Cardio Exercises for Great Shoulders

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If you're looking to build more strength and definition in your shoulders, the results you'll get will depend on factors such as your age, sex, genetics, and body fat percentage. A strength training program that includes shoulder exercises like overhead presses and lateral raises can be very effective, but there are cardio activities that can help work and shape your shoulders as well.

Best Activities for Your Upper Body

Many cardio activities focus on the lower body while neglecting those important upper body muscles. Getting your arms involved will help build muscular endurance, which in turn, can help you burn more calories.

  • Boxing/kickboxing: Hitting big heavy bags can help build a strong upper body. Find clubs in your area where you can learn to box or try videos you can do at home. Kickboxing is also an option. Adding lightweight gloves can build endurance in your upper body and burn calories.
  • Medicine ball training: Incorporate medicine balls into your workout and burn more calories while working your upper body.
  • Swimming: The upper body is primarily responsible for propelling you through the water during swimming. Adding a flotation device will keep your lower body stationary and provide a powerful arm workout.
  • Trekking poles: Walking and trekking poles are great for burning extra calories, taking the strain off your ankles and knees and, of course, giving your upper body a great workout. Use them while walking, hiking, trekking, and climbing.
  • Upper body ergometer You may have seen this machine in your gym and wondered what the heck it does. An upper body ergometer gives you a cardio workout using only your upper body. A great addition to a workout or for someone with a lower-body injury.
  • Yoga: Many yoga poses build endurance and strength in your upper body. The bonus is that you build strength everywhere else as well while working on important things like balance, stability, and flexibility.
6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Sayers MG, Lorenzetti S. Influence of technique on upper body force and power production during medicine ball throwsJ Sports Sci. 2020;38(4):470-475. doi:10.1080/02640414.2019.1706871

  4. Shim J-M, Kwon H-Y, Kim H-R, Kim B-I, Jung J-H. Comparison of the effects of walking with and without nordic pole on upper extremity and lower extremity muscle activationJ Phys Ther Sci. 2013;25(12):1553-1556. doi:10.1589/jpts.25.1553

  5. Reiman MP, Lorenz DS. Integration of strength and conditioning principles into a rehabilitation programInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2011;6(3):241-253.

  6. Polsgrove MJ, Eggleston BM, Lockyer RJ. Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletesInt J Yoga. 2016;9(1):27-34. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.171710

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."