Updated: Jan 17, 2022
Every man wants to have bigger, stronger looking shoulders. Having well developed delts helps to round out the physique and create that extra width and thickness in the frame, which is definitely something that most men are wanting to have.
However, we know that it can often be hard to pick the right exercises. With so many options out there, it's easy for beginners and even intermediate trainees to accidentally pick the wrong movements.
That's why in this post, we'll be giving you a list of the 9 best shoulder exercises that you can do! Complete with exercise guides and demonstration videos.
Briefly before we begin, we'll quickly explain the list.
The deltoid has three heads. They are as follows:
Anterior deltoid (front of the shoulder)
Medial or lateral deltoid (middle of the shoulder)
Posterior or rear deltoid (back of the shoulder)
To build big, strong and healthy shoulders, you need to be hitting all three heads effectively. Oh, and by the way, the deltoids are the proper name for the shoulder muscles. And delts is short for deltoids.
To help you out with this, we've included three exercises for each head of the deltoids, which leaves us with a total of 9 exercises on the list.
Now that that's out of the way, we'll get right into the list.
The 9 Best Shoulder Exercises
For the front delts
For the medial delts
For the rear delts
These should really be a staple in your training program if you want to build both pressing strength and size in the shoulders and triceps.
The military press is best done with a barbell, but you can either do it seated or standing. Most people do it in the heavier rep ranges due to it having such a high potential for overload.
It's one of the best strength exercises that you can do in the gym to further develop your overall pushing strength and muscle mass.
To do the military press:
Either sit on a bench or stand at a squat rack.
Get your hands under the barbell with palms facing up.
Grip onto the barbell with a grip just outside of shoulder width.
Brace your core and arch your back slightly.
Press the weight up with force by driving your hands up into the air.
Lockout the elbows at the top and poke your head forward through your arms.
Lower the weight back down with control until the bar reaches your collarbone.
Check out the video below by Scott Herman to see a demonstration of this exercise!
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
These are a great alternative to the military press that's more hypertrophy focused.
Since this exercise uses dumbbells, you're able to get more range of motion and a better stretch on the shoulders, which is going to increase muscle engagement but lower the amount of weight that you're able to lift.
These are sometimes done with heavy loads, but usually done with moderate weights in the 6-12 rep range. Also, we'd recommend doing these seated as it requires you to do less stabilization and you can focus more on solely pressing the weight up.
Here's how to do it:
Sit on a bench with dumbbells resting on your legs.
Set the bench to approximately an 80 degree incline.
Kick the weight up into the shoulder pressing position. (Arms bent and up by the side of your shoulders).
Brace your core and arch your back slightly.
Press the weight up with force, keeping your wrists stacked on top of your elbows at all times.
Bring the dumbbells closer together as you approach the top of the movement.
Lower the weight back down with control until the dumbbell reaches your shoulder level.
See the video below by Buff Dudes Workouts to see what this looks like!
Pike Push Ups
Notice how we didn't include any front delt raises in this list. This is because most people actually have overdeveloped front delts from all the pressing movements like overhead presses, bench presses, dips, push ups and so on. Most people don't need to be performing front delt raises.
With that being said, the pike push up is a great variation of the regular push up that primarily works the shoulders. It's a step down from the handstand push up, but will still give you a great burn in the delts if you've never done them before.
We picked this in this list due to its flexibility and versatility. You can do them practically anywhere!
To do them:
Get into a high plank position.
Keeping your feet fixed, bring your hands closer towards your legs and towards the center of your body.
You should find that you're in a more upright position.
Now do a more vertical push up.
Allow your torso to lower, resisting the weight.
Press back up by driving your hands under your head into the ground.
Elevating your feet will make this more difficult
Check out the video below by Andrew Alinda to see what this looks like. (Just watch the start of the video).
Cable Lateral Raises
Lateral raises are one of the only ways that you can isolate the medial head of the delts and really give all your focus to them.
We recommend doing them with cables instead of dumbbells as a cable is going to provide constant tension on the delts, whereas the resistance profile of the dumbbell just doesn't fit the movement too well.
Doing them with cables is going to allow you to get more quality reps in and allow your medial delts to do most of the work instead of you cheating by bouncing or swinging.
Here's how to do them:
Set the cable low by your feet.
Grab onto the cable machine/pole with one arm.
Lean away from the cable machine, but keep your feet fixed in position.
With the arm that's not grabbing onto the cable, grab the handle with an overhand grip.
Bend the arm slightly.
Keeping everything in the same position, raise your arm out to the side until it's in line with your shoulder.
Squeeze the medial delt hard at the top of the movement.
Lower the weight back down with control.
Check out the video by Ryan Treadaway to see what this looks like!
These are pretty controversial, but if done correctly, can be a great exercise to build the medial delts and get a little bit of assistance from the traps and biceps as well.
To do them:
Hold a barbell in your hands with a double overhand grip (shoulder width apart). An EZ bar might be more comfortable to some.
Start with the bar resting in front of your thighs.
Vertically 'row' the bar up until it reaches just below your collarbone level.
Your elbows will flare out.
Lower the weight back down with control until it reaches the starting position.
See the video below by Live Lean TV Daily Exercises to see what this looks like!
The Arnold press is a classic shoulder movement that's great for hitting the front delts, but also taxing the medial head of the deltoid pretty heavily.
Popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger, it's done with dumbbells and usually in moderate rep ranges to focus on achieving the most muscular hypertrophy possible.
To do the Arnold Press:
Sit on a bench set to an incline of approximately 80 degrees.
Kick the dumbbells up into your shoulder press position.
Now bring them forward and together until they're in front of your collarbone. You will have to supinate your arms to do this.
Press the weight up with force and simultaneously rotate your shoulders until you finish at the top in a regular dumbbell shoulder press position.
Lower the weight back down with control, still simultaneously rotating your shoulder back in until the dumbbells end up together in front of your collarbone like before.
Check out the video below by Buff Dudes Workouts to see a demonstration!
Reverse Pec Deck Flyes
These are a great movement to target the rear delts with.
You won't be able to load too heavily on this exercise, but that's okay. The muscle activation is high and you'll be feeling it pretty early on in your set if you've never done these before!
Here's how to do them:
Sit on a pec deck machine facing backward.
Get your hands behind the handle and grip onto the handle if there's an extra one for reverse flyes.
Bend your arms slightly.
Draw the handles out and away from each other by driving your arms into them outward.
Stop when the machine handle is in line with your body, or wherever is comfortable if you don't have the mobility for this yet.
Squeeze the rear delts hard at the end of the movement.
Lower the weight back down with control until the handles are together again.
Check out the video below by The Muscle Mentors for a demonstration!
Wide Grip Barbell Rows
When you take a wider grip on a barbell row and intentionally flare your elbows out, you place the emphasis onto the upper back and rear delts, away from the lats and biceps.
This is a great exercise that you can use to further develop overall pulling strength, with an emphasis on the upper back and rear delts.
To do the wide grip barbell row:
Start with the barbell on the ground.
Grab onto it with a double overhand grip, hands just outside of shoulder width apart.
Deadlift the bar up and stay in the lockout position.
Hinge at the hips and bend your knees slightly until your torso is as horizontal as possible without causing discomfort.
Allow the bar to drop down and hang from your arms.
Flaring your elbows out to the side, row the bar up by drawing your elbows back past your body until it reaches your sternum or lower chest area.
Squeeze the muscles of the upper back and rear delts hard.
Lower thr weight back down with control until you feel a stretch in the muscles.
Check out Titan Training's video below for a demonstration!
Face pulls are a great exercise that you can use to really burn out the rear delts and finish off your shoulder workout.
You'll also get some assistance from the rest of your back and the biceps as well!
To do the face pull:
Set the cable high with a double rope handle attachment.
Grab the handle with an overhand grip.
Step away from the machine slightly until your arms are straight out in front of your and the weight is pulling your arm forward. You should feel a stretch in the read delts.
Keeping your upper arms parallel to the ground, pull the handles towards your face.
The ropes should spread slightly apart and the handles should go to either side of your face.
Squeeze the rear delts hard.
Allow the handles to go forward again, but resist the weight and control it.
Check out Kaged Muscle's video below to see a demonstration!
Well! There you have it. The 9 best shoulder exercises that you can do to build big, strong and healthy shoulders with.
Look to give a few of these a try, pick your favorite ones and go hard at them!
Always ensure that whatever you're doing is safe for you to try, and stop immediately if you feel any pain in your joints or muscles. That's never good.
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