercises to include in a chest and shoulder workout.
This is a great bodyweight exercise that can be performed anywhere. High plank is the starting position, with the wrists directly under the shoulders, the arms and legs straight, and the body in a straight line from the heels to the top of the head. Lower your chest to the floor, keeping your back flat and making sure not to flare your elbows out. If the movement is too fast, it will be difficult to maintain a full range of motion. To start small and progress into full pushups, you can start with knee pushups or wall pushups.
If you are new to this exercise, start by placing your hands on the floor with your fingers pointed toward your feet. Your legs can either be bent or straight. Bend your elbows as your hips lower toward the floor, and then push back up to return to the starting position. Dips can also be performed by placing your hands on a bench or chair. Keep your hips close to the bench to fully activate the upper body muscles. The next progression is to do the exercise using parallel bars.
Start with light weight for this exercise and use a spotter once heavier weight is used. Lying on a bench with your feet under your knees, your eyes should be directly under the barbell in the starting position. Place your hands a bit wider than your shoulders, with the bar directly over your wrists and forearms. With your chest lifted, bring the bar all the way down to your chest and all the way back up so your arms are extended.
Cable Machine Chest Presses
With the handles at chest level and one foot in front of the other, push the handles straight out in front until you reach a full extension. Fully stretch the arms back when returning to the starting position, with the handles to the sides of your chest. To activate the leg muscles more, the exercise can be performed in a full lunge position. More chest workouts!
Chest Fly Machine
This exercise is done in a seated position. Since balance is not tested, it is great for beginners. The handles should be at chest level, so adjust the height of the seat accordingly. With the palms facing forward and arms slightly bent, press the handles together in front of your chest. Hold the closed position for a second, and open your chest when returning to the starting position. To prevent injuring your lower back, keep your back in contact with the back rest and don’t arch your back.
Dumbbell Lateral Raises
This exercise isolates the middle part of the deltoid muscle known as the lateral deltoid. Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing in. Your arms should be kept fairly straight as the weights are lifted at your side then to shoulder level. Start with light weights to prevent momentum from being used. Slow and controlled reps also help prevent the arms from swinging. A slight pause at the bottom position is better than a full stop for keeping the tension tight throughout the movement.
Dumbbell Front Raises
The anterior (front) deltoid is primarily worked in this exercise. With your palms facing down, raise the weights in front of you to shoulder level. Using light weights and keeping the abs tight will help to prevent momentum from being used. To get a full stretch of the shoulders, reach for the wall in front. This exercise can also be done with a weighted plate, a barbell, or kettlebells. A variation of this exercise is doing alternating raises in which one arm comes up at a time.
Bent-Over Reverse Flys
This exercise targets the posterior (back) deltoid. Bend over until your chest is nearly parallel to the floor, with the knees slightly bent. Lift the dumbbells out to the sides to shoulder level, and squeeze the shoulder blades at the top position. The rear delts won’t be isolated if the weights are too heavy since other muscles will be used to lift them up. Lighter weights may be required when performing the exercise from a seated position since the leg muscles aren’t activated.
This exercise can be done with dumbbells or a barbell. In the starting position, the arms form a 90-degree angle with the upper arms parallel to the floor and the palms facing forward. Press the weight overhead with a full extension of the arms. Make sure to return your arms to the starting position and not lower than that point, otherwise momentum may be used. Shoulder presses can also be done seated, but the core is activated more in a standing position.
Cable Machine Face Pulls
The rear delts are targeted in this exercise. Use a rope attachment with two handles, and pull from a high position on the cable machine. With the palms facing down, pull the rope toward your head and out to the sides at the finished position. Make sure the elbows stay higher than the wrists. Face pulls can also be performed as a TRX suspension training exercise. Hold the handles and lean all the way back, and then pull your body forward so your face moves toward the handles.