10 Exercises That Will Build Shoulder Muscles Guaranteed

Is every set of rankings created equal? The answer to this is an obvious no considering how subjective many of them are. Whether the focus is the best football player, the best world cup tournament, or the sexiest women of all time, there is usually a single perspective and a desire for traffic that drives the creation of many of these lists.

The thing is even if you know for a fact that these lists are correct, that knowledge has no merit in most cases. Luckily, lists such as this one do not fall into that category and are beneficial to you. You may not agree with the order of the selections and you may not agree with the outcome, but there is no denying that these exercises are proven to be effective for delt development.

Sometimes people wonder what shoulder exercises to include in their training routines. If you are one of these people, prepare to have that question permanently answered for you.

Cable Reverse Flye

Exercises that concentrate on the rear delts are very important and, therefore, there are a total of three that appear on this list. The thing is rear delts do not always get the level of focus they deserve since they require more isolated targeting than the front and middle delts. However, properly filling out the shoulders of your T-shirts requires you to have rear delts that are pronounced enough to balance out the front and middle ones. The front and middle delts have an advantage because they are typically involved in many non-shoulder focused exercises such as bench presses.

Exercises such as the cable reverse flye are perfect for giving the rear delts the focus they need to thrive. Though the reverse pec-dec flye is a more popular exercise, it doesn’t offer the level of balance and muscle control offered by the reverse cable flye.

Why It’s Great

As stated before, this exercise directly targets the rear delts. Furthermore, as a cable-based exercise, there is always the factor of center-pulling resistance, which means the muscles being engaged spend more time under tension.

How It’s Done

Equip a cable machine’s upper pulley with D-handles. Using your left hand, grab the right-side handle. Grab the left side handle with your right hand. Ensure you are centered between the stacks. Without locking your elbows, straighten them out and ensure your palms maintain a neutral grip. Your arms must be at shoulder level. Open your arms until you get to an “open hug” pose with the cables crossed, then return to the starting position. Note that whichever cable is high or low doesn’t matter but you may alternate them if you wish.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise

There are many who argue that the single-armed version of this exercise is better as it allows for proper focus on each side. However, the single-armed version is conducive to improper form as it encourages waist rotation. The double-armed version removes the option for rotation to increase momentum and, therefore, results in better quality reps.

Why It’s Great

This exercise is another that exclusively targets the rear delts. You can do this exercise either seated on a bench and leaned over your knees or standing. Also, the stabilization it requires helps you to train your entire physique.

How It’s Done

Take a dumbbell in each hand and maintain a flat back with your knees slightly bent and your chest up. Hinge at the hips and bend until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor. Look just ahead of you on the floor. Raise the dumbbells to the sides until your arms are parallel to the floor. After pausing and squeezing at the top, lower the dumbbells till your arms are perpendicular to the floor and go into the next rep from there.

One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise

You may be having concerns about the fact that this makes the third isolation movement. Note that the small muscle group that makes up a shoulder stands to gain more from isolation than from compound exercises. The middle deltoids are the focus the time around as lateral raises are arguably the best exercises for them.

Why It’s Great

Like the previous exercise, the cable workout offers the benefit of increased time under tension. Also, the adjustable weight is perfect for drop sets if you’re heading to failure. Fell free to try this workout with the cable behind you instead of in front.

How It’s Done

With your feet shoulder-width apart, stand sideways to a cable pulley (a low one). Using the hand that’s opposite the pulley, hold a D-handle and lift your arm to a point just below your shoulder using a wide arc. Ensure your shoulders are back, your chest is up, and your abs are tight. Pause at the top then slowly lower it until the weight stack touches. Repeat this for reps on one side then switch to the other.

Cable Front Raise

The first four moves here go very well together as they target their respective delt heads they target. As a cable workout, this again offers increased time under tension and is very effective for sculpting the anterior head.

Why It’s Great

There’s no awkwardness from cable drag here as there is with side laterals across your body. This means that the range of motion here is effective and free, and you get to avoid a nagging distraction as you work.

How It’s Done

From a staggered shoulder-width stance, turn your back to a low cable pulley and grab a D handle in one hand. You may improve your balance by placing the other on your hip. Slightly bend your knees, keep your back flat, and elevate your chest. Raise the cable and get your upper arm parallel to your shoulder. Lower your arm so the stack almost touches and repeat for reps. Switch to the other arm after doing all the required reps on one arm.

Push Press

Here’s your first compound exercise! The push press is great for a shoulder workout focused on mass gain. Ensure you warm up with lighter weights before you really dig in.

Why It’s Great

While your legs remain grounded, the motion of the push press works many muscle groups in the shoulders and arm concurrently. This promotes natural function, which means the exercise helps you use these muscles in daily life.

How It’s Done

Take a clean barbell from the floor or off a power rack. With an overhand grip, point your elbows forward, your palms up, and have your upper arms parallel to the floor. The bar should rest on your upper chest. Get into a quarter squat and us your legs to drive upward. At the same time, extend your arms to a full elbow extension overhead. Pause briefly then return to the starting position before doing your other reps.

Wide-Grip Smith-Machine Upright Row

The Smith machine is hated by many as it’s seen as an easy mode in the gym. While this is a fair point, when used correctly the machine can improve safety, technique, and strength.

Why It’s Great

The exercise targets the trapezius and all three delt heads. The wide grip allows for engaging of the entire shoulder and the Smith machine reduces stress on the shoulder joints and back since the bar is a bit out in front.

How It’s Done

Start with your feet hip-width apart and hold the bar in front of your thighs. Ensure you are using an overhand grip just outside of shoulder width. Release the safety latches and allow your arms to hang. Tighten your core and slightly bend your knees. Pull the bar up to your chin by flexing your shoulders and keeping it close to your body. In the end, your elbows point to the sides. Pause for a second and return to the starting position. Do this for reps.

Face Pull

Believe it or not, this is not a surgery done in Hollywood. It is an effective rear-delt exercise that engages multiple joints, which is unlike any other exercise that focuses on the area.

Why It’s Great

This exercise works both the middle trapezius and the rear deltoids. This exercise is superior to cable raises and normal bent-over dumbbell raises because it allows for use of leverage and it engages the middle traps. This means you can accommodate a higher weight load, which helps with muscle growth.

How It’s Done

Using a pulldown station with a rope attachment, face the pulley and hold both ends of the rope using an overhand grip. Your palms should face each other, and you should use a weight that counterbalances your own well. Get your elbows up to your shoulder level and point them out to the sides. Put one of your feet on the knee pad and lean back into an angle that is about 45 degrees. With elevated elbows, pull the rope to your head and end with your hands by your ears. Squeeze for a moment and return to the starting position. Do not allow the stack to touch for each rep.

Dumbbell Lateral RaiseDumbbell Lateral Raise

There are many things wrong where this exercise is concerned and most of them have to do with the fact that people do it wrong. They mess up positioning, they use an incorrect range of motion, and they even use momentum to cheat. Additionally, everyone seems to be doing it and use way too much weight, which defeats the purpose of a fundamental isolation workout. Once you can do it right though, you’ve unlocked the key to wider delts.

Why It’s Great

While it has its weaknesses, this exercise places great tension on the middle delts as they focus on the muscle in the way it’s used in normal function. As a matter of fact, you can engage the middle head even more if you angle your arms at the end with your thumbs lower than your pinkies.

How It’s Done

Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your head straight, your abs tight, and your shoulders back. From a neutral grip with the dumbbells at your sides, raise the dumbbells using a wide arc until they are above shoulder level. Pause for a moment and slowly return to the starting position.

Seated Barbell Shoulder Press

This is one of the best exercises for deltoid development and it needs to be a part of your routine if you intend on developing big shoulders. Note, however, that it is high-intensity, slightly uncomfortable, and very challenging.

Why It’s Great

This exercise is superb for working all three delt heads. Also, barbell presses are more appropriate than dumbbell ones for heavyweight loads. Not only do they allow you to push more weight, but it is also safer to get them into the requisite lifting position.

How It’s Done

Sit erect in a barbell press station or make one with a low backbench and a power rack. Your feet should be flat on the floor and your lower back should be slightly arched. With a palm forward grip, grasp the bar outside shoulder width. Unrack the bar and begin at shoulder level. Press the bar upward and stop just before elbow lockout. Lower the bar to your upper chest and repeat for reps. Be very careful here and don’t hit yourself in the face.

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

While the barbell press is safer for heavier weights, the dumbbell press allows for flaring of the arms to the sides and allows for better targeting of the middle delts. This is very important for roundness, width, and mass of shoulders.

Why It’s Great

The exercise works the anterior, middle, and posterior heads. While the loads are lighter than those done with barbells, the use of separate dumbbells reduces strength imbalances as each side is done exclusively.

How It’s Done

Take a seated position on a low backbench and hold a dumbbell above shoulder level in each hand. Your palms should face forward, and your shoulders should be back. Ensure your back and your head remain straight and press the dumbbells upward using an arc. The dumbbells should not touch. Pause for a moment, return to the starting position and repeat.

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