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10 Best Shoulder Exercises for Optimizing Your Shoulder Workout

10 Best Shoulder Exercises for Optimizing Your Shoulder Workout

Round and ripped shoulders are more than just a fundamental component of your physique. 

If you want to achieve that coveted V-shape then you must optimize your shoulder workout to maximize the growth of your muscles.

The shoulder exercises you should be performing should not only help you with gains but also improve mobility and strength.

Most bodybuilders complain that their shoulder growth has been plateaued. No matter how heavy they lift, or increase the number of reps, their shoulders refuse to grow.

Well, if you want to deal with plateaued growth or wish to optimize your shoulder workout for maximizing your gains then don’t worry because we bring you the best shoulder exercises suggested by professionals.

If you are a fitness freak and are looking for some exclusive advice on workouts and diet then make sure to check out our fitness blog.

Understanding The Shoulder Anatomy

For effectively training your shoulder and getting that 3D look, you need to perform exercises incorporating various movements to hit all 3 heads of your shoulders.

So first, let’s learn about the anatomy of all the delts of shoulders and the exercises that hit each delt separately.

Anterior Delt (Front Delt)

The front delt originates from the clavicle. The major function of this delt is to perform shoulder abduction when the shoulder rotates externally.

Working on your front delts thickens up your shoulders and also helps in developing your chest muscles by improving your strength for performing chest exercises.

Front Delt Exercises

  • Front dumbbell arm raises
  • Military press
  • Arnold press
  • Upright rows

Are push workouts enough to train front delts?

When you are performing a push workout, you are performing a lot of pressing movements that include bench press, dumbbell press, pushups, etc.

All of these exercises hit the front delt of your shoulders and can help in developing muscles. However, to maximize the development, you need to perform isolating exercises to train the front delt.

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Side Delt

The main function of the side delt is to assist adduction when the shoulder is internally rotated.

The side delts help in getting that capped shape of your shoulders. The shape of shoulders is the most visible from the side view that marks the importance of side delts in achieving rounded shoulders.

Side Delt Exercises

  • Dumbbell side raises
  • Single-arm cable raises
  • Dumbbell side lateral raises
  • Arnold press

How do I increase our muscles in the shoulder side?

To increase muscle mass in the side of your shoulders, you need to start your workout with heavy compound shoulder exercises and then hit the side delt through isolating movements.

Rear Delt

The rear delt originates at the start of your spine. Its major function is to provide shoulder extension, external rotation, and transverse abduction.

This shoulder delt is mostly ignored by the majority of bodybuilders. This is a small muscle but serves great importance in the appearance of the shoulders as well as the back.

Rear Delt Exercises

  • Reverse pec deck machine
  • Cable reverse fly
  • Single-arm bent-over dumbbell raises
  • Seated bent-over lateral raises

Are rear delts part of your shoulder or back workout?

The rear delts are worked in both; during back or shoulder workouts. If you want to train your rear delts on a back day then add some isolating movements at the end of your back workout.

Are rear delts push or pull?

Unlike other shoulder delts which are engaged through push motion. The rear delts are worked in a pull motion.

Insider Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Shoulder Workout

While you are performing shoulder exercises, keep these tips in mind to get a nasty pump and maximize the impact on your shoulders.

Following a Slow Tempo

When training your shoulders, make sure that you maintain a good mind-muscle connection. Most people don’t feel pump at the end of a shoulder workout because they fail to maintain a mind-muscle connection.

The easiest way to keep a mind-muscle connection is by performing slow reps and squeezing your muscle at the end of every movement.

Focusing on inhalation and exhalation is also very important when you are exercising. Exhale when you are pushing and inhale while pulling.

An easy way to maintain a tempo during your workout is by following a four-digit code.

The first number is the time taken to lower the weights, the second is the pause at the bottom, the third is the time you take to lift it back, and finally the fourth is the pause and squeeze at the top.

Learn More About Training Sets: What are Giant Sets? Top Giant Set Workouts For Whole Body

Follow this four-digit code while performing shoulder exercises and you will be able to keep up with the tempo.

Taking Short Rest Between Sets

Shoulders are not a big muscle group as chest and back so you don’t require long rest periods during a shoulder workout.

Sticking to short rest periods during shoulder workouts helps to improve your work capacity and stimulating increased muscle growth per unit of time.

When you do compound movements for shoulders like shoulder press, take around 60 sec to 90 sec of rest. And, for isolating movements keep your rest to 30-45 sec.

Increase Middle Delt Training Frequency

You can build overall shoulder mass through compound shoulder movements but they can’t help you in getting a round and cupped look.

If you wish to get those coveted round shoulders then you should add more lateral movements to your shoulder workout.

Most people commonly perform one to two types of lateral movements in their shoulder workout. You should perform more lateral movements using cables or machines to take your middle delts to the next level.

Another technique that you can use for training your side delts is by hitting them more than once a week.

 Yes, getting in more than one full shoulder workout a week is not a good idea. You engage front delts on a chest day and the rear delts when training your back.

The only delt that you get once in a week is the middle delt. So, you can perform some sets of lateral exercises at the end of your back day as well.

You might see some notable improvements in developing shoulder shape when you work a little extra on your middle delt.

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Warmup Shoulder Exercises Before Workout

Performing light exercises before starting your workout is important to minimize the risk of injuries and maximize your workout performance.

Here are some of the simplest warmup exercises you can try before stepping into a shoulder workout.

Shoulder Circle Exercise

  • Stand with your shoulder-width apart extending the arms parallel to the floor.
  • Now, start circling your arms in a small motion, gradually make bigger circles.
  • Reverse the direction of your circles.
  • Repeat the movement in each direction for 15-20 seconds.

Shoulder Rolls Exercise

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your arms will be freely hanging down at the sides of your body.
  • Lift your shoulders towards your ears, move them back and squeeze the blades together.
  • Drop the shoulders to the starting position.

Shoulder Pass-Through

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold a small barbell rod without weights in front of your body with an overhand grip.
  • Raise the bar in front of your body.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds and return to the starting position.

What exercise or stretches can I do to relieve shoulder pain?

Some of the effective shoulder exercises that you can do to relieve shoulder pain are:

  • Arm across the chest
  • Neck release
  • Chest expansion
  • Shoulder circles
  • Seated twists

Best Shoulder Exercises to Add in Your Workout

1.     Barbell Standing Press: Compound Shoulder Exercises

This is a great compound shoulder exercise that works on the majority of the upper body muscles and is one of the best exercises for building the overall mass of the shoulder.

An important complementary benefit of this exercise is core strengthening. While performing barbell presses in a standing position, your core helps in maintaining stability.

How To Do It

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell with an overhand position and rest it in front of your shoulders.
  • Tighten your core and press the barbell upwards.
  • Bring the barbell back to the starting position.
  • Repeat this movement.

Sets: 4

Reps: 12RM- 10RM- 8RM- 8RM (Increase weight on each set)

How do I progress on the overhead barbell press?

These are some tips to gradually progress on the overhead barbell press:

  • Stand in the right stance.
  • Wear proper footwear to have a strong foundation.
  • Use a weight belt.
  • Try pressing with more intensity.

2.     Arnold Press: Best Compound Shoulder Exercises

You can imagine the effectiveness of the shoulder exercise that was invented by the GOAT, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

What makes it more beneficial than standard presses are that it engages the middle delt of your shoulders more efficiently.

Adding Arnold presses in your shoulder workout helps to get defined shoulders in less time.

How To Do It

  • Sit on a bench with dumbbells in each hand.
  • Lift the dumbbells and bring them in front of your shoulders.
  • Press the dumbbells upwards.
  • Rotate the dumbbells as you bring them down.
  • Rotate them till your palms are facing you.
  • Rotate again so that your palms are facing opposite to you when you push the dumbbells up.

Will an Arnold press exercise help in shoulder development?

Arnold press is one of the best compound shoulder exercises that target all heads of your shoulders effectively so it can help in better shoulder development.

It doesn’t only target the front delt of your shoulders but also has increased engagement of lateral and posterior delts as compared to barbell press.

3.     Side Delt Raises

The lateral delt raises, commonly known as lateral raises are an effective shoulder exercise for developing that capped shoulder look.

How To Do It

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Your arms should be at your sides and palms facing away.
  • Raise both arms simultaneously till your elbows reach about the height of your shoulders.
  • Pause and hold this position for a second.
  • Now, slowly bring your arms down to your sides.
  • Repeat this movement.

How much weight should you use for a side raise?

To perform the lateral raises efficiently, you need to choose medium weights. Everyone has different strength levels so start with the weight that is light for you and gradually increase the weight.

But, keep in mind that you should never be lifting heavy dumbbells as it’s not a compound exercise. Focus on maintaining mind-muscle connection and aim for more reps.

Sets: 4

Reps: 12RM- 10RM- 8RM- 8RM (Increase weight on each set)

4.     One-Arm Cable Raise

This exercise is a variation of side dumbbell raises. If you are not a fan of dumbbells then don’t worry, perform this exercise on a pulley machine to efficiently hit your side delts.

How To Do It

  • Stand next to the pulley machine, the handle adjustment should be adjusted to the lowest setting.
  • Hold the pulley in your right hand, to stop your body from moving, grab the pulley machine’s rod with your left hand.
  • Now, raise your arm maintaining a slight bend in your working elbow.
  • Pull the cable till it’s about your shoulder height.
  • Pause at the highest point for a second and then lower your arm.
  • Repeat the same with your opposite side.

5.     Upright Row Shoulder Exercise

The upright rows are not performed by some people because of the myth that they can destroy your shoulder muscles.

But we believe that it’s all about how you perform them. Even simple exercises can cause injury if you are unable to execute them in proper form.

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Upright rows are effective to engage the front and middle heads of your shoulders. In addition, it also helps in building upper back muscles.

How To Do It

  • Hold an EZ bar with a close grip.
  • Lift the EZ bar straight up towards your chin.
  • Your elbows will be bent when you lift them upwards, and your arms should not go higher than the shoulders.
  • Pause at the top for a second.
  • Lower the bar and return to the starting position.

Sets: 3

Reps: 12RM- 10RM- 8RM (Increase weight on each set)

6.     Front Raises Exercise

Dumbbell front raises are a beneficial exercise for hitting the front delt of your shoulders.

It’s an isolation exercise for your front delt but it also works for the upper chest muscles.

This is a beneficial exercise for strengthening shoulder muscles and performing daily activities such as lifting grocery bags more easily.

Sets: 4

Reps: 12RM- 10RM- 8RM- 8RM (Increase weight on each set)

How To Do It

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip.
  • Lift the dumbbell and bring it to your shoulder height.
  • Lower it slowly and repeat this movement with the other arm.

Which is better? Barbell front raise or dumbbell front raise?

By using a barbell instead of dumbbells for front raises, you can distribute the weight evenly across both shoulders and have more impact on your shoulders in a shorter range of motion.

7.     Rear Delt Dumbbell Fly

The rear delt of the shoulder is the part that is ignored by most bodybuilders. But if you want to develop a 3D look of your shoulders then you can’t skip training your rear delt.

The rear delt dumbbell fly is one of the most beneficial shoulder exercises to hit your rear delt.

What are the best exercises for rear deltoids?

These are some of the best rear delt exercises:

  • Reverse pec deck machine
  • Standing cable reverse fly
  • Single-arm bent-over side flyers
  • Rear delt rows

How To Do It

  • Stand shoulder-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Hinge at your waist bringing your chest forward and downwards.
  • Bend your knees slightly for maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Raise your arms out to the sides. Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top position.
  • Lower the dumbbells and return to the starting position.

Sets: 4

Reps: 12RM- 10RM- 8RM- 8RM (Increase weight on each set)

8.     Rear Delt Rows

You might be thinking that it’s a back exercise so what is it doing here among the shoulder exercises and shoulder workout?

Well, you should know that the rowing movement is not only significant for building your back. It also involves the rear delts of your shoulders as well.

How To Do It

  • Set the bench to an angle of 45-degree incline with the floor.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie with your chest on the bench.
  • Your head should be extended away from the bench, and your arms should be extended.
  • Now, pull the dumbbells towards your chest, squeeze your shoulder blades at the top.
  • Lower the dumbbells to starting position.

Sets: 4

Reps: 12RM- 10RM- 8RM- 6RM (Increase weight on each set)

9.     Incline Bench Press

The incline bench press is mostly done for training your upper chest. But, it can also become an effective shoulder exercise as the movement is comparable to a shoulder press.

You can get dual benefits through incline bench press i.e you will not only build rounded shoulders but also a chiseled chest.

How To Do It

  • Set the bench to an angle of 45-degree with the ground.
  • Hold the barbell rod a little wider than the shoulder width.
  • Lift the barbell, maintain a mind-muscle connection and focus on lifting it through your shoulders.
  • Lower the barbell till it’s about to touch your clavicle. Then liftback.

Sets: 4

Reps: 12RM- 10RM- 8RM- 6RM (Increase weight on each set)

10. Dumbbell Shrug

Getting those ripped monstrous traps is a dream of every bodybuilder. One of the most beneficial shoulder exercises to develop the trapezius muscle is shrugging.

Dumbbell shrugs hold prime importance in developing your traps, they are known as a key to building huge traps that compliment your upper body.

How To Do It

  • Stand hip-width apart
  • Hold dumbbells in both hands with your palm facing towards you.
  • Raise your shoulders as high as possible by squeezing your traps.
  • Hold this position for a second or two and then lower your shoulders.

What are the benefits of doing shoulder shrugs exercises?

Doing shrugs helps in strengthening your trapezius muscles that work in stabilizing your neck and upper back muscles.

Strong traps help in reducing the strain on your neck and shoulder muscles, if you have a desk job then having strong traps is very important.

Shrugs are a great exercise for activating your upper back muscles, build mass, strength, and muscular endurance.


Rounded shoulders are a dream of every bodybuilder. Everyone wants to wear some crazy tank tops to the beach for which ripped arms and rounded shoulders are essential.

If you want to transform your shoulders to boulders then add these exercises in your next shoulder workout. You will surely experience a great pump and will gradually build massive shoulders.

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