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The Best Shoulder Exercise: Bowing Laterals

Chances are you’ve never heard of one of the best shoulder exercises out there, the bowing lateral raise.  It’s fantastic for building up the rear delts and strengthening the deep stabilizers of the shoulder joint, i.e. the rotator cuff.  Since I started doing them, my shoulder problems have all but disappeared… not a small feat after 20+ years of heavy and sometimes careless lifting!

I’ve posted a video of the exercise below, but here’s a brief description for those who prefer words:  Stand up and hold a pair of light dumbbells straight out to your sides, then bow forward until your upper body is parallel to the ground while continuing to hold the dumbbells straight out to the sides.  Now stand back up (dumbbells still raised), and finish by bringing the dumbbells forward until they touch straight out in front of you and then back out to the sides again.  That’s one rep.  If that was hard to follow, be sure to check out the video.

Additional tips: keep the dumbbell handles parallel to floor at all times, and do the reps nice and slow… at least 6 seconds per rep.  Three sets of 8-12 reps are recommended.  This will require using light weights in the range of 5-15 pounds, possibly less if you are small or a beginner.

The key to bowing laterals is that the dumbbells are never lowered, so there’s constant tension on the shoulders throughout the movement.  As you bow forward, the stress shifts to the rear of the shoulder while the shoulder joint externally rotates, making it a great rotator cuff strengthener.  At the end of each set, you should feel a serious pump in the side and rear delts and fatigue deep within the shoulder.

Yes, it does look a little goofy, some might even say un-manly, bending over repeatedly while holding a pair of small dumbbells!  For the manly men out there, I say do them anyway… if they fix your shoulders and allow you to press heavier weights, then your manliness debt shall be repaid in full.

That is all.  Let me know if this exercise does as much for you as it did for me.

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