Shoulder Workout: Endurance Burnout + Strength Exercises

Shoulder Workout - low weight/high rep endurance rounds mixed with heavier strength circuitsToday’s workout is a follow-up to the biceps and triceps one I posted a few weeks ago. Same structure, different focus. Shoulders are the target, but in a few of the moves, you’ll feel your chest and biceps getting a lil’ love as well.

Endurance + Strength Shoulder Workout

Equipment I Used:

  • Light hand weights (2-5lbs) — I’m using 2 lbs which was PLENTY high for the first endurance round. I probably could have done 3-4 lbs for the second round.
  • Medium-heavy dumbbells (8-20lbs) — I’m using a pair of 10-lb dumbbells.

Shoulder Workout - low weight/high rep endurance rounds mixed with heavier strength circuits


LIGHT WEIGHTS | 20 seconds each x3 without rest

  • Reach and Pull | Arms start extended out to your sides, palms facing up, soft bend to the elbows (arms make a “W” shape). From here, you’re going to pull the elbows behind your back, squeezing your shoulder blades together and then extend them back out to the starting position.
  • Flip the Cup | Same starting position as the first move. From here, keeping a soft bend to the elbows, flip your hands so that the palms face down and then up again. You’re tracing a “C” shape with your hands.
  • Lateral Pulses | Arms straight out by your sides at shoulder height, palms face down. Pulse the arms up and down.


HEAVIER WEIGHTS | 30 seconds work / 10 seconds rest x9 (three times through the exercises)

NOTE ON WEIGHT: If you’re using the same weights for all your heavy exercises, you may find these first two moves to be too much. In general, we can go heavier with arm exercises in which we keep our arms close to our center of gravity; and need to go a smidge lighter when we extend out away from our core, such as with standing lateral and front raises. You can either grab a slightly lighter set of weights or, if you only have one pair of dumbbells, just alternate arms in the lateral and front raises like I do in the video. Makes a world of difference!

  • Lateral Raise (option to alternate) | Before you do anything, roll your shoulder cage up, back and down, opening up your chest. Then engage your abs, pulling your bellybutton in towards your spine. Maintain this upright, tall, open posture throughout the exercise: don’t let your shoulders shrug up or roll forward, and don’t let your low back arch excessively. From this starting position, lift your right arm up to shoulder height, palm down, at a wide angle out to your side. With control, lower it down to your side and repeat with the left arm. If you’re choosing the more difficult option, you’d do both arms at the same time.
  • Front Raise (option to alternate) | Same idea as the lateral raise, but you’ll lift the weight up in front of your body instead of out to the side.
  • Bent Raise to Rotation | Start with your arms down by your sides, elbows bent at 90 degrees (as if you were starting to do a hammer curl). Maintaining that arm shape, lift your elbows up and out to the sides. At the top of this raise, your hands and elbows should be at armpit/shoulder height. From here, rotate your arms open and up until they reach goal post position. Reverse the movement back to start. So throughout this entire movement, your arm is in the same L shape. You’re just lifting and then rotating from the shoulders.


LIGHT WEIGHTS | 20 seconds each x3 without rest

  • Bent Pulse | Elbows bent at 90 degrees, palms facing in, forearms parallel in front of your face. Pulse them up and down keeping the elbows in line with your shoulders.
  • Elbow Tap | From the first move, push the weights together (you can interlace your fingers if that helps) and while actively pushing, tap your elbows together.
  • Front Press | Trying to keep the weights together (or close to it) and elbows squeezing in together (narrower than your shoulders if possible) reach the arms up and down in front of your face.


HEAVIER WEIGHTS | 30 seconds work / 10 seconds rest x9 (three times through the exercises)

  • Shoulder Press | Start with arms in goal post position: elbows bent at 90 degrees at shoulder height. From here, press your hands up overhead, bringing weights together above your head. Lower back down, but only so far as brings your elbows back to shoulder height. Don’t let them dip down lower than that. As you do these, be careful not to shrug your shoulders up towards your ears.
  • Arnold Press | This is a shoulder press where you fluidly circle your head with your forearms at the bottom. It’s easiest to start in the middle of the movement: elbows bent to 90 degrees out to your sides in goal post position. Shoulders should be down and back, not shrugged up towards your ears. From here, press the weights overhead and together. Lower them back down to 90-degree bends and as you do, close your forearms in front of your face, rotating the palms to face you. When weights tap together in front of your face and your forearms form the number 11, reverse the movement, opening up your arms to goal post as you rotate your palm outward and press the arms straight overhead.
  • Shoulder Shaper | Start with arms in goal post position: elbows bent at 90 degrees at shoulder height. From here, maintaining those 90-degree bends, bring your forearms together in front of your face. Return back out to goal post position. Elbows should stay at shoulder height the entire time.

Shoulder Workout - low weight/high rep endurance rounds mixed with heavier strength circuits

WEARING | Athleta leggings (these gray leggings from Beyond Yoga are cute, too) // Athleta tank (old but they’ve got a lot of similar high-neck tanks and alo yoga has a high nick tank as well–love it, have it in green!)

Enjoy this workout! It’s great to pair with a run or other cardio. If you’re a beginner, you might want to break it up. Do the first set of endurance and strength exercises and then save the second set for another day. Make sure to warm up the upper body before jumping into it and take some time to stretch afterwards. Let me know if you have any questions about it in the comments!


Three Holiday Gift Ideas: Gift Card Edition

  • Fashion-lover or the guy/chick who needs some serious wardrobe help | Stitch Fix gift cards, baby! By now you guys know I love Stitch Fix! Get another fan of the service a gift card. It’s a great option if you know they love clothes but aren’t confident you’d be able to pick them out something specific–let the SF stylists take care of that. Also great idea for a guy in your life if you’re like me and find men impossible to shop for!
  • Blogger or work-from-home professional | I’ve talked about Breather room rentals on the blog before–I use them for shooting pictures and videos for Pumps. They’re also great if you need a spot for an off-site meeting, conference call, event. The service isn’t in every city, but they’re offering gift cards for the holiday season and the blogger or work-from-home professional would love some free time! Tip: If you use the code PUMPIRON you can get $45 in credit so to maximize your free rental time, first use that code and then cash in on your gift card.
  • Fitness lover | A gift card to your loved one’s favorite fitness studio is a guaranteed home run of a present (I know I’m always giddy to receive them!). Studio classes get pricey and even just a couple freebies is uh-mazing. Most Boston studios offer gift cards or some way to purchase credit for your friends and family so just visit their website or email the studio. For yoga lovers, CorePower is currently doing a promotion where you can buy $100 gift cards for only $80.

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Outfit links and first gift link are affiliate.

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  1. Thank you!! Shoulders are the muscle group that I am really trying to tone and define and this workout looks killer. Already pinned and cannot wait to feel the burn!

  2. I can definitely feel it in my shoulders when I do any exercises. That’s a weak spot for me! Thanks for the workouts, I enjoy them!

  3. Did this workout yesterday and feel it today!! Loved it!

  4. I think my shoulders would die on me if I did this workout, great post though and I will definitely be trying this!!

  5. Looks killer- I love a good shoulder workout!

  6. Great tips, Nicole! Exercising really improves quality of life! It helps prevent disease, it enhances flexibility, it strengthens and tones muscles and it help us control our weight. One should always try to exercise as often as possible because exercising brings only benefits to our health.

  7. Going to try it to tone my arms and hopefully helps my frozen shoulder!

  8. This does not get any easier…but I love it!

  9. Nathan Carlson says:

    Hi there! Great workout, looking forward to trying it. I have a question I hope you can help me with – I’m currently in training as a mountaineer, with the short term goal of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in two years, and I’m going for Mt Everest in about ten years give or take, before I’m 50 (I’m 33). Would these exercises help to develop the endurance I need for these goals? As a mountaineer, I’m trying to focus on endurance and cardiovascular health as opposed to brute strength. Any comments would be great. Cheers!

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