Three Shoulder Workouts For Women To Fit Into Any Schedule

Women performing the front raise shoulder exercise
(Image credit: Getty Images / Hirurg)

Devoting time to exercising your shoulder muscles is important for a number of reasons. Aesthetically, it can help define and sculpt the upper body, but there is so much more to the shoulders than just looking good.

Incorporating resistance training to help build muscle is always beneficial. Not only does a higher muscle mass help maintain a faster metabolism, but it can also protect bone density. Strength training for women is especially important because hormonal changes during menopause can lead to brittle bones.

Strong muscles in the shoulders also help to stabilise the shoulder joint, as well as improve posture.

The shoulders aren’t just made up of one muscle, though. The traps muscles run from the neck and spine to the shoulder blade; the lats run from the spine to the armpits; the deltoids are three muscles that surround the shoulders; and the rotator cuff muscles surround the shoulder joint, ensuring the arm stays in the shoulder socket.

We’ve created three workouts aimed at working these shoulder muscles, ranging from 15 to 35 minutes each.

Each workout uses the below five moves and most require a set of dumbbells (if you prefer to exercise at home, check out the best dumbbells for your home gym and get familiar with these dumbbell exercises for women). Give each move a go with light weights so you’re familiar with the form, then pick the workout you want to do, depending on your available time.

Be sure to warm up beforehand with some upper-body stretches. And once you’ve mastered these and are ready to move on, browse our collection of shoulder workouts and a rundown of the best shoulder exercises for beginner, intermediate and advanced gym-goers. 

The Exercises

Dumbbell upright row

Dumbbell upright row

(Image credit: Getty Images / Hirurg)

Stand with feet hip-width apart holding dumbbells. Your arms should be straight down in front of your body, with your palms facing you. Pull the dumbbells up, flaring your elbows out to the sides until your upper arms form a T shape with your body and your hands are by your chest. Pause, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the start.

Dumbbell front raise

Dumbbell front raise shoulder exercise

(Image credit: Getty Images / Stevica Mrdja / EyeEm)

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a slight bend in your knees, holding dumbbells by your sides, palms facing inwards. Lift the dumbbells in front of you, keeping your arms extended, until the dumbbells reach eye level. Pause, then lower back to the start. You can do one arm at a time if two at once is too hard. You could also do this with one dumbbell, held with both hands.

Dumbbell reverse flye

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells by your sides. Hinging at the hips, bend forwards until your torso is close to parallel to the floor. Let your arms hang down with palms facing and a slight bend in your elbows. Engage your core and lift your arms out to the sides to form a T shape. Squeeze your shoulder blades at the top, then slowly lower back to the start.

Dumbbell overhead press

Dumbbell overhead press

(Image credit: Getty Images / Kolostock)

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and holding dumbbells by your shoulders. Engage your core, then press the dumbbells up until your arms are extended. Pause at the top, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to shoulder height.


Place your hands on the floor just wider than shoulder-width apart, with your body in a straight line and your toes on the floor. Bend your elbows to lower your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body and pointing backwards rather than flaring out to the sides. Press back up to the starting position.

If you’re struggling to complete a press-up, you can perform it with your knees resting on the floor. You can also add these triceps exercises for women and chest exercises for women to your training and you’ll build the strength to perform the move on your toes in next to no time. 

The Workouts

15-minute workout

This one is short and sweet, working the shoulders hard with little time for rest. Perform each of the four dumbbell exercises, one after the other, for 45 seconds, leaving a 30-second rest between each move. Then once the five minutes is up, repeat it. In the final five-minute round, add three press-ups to each of your 30-second rest periods.

1 Dumbbell upright row

2 Dumbbell front raise

3 Dumbbell reverse flye

4 Dumbbell press

30-minute workout

This longer workout incorporates all five moves. Do three sets of each move, following this work/rest split for each set:

Set 1: 60sec work, 45sec rest

Set 2: 45sec work, 30sec rest

Set 3: 20sec work, 10sec rest

Rest for a full minute between exercises. Once you’ve completed three sets of all five exercises, cycle through each exercise one more time, working for one minute on each and taking minimal rest between each exercise.

35-minute workout

With a bit more time to play with, we can add tempo training, which means slowing down each rep.

Perform each of the five moves below for 60 seconds, aiming to take at least four seconds to complete each rep, and ensure you pause at the top of the movement.

Aim to do 15 reps of each move, followed by a 45-second rest. Do this four times for each move before moving on to the next exercise.

Lucy Gornall

Lucy is an experienced health and fitness journalist, and was formerly health editor for TI Media’s portfolio of women’s titles. Lucy qualified as a level 3 personal trainer with Train Fitness in 2016, and also holds qualifications in pre- and post-natal fitness, as well as in nutrition for exercise.