Arm Workouts for Women: 3 Workouts to Build Size and Strength

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If you want to really rock that tank top at the gym or go sleeveless during summer, then girls gotta do curls, too. Learn all about arm training and try three full workouts to sculpt your arms!

Arm Workouts for Women: 3 Workouts to Build Size and Strength
Joanne Lee Cornish

Joanne Lee CornishFebruary 19, 2019 •  7 min read

Arm day is constantly dubbed every guy’s favorite day in the gym, second only to training chest. What’s interesting is that for however many guys overtrain their arms, it seems just as many women undertrain theirs. And this is unfortunate. Instagram might convince you to emphasize training only your lower body and abs, but overall muscle development shouldn’t be neglected if you want that complete fit look.

Take a look at your favorite female physique competitor, or even some actresses with athletic builds (think Brooke Ence in Wonder Woman or Gina Carano in Deadpool). You probably admire their arms just as much as their legs and abs. In our enthusiasm to build arms like female action movie stars, we’ve got three different arm workouts for you to implement into your training. But first, let’s get familiar with the anatomy and function of our upper extremities.

Arm Yourself With Education


The biceps brachii and the brachialis make up the pull and curl portion of the upper arm. The name comes from the Latin “biceps” meaning “two heads” and “brachii” meaning “of the arm.”

The two heads are generally known as the long and short heads of the biceps. Although they connect at different parts in the shoulder, they do share a common insertion point on the elbow tendon.

Anatomy of Your Biceps

The biceps brachii has two functions. The first is to flex the elbow. As you bring the wrist closer to your face (like when you pop that biceps pose) you’re flexing the elbow. The second is rotation of the forearm. Forearm supination is when you’re checking the time on your watch—any rotation of the forearm requires the biceps brachii.

The brachialis is seldom seen, so it’s often the forgotten part of the pulling group. The brachialis sits deep between the triceps and the biceps and is mainly activated with shoulder flexion, in isometric movements, or when a biceps movement is paused during activation. When developed, the brachialis can push the triceps and biceps apart, making the arm look bigger. As it pushes the biceps higher it can add to the peak of the muscle.


If biceps pull and curl, then their opposing muscles push and extend. And that brings us to the triceps. Triceps brachii translates to “three heads of the arm.”

Arm Training For Women

The three heads of the triceps are the long head, the lateral head, and the medial (deep) head. As females age, we tend to hold more body fat in this area, making triceps development more of a priority as the years pass. The long head of the triceps sits right in that troublesome posterior part of the upper arm. So, while the guys might focus on the horseshoe shape and thickness that develops the lateral head, women may want to prioritize long head exercises.

In doing this, it’s important to remember that shoulder extension is ideal for long head activation. This means any exercise where the arm goes behind the body, such as in a triceps kick-back or a single-arm cable push-down. It also means keeping your form as perfect as possible on any overhead extension or dip.

Notes For Beginners

Muscles contain high amounts of oxygenated blood; cut into a muscle and it’s red, fleshy tissue. Tendons and ligaments are pale and tough and don’t have the same sort of blood supply. Muscle can adapt well to the first few months or even years of training, whereas connective tissue can take a lot longer.

The muscles of the arms complement and assist all the other muscles of the upper body. In doing so, they can be unintentionally overtrained. As a rule, for the first year of serious lifting, it may be wise to partner arm exercises with a larger muscle group. The textbook workouts include biceps with back in the same session (“pulling” muscles), and triceps with shoulders, chest, or both (“pushing” muscles). These routines are etched in stone because they work for growth and allow strength gains without overdoing it.

Arm Training For Women

If you have under two years of training, keep it strict and simple. Training arms need never be boring as we can incorporate bars, cables, dumbbells, different body angles, and different hand positions. What all these variables have in common is elbow bend, and incorrect form, overuse, or both can end up leading to a very frustrating elbow injury. Such injuries are notorious for taking a long time to heal and are the common curse of the newbie lifter.

Training Tips

Think through your wrist. Be it a biceps or a triceps movement, the position of your wrist will dictate how much strain you are putting through the complementary muscles of the forearms. If your wrist looks like it’s cocked to sniff perfume, then you are truly setting yourself up for an elbow strain. Advanced trainers cringe when they see this on a barbell curl, skullcrusher, or triceps push-down. Keep the weight on the heal of your hand (not in your fingers) and keep the wrist neutral (straight) or ever so slightly flexed.

Stay where you start. We’ve all seen the videos of someone performing a standing curl where their back flexes more than their biceps, or the push-down that is doing more for the anterior deltoid than it is for triceps. A good reminder to avoid these things is to “stay where you start.” You may be seated or standing, but wherever your upper body is at the beginning, keep it right there. Don’t tilt, sway, roll your shoulders, or lean back. Lock your shoulders down away from your ears and concentrate on the position of your elbows and the movement of your wrists.Beginner’s WorkoutUse this workout following training a larger muscle group, like deadlifts and back training, or squats and chest. Rest for 60 seconds between sets.Print1Barbell Curl4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 8 reps

2Two-Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 8 reps

3Lying Triceps Press4 sets, 15, 12, 10, 6 reps

4Standing Dumbbell Triceps ExtensionCable or dumbbell4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 8 reps

5Tricep Dumbbell KickbackDumbbell or cable4 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps (per arm)

The Fast-Paced Arm WorkoutKeep this workout fast-paced! Rest only between each triset or superset for 60 seconds.Print1TrisetLying Triceps PressUsing EZ-Bar4 sets, 15, 10, 8, 8 reps

Cable Rope Overhead Triceps Extension4 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps

Barbell Curl4 sets, 8-10 reps (each with a rest-pause, then 4-5 extra reps at the end)

2TrisetPreacher Curl4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps

Cross Body Hammer CurlAlternating4 sets, 10 reps

Triceps Pushdown4 sets, 15, 12, 12, 10 reps (each with a rest-pause, then continue to failure)

3SupersetStanding Biceps Cable Curl4 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps

Tricep Dumbbell Kickback4 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps

The Advanced Lifter’s Arm WorkoutThis one is all about volume! Because of the continual repetition of either the curling movement or extension movement, this workout is for lifters with at least a few years of experience in the gym (the intensity of this comes with the risk of repetitive strain injuries for those new to lifting).Print1Circuit 1Repeat this circuit 4 times with no rest in between. Rest 1 min. before the next circuit.Incline Dumbbell Curl4 sets, 15, 12, 10, 8 reps

Drag CurlPerform with EZ-Bar4 sets, 15, 12, 10, 8 reps

Hammer CurlsPerform seated4 sets, 10, 10, 8, 8 reps

One Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl4 sets, 10, 8, 6, 6 reps

2Circuit 2Repeat this circuit 4 times with no rest in between. Rest 1 min. before the next circuit.Standing Overhead Barbell Triceps ExtensionPerform with EZ-Bar4 sets, 15, 12, 10, 10 reps

Lying Triceps PressPerform with EZ-Bar4 sets, 15, 12, 10, 10 reps

Dips – Triceps Version4 sets, 12 reps

Tricep Dumbbell Kickback4 sets, 12 reps

3SupersetRepeat this superset 3 times with no rest in between.Barbell CurlPerform 7 reps at the bottom half of the movement, 7 reps at the top half of the movement, and 7 reps through the full range of motion. Keep constant resistance throughout.3 sets, 21 reps

Triceps PushdownPerform 7 reps at the bottom half of the movement, 7 reps at the top half of the movement, and 7 reps through the full range of motion. Keep constant resistance throughout.3 sets, 21 reps

Once you’ve completed the arm workouts in this article, it’s time to graduate to All Access. 30 Days To Your Best Arms with Julian Smith is a great next step on the road to amazing arms!


Joanne Lee Cornish

Joanne Lee Cornish

Joanne Lee Cornish is a British, European, and World Bodybuilding champion. A former IFBB pro, she competed in the Ms. Olympia twice before retiring to concentrate on her personal training…

View all articles by this author

Are plastics making men less male?

A friend of mine sent me this fascinating read on the declining male sperm count and are plastics making men less male?

The average male sperm count is half that of a generation ago. The article really seems to join some very interesting dots of society today and the problems we face.

I’d love to send you updates

Sperm Count Zero

A strange thing has happened to men over the past few decades: We’ve become increasingly infertile, so much so that within a generation we may lose the ability to reproduce entirely. What’s causing this mysterious drop in sperm counts—and is there any way to reverse it before it’s too late?

Men are doomed. Everybody knows this. We’re obviously all doomed, the women too, everybody in general, just a waiting game until one or another of the stupid things our stupid species is up to finally gets us. But as it turns out, no surprise: men first. Second instance of no surprise: We’re going to take the women down with us.

There has always been evidence that men, throughout life, are at higher risk of early death—from the beginning, a higher male incidence of Death by Mastodon Stomping, a higher incidence of Spiked Club to the Brainpan, a statistically significant disparity between how many men and how many women die of Accidentally Shooting Themselves in the Face or Getting Really Fat and Having a Heart Attack. The male of the species dies younger than the female—about five years on average. Divide a population into groups by birth year, and by the time each cohort reaches 85, there are two women left for every man alive. In fact, the male wins every age class: Baby boys die more often than baby girls; little boys die more often than little girls; teenage boys; young men; middle-aged men. Death champions across the board.

Now it seems that early death isn’t enough for us—we’re on track instead to void the species entirely. Last summer a group of researchers from Hebrew University and Mount Sinai medical school published a study showing that sperm counts in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand have fallen by more than 50 percent over the past four decades. (They judged data from the rest of the world to be insufficient to draw conclusions from, but there are studies suggesting that the trend could be worldwide.) That is to say: We are producing half the sperm our grandfathers did. We are half as fertile.

The Hebrew University/Mount Sinai paper was a meta-analysis by a team of epidemiologists, clinicians, and researchers that culled data from 185 studies, which examined semen from almost 43,000 men. It showed that the human race is apparently on a trend line toward becoming unable to reproduce itself. Sperm counts went from 99 million sperm per milliliter of semen in 1973 to 47 million per milliliter in 2011, and the decline has been accelerating. Would 40 more years—or fewer—bring us all the way to zero?

I called Shanna H. Swan, a reproductive epidemiologist at Mount Sinai and one of the lead authors of the study, to ask if there was any good news hiding behind those brutal numbers. Were we really at risk of extinction? She failed to comfort me. “The What Does It Mean question means extrapolating beyond your data,” Swan said, “which is always a tricky thing. But you can ask, ‘What does it take? When is a species in danger? When is a species threatened?’ And we are definitely on that path.” That path, in its darkest reaches, leads to no more naturally conceived babies and potentially to no babies at all—and the final generation of Homo sapiens will roam the earth knowing they will be the last of their kind.

If we are half as fertile as the generation before us, why haven’t we noticed? One answer is that there is a lot of redundancy built into reproduction: You don’t need 200 million sperm to fertilize an egg, but that’s how many the average man might devote to the job. Most men can still conceive a child naturally with a depressed sperm count, and those who can’t have a booming fertility-treatment industry ready to help them. And though lower sperm counts probably have led to a small decrease in the number of children being conceived, that decline has been masked by sociological changes driving birth rates down even faster: People in the developed world are choosing to have fewer children, and they are having them later.

The problem has been debated among fertility scientists for decades now—studies suggesting that sperm counts are declining have been appearing since the ’70s—but until Swan and her colleagues’ meta-analysis, the results have always been judged incomplete or preliminary. Swan herself had conducted smaller studies on declining sperm counts, but in 2015 she decided it was time for a definitive answer. She teamed up with Hagai Levine, an Israeli epidemiologist, and Niels Jørgensen, a Danish endocrinologist, and along with five others, they set about performing a systematic review and meta-regression analysis—that is, a kind of statistical synthesis of the data. “Hagai is a very good scientist, and he also used to be the head of epidemiology for the Israeli armed forces,” Swan told me. “So he’s very good at organizing.” They spent a year working with the data.

“We should hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” said Hagai Levine, a lead author of the study. “And that is the possibility that we will become extinct.”

The results, when they came in, were clear. Not only were sperm counts per milliliter of semen down by more than 50 percent since 1973, but total sperm counts were down by almost 60 percent: We are producing less semen, and that semen has fewer sperm cells in it. This time around, even scientists who had been skeptical of past analyses had to admit that the study was all but unassailable. Jørgensen, in Copenhagen, told me that when he saw the results, he’d said aloud, “No, it cannot be true.” He had expected to see a past decline and then a leveling off. But he couldn’t argue when the team ran the numbers again and again. The downward slope was unwavering.

Almost all the scientists I talked to stressed that not only were low sperm counts alarming for what they said about the reproductive future of the species—they were also a warning of a much larger set of health problems facing men. In this view, sperm production is a canary in the coal mine of male bodies: We know, for instance, that men with poor semen quality have a higher mortality rate and are more likely to have diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease than fertile men.

Testosterone levels have also dropped precipitously, with effects beginning in utero and extending into adulthood. One of the most significant markers of an organism’s sex is something called anogenital distance (AGD)—the measurement between the anus and the genitals. Male AGD is typically twice the length of female, a much more dramatic difference than height or weight or musculature. Lower testosterone leads to a shorter AGD, and a measurement lower than the median correlates to a man being seven times as likely to be subfertile and gives him a greater likelihood of having undescended testicles, testicular tumors, and a smaller penis. “What you are seeing in a number of systems, other developmental systems, is that the sex differences are shrinking,” Swan told me. Men are producing less sperm. They’re also becoming less male.

I assumed that the next thing Swan was going to tell me was that these changes were all a mystery to scientists. If only we could figure out what was causing the drop in sperm counts, I imagined, we could solve all the attendant health problems at once. But it turns out that it’s not a mystery: We know what the culprit is. And it’s hiding in plain sight.

The sixth floor of the Rigshospitalet, a hospital and research institution in Copenhagen, houses the Department of Growth and Reproduction. The babies are all a few floors downstairs—on six, the unit is populated not with new parents but with doctors and researchers hunched over mass spectrometers and gel imagers and the like. I was there to meet Niels E. Skakkebæk, an 82-year-old pediatric endocrinologist, who founded the department in 1990. After walking me through the lab, he showed me to his office, a cramped, closet-like space—modest for someone who is a giant in his field. Male fertility and male reproductive health, Skakkebæk told me, are in full-blown crisis. “Here in Denmark, there is an epidemic of infertility,” he said. “More than 20 percent of Danish men do not father children.”

Skakkebæk first suspected something was going wrong in the late ’70s, when he treated an infertile patient with an abnormality in the cells of the testes that he had never seen before. When he treated a second man with the same abnormality a few years later, he began to investigate a connection. What he found was a new form of precursor cells for testicular cancer, a once rare disease whose incidence had doubled. Moreover, these precursor cells had begun developing before the patient was even born. “He had the insight that testicular cancer, which is a cancer of young men, is something that is actually originated in utero,” Swan told me. And if these testes had somehow been misdeveloping in utero, Skakkebæk asked himself, what else was happening to these babies before they were born?

Eventually, Skakkebæk linked several other previously rare symptoms for a condition he called testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS), a collection of male reproductive problems that include hypospadias (an abnormal location for the end of the urethra), cryptorchidism (an undescended testicle), poor semen quality, and testicular cancer. What Skakkebæk proposed with TDS is that these disorders can have a common fetal origin, a disruption in the development of the male fetus in the womb.

So what was causing this disruption? To say there is only a single answer might be an overstatement—stress, smoking, and obesity, for example, all depress sperm counts—but there are fewer and fewer critics of the following theory: The industrial revolution happened. And the oil industry happened. And 20th-century chemistry happened. In short, humans started ingesting a whole host of compounds that affected our hormones—including, most crucially, estrogen and testosterone.


The scientists I talked to were less cautious about embracing this explanation than I expected. Down the hall from Skakkebæk’s office, I met Anna-Maria Andersson, a biologist whose research has focused on declining testosterone levels. “There has been a chemical revolution going on starting from the beginning of the 19th century, maybe even a bit before,” she told me, “and upwards and exploding after the Second World War, when hundreds of new chemicals came onto the market within a very short time frame.” Suddenly a vast array of chemicals were entering our bloodstream, ones that no human body had ever had to deal with. The chemical revolution gave us some wonderful things: new medicines, new food sources, faster and cheaper mass production of all sorts of necessary products. It also gave us, Andersson pointed out, a living experiment on the human body with absolutely no forethought to the result.

When a chemical affects your hormones, it’s called an endocrine disruptor. And it turns out that many of the compounds used to make plastic soft and flexible (like phthalates) or to make them harder and stronger (like Bisphenol A, or BPA) are consummate endocrine disruptors. Phthalates and BPA, for example, mimic estrogen in the bloodstream. If you’re a man with a lot of phthalates in his system, you’ll produce less testosterone and fewer sperm. If exposed to phthalates in utero, a male fetus’s reproductive system itself will be altered: He will develop to be less male.

Women with raised levels of phthalates in their urine during pregnancy were significantly more likely to have sons with shorter anogenital distance as well as shorter penis length and smaller testes. “When the [fetus’s] testicles start making testosterone, which is about week eight of pregnancy, they make a little less,” Swan said. “That’s the nub of this whole story. So phthalates decrease testosterone. The testicles then do not produce proper testosterone, and the anogenital distance is shorter.”

What’s more, there is evidence that the effect of these endocrine disruptors increases over generations, due to something called epigenetic inheritance. Normally, acquired traits—like, say, a sperm count lowered by obesity—aren’t passed down from father to son. But some chemicals, including phthalates and BPA, can change the way genes are expressed without altering the underlying genetic code, and that change is inheritable. Your father passes along his low sperm count to you, and your sperm count goes even lower after you’re exposed to endocrine disruptors. That’s part of the reason there’s been no leveling off even after 40 years of declining sperm counts—the baseline keeps dropping.

With all due respect to Dr. Swan and the problems of extrapolating beyond one’s data, I wanted to get back to What It All Means. The answer, I thought, might be found at the 13th International Symposium on Spermatology, which took place in May, on Lidingö, a small island in the inner Stockholm archipelago. A hundred spermatologists in one place: You’d think (incorrectly) that the jokes would be good. Skakkebæk had told me I’d be able to find some dissenters to the conclusions of Swan’s meta-analysis there, but what I witnessed instead was the final vanquishing of the few remaining doubters.

At the welcome dinner (reindeer and rooster), I met Hagai Levine, the Israeli co-author of the Hebrew University/Mount Sinai meta-analysis. Levine, who is 40, told me we had reasons to worry. “I’m saying that we should hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he said. “And that is the possibility that we will become extinct. That’s a possibility we must seriously consider. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. I’m not saying it’s likely to happen. I’m not saying that’s the prediction. I’m just saying we should be prepared for such a possibility. That’s all. And we are not.”

His session the next morning—“Are Spermatozoa at the Verge of Extinction?”—would be the defining event of the conference: It cast a shadow over all the other talks. At a panel discussion that followed his presentation, Levine continued his argument for addressing the causes of the crisis, saying, “My default, if I don’t know, is that it is up to the manufacturers of chemicals to prove that their chemicals are safe. But I don’t feel like I need any more evidence to take action with chemicals already known to disrupt the endocrine system.”

The organizer of the symposium, Lars Björndahl, a Swedish spermatologist who had presented earlier in the morning, urged caution. “I have great respect for epidemiological studies, but we should remember that mathematical correlations don’t prove that there is a causative relation,” he said. Questions from the audience—often taking the form of statements—were much along the same lines: Be careful of a bias toward the assumption that all these things are connected. Levine nodded with only a hint of chagrin, like a patient professor waiting hopefully for his students to catch up.

David Mortimer, who runs a company that designs and establishes assisted-conception laboratories, was one of the only members of the audience willing to question Levine’s study itself. He pointed out that methods for measuring sperm had changed dramatically over the time period of the study and that the old studies were profoundly unreliable.

Levine was ready with an answer. “So that’s one of the reasons we also conducted a sensitivity analysis,” he said from the stage, “with studies with sample collection only after 1995—and the slope was even steeper. So that could not explain the decline we see after 1995.”

Mortimer came around and ended up signing the statement. When I caught up with him later, he wasn’t nearly as dismissive of the study’s conclusions as I expected. He agreed there was little question that sperm counts were dropping, and he even embraced some of the direst predictions of scientists like Levine. “The epigenetics are the scary bit,” he told me, “because what we’re doing now affects the future of the human race.” When even the skeptics are scared, it’s probably time to pay attention.

Can anything be done? Over the past 20 years, there have been occasional attempts to limit the number of endocrine disruptors in circulation, but inevitably the fixes are insubstantial: one chemical removed in favor of another, which eventually turns out to have its own dangers. That was the case with BPA, which was partly replaced by Bisphenol S, which might be even worse for you. The chemical industry, unsurprisingly, has been resistant to the notion that the billions of dollars of revenue these products represent might also represent terrible damage to the human body, and have often followed the model of Big Tobacco and Big Oil—fighting regulation with lobbyists and funding their own studies that suggest their products are harmless. The website for the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association, has a page dedicated to phthalates that mostly consists of calling Shanna Swan’s research “controversial” and asserting that her “use of methodologies that have not been validated and unconventional data analysis have been criticized by the scientific community.” (Cited critics of Swan include Elizabeth Whelan, now deceased, an epidemiologist famous for fighting the regulation of chemicals from her position as president of the American Council on Science and Health, which has received funding from Chevron, DuPont, and other companies in the plastic business.)

Assuming that we’re unable to wean ourselves off plastics and other marvels of modern science, we may be stuck innovating our way out of this mess. How long we’re able to outrun the drop in sperm count may depend, finally, on how good we get at IVF and other fertility treatments. When I spoke with Marc Goldstein, a urologist and surgeon at Weill Cornell medical center in New York City, he said that while there was “no question I’ve seen a big increase in men with male-factor infertility,” he wasn’t worried for the future of the species. Assisted reproduction would keep the babies coming, no matter how sickly men’s sperm become.

It’s true that fertility treatments have already given men with extremely low sperm counts the chance to be fathers. Indeed, by looking at their cases, we can glimpse what our low-sperm-count future might look like. We know that it will be arduous to conceive, and expensive—so expensive that having children may no longer be an option available to all couples. A fertility-treatment-dependent future is also unlikely to produce a birth rate anywhere near current levels.

Not long ago, I spoke with Chris Wohl, a research materials/surface engineer at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia, who spent six years trying to conceive a child. Both he and his wife had fertility problems: Wohl’s sperm count was under 2 million per milliliter—the average count we’d expect to reach, at the current rate, by 2034. “We started in the normal way of trying to have kids,” he said, “and after a few years, we said, ‘Okay, let’s talk to some folks.’ ” They went through several rounds of intrauterine insemination. “And then after that sixth time, we said, ‘This isn’t working. We need to kind of up our technology game.’ So we went to a reproductive endocrinologist and went through several rounds of IVF. And then when that failed, we were going to look into adoption. That’s when somebody came forward and said that they would be a surrogate for us.” Finally, with the surrogate, the process worked. He and his wife now have a healthy, strong-willed 4-year-old girl.

So perhaps that’s the solution: As long as we hover somewhere above Sperm Count Zero, and with an assist from modern medicine, we have a shot. Men will continue to be essential to the survival of the species. The problem with innovation, though, is that it never stops. A new technology known as IVG—in vitro gametogenesis—is showing early promise at turning embryonic stem cells into sperm. In 2016, Japanese scientists created baby mice by fertilizing normal mouse eggs with sperm created via IVG. The stem cells in question were taken from female mice. There was no need for any males.

Such an interesting and thought provoking article

I’d love to send you updates


Adding miles to the clock is exhausting, but is you age also making you a little crazy? Here is a 3 minute video excerpt from my book about midlife weight gain and how to beat it “When Calories and Cardio Dont Cut It” 

I hope you find it infomative with a splash of english humo(u)r thrown in.


Estrogen also inhibits the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. When estrogen declines cortisol levels rise, this can increase blood sugar, blood pressure and for some unfortunate women it can lead to mild to severe panic attacks. Furthermore, estrogen has a role in regulating the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a mood neurotransmitter, and estrogen helps prevent its reuptake; when estrogen declines unstable moods ensue, causing episodes of anxiety and panic.

If you’d like know more

 We all know that lady who, in her younger years, could have taken on the world. She was ambitious, confident, a go-getter, a life shaker, but who, in her later years, became uncertain, anxious, fragile and depressed.

The majority of women (80%) suffer to some degree with:

  1. Sleep disturbances
  2. Anxiety
  3. Moodiness
  4. Depression
  5. Skin changes
  6. Reduced libido
  7. Hot flashes

Men don’t get a pass either. Men get grumpy while women get scared; not the dream scenario for aging with your partner. Guys if your lady is becoming a little annoying, please know that are you too.

We all know that guy that in his younger years was cheerful, full of fun and curiosity but in his later years became grumpy, opinionated, argumentative and fatalistic?

It’s easy to point a critical finger at the ladies, but you guys can become tough to be around. Your need to be right only intensifies as you become more emotional with the passing years. Testosterone is converted into estrogen and as men age this conversion increases. Aromatase is an enzyme that converts androgens (testosterone) to estrogens. This enzyme can be found all over the body, and it becomes more active with age, obesity, insulin and excessive alcohol intake.


Yes, men do have a female side, and it is not just puppies and chick flicks that bring it to the surface. Estradiol is the estrogen in men that mainly comes from the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. As men get older, the production of testosterone decreases yet the conversion of the hormones continues, especially in fatty tissue.

As men get older their male hormone drops while their estradiol levels remain high. This is due to the increased activity of that aromatase enzyme that happily converts testosterone to estrogen, and the process is enhanced by the increase of fat associated with age.

Fat releases and stores hormones, and abdominal fat produces estrogen which then enters a man’s bloodstream.

How do you know if this is happening to you or your man? Their emotional disposition might be the giveaway but also feeling constantly tired, losing muscle, gaining fat on the chest and, of course, that expanding waistline.

If you’d like know more

If you’d like to know more about Joanne, the book and its upcoming course and workshop



SHOULDER WORKOUTS FOR WOMEN – a recent article I wrote for Here is a direct link

2019 is going to be huge! Sign up for updates and news

Whether you want to hit the stage, the beach, or turn heads in a t-shirt, creating muscular and defined shoulders should be a priority. The delt-to-waist ratio can create a jaw-dropping visual impact that competitors must focus on—and the rest of us shouldn’t overlook. Read on for shoulder workouts for women.

If you’re a newbie to lifting, targeted shoulder training can give you the quick gains that will transform your physique in record time. Adding mass to your quads or back is going to take time, but the three deltoid muscles of the shoulder are relatively small, and even a tiny amount of muscle can make an enormous difference to any physique.

As a former Ms. Olympia competitor, and a longtime trainer at Gold’s Gym Venice, aka “the mecca,” I’ve seen and performed countless shoulder workouts. These are some of my favorites, starting with a workout for beginners and moving on to a hardcore routine only for advanced ladies.

What Every Woman Needs To Know About The Shoulder. Shoulder workouts for women

Maybe you’re new to the gym, and although you may have come from other sports, lifting weights over your head is new to you. If that’s the case, then starting off from an informed position is essential. Before you lift a single weight, let’s review the most important aspects of shoulder anatomy and function.

Shoulder Anatomy

The Shoulder Joint

There are numerous bones and muscles in and around the shoulder, but the three crucial bones to understand are the scapula, aka the shoulder blade behind you; the clavicle, aka the collarbone in front of you; and the humerus, aka the bone of the upper arm.

The shoulder joint, also known as the glenohumeral joint, centers around the point where the humerus fits into an indentation on the scapula known as the glenoid cavity. Numerous muscles connect in and around this joint—really, most of the muscles of the upper body—giving the shoulder a wide range of motion that is both a blessing and a curse.

Why a curse? Because your shoulder mobility can sometimes enable you to lift with seriously sketchy form, whether you realize it or not. More than almost every other body part, using the correct form and increasing your weight conservatively is essential for saving wear and tear on this ball and socket joint. Nothing will impair your progress like a shoulder injury.

The Rotator Cuff

As workout junkies, we love to focus on the mirror muscles, but for a moment let’s acknowledge what holds it all together: the rotator cuff. The four rotator cuff muscles are the infraspinatus, the supraspinatus, the teres minor, and the subscapularis. This team works together to stabilize the shoulder and to keep the humerus in the glenoid cavity.

In other words, they keep your arm attached to your body, but also help ensure that the humerus stays centrated in the joint and follows a safe movement path. This is why you’ll find so many articles dedicated to this incredibly talented set of muscles, and how to activate them for safe, strong lifting.

The Delts

OK, let’s finally talk about what most of us associate with the term “shoulder muscles”—the delts!

The deltoid is a triangular muscle group that covers the shoulder joint. Its round shape stretches from the top of the shoulder to the clavicle at the front and the scapula at the back, and as it drapes over the joint, it attaches to the upper arm bone.

The Delts

The deltoid works to raise the arm, rotate the arm, assist the pectoral muscles, and protect against dislocation when we carry heavy objects. That’s a lot of functions for such a small muscle.

The deltoid has three portions or “heads” with three distinct functions, although they all chip in to some degree on compound movements like shoulder presses.

  • Anterior deltoid: The anterior deltoid lifts the arm to the front and rotates the arm medially, or toward the midline of the body. The primary isolation movement for anterior delts are variations of front raises, which you can vary by using different hand positions—palms face in, palms face down, etc.
  • Lateral deltoid: The middle abducts the arm, or lifts it away from the body. Exercises for the lateral deltoid include any form of side raise, as well as an upright row—particularly with a wide grip.
  • Rear deltoid: The posterior or rear delt extends the arm behind the body and rotates the arm outward. Exercises for the rear deltoid include face pulls, the reverse pec-deck machine, reverse cable fly, and bent-over lateral raises, among others. Because rotation is one of its functions, hand position can create variations to any standard movement.

A Quick Word On Traps

Another massive component to any shoulder workout worth mentioning is the involvement of the trapezius muscles. The “traps” elevate and rotate the shoulder. The upper trap attaches to the clavicle (front), the scapula (back), and to the back of the skull.

You may or may not want to focus on building your trapezius muscles. Men often love big traps and will train them in isolation. Women may choose to do the same, but often don’t because traps that overpower the delt can make the shoulders look narrower.

More important for this article, though, is acknowledging that poor form on shoulder movements, and too much movement of the scapula, will activate the traps and lead them to “take over” shoulder movements.

I see this all too often when someone uses too much weight on a lateral raise. The arm does indeed raise, but the delt had little to do with it. If you let the traps do the work, they will—at the detriment of other muscles.

To keep the traps from taking over your shoulder workout, keep your shoulders down, away from your ears, and use moderate weight. Nobody cares how heavy you can perform shoulder isolation movements, and, when in doubt, lighter is often better.

Beginner Shoulder-Building Workout

Unless we are involved in sports, day-to-day living rarely requires us to lift things above our head. If you are new to working out, please do not go straight into a heavy overhead press. Do a thorough warm-up, and then hit the shoulders in slightly higher rep ranges. A good shoulder workout should burn!

Suggested Warm-Up for Beginners
Circuit: Perform 3x with little to no rest between rounds

Standing Dumbbell Press

5 reps

Side Lateral Raise

5 reps

Front Dumbbell Raise

5 reps

Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

5 reps

Use seriously light dumbbells for this routine, like 2-3 pounds. Perform all the movements standing with your knees slightly bent, which will take the pressure off the lower back.

Don’t overlook this warm-up! It’s the same one that I do to this day.

Workout Notes:

Repeat this workout twice a week, with at least 72 hours in between each workout. Your form will start to feel locked in at about week 2 or 3, then you can start to increase the weights and use other variations of the same movements.

When you see the reps decreasing, it indicates an increase in the weight you should use. But remember, reps aren’t a hard-and-fast rule—they’re a guide. If the workout says 12 reps, but you can get 3 more with good form, do the extra 3 reps. Then, increase the weight slightly during the next set. Alternately, if the sets say 12, but you can barely get 8, reduce the weight. Never sacrifice form for weight!

Beginner’s Shoulder Workout for Women
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Seated Dumbbell Press

4 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps


Barbell Front Raise

With EZ-Bar.
4 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps


Seated Side Lateral Raise

4 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps


Reverse Machine Flyes

4 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps

Reverse Machine Flyes

Technique Keys

Seated Dumbbell Press

Using a shoulder machine might give you a little extra initial strength, but in this workout, I focus on the seated dumbbell press. The free weights will force the stabilization you are going to need as the load increases, while performing the movement seated will enforce stricter form than performing it standing.

The dumbbells do not need to touch overhead; if your hands come narrower than your shoulders, you are potentially compromising the shoulder joint.

Standing Front Raise With EZ-Bar

You can also use a low cable for this movement. No matter what implement you choose, keep the knees slightly bent, which will stop you from rocking and will protect your lower back. Also use a false grip, which means thumbs on the same side of the bar as your fingers, as you lift the bar to chin level. Always control the descent. Keep your body still and keep your neck long.

Seated Lateral Raise

I’m having you sit down here to keep your form strict. This is one of the most abused exercises I’ve seen in all my 35 years of lifting weights! Engage your lower back muscles, and you will feel your shoulders getting pulled down into place. Keep this feeling. Imagine that you are sitting between two planes of glass. If the dumbbells go too far in front or too far behind you, you will break the glass.

Then, lift the weight as if the resistance is on the top of your elbows. Your thumbs should be pointing slightly down. If your thumbs and palm start to creep up, you will feel that your whole shoulder has changed position and the lateral delt is no longer doing much of the work.

Practice this exercise with very manageable weights until your form is perfect.

Reverse Machine Fly

Move to a rear delt fly machine. Adjust the seat height so that your shoulders are comfortably depressed into your ribcage. If you sit too low, your traps will get very involved.

Keep a neutral wrist position—it can tend to drop—and be sure that your elbows are pointing behind you, not at the floor. Imagine that you are about to elbow someone behind you. Not a polite thing to do, but that’s where your elbow should be.

Women’s Overall Shoulder-Building Workout

This workout is for someone who isn’t new to lifting, who wants to add quality size to each part of their deltoid, is pain-free, and understands good form. If you’re wanting to add size, it’ll help you do that, but if you’re trying to slim down and just want your shoulders to stand out and look “toned,” it fits the bill there, too.

Because this is an intense workout, I only recommend performing it once a week. Each time you do, I recommend switching variations of the same movement: dumbbell, machine, cable, barbell, and so on. I’ll give specific examples.

No matter what movement you select, though, you should start with the same warm-up I used in the beginner’s workout. Trust me: It works!

Women’s Overall Shoulder-Building Workout

Seated Dumbbell Press

6 sets, 12, 10, 8, 8, 6, 6 reps (with a dropset after both sets of 6)


Seated Side Lateral Raise

6 sets, 15, 12, 12, 10, 8, 8 reps (with a dropset after both sets of 8)


Dumbbell Rear Delt Row

5 sets, 12, 10, 10, 8, 8 reps

Front Cable Raise

5 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10, 10 reps

Seated Side Lateral Raise

Technique Keys

Overhead Press

Choose between a seated dumbbell press, a machine press, or a seated barbell press. One week do dumbbell, the next do a machine, and so on. Squeeze your lower lats to depress your scapula, engage your abs with a breath, and press. Bring the weight down to chin height, don’t bring your chin up to the weight!

When you do dropsets, reduce the weight by about a third and go to a controlled failure. So, 30-pound dumbbells would be dropped to 20 pounds.

Take your time between sets. If you like to keep a fast-paced workout, hit an ab move or stretch your shoulders.

Lateral Raise

As with the presses, change it up each week. Choose between using dumbbells or a machine, and between double or single-arm raises. For muscle-building, I’m not a fan of using cables for lateral raises, but if it works for you, go ahead. Keep your form tight and enjoy the burn of the dropsets.

Dumbbell Rear-Delt Row

This is a heart-pumping superset that doesn’t take strength away from either exercise. You have options, too; any combination of a machine and a cable or free weight will work. For this movement, you could use a bent-over dumbbell row (either seated or standing), a cable reverse fly, or a machine. If your gym is busy, just put a pair of dumbbells next to the machine you’re using for the other movement.

If you use dumbbells, keep your knees bent with shoulders higher than your hips. What you’re looking at will dictate the position of your neck, so keep your eyes about 4 feet in front of you, so that your neck neither has to overextend or flex.

The elbows are bent, and the arm stays in the same position throughout. If the weight is too much, it can look like a lousy triceps extension.

Front Cable Raise

You can use a rope, handle, or bar. I prefer the short EZ-bar. The weight you use on a cable front raise will depend on the machine you’re using. Some machines are great for your ego, and some make this exercise almost impossible. You’re keeping the reps a little higher because otherwise the forearms take a beating, and the elbows can complain afterward. A great alternate choice for this movement is the alternating front dumbbell raise.

Women’s Width-Building Shoulder Workout

Make those shoulders pop by putting the focus on the lateral deltoids! This may be a routine you want to implement for 4-6 weeks, or it may be one that you use every third shoulder workout, alternating it with some of the other workouts here.

Women’s Width-Building Shoulder Workout

Smith Machine Overhead Shoulder Press

5 sets, 15, 10, 8, 8, 8 reps (performed behind the neck if your shoulders can handle it)


Side Lateral Raise

5 sets, 15, 12, 10, 8, 8 reps (with a dropset after both sets of 8)


Bent Over Low-Pulley Side Lateral

4 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps per arm

Side Lateral Raise

4 sets, 10-12 reps (‘sliding’ the dumbbells together in front of your chest during each rep)


Standing Low-Pulley Deltoid Raise

4 sets, 12, 12, 10, 10 reps per arm

Standing Low Pulley Deltoid Raise

Technique Keys Shoulder workouts for women

Seated Smith Machine Behind-The-Neck Press

Many people’s shoulders can tolerate this. Some definitely can’t. If it hurts you, don’t try to struggle through—use a different movement instead, like a dumbbell press or a Smith machine press in front of the neck.

Be sure to position your seat correctly under the bar and be aware if the Smith is vertical or slightly angled. The weight you use will depend on the machine. Only go as low as feels good for your shoulders, and use a grip wider than shoulder width.

You may choose to have the bench back up for support or to keep it flat, or even to have a training partner put their knee in the center of your back. I learned that one from my old training partner, Robbie Robinson.

Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Don’t go any higher than 90 degrees on these, because beyond that point, it’s pretty much all trap. Keep the palms facing the floor, and don’t swing the dumbbells—or your body.

Bent-Over Low Pulley Lateral Raise

Perform these rear-delt scorchers one arm at a time, doing all the reps for a set with one arm, then the other, and then going right into the other half of the superset. No matter which cable you use, this is going to feel heavy, but it gives a unique soreness that you might like. Keep your hips and shoulders square with the floor.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise With “Slide”

For this burner of a move, use half the weight of what you would use for a regular lateral raise.

Raise your arms to the side, and when the weights are at chest height, bring your arms across your body until the dumbbells touch end to end. Return immediately to the extended position and return the weights to your side.

Keep the rep range moderate, as the forearms and elbows can feel the strain if they become too overloaded.

Cable Single-Arm Lateral Raise

The lateral delts will be tired by now, so move on to a single-side movement where you can focus on control.

If the cables in your gym are too heavy for this exercise, use a very light dumbbell instead. When using a dumbbell, you can hold on to the frame of a machine or to the back of a gym bench. By securing your non-working side you can avoid swaying with each rep.

Women’s Advanced High-Volume Shoulder Workout

Shoulder workouts for women. You’re an experienced lifter, looking to shake up your shoulder workout and shock the muscles into some new development. Well, get ready! This a personal favorite workout of mine, but it’s a lot of work. You’ll do eight exercises, totaling 40 sets, with both high and low reps. You can use this workout weekly for 4-6 weeks, or alternate it for every other shoulder workout with any of the other less-intense workouts here.

There are two exercises for each part of the delt, and two pressing movements that involve all three heads. One exercise is on a machine, and one is with free weights. Each exercise is coupled with another. The first exercise is structured in descending reps with increasing weight, and the second exercise keeps the same weight and reps for each set.

If you’re an advanced enough lifter to handle this workout, then you probably don’t need much in terms of technique cues. I’ll just say this: Use the implements that are safest and most comfortable for you, and stay in control of the weight. If you don’t have access to a machine for lateral raises, either a resistance band or a single cable raise will work. And on all moves, don’t be afraid to lift lighter than you would for a workout with less volume.

Women’s Advanced High-Volume Shoulder Workout

Seated Dumbbell Press

5 sets, 20, 15, 10, 8, 8 reps


Barbell Front Raise

5 sets, 12 reps


Machine Shoulder (Military) Press

5 sets, 20, 15, 10, 8, 8 reps


Upright Barbell Row

5 sets, 12 reps


Side Lateral Raise

5 sets, 20, 15, 10, 8, 8 reps


Cable Rear Delt Fly

5 sets, 10 reps


Barbell Rear Delt Row

5 sets, 20, 15, 10, 8, 8 reps


Machine Lateral Raise

5 sets, 15 reps


Joanne Lee Cornish

Joanne Lee Cornish

Joanne Lee Cornish is a British, European, and World Bodybuilding champion. A former IFBB pro, she competed in the Ms. Olympia twice before retiring to concentrate on her personal training… Her recent book “When Calories and Cardio Dont Cut It” discusses and explains mid life weight gain and how to avoid it The book can be found in all formats

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Here are a few more paragraphs from my new book “When Calories and Cardio Don’t Cut It”  I have a few copies available  (hardback or paperback) and the presale is well underway, with the release date set as September 1

From chapter 2 which is all about fat, body shape, and fat patterning…

Fat is itself an organ, wherein hormones are created and stored. We have found at least 19 different hormones in fat. Too much body fat can create a diseased state. A great many health risks can be reduced by shedding excess weight. One example of this is estrogen. There are three types of estrogen. One type of estrogen is found in fat and the more fat you have the more of this estrogen you also have. One form of breast cancer is linked to this estrogen. When we have excess fat, we may be increasing our risk of this cancer because of the increased estrogen.





Fat is future energy; excess nutrients stored in adipose tissue, aka fat. We should be grateful that we store our energy as fat because it doesn’t hold on to too much water.

Carbohydrates are also fuel, and they can be stored in our muscle as glycogen. For every unit of glycogen, we hold on to two units of water. When we cut carbohydrates, we use up the glycogen. When the glycogen unit is gone there is nothing to hold the water units. Initially, on a low carb diet, this is the weight loss you see.

If we stored all our energy as carbohydrates, we would also hold a huge amount of water. A 165lb person with 20% body fat would weigh over 240lbs if that energy were stored as carbohydrates and not as fat.

Thankfully, there is a limit to how many carbohydrates can be stored in muscle.



To understand how to lose weight remember that triglycerides are how we store fat. Triglycerides are made up of three molecules of fatty acid with a backbone molecule of glycerol.

Triglycerides are made in adipose tissue, in the liver, and in lactating mammary glands when breastfeeding or immediately after childbirth. They are made by the liver and travel in the blood; they are stored in adipose tissue. Once in adipose tissue, we sit up and take notice because, as a fat cell holds more triglycerides, our body weight increases and body shape changes.

When we gain weight, we don’t necessarily gain fat cells, rather each cell increases in volume, more lipid is held in each cell. To lose weight we must reduce the volume of each cell.

The number of fat cells we have is established by the time we are young adults. If, during puberty, we increase that number then we face a significant challenge if we try to lose weight as an adult. If you have twice as many fat cells you have to reduce the volume of twice as many fat cells. It is one reason why childhood obesity is so terrifying.

It is worth noting here that the liver makes fat, but the liver does not like to store fat. ‘Fatty liver’ refers to a condition when the liver is so overworked it is forced to store fat. This is not meant to happen.

Sadly, we now hear of children with ‘fatty liver’ – an avoidable diseased state.



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joanne lee cornish