Men, you probably already know why it's important to work out your shoulders. So this explanation is for the ladies: Fit, toned shoulders help you stand taller, make your waist look smaller and can help balance out your figure if you tend to carry weight in your hips. Plus, fit shoulders just look good, says Kim Lyons, founder of Bionic Body in Hermosa Beach. (Proof: Look at Lyons' picture.)
And ladies, don't worry about bulking up. You'd have to lift long, hard and heavy before you'd even begin to get shoulders that would rival a man's.
What it does
This exercise combo shifts between working out your shoulders and lower body, and will give you a cardio workout as well.
What to do
Grab a set of hand-weights. Lyons does this workout with 5-pound weights, but men might want to go as heavy as 15 pounds, and beginners might start with 3 pounds until they get the hang of it. Stand tall, abs tight, shoulders back, feet a little more than shoulder width apart. Bend your arms at the elbow so you're holding the weights at your shoulders with palms facing each other, and begin to lower yourself into a squat. Keep the chest and head up, eyes looking forward, and focus on sitting back during the squat. Go as low as is comfortable without putting undue stress on your knees. (Experiment with foot positioning for maximum comfort.)
Follow the squats with a set of shoulder presses. Go back to the same starting position, and this time remain standing as you lift the weights directly overhead, rotating your wrists at the top of the movement so palms face forward, and then lower to your starting position with weights at shoulder height. When you're comfortable with both movements, combine them: Perform a squat, followed by a standing shoulder press, and then go right back into your squat. (Alternate arms during the shoulder press to make it a little easier.)
Work up to 16 repetitions of each exercise before combining the two. Aim for three to four circuits total. You can perform this combo two to three times a week, leaving a day or two of rest in between. Increase the weight to make it tougher, but you don't need to go over 10 to 15 pounds.