When properly developed, the shoulders contribute to a powerful-looking physique, so what are the best shoulder exercises for growth?
There are many exercises and workouts that can help your shoulders get bigger however, you have to remember that if your training isn’t structured and consistent, you’re likely not to see results.
- The shoulders
- 5 best shoulder exercises: front delts focus
- 5 best shoulder exercises: side delts focus
- 5 best shoulder exercises: rear delt focus
- Jeremy Ethier goes over the 15 best shoulder exercises for growth
Your shoulders are made up of three regions or heads: anterior (front delts), lateral (side delts), and posterior (rear delts).
The muscle fibres in your front delts run almost 45 degrees to the sides relative to your torso. Therefore, when you work with overhead press exercises, you’ll want to push your elbows slightly to the front of your body to achieve maximum activation.
The key to growing the side delts is to use a variety of exercises that stress the area in different ways.
This region of the shoulder is key to balancing out the look of your front delts. The muscle fibres run at the same angle as the front delts, so to best target the muscle you want to use exercises where your elbows can pull in the same angle relative to the torso.
Read more: 9 Best Exercises for Wider Shoulders
5 best shoulder exercises: front delts focus
Barbell overhead press
The barbell overhead press has been shown to activate the front delts best, compared to other raises or presses.
The strict press, also known as the shoulder press, is a pure strength building exercise. It requires the athlete to lift a load from the front rack position (with the elbows below the bar) to overhead using only force provided by the upper body (by pressing overhead).
Aim for 6-12 reps.
Standing Dumbbell Overhead Press
Pay attention not to arch your back or lean forward as you control the weight above your head.
Choose a light weight and aim for 20-30 reps.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
This variation provides a lot more stability for you to isolate the front delts.
Kneeling Landmine Press
The Landmine Press is a unilateral shoulder exercise that will significantly strengthen your upper body and help you avoid injury. It can help with muscle imbalances, especially if you tend to only train with barbells.
It’s also a great exercise to improve your shoulder health and can help your core strength too.
If you don’t have any equipment, pike push-ups are one of the best bodyweight shoulder exercises for growth.
5 best shoulder exercises: side delts focus
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
If you are looking to build stronger shoulders, then dumbbell lateral raise is a must-do exercise. The weight of the dumbbell will be lower than usual due to the dumbbell lateral raise being an isolation movement that focuses solely on your shoulders.
Learn Away Lateral Raise
Because the side delts only start to become fully active once you’re past the first third or so of a raise, leaning to the side can ensure the delts are going through the whole range of motion.
You can perform this exercise with a cable, a resistance band, or a dumbbell.
Standing Cable Y-Raise
This exercise takes the side delts all the way to their fully contracted position.
Chest Supported Y-Raise
If you don’t have access to machines, this dumbbell and bench variation is just as effective.
Ensure that your hands are not below your elbows at the top of the position. The exercise can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or a resistance band.
5 best shoulder exercises: rear delt focus
Rear Delt Swing
Laying on an include bench and swing your elbows back while keeping your arms straight, angled out at about 45 degrees.
Rear Delt Row
Perform the exercise the same as above but bending your elbows, turning the swing into a row.
Standing Barbell Rear Delt Row
Pull the bar high and think about pulling with your elbows as you do so.
Rear Delt Row
This horizontal seated pulling exercise challenges and improves the upper body. If you don’t have access to a machine, you can perform this exercise with bands.
Rear Delt Cable Pull
This exercise trains the rear delts in their fully stretched position, which can be an important mechanism for muscle growth.
Jeremy Ethier goes over the 15 best shoulder exercises for growth
Make it into a routine
Pick one front delts exercise and two side delts and rear delts exercises to perform during the week.
Perform 3-4 sets of each exercise.
Either do it all as one shoulder workout or add the sections to the exercises you’re already doing. The most important aspect to grow your shoulder is that you stay consistent with your training week after week.