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Shoulder Exercises to Sculpt and Tighten

Firm, chiseled shoulders not only help give you great posture but also make you look good. Learn how to get those shoulders moving in part 5 of WebMD's Fitness Series.
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Walk by the mirror and notice your posture. Do you like what you see?


Are you stooped forward and rounded at the shoulders? Is your upper back curved forward? Is your head forward of the rest of your body instead of floating atop your shoulders? If so, you may be overtraining the front of your shoulders and chest and ignoring the upper back of the body, including the rear shoulders. Training the shoulder muscles can help improve postural alignment when done in balance, say experts.


The shoulder is an important joint that functions with the use of many muscles. The rotator cuff consists of a group of muscles that help stabilize the shoulder and a site of many injuries. Other muscles help with movement and rotation.

An important shoulder muscle, explains exercise physiologist Kelli Calabrese, consists of the anterior (front), medial (middle), and posterior (back) parts of the deltoid. Their main function is to help lift the arm up to the front, the side, and the back, and to press overhead. Other muscles are also involved in these movements.


Poor posture comes from overworking the anterior deltoid.


"Everything we do we do forward," says exercise physiologist Nicole Gunning. "We drive, reach to a shelf, we use the computer all day."


Calabrese agrees.


"Generally, posture really encourages this overstretching of the posterior deltoid and tightening of the anterior deltoid. The back is stretched and weak and the front is so tight," she says.


In addition, people tend to hold stress in their shoulders, pulling them up and creating tension, says Calabrese.

Balance Is Important

The most important thing to consider when working the shoulder, says Gunning, is to work all parts of the shoulder evenly.


"Overdevelopment of the anterior deltoid and chest gives you that hunched over kind of look," says Gunning, who manages Unilever Cosmetics International's corporate fitness center.


Besides working in balance, there are other considerations when training the shoulder, says Calabrese.


"The shoulder is a really vulnerable joint," she says. "It's a ball and socket joint but it's floating in the socket, held by ligaments and tendons."

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