We shoulder responsibility. We shrug off bad days with our shoulders. On other days, we just need someone else's shoulder to cry on. Those shoulders are pretty essential to our daily lives! Plus, they help us rake leaves, carry groceries, pick up our kids and drag around that massive purse of daily essentials.
But even if you work out regularly, there's a good chance you don't give your shoulders the exercise they deserve. We often overlook them for the coveted abs and arms. As the most moveable and unstable joints in the body, shoulders require strength for good posture and upper body support. No wonder one of the hottest body parts a woman can rock, especially during tank-top season, is a pair of strong, defined shoulders.
Feeling self-assured in that strapless dress takes more than watching what you eat and jogging on the treadmill. You gotta' work it, girls (and boys)! Want to learn how to love your shoulders? Read on for five ways to say "thanks" to the muscles shouldering your daily burdens and blessings.
Show your strength. Some people are afraid that lifting heavy weights will lead to Hulk-sized muscles, but that's rarely the case. It takes an unbelievable amount of hard work, muscle soreness and intensity to increase your muscle size. You can get strong and fit shoulder muscles – without the bulk – by doing just a few minutes of strategic exercises throughout the week. My personal favorites are the old-fashioned dumbbell presses, lateral raises, front raises and push-ups, which simultaneously work the chest, back and arms.
Perfect your posture. Blame your desk job for weak shoulders. If your upper body is rounded, it's most likely because your chest is tight, which means the opposing muscles in your shoulders are weak. In addition to focusing on strengthening these muscles, make a conscious effort every day to take a deep breath in, roll your shoulders back and down, open up your chest and heart and sit up straight. Do this every hour, whether in your desk chair or walking down the street. Good posture has the added bonus of making you look taller and leaner – yes please!
Find your shoulder style. Now that you've been rocking and rolling with your shoulder workout, pull your hair back and show off those shoulders! Optimize narrow shoulders with tops that have puffy sleeves or no sleeves at all, or tops with a wide collar or scoop neck. Broad shoulders look strong and gorgeous with tailored tops that have a V-neck or halter neckline. For our fellas looking to flaunt their cut shoulders, pick a slim-fitting shirt so there's no bagginess to cover them up.
Massage more. Knowing how hard our shoulders work every day, we should give them a rest every now and then. Try a self-massage, agree to a shoulder massage at the nail salon or go all out and get a full-body deep tissue massage. Rejuvenate all of your muscles regularly and give thanks for the stability and mobility they give you each day.
Sport some shoulder candy. Treat yourself to a summer bag that embodies your personality. Pick a fun, bright color for it, or go for the perfect, neutral everyday bag. Make sure it's something that you want to show off loud and proud as it rests on your shoulder. For our men, get yourself a new briefcase or a well-fitted suit jacket if you don't sport bags. Just remember to pack lightly – after all, the lighter the bag, the more love you show your shoulders.
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Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the country. She is a member of Women's Health Magazine's advisory board and has authored Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her fourth book, The New You and Improved Diet, will be released in December. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts "A Little Bit Better" on YouTube's Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri's tips every day on Facebook!