Military Muscle: 6-part move for shoulder strength & endurance


I always look to develop combination exercises that get you two or even three moves for the price of one.

This shoulder workout gives you six for one.

With this workout, you need to start with light weights — not only to make it through the number of repetitions but also to ensure that your technique remains good.

This is not for the faint of heart. You move from one exercise to the next in a smooth flow without rest: When you’ve done all six once, that’s one rep. Then, without rest, start over. The first time you try this, make your goal six reps, for one total set.

When you can do one set comfortably, take a one-minute rest and go for a second set. After two sets, experiment with heavier dumbbells and more reps — eight reps with heavier weights for strength or 12 to 15 reps with lighter weights for endurance.

Remember, no rest between the six movements or when you finish No. 6 and start again at No. 1. Rest only when you start another set.

The exercises in this six-part move:

1. Front raise (top left)

The focus here is on the front muscle of the shoulder.

Start with dumbbells at your side, palms facing in. Raise each dumbbell straight in front of you, bringing the weights to shoulder level, palms down. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Return your hands to your sides. You can also do this with palms facing each other throughout the exercise.

2. Lateral raise (top right)

This is sometimes called a side raise, since the focus is on the side muscle of the shoulder.

Start with dumbbells at your sides, palms facing in. Raise each dumbbell straight out to the side, bringing the weights to shoulder level, palms down. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Return hands to your sides.


3. 90-degree lateral raise (above left)

This engages the shoulder’s rear and side muscles.

Start with arms bent at 90 degrees, with your elbows set into your ribcage, dumbbells in front of you and your palms facing each other. Raise your elbows laterally to shoulder level, keeping the 90-degree bend throughout. Palms will transition from facing each other to facing down. Return the elbows to ribcage.

4. Upright row (above right)

This engages all three muscles of the shoulder as well the trapezius (upper back).

Start with the dumbbells resting in front of your thighs, palms facing your legs. It’s important to lead the raising movement with your elbows: Raise the dumbbells along the front of your body until they are at chest level. Your elbows will be slightly higher than shoulder level, while your hands — with dumbbells — are at chest level. Return to hands in front of thighs.


5. Arnold press (above left)

This was invented by, you guessed it, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The focus is on the front muscle of the shoulder, and with a slight modification, you can pick up some of the side muscle as well.

Start with dumbbells raised to shoulder level (think of the top part of a curl) with palms turned toward you. In one smooth motion, press the weights up overhead while rotating your hands so that the palms face forward; I like to make the dumbbells touch. Reverse the movement, lowering the weights back to the start position at the shoulders.

If you try to make an elliptical movement with the dumbbells (dumbbells track outward and up) when you start at the shoulder position, rather than press straight up, you will engage the side muscle of the shoulder.

6. Bent-over lateral raise (above right)

The focus here is on the rear muscle of the shoulder, although it does engage the entire shoulder.

Start in standing position with your knees slightly bent. Bend forward at the waist, keeping your back straight, until your trunk is almost parallel with the floor. The dumbbells will hang straight down, palms facing each other. Inhale and raise the dumbbells straight out to your side (elbows slightly bent). Pinch your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement and you’ll engage the trapezius and other muscles of your upper back.

Demonstrating this workout is Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin Barger. Barger, 19, works at the Pentagon as a tour guide and is currently training for a men’s physique competition.

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Retired Navy Cmdr. Bob Thomas has been our Military Muscle columnist since 2007. He’s the director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla. He’s his base’s lead trainer, a wounded warrior program facilitator and the Navy nutrition counselor there. His special emphasis is on fitness for the military retired population. Find his Military Muscle columns here.