Arm raises, straight up (shoulder press)

warning exclamation markSafety first!
Read safety
basics here

Who it’s not good for
This exer­cise is more demand­ing that it appears, so if you have any shoulder injur­ies or are very lim­ited in your over­head arm move­ments, this is not a good exer­cise for you. Concentrate on shoulder loosen­ing and upper back strength­en­ing instead

What it’s good for Strengthens shoulder muscles and helps to keep your shoulders flex­ible enough to reach your arms up. Everyday bene­fits include:

  • Reaching to put things on to, or take them down from high shelves
  • Putting jump­ers on and tak­ing them off
  • Changing light bulbs
  • Many DIY jobs involving reach­ing and hold­ing
  • Hanging cur­tains or shower cur­tains
How often to do it Three times a week (see tip below)
Equipment you’ll need 2 bottles of water (50cl) or
2 cans of baked beans (400g) or
2 dumb-​bells (eg 0.5kg)
Kitchen chair with no arms (optional)


Because this exer­cise uses res­ist­ance objects (bottles, cans, dumb-​bells) to build strength, you must give your muscles time to rest between ses­sions, so don’t do this one every day.

Sitting with arms bent at sides holding bottles, ready to raise armsSitting with arms raised high, holding bottles, for arm-raise exercise

  • Sit at the front of a kit­chen chair, hold­ing a bottle of water in each hand, and bend your arms to place hands by your shoulders with palms facing for­wards
  • Keeping your elbows in by your sides, slowly push your arms up until they’re straight, almost dir­ectly above, but just a little bit for­wards
  • Pause briefly, then bring the bottles back down stead­ily to your start­ing point
  • Rest briefly, then repeat
  • Aim to do 10 repeats in one go. Do as many as you can, even if it’s just three or four at first, build­ing up gradu­ally. Never force your arms up if it’s pain­ful

♦ This is a good one to do in front of a mir­ror, so you can check that your arms are straight and shoulder-​width apart – not out to the sides. Plus, look­ing straight ahead will help you to keep your head steady through­out the exer­cise

Varying the exer­cise for more chal­lenge

Once you can do 10 steady arm lifts, you need to make the exer­cise a bit harder to con­tinue strength­en­ing your muscles. Follow these pro­gres­sions in order of dif­fi­culty:

The pro­gres­sions

1. Go slower
Going more slowly increases the amount of work, so it’s harder. Try a slow count of 3 on the way up, and 4 on the way down

2. Use heav­ier objects
Switch to proper hand weights (dumb-​bells). These come in many dif­fer­ent weights. If you’ve been using 50cl bottles of water, try 1kg weights to start with

3. Do the exer­cise stand­ing up

Standing with arms high holding bottles for arm raise exercise

This makes it a bit harder because you have to make sure you stand still, not bend­ing or sway­ing back­wards at all when you press your arms up high. Stand with your feet quite wide, keep your knees soft and gently pull in your lower abs through­out

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