The Best Exercises for Shoulders

best shoulder workouts
By Kian
Last Update:

There is no denying how great a set of well-sculptured shoulders look.

Apart from enhancing the frame of a person – aesthetics aside – shoulder workouts enhance sculpture, straightening the muscles around the shoulder joint.

The results: a more stable, and sturdier body structure.

The shoulder joint is amongst the most delicate joints in the body.

As such it needs regular exercise to prevent injury resulting from weak muscles around the shoulder joint.

This post will lay out single moves that target the shoulders followed by videos that include shoulder workouts and routines you can follow.

Warm up exercises

Before starting any exercise, it is important to do warm-up exercises to prepare the body and ensure a smooth injury-free exercise session.

The perfect starting point is a 5-10 minute cardio to get your body pumping and work your muscles.

The perfect cardio at home should be jumping jacks and running on the same spot.

Shoulder specific warm ups should include the windmills which are basically done by standing upright with your arms straight out and rotating your arms in a small arc increasing the size of the arc in a gradual manner.

These warm up exercises should get you ready for a shoulder workout.

Now let’s get into the shoulder workouts!

Single Move Shoulder Workouts

Perhaps you already have a shoulder workout and are looking for individual shoulder exercises to add to your routine.

Handstand Pushups

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Handstand pushups can always be comfortably performed either at home or in the gym.

They are a great source of upper body strength.

Handstands require more balance and coordination than many of the other exercises on this list.

Though it takes some little time to master, the benefits would certainly outweigh the effort.

Handstands strengthen the shoulders, the chest, and the triceps.

The shoulders or deltoid muscles raise the arms overhead thereby gaining strength.

Pike Pushups

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Pike Pushups normally serve as a great alternative to the handstand.

So if you cannot do a handstand pushup, try the pike pushup instead.

It is good to start to build strength, stability, and endurance for the eventual handstand.

To do the pike pushup, it is essential to keep the head between your arms.

This can be a problem for individuals with tight lats (the muscles down your back).

For an effective pike pushup ensure that your back is straight and knees extended.

Decline Pushup

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The only major difference that exists between a normal pike pushup and feet elevated pike pushup is that unlike the standard version, the feet are always placed on an elevated platform.

The feet elevated pike push up is normally useful where you are lacking in flexibility.

This exercise also forms part of the handstand progression and serves the following but not limited benefits of strengthening the front deltoid anterior and lateral muscles.

Arnold Presses

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Arnold Presses can be done at home with a dumbbell and may be accompanied by an exercise bench.

Arnold presses help to build all three delts; the front deltoids (deltoid anterior), the middle/outer/side delts (lateral deltoid) and the rear delts (deltoid posterior).

However, it has a more profound effect on the front and side delts.

To do an Arnold press, sit on an exercise bench that has back support, or stand – as long as your back is straight – holding two dumbbells.

Then with your palms are facing you, move the weights to your chest and rotate your arms till if faces forward as you lift the weights above your head.

Lying Side Laterals

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This is the perfect example of a lost exercise.

They were once the perfect alternative to standing laterals, a position that is now occupied by machine laterals.

However, due to its profound benefits, lying side laterals have rightly taken a prominent position on this compilation.

To execute a lying side lateral, it is best to have an inclined exercise bench with no seat or an abdominal board that has been set at an angle of 30 degrees.

Then lie on your left side bracing your body in a firm position and clutching a dumbbell in your right hand.

Then with the dumbbell pressed against your thigh and your arms slightly bent lift the dumbbell in a semicircular arc.

It is always preferred that your dumbbell should be lighter than what you would use for standing laterals.

Note that nothing stops you from performing this exercise on a flat bench or on the floor.

Reverse Overhead Laterals

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Like the lying side laterals, this exercise is rarely performed by people.

Reverse overhead laterals only use a pair of dumbbells, a must-have home workout tool for any fitness enthusiast.

This exercise helps to build up the side laterals.

Though most exercises build the side laterals consciously or indirectly, this exercise focuses its attention majorly on these.

To do the reverse overhead laterals, stand with your dumbbells in an area with an arms-wide length of space, as you would need to stretch your arms.

Then raise the dumbbells overhead lifting them from raised, bent elbows.

Upright Rows

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Upright rows require a barbell, which you might – or might not – have at home. You can also use a set of dumbbells.

Upright rows help strengthen all three deltoids with a particular focus on the front deltoid.

Upright rows primarily work on the shoulders and upper back muscles.

Use an overhand grip to grab the barbell with the palms being at least six inches apart.

Then tighten your abdominals and pull the weight upwards to just beneath your chin and repeat for as long as desired.

Bent over lateral raises

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Bent over lateral raises is one of the few exercises that focus on the rear deltoid muscles.

To perform this exercise, stand with feet apart at about a shoulder-width and bend at the waist (halfway) and allow your arms to hang.

Bring the weights down and raise them to horizontal.

Repeat as desired inhaling throughout.

Wide Grip Inverted Row

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This exercise straightens your middle back and evens out your shoulders giving you a perfect posture.

Whilst a generic inverted row is focused on your middle back alone, a wide grip inverted row helps build your deltoids as well.

To do this exercise, put a bar in a rack at about the height of your waist before taking a wide grip at the bar (slightly wider than your shoulder).

Position yourself hanging from the bar and pull yourself up.

Single Dumbbell Front Raise

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While at a wide stance, grasp the head of your dumbbell with both hands.

Use the head of the dumbbell as a handle and raise the weight until it is above your shoulder level and return to the starting position.

Cuban Press

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Most of these home exercises require a pair of dumbbells and a Cuban press is no different.

To carry out a Cuban press, take a dumbbell in each of your hands holding the dumbbell with a pronated grip.

Assume a standing position.

Then raise your upper arms in a scarecrow position ensuring they are horizontal and parallel to the floor.

Body Saw

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The Body Saw exercise has been associated with killer abs but they are also a good way to build the deltoids.

The best part is that they do not need any gym equipment.

Simply find a space in your home that allows you to get into plank position.

From there push your hips back and into the air then rock forward so your shoulders move over your elbows.

This exercise targets the front of your shoulders.

Elevated Pushups off-stairs

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If you have stairs in your home you can use them to your advantage by performing an elevated pushup off stairs.

Simply lie at an angle of 45 degrees against the stairs with your arms slightly wider than your shoulder and your back straight and do your pushups as many times as desired.

This exercise would improve on your deltoids giving you a broader, more balanced posture.

Incline pushups

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Incline pushups are a beginner-friendly exercise that helps in building the front delts.

To perform an inclined push up simply carries out your regular pushup on an elevated platform.

Prone Reverse Fly

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The Prone Reverse Fly works both the infraspinatus and the posterior deltoid.

This exercise works best when the reverse fly is performed with the arms facing each other against the pronated grip.

The free weights give you the perfect hand position, isolates the rear delts and is a lot better than the machines at recruiting stabilizers.

Alternating Dumbbell Press

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The alternating dumbbell press helps strengthen all the deltoids.

To do this, always be seated on a backless bench flexing your abs to support your lower back.

Then while keeping one arm motionless, lift the second arm up slowly and lower it back to starting position before repeating with the other arm.

Ensure that the weights you use are just right for you. Otherwise, you will not be able to lift the weights slowly.

Straight Arm Side Raise

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The straight-arm side raise is guaranteed to pack a mass of muscle on your shoulders which unlike plain abs, do get noticed in the winter when all the overcoats are on.

To do the straight arm side raise, tighten your abs to help support the lower back.

Then have the dumbbells hanging at the side with your palms facing outward.

From there raise your arms up holding the dumbbell with your palms facing down.

Bent Arm Side Raise

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Whilst the bent arm side raise is in actual fact similar to the straight arm side raise, the only significant difference is the bent arm.

In performing the bent arm side raise, tighten abs to support your lower back and bend your elbows at an angle of 90 degrees with the palms facing up.

Then slowly raise the weights up taking care to keep your shoulders and back straight.

Do not try to over push your range of motion (ROM) as more is not always better.

Straight arm front raise

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The straight arm front raise is a great exercise for the entire upper body – the arms, chest and shoulders.

This exercise can be performed standing or seated.

Keep your abs tight to help provide support to the lower back. Then keep your arms straight but do not lock them.

Your palms should point forwards. Then lifts up the dumbbells up over a 2-second count or as otherwise preferred and lower the weights back down again till your elbows make contact with your sides once again.

Shoulder Workout Routines

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Now that we’ve covered individual shoulder workout routines here are a couple of videos on some tips on how to build bigger shoulders.

We advocate a lot of the teachings that Jeff Cavaliere teaches on his youtube channel as he not only gives you a list of workouts to do, but he also explains the science behind the workouts.

The videos above and below are worth a watch.

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Lawrence Ballenger Shoulder Workout

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This shoulder workout consists of 7 exercises. If you want huge shoulders, check this out.

Jake Alvarez Shoulder Gains Workout

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Jake Alvarez shoulder routine is based on the art of simplicity. It comprises 4 moves.

  1. Dumbbell shoulder press
  2. Rear Delt Fly
  3. Face Pull
  4. Reverse Pec Deck

It can feel physically rewarding to work out your shoulders and feel the difference but care must be taken.

You should always make sure to go light with the weights and work your way up to the heavier weights.

The stabilizing shoulder muscles can be delicate and can damage easily by going too heavy too soon.

Before starting to work out your shoulders you should check first to see if you suffer from shoulder impingement to ensure you find the right routine for you.

Related: How to fix shoulder impingement

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I'm the main guy who writes for this site. I love writing and researching ways to age gracefully by paying attention to body posture, flexibility and mobility. I also love nothing more than testing and reviewing the best gadgets to make this goal possible.

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