The 15 Best Shoulder Exercises for Building Muscle

Add variety to your shoulder training with these great muscle-building exercises.

A set of strong, broad shoulders signal to the world that you lift (hey, a little vanity is okay). Stronger shoulders also mean you can bench press and overhead press more weight while potentially staving off injuries. 

While your shoulders are smaller muscles compared to your chest and back, don’t be tempted to throw shoulder training on the back burner. Instead, directly training your shoulders can be crucial for balanced upper body strength development. And no, it’s not all about pressing.

A shirtless muscular person's shoulders, viewed from the back.
Credit: michaeljung / Shutterstock

Below, we’ve curated a list of the best shoulder exercises you can do — for more strength, more size, and more stability — and outlined the benefits of training your delts in more detail. 

Best Shoulder Exercises

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.

Barbell Overhead Press

The barbell overhead press strengthens all three heads of the deltoid — the front (anterior), middle (lateral), and rear (posterior). If you want bigger, stronger, and boulder shoulders, overhead pressing variations are necessary for size and strength because shoulder raise variations will only take you so far.

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Although it might seem simple — take a barbell and pop it over your head — the barbell overhead press requires a lot of practice and technique to get right. Warm up your wrists beforehand for best results.

How to Do The Overhead Press

  1. Grip a bar with an overhand grip, set up in a power rack or squat rack. With the bar right in front of you, place your hands just outside your shoulders. 
  2. Stack your elbows and forearms vertically. If your elbows are pointing out or in, your grip may be either too narrow or too wide. Adjust accordingly.
  3. Place the bar on the heel of your palm because this is where you’ll generate the most force from. 
  4. Press overhead until lockout then slowly lower down to the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits of the Overhead Press

  • All three deltoid muscles are involved.
  • This is a variation that you can load heavily, helping develop bigger shoulders.
  • A stronger overhead press will carry over into a stronger bench press.

Half-Kneeling Landmine Press

The half-kneeling unilateral landmine press is a mix of vertical and horizontal movement, which makes this great for people who lack shoulder mobility for overhead pressing. 

If you’re coming back from a shoulder injury, this is a great modification of the overhead press. If you’re cleared for overhead lifting by a doctor, the half-kneeling landmine press keeps the weight stable — because it’s connected to the landmine base — but also allows you to practice the overhead movement unilaterally.

How to Do the Half-Kneeling Landmine Press

  1. Get into a half-kneeling position in front of the barbell, with your knee underneath your hip and your ankle underneath your knee.
  2. Hold the barbell at shoulder height in the hand nearest your back leg. Actively grip the barbell. 
  3. Press up at about 45 degrees and reach toward the ceiling at the end of the lockout. Slowly lower down under control and repeat.

Benefits of the Landmine Press

  • The half-kneeling position combined with the press will improve your core stability, hip mobility, and anti-rotational strength.
  • Unilateral pressing will help reduce strength imbalances.
  • This move allows the lifter to get overhead if they have limited shoulder mobility.

Arnold Press

The Arnold press, named after the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, trains all three deltoid heads. Plus, due to the larger range of motion and its rotational nature, it increases time under tension, leading to a greater hypertrophy potential.

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When performed for higher reps, it is an absolute deltoid and upper back burner. The Arnold press requires mobility, stability, and strength to perform well. With this movement, you’ll cultivate discipline and immense overhead stability in multiple planes of motion.

How to Do the Arnold Press

  1. Sit upright on a weight bench, either supported or unsupported. Hoist dumbbells up to a traditional starting position.
  2. Rotate your hands until your palms are facing toward you, like at top of a biceps curl. 
  3. In one motion, press the dumbbells and rotate your palms to face forward. Continue lifting until your biceps are by or behind your ears.
  4. Pause and reverse the move slowly — including the rotation aspects — and repeat.

Benefits of the Arnold Press

  • Increased time under tension for all three heads of the deltoid can lead to improved muscle hypertrophy.
  • The Arnold press involves moving in multiple planes of motion, which will target more deltoid muscle fibers.
  • It’s relatively rare to combine rotation and pressing, but this move has both aspects covered.

Push Press

It looks like an overhead press at the start, but the push press uses a lot of lower body strength to heft heavy weights overhead. You’ll dip slightly through your knees, then explode upward. The momentum from your lower body will help you move a lot more weight than you can with the strict overhead press.

This move uses the triple extension of your ankles, knees, and hips, which closely mimics what most overhead athletes do on the field. Being able to lift more weight as a result can yield better muscle gains, as a stronger muscle is often a bigger muscle.

How to Do the Push Press

  1. Set up the same as you would for the barbell overhead press. 
  2. Assume an upright torso and dip downward four to six inches with your knees over your toes. 
  3. Push your torso and chest upwards through the barbell, and using your legs, forcefully drive yourself and the barbell up.
  4. Continue to push through the barbell until lockout. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Benefits of the Push Press

  • You’ll use triple extension throughout your lower body to drive the weight overhead. This provides strength and muscle-building stimulus to your quadriceps and glutes.
  • The push press allows you to use more weight than the barbell overhead press.
  • This move has a huge carryover to the needs of overhead athletes like Olympic lifters and throwing athletes.

Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Press

If you’re looking for a move that can help improve rotator cuff strength and shoulder stability, the bottoms-up kettlebell press is a top-notch candidate. Since you’ll be unconventionally grasping an unconventionally-shaped training tool, you’ll gain tons of stability and improve grip strength

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When you need to up the intensity without necessarily increasing the weight, this is an excellent movement. You won’t need a lot of weight to get a tremendous bang for your buck here.

How to Do the Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Press

  1. Grab a light kettlebell’s handle. Flip it so that the bottom of the bell is facing the ceiling.
  2. Stack the bell directly above your wrist. Grip it tight and engage your lats. 
  3. Press up, keeping the bell facing directly upwards and your elbow underneath the kettlebell’s center of mass. Lock out with the bell in this position and the biceps close to the ear.
  4. Lower slowly to ensure you’re balancing the kettlebell with the bottom directly facing up.

Benefits of the Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Press

  • The unstable nature of the bottoms-up kettlebell press increases your shoulder stability demands, helping strengthen your rotator cuff.
  • Since you’ll essentially be balancing the kettlebell, any hitches in your pressing technique will result in instant feedback — your form will likely self-correct.
  • This move yields increased intensity at a reduced weight, helping to reduce joint stress.

Wide-Grip Seated Row

The seated row is a classic exercise for the lats and upper back. But when you take a wider grip, your posterior deltoids get more involved in shoulder extension. 

Yes, your posterior deltoids get trained isometrically when you’re stabilizing weights overhead. But you must train them concentrically and eccentrically, too — which is where the wide-grip seated row comes into play.

How to Do the Wide-Grip Seated Row

  1. Set up like you would for your regular seated row but use a straight bar attachment. 
  2. Take a wide overhand grip until your upper arms are about 45 degrees to your torso.
  3. Keeping an upright torso, row the bar to your sternum until you feel a strong contraction in your upper back.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

 Benefits of the Wide-Grip Seated Row

  • This move helps stabilize your upper body so your chest muscles don’t overpower your upper back.
  • The wide grip helps develop thicker posterior delts and upper back muscles. 
  • The wide-grip seated row adds variety to your back workout.

Leaning Lateral Raise 

Performing lateral raises while leaning increases the distance that your arm needs to travel to lift the weight. This is good news for your hypertrophy pursuits because a longer range of motion means more tension in your muscles. More tension translates into more potential muscle growth gains. 

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The leaning lateral raise places greater overload at the top of the rep than the regular standing version. By changing the exercise angle and giving yourself something to lean on, you’ll be able to lift heavier weights than you will with a standard lateral raise.

How to Do the Leaning Lateral Raise

  1. Grasp the side of a power rack, squat rack, or incline weight bench with your free hand. Bring your feet close to or under your hands. 
  2. Hold a dumbbell in your opposite hand with the dumbbell resting on your outer thigh.
  3. Raise the dumbbell away from you until you feel a strong contraction in your shoulder.
  4. Slowly lower down and repeat.

Benefits of the Leaning Lateral Raise

  • With the leaning lateral raise, you can use more weight than the regular standing version because of the increased stability from holding on to something.
  • The increased range of motion and strong contraction at the top of the movement gives you more muscle-building potential.
  • This move helps decrease strength imbalances between sides.

Incline Y Raise

The incline Y raise targets the upper back and traps. It’s also great for targeting your posterior deltoids from a different angle while strengthening all four muscles of the rotator cuff in the overhead position.

Whether you’re an overhead or throwing athlete, or you just want to promote healthier shoulders, these need to be in your rotation.

How to do The Incline Y Raise

  1. Set up the bench at a 45-degree incline. Lie face down with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold the weights with an overhand grip. Extend your arms to hang straight under your shoulders. Keep your shoulders down and chest up. 
  3. Use your rear delts to raise the weights up and out. Keep your arms straight until they are fully extended. A soft bend in your elbows is okay. 
  4. Slowly lower back to the starting position. Reset and repeat.

Benefits of the Incline Y Raise

  • This move strengthens the posterior deltoid and rotator cuff, which are often neglected in training.
  • The incline Y raise can help promote shoulder health, especially for athletes who do a lot of overhead work.
  • By emphasizing your posterior deltoids and upper back, this exercise improves posture.

Stability Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise

The bent-over rear delt raise is also known as the reverse fly. Primarily used to add volume to rear deltoid training, this is a great exercise to isolate the muscles of the rhomboids and middle traps.

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When you hold the squat rack with one hand, you’ll fight imbalances between sides. Plus, the increased stability means you’ll be able to safely move more weight.

How to Do the Stability Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise

  1. Stand beside a squat rack. Hold onto it at or below chest level. Grip a dumbbell in your opposite hand. 
  2. Hinge at your hips. Keep your shoulders down and your chest up. 
  3. With a slight bend in the working elbow, contract your upper back and shoulders. 
  4. Raise the dumbbell out and up along the side. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat.

Benefits of the Stability Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise

  • This move trains the rear delts along with the upper back.
  • The increased stability from holding onto a squat rack allows you to use more weight.
  • With this unilateral training, you can fight imbalances between sides.

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

You often perform the dumbbell shoulder press while standing. But performing this move seated allows you to drive more action to your shoulder. With your back and lower body stabilized through sitting, you can customize the angle (wide for more shoulder action or narrow for more anterior deltoid and triceps involvement).

The beauty of all overhead press variations is that they train all three heads of your deltoids because the posterior deltoid stabilizes the weight when you’re overhead. This means that you can advance full shoulder development with just one move.

How to Do the Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  1. Sit upright on an incline bench. 
  2. Clean the dumbbells so they are sitting more or less on your front delts. Keep your shoulders away from your ears. Sit tall. 
  3. Brace your core.
  4. Press both dumbbells overhead until your elbows lock out. Carefully lower the dumbbells. Reset and repeat.

Benefits of the Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  • This move trains all three heads of the deltoids.
  • Dumbbells allow freedom of movement that is easier on your joints than a barbell.
  • Because you’re lifting the dumbbells unilaterally, you’ll combat muscle and strength imbalances between sides.

Barbell Overhead Carry

All carries are functional, engaging exercises, but the barbell overhead carry takes this genre of lifts to a whole new level. Overhead carries put your whole body under tension, including your three deltoid heads.

[Read More: How to Do the Farmer’s Carry — Benefits, Variations, and More]

Press and raise variations will build a great set of shoulders. But carries add on serious time under tension on your shoulders for improved muscle and strength. They also increase your mental toughness and core strength, because you’ve got to stabilize a heavy weight overhead — while walking.

How to Do the Barbell Overhead Carry

  1. Load the barbell with somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of your overhead press one-rep max. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. 
  2. Press the barbell overhead. Position your biceps behind your ears. Keep your shoulders away from your ears. 
  3. Unrack the barbell and turn around. 
  4. Take slow, deliberate steps. Pay attention to your gait and balance. Walk for 20 to 40 yards. 
  5. Re-rack the barbell. Rest and repeat.

Benefits of the Barbell Overhead Carry

  • This move builds muscle and strength in the upper back, traps, and all three deltoid heads.
  • Overhead carries help improve shoulder stability.
  • The overhead barbell carry will teach you to deal with discomfort as you walk with a heavy load — this can translate into more comfort during max lift attempts.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise Pause Set

For isolation exercises like the lateral raise, creating and maintaining tension is paramount. To do this properly, avoid using heavy weights. That doesn’t mean more weight is always a bad thing — but don’t slap on more pounds at the cost of losing tension. And nothing maintains tension like adding a pause in the contracted position. 

You’ll do a certain amount of reps — say, six reps — and then pause for six seconds in the contracted position. Then you’ll follow this sequence down to one rep and one-second pause. The time under tension for your lateral deltoid will light your shoulders up in a big way.

How to Do the Dumbbell Lateral Raise Pause Set

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells by your side. Keep your shoulders down and chest up. 
  2. Perform six lateral raises with your elbows slightly bent. Don’t raise the dumbbells above shoulder height.
  3. On the sixth rep, hold the weights in the contracted position for six seconds. 
  4. Continue this rep/pause sequence down to one rep and one second.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Lateral Raise Pause Set

  • This exercise seriously increases time under tension for added muscle and strength.
  • By using an isolation exercise, you’ll target the lateral deltoid instead of neglecting it as many programs might.
  • Since you won’t be lifting heavy weights, you can add quality training volume without as much mechanical stress.

Single-Arm Push Press

The single-arm dumbbell push press uses a slight lower-body dip — about a quarter squat — to gain the momentum needed to press the dumbbell overhead. The push press uses the triple extension of your ankles, knees, and hips to engage your whole body in an overhead move.

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Pressing unilaterally fights imbalances between sides and leads to better overall muscle development. As with most overhead pressing variations, this move trains all three heads of the deltoids — which is key for building strong, powerful, and broad shoulders.

How to Do the Single-Arm Push Press

  1. Clean one dumbbell to the top of your shoulder. Pack your shoulders down and away from your ears. 
  2. Brace your core. Bend your knees to dip down about four to six inches. Track your knees over your toes.
  3. Use this momentum to press the dumbbell overhead in a seamless movement. Lock out the dumbbell overhead. Lower with control. Reset and repeat.

Benefits of the Single-Arm Push Press

  • The unilateral nature of this move fights imbalances for better shoulder development and health.
  • Because you’ll be engaging your whole body in a loaded one-sided movement, this move will help improve your core strength.
  • Dumbbells provide freedom of movement that is easier on your joints than barbells.

Resistance Band Front Raise/Lateral Raise Combo

The front deltoids get a ton of engagement during pressing variations. But if you’re looking to add extra volume there without adding heavy lifting, the resistance band front raise/lateral raise combo is a good choice.

Bands tend to be easier on your shoulder joints than other implements. Plus, the ascending resistance of the band gives you extra juice without the extra stress on your joints. This combo keeps constant tension on the front and lateral deltoids for better strength and muscle development.

How to Do the Resistance Band Front Raise/Lateral Raise Combo

  1. Stand on a resistance band with handles. Hold each handle with an overhand grip. 
  2. Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears. 
  3. Perform a front raise with soft elbows. Keep the handles level with your shoulders. Lower the handles to your side. 
  4. Perform a lateral raise. Keep the handles level with your shoulders. With control, lower the handles to the fronts of your thighs. That’s one rep.

Benefits of the Resistance Band Front Raise/Lateral Raise Combo

  • This two-in-one-shoulder exercise saves you time by working your delts from multiple angles in separate sets.
  • The bands give your shoulders a break from heavy loads but do so without a drop in intensity.
  • You can add high-quality volume to your shoulder training without causing additional stress to your shoulder joints — and you can avoid working overhead if you’re rehabbing from an injury.

Cable Lateral Raise

Dumbbells are fantastic tools for training your shoulders — but they’re not the only ones to keep in your toolbox. A cable stack can be a tremendous asset when it comes to building beefy shoulders.

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Especially when you’re trying to craft a big upper body, you need to be precise with the lines of pull and exercise angles. Where is most of the tension coming from? The cable stack allows you to customize the angles of your body and the source of resistance to help build maximum muscle

How to Do the Cable Lateral Raise

  1. Set up a cable stack with D-handles attached to a low anchor point. If you don’t have access to a dual pulley, you can use one handle at a time and work one arm at a time.
  2. Grasp the handle(s) and stand sideways next to the cable machine. Step laterally away from the anchor point such that the cable loses slack and starts to exert tension.
  3. Brace your core and raise your arm(s) out to the side with a slight bend in your elbow(s).
  4. Lower with control. If you’re performing this unilaterally, repeat evenly on both sides.

Benefits of the Cable Lateral Raise

  • The cable will provide accommodating resistance throughout your range of motion so that your muscles are always under tension.
  • Using a cable machine allows you to easily alter the exercise angle to customize the exercise to your body.
  • This move will train your arms separately, helping iron out any imbalances that might exist between them.

Shoulder Warm-Up

Don’t be the person who walks into the gym, slaps a plate or two onto the barbell, and starts bench pressing. Shoulder joints tend to be sensitive and prone to injury. You need to take the time to warm it up with a few movements that rotate, raise, and abduct the shoulder. 

A few low-intensity exercises which target the shoulder area will get you ready for action.

  • Shoulder CAR: 2 x 10 per side
  • Wrist Roll: 2 x 30 seconds per direction
  • Dead Bug: 2 x 15 per side*
  • Resistance Band Face Pull: 2 x 25-20
  • TRX I-Y-T: 2 x 8-10
  • Exercise-Specific Ramp-Up Set: 2-5 x 5-10**

*Perform slowly. Start with a conservative range of motion, and slowly increase your range with each rep.

**Especially with presses, make sure you’re performing an appropriate number of ramp-up sets. Start with an empty barbell — no matter how heavy you will ultimately go — and work up gradually from there. 

Even with smaller, isolation exercises, go through the motions with extremely light weight (or even just your body weight) to prepare your shoulders for the motion.

How to Train Your Shoulders

In some ways, training your shoulders is just like training any other muscle group. You’ll work within the principles of progressive overload, where you gradually increase the intensity of your exercises over time.

But with your shoulders, you’ll want to pay special attention to training them three-dimensionally. Because your shoulders have three heads — frontal, lateral, and rear — you’ll need to pay attention to all three for the best mass-building results.

Shoulder Exercise Selection

Even if you’re not working your shoulders specifically, they’re connected to a whole host of other exercises. Your shoulders — particularly your front delts — get a lot of action during chest exercises like the bench press. Chin-ups and pull-ups take a big toll on your shoulders, too. Overhead carries and even biceps exercises require a lot of shoulder strength and stability.

Because of this, you won’t always need to go too heavy to see results with your shoulders. If benching is a priority in your program, you’ll need to program carefully — either separating shoulder and chest days by at least 48 hours or doing them on the same day. 

A person exercising their shoulders.
Credit: DC Studio / Shutterstock

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If you’re doing them on the same day, go lighter with your shoulders when you go heavier with the bench press — and vice versa. That way, you can maximize muscle recovery without setting your shoulders up for overuse injuries.

That said, if you’re looking to build well-developed shoulders without developing tremendous strength imbalances, don’t forget your rear and lateral delts. 

These heads of your deltoids don’t get as much action as your front delts during other presses. You can go relatively light with lateral and rear delt movements.

Especially if pressing is a big part of your program, you might want to prioritize rear and lateral delt exercises in your program. Choose movements that will put your shoulders to use in 360 degrees — not just what’s in the front of your body.

Shoulder Sets and Reps

If you’re building toward max strength, you’re going to be focusing on your presses. When forging muscle mass is your focus, you’ll also be doing a solid amount of presses. But you’ll also be doing a whole lot of lateral and rear-delt-focused exercises.

In terms of building out symmetry, focus on movements that are both unilateral and centered on your weaknesses or overlooked areas. For many athletes, that means your lateral and rear delts.

  • For Strength: 3-5 x 4-6
  • For Muscle: 2-3 x 6-12
  • For Symmetry: 2-3 x 10-15

Shoulder Training Tips

Building out your shoulders isn’t as simple as overhead pressing — though yes, pressing is a big part of the equation. To maximize your shoulder growth, turn to these tricks and tips.

Train Your Rear Delts

Your rear delts often get the short end of the stick in shoulder programming. Some lifters might train them less than they should because they’re located on the back of the body — out of sight, out of mind. Others may assume they get enough action from compound pressing, pulling, or both.

And while the rear delts do have assistance roles, they’re dominated by other muscles such that they aren’t the primary movers. To compensate — and build well-rounded shoulders — emphasize rear delt isolation work in your shoulder programming.

Train Your Lateral Delts

You’ll also want to train your lateral delts. For these isolation exercises, you’ll typically go a lot lighter than you will with rear delt exercises. You want to tax your lateral delts enough to stimulate growth, but not so much that you’re setting yourself up for overuse injuries.

A person working on their delts using a cable machine.
Credit: Nikolas_jkd / Shutterstock

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If you try to lift too heavy with lateral delt moves, your body will tell you. You’ll find yourself needing to kip and use extra momentum from the first rep on — and you won’t be able to control the eccentric (which is crucial for promoting growth). Make sure you can control the eccentric and that you don’t need momentum to start each rep.

Sure, you can use a little body English to eke out some extra gains at the end of your sets. But you’ll benefit most from using a weight that allows you to start with clean form.

Train Your Front Delts

Your front delts get a lot of tension from pressing. Whether you’re overhead pressing, jerking, or even bench pressing, your front delts will feel it. But that’s no reason to not train them on their own, too.

Train your front delts with isolation movements using lighter weights. Follow the same protocols as you do with lateral delt single-joint exercises — control the eccentric and avoid momentum on the way up. Yes, let body English kick in toward the end of your sets. But for the most part, emphasize the muscle itself to maximize the effects of isolation.

Benefits of Training Your Shoulders

Beginners and advanced athletes alike benefit from training their shoulders. Even if your bread-and-butter lifts have nothing to do with overhead pressing, you’ll likely benefit a great deal from exercises for the shoulders. These moves will emphasize a combination of mobility and stability that can improve your movements both in and out of the gym.

Overhead Stability

First things first — shoulder training improves your posture. Particularly if you spend a lot of time sitting down or hunched over a keyboard or your smartphone, you’ll feel the difference when you train your shoulders. This is especially true of training your rear delts. Strong shoulders will help you stay upright during even the most intense sessions of data entry.

In the gym itself, developing overhead stability is critical for compound exercises as diverse as the snatch, the log press, and overhead lunges. Even bench pressing requires a tremendous amount of stability in your upper body. 

Strengthening the muscles around your shoulder joint won’t just make you stronger at lifting. It can also help bolster you against potential shoulder injury, making your shoulders more resilient.

Shoulder Mobility

Sometimes shoulders aren’t only about shoulders. Do you want to try a low bar squat to help you squat heavier weights? Guess what you need — shoulder mobility. To maintain your joint health and help you hit new PRs, you’ll need a combination of shoulder stability and mobility.

Two people working on shoulder mobility.
Credit: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

[Read More: The Best Bodyweight Exercises for More Muscle and Mobility]

Training your shoulders requires you to pay special attention to where these joints need improvement. If you can’t take an exercise through its full range of motion, you’ll know to work on this both during your warm-ups and in your workouts themselves.


Physique-oriented athletes, rejoice — training your shoulders will help give your body a crucial part of that filled-out V-taper. If you neglect training these muscles specifically and only focus on pressing, you’ll likely find that your shoulders may be decent in the front, but lack fullness around the sides and back.

This fullness (think: boulder shoulders) is a critical part of what a lot of people are chasing when they want to build upper body muscle mass. Training your shoulders directly instead of relying on presses alone to get you there will skyrocket your physique gains.

Anatomy of the Shoulders

The deltoids are large triangular-shaped muscles made up of three heads — the front, lateral and posterior deltoid. They insert on the humerus and originate from the clavicle and scapula. The deltoids lie over the shoulder joint, which gives you that boulder shoulder look. The three deltoid muscles each come from a different origin in the body, but they all insert on the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

Front Deltoid

The front deltoid originates from the superior surface and the anterior border of the lateral third of the clavicle. This muscle is involved in all shoulder flexion movements like front raises and all vertical and horizontal pressing exercises (think: overhead presses, bench presses, and push-ups).

Lateral Deltoid

The lateral deltoid originates from the lateral margin and superior surface of the acromion of the scapula. It’s involved in shoulder abduction of your arm beyond the first 15 degrees of movement. In other words, your lateral delts help with exercises like lateral raises and overhead presses that take your shoulder away from your body’s midline. You can also target your lateral delts by using a wider grip during these movements.

Posterior Deltoid

The posterior deltoid originates from the lateral third of the spine of the scapula, on the crest. All movements that involve shoulder extension and external rotation train the posterior deltoid. Examples of these moves include bent-over reverse flyes, bent-over row variations, lat pulldowns, and chin-up and pull-up variations. The overhead lockout position trains the posterior deltoids, too.

More on Deltoid Training

It’s important that your shoulders not only look good but are strong and functional because they’re involved in almost everything you do in and out of the gym. Doing these shoulder workouts will go a long way in building strong functional shoulders that look great in short sleeves.

Now that you have a handle on the best shoulder exercises to strengthen your deltoids, you can also check out these other helpful shoulder training articles for strength, power, and fitness athletes. 

Featured image: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock