Welcome to the largest shoulder exercises page on the internet!
If you want to build bigger shoulders, few things are going to be as important as making sure that you are doing the right shoulder exercises. While lifting heavy weight is important, if you’re missing the mark on the right shoulder exercises in your program, you’re missing out.
Too many guys think that the secret to big shoulders is to just keep overhead pressing. As it’s the most compound move for the shoulders, it must be best, right?
Not really. While I won’t go out and say that you shouldn’t be overhead pressing, in fact, many of the following exercises I’m about to show you are overhead press variations, you do need to realize that your shoulders need more than that. You need variation in your workout routine and to be attacking your shoulders from multiple angles using different techniques. That is what will get your shoulder growing.
When you add shape and size to your delt muscles with these shoulder exercises, you round out your entire physique as these increase the width of the entire body, which in turn is going to help maximize the illusion of a slimmer waist. If that V-taper is what you’re after, strong delts will get you there.
Not to mention, by building strong delts you’ll also be helping to protect your rotator cuff, which is prone to chronic injuries while boosting your gym performance on such lifts as bench press and incline press.
Effectively working your shoulders involves ensuring you hit it from all angles, so plenty of exercise variety is key.
This said, let me walk you through the top shoulder exercises you need to be doing right now if you want to see optimal progress. Let’s kick things off with:
3 Forgotten Shoulder Exercises For Capped Delts
Dumbbell Lateral Raise Partial Reps
Normally when you start off with your lateral raises, what do you do? Lighten your weight. There’s no way you’re lateral raising as much as your overhead pressing. There’s no question about it.
But if you change the way you do lateral raises, you can actually increase the weight you use by 20-30%, getting closer to those heavier lifts. Part of growing big shoulders is lifting heavyweight at least some of the time and this exercise is definitely going to help you achieve that.
During the lateral raise, you’re always going to be strongest in the first half of the movement. Once you hit parallel or above with the shoulders, you’ll notice significantly more weakness. By cutting the range of motion off before you get to that weaker point, you maximize the weight you can lift and growth you’ll see.
Partial reps are great when you really want to kick things into high gear. Focus on getting strong mind-muscle connection with this exercise and perform three sets with 10-12 reps per set, taking 60 seconds rest between sets.
Dumbbell Farmers Walk
For the dumbbell farmer’s walk, you’ll be using a time under tension principle, meaning you’ll be keeping the muscles under stress for either 30 seconds or 45 seconds depending on how advanced you are (T30 or T45).
Grab the dumbbells and their flare the shoulders up and out a bit so that deltoid is popping, indicating the stress is being placed in the right place. Now begin walking across the room while you start the countdown.
Because your shoulders get no rest during this exercise – constant tension is being placed on them at all times, it’s great for upping the intensity of your training program and stimulating a great growth response.
Try and do three total sets and rest for just 45 seconds between each set.
Dumbbell Seated Lateral Raise
The dumbbell seated lateral raise is slightly different from a conventional lateral raise because you can actually use a bit of momentum while doing this exercise. You’ll start out seated on a bench holding a dumbbell with either hand. Then as you begin, slowly rock the body back as you lateral raise the dumbbells out. You should achieve a nice smooth movement pattern while doing this, so there is no jerkiness involved.
This movement will also allow you to lift a little more weight while keeping constant tension on the deltoid muscle. To maximize the effects you get on this exercise, I recommend performing a mirror rep drop set, meaning you’ll perform one set of around 10 reps, drop the weight by about 30% and then do another 10 reps until you hit failure.
Next up, we are hitting the lateral deltoid with:
5 Shoulder Exercises To Build Wider Deltoids
The first exercise I love doing is shrug shapers. This exercise is broken down into two different movements and it’s important that you hit both movements in each rep you do.
First is the shrug. You’ll want to hold the dumbbells down by your sides and then shrug up, feeling the traps direct the movement. From there, you’ll want to flare the deltoids out as you lift the hands out to about shoulder height level. This flare is where you’ll really feel the deltoids burning as they guide the weight through the movement pattern.
Note that for this exercise, you’ll want to use a weight level that is about the equivalent to what you’d use on a dumbbell lateral raise being performed for 10-12 reps. So think lighter weight and strict form here.
This is a perfect exercise to start your workout out with since it’ll help to warm up the rotator cuff and activate those lateral deltoids so you feel the more in the exercises to come.
Overhead Plate Raise Drop Sets
Next, we have the overhead plate raise drop set. This is a fun exercise and one that changes it up really well from the typical overhead press you’ve likely been doing in your workout routine.
For this exercise, you’re going to hold a plate over your head with both hands and then perform presses, using a faster tempo pattern and ensuring you keep constant tension on the muscles at all times. This means never fully locking out the elbows at the top of the exercise as when you do, all tension is lost.
You’ll be doing what I refer to as ‘jet reps’ in this exercise, which means a faster pace with that constant tension being applied and go for a T30 protocol, meaning you do these reps for a total of 30 seconds under tension.
Once you’ve finished the first set, you’ll want to drop the weight of the plate by about 15-20% and then do another set in the exact same manner.
This exercise will be excellent for really helping you feel that lateral deltoid burning and to activate the slow-twitch muscle fibers that may be asleep in many other exercises you’re doing.
Side To Side Delt Raise
Now we have an exercise that is truly unique and one that is unlike anything else you’ve ever probably done in the gym before. These unique exercises are great because they’ll wake up your muscles, subjecting them to a totally new stimulus, which will then help them grow.
To do this one, kneel down on the floor and hold onto one dumbbell with both hands. Position this dumbbell at the side of your body and then lift it up across the body so that it comes to the center position and then immediately drive it over the head and straight up. Lower back down and then as you do, move over to the other side of the body.
The lat muscles will work not only when pressing the weight over the head, but also as you direct the weight from side to side, giving them twice the activation you’d normally see.
Be sure to do some good stretching after this exercise is done because you will be sore the next day.
Aim to do 10 reps per side when doing this exercise.
Dumbbell Front Raise To Shoulder Press
The DB front raise to shoulder press is an exercise that will have you checking your ego at the door. You are not to be using heavyweights on this movement. Think the same weight you would perform a front dumbbell raise. Because it is very taxing on the shoulder muscles and by this point, you’re already at a decent state of fatigue, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll be able to push hard here.
What you’ll be doing for this move is front raising the dumbbells up to about face-height and then bending the elbows as you begin to press them over the head into a shoulder press.
After the press, however, do not lower them back down in the typical shoulder press fashion. Instead, you are going to lower the weight down keeping the elbows straight as you would if you were coming down from a front raise.
Be sure to lower them down in a controlled movement pattern, rather than letting them simply drop down as you lose the tension of the muscles. It’s the slow and controlled movement pattern that will help ensure you see maximum stress on the muscles being applied.
Dumbbell Alternate Overhead Press With A Parallel Grip Superset With Dumbbell Shapers
This next superset is one that will finish your delts off and have them begging for mercy as you leave the gym. The DB alternate overhead press has actually been proven to be most effective of all the shoulder exercises for building both your anterior as well as your lateral head so is one you can’t miss out on with your workout routine.
What you’ll do is hold a set of dumbbells up at shoulder height level like you were going to do a shoulder press. Your palms should be facing in and now drive one hand over your head. Extend but do not lock the elbow and then lower back down. As you lower the weight back down, you’ll want to simultaneously drive the other hand up so you’re alternating arms as you go.
You’ll aim to perform this for a T30 protocol, meaning you’ll do as many reps as you can in the 30 second time period. This exercise also calls for a faster pace and a lighter weight used than conventional shoulder presses, so keep that in mind as you do it.
You do not want that deltoid muscle resting at any point during this exercise but rather, maintaining tension the whole way through. Research has confirmed that time under tension can be an important stimulus for evoking greater muscle development.
From here, you’ll then superset this exercise with the dumbbell shakers once again. This is the same exercise you did at the start of the workout program to warm up the lateral delts and rotator cuff and now can be used as a greater finisher as well.
Because you are in that highly fatigued state, especially after your dumbbell alternate overhead press, you’ll want to drop the weight down. Aim for 10-12 reps per set of this exercise.
If you want to build a powerful looking physique with shoulder exercises, you will also need to do these:
10 Shoulder Exercised For Bigger Deltoids
Delt Shrug Shapers
Delt shrug shapers are a great muscle for not only hitting those lateral and anterior delts but also working your traps at the same time. They’ll build thickness and width to the body, giving you that all-powerful look. They’re easily one of the most forgotten about top 10 shoulder exercises.
To get the most from this exercise, ensure that you shrug up the weight first and then begin to flare out your deltoids. If you skip the shrug, you won’t be in the prime position to work the delts and you’ll completely eliminate bringing the traps into the movement.
As you perform the lateral raise from here, you’ll want to keep constant tension on the traps to ensure optimal growth.
Dumbbell Front Raise To Press
Ready to feel those muscles being torched? That’s what will happen when you add the dumbbell front raise to press into your workout routine. This one is a killer and you’ll definitely notice it the next day. When doing this exercise, you’ll bring the dumbbells up into a full front raise and then once at the top position, bend the elbows so you bring the weights down to shoulder height and then press them up into the press from there.
This is going to be great for getting those front delts screaming out in pain and training your body to work through fatigue. In order to see the best results from this exercise, focus on going lighter so that you don’t burn out after a few reps and really feel the muscles contracting as you do it. You want as much of the power to be from the anterior deltoid, not the triceps or biceps.
Keep the movement pattern slow and controlled to maintain optimal tension on the muscle tissues.
Incline EZ Bar Front Raise
One exercise you don’t often see guys doing in the gym but that’s very effective for ensuring optimal tension on the front delts is the incline EZ bar front raise. To perform this exercise, you’ll want to position yourself on an incline bench holding the pre-weighted EZ bar. Next, you’ll lay stomach down on the bench with the eyes looking into the ground holding the bar beneath you.
When ready, lift it up slowly in a controlled manner until the arms are above the head. Pause and then come down. To really evoke maximum stimulus on the muscles, pause for a few seconds before lowering that weight.
For this shoulder exercise, it’s often also best to not necessarily go for reps, but instead, time under tension. Aim for 30 seconds of continual, constant work with this one.
Iso Dumbbell Seated Shoulder Press
The iso dumbbell seated shoulder press takes the intensity up a notch from the regular seated shoulder press because one arm is being forced to hold the weight in an isolateral position, fatiguing before or after it’s already completed the reps needed.
You’ll do all reps for one side and then holding the just worked arm in the starting position, complete all reps for the other side. This is great for crushing your lateral and anterior deltoid and for building muscular endurance.
Note you will need to lift less weight than normal when doing this exercise because you are aiming to hold that static position.
Barbell Overhead Press
A classic strength move, you can’t go wrong with the barbell overhead press. This exercise is going to earn top marks for hitting your anterior and lateral deltoid and helps you gain excellent size and muscle density.
Go heavy on this shoulder exercise because you’ll have plenty of power behind you and aim to perform it early on in your workout routine when you’re feeling fresh.
As you press the weight over your head, focus on tilting your head back so that you can drive it directly over your head.
Between The Legs Cable Lat Raise
While you most typically see people performing lateral raises with a dumbbell straight out the side, the between the legs cable lat raise takes the challenge one step further. First, the cable delivers a different type of stimulus to the delt muscles, ensuring constant tension is kept on the muscles at all times.
Second, by leaning away from the cable stack machine and then doing your lat raise, you increase the range of motion your arm will move through, giving even more challenge.
Be sure to alternate arms after each set so both are being worked equally. Your goal will be lighter weight and higher reps with this exercise to stimulate maximum hypertrophy? Also, think of keeping your elbows up in order to maximize the amount of activation on your lat muscles as well.
Dumbbell Alternating Front Raise
The dumbbell alternating front raise is a perfect exercise to incorporate into your workout routine to hit your anterior deltoid and finish them off before you leave the gym.
By using an alternating arm approach, you’ll also get greater core activation as your muscles will have to contract to keep the body stationary. Aim for 10-12 reps on each arm for this move and try and pause at the top very briefly after each rep.
Cable Rear Delt Fly
One of the biggest mistakes that many guys make when developing their shoulder workout session is neglecting their rear delts. Do this and you’ll always feel like something is lacking in your development.
The cable rear delt fly is a great move for putting constant tension on the rear delts and for helping you work through the entire range of motion. As you do this shoulder exercise you’ll want to ensure you focus on squeezing the delts for a couple seconds at the top of each rep to gain full activation.
This is not one of those shoulder exercises to rush through. You want optimal mind-muscle connection or you likely won’t be fully activating your lats as well as you could be.
Dumbbell Alternating Overhead Press
The dumbbell alternating overhead press is a good variation on the iso dumbbell seated shoulder press only this time you aren’t having one arm held in the starting position but rather, alternating arms as you press through the movement pattern.
This exercise will help to dramatically boost your shoulder stability and could decrease injuries in the long run since you’ll be training muscles deep within the shoulder as well as rotator cuff.
Fatigue will be higher when doing this exercise so use a weight that’s about 20% lower than what you’d normally do for your standard dumbbell seated shoulder press.
Plate Front Raise
Finally, to finish off your delts, consider a plate front raise. This is a simple shoulder exercise to do and one that’s great at the end of any workout routine. Simply sit on a bench and hold a plate in front of you, raising it up slowly and in a controlled manner until it’s about parallel or ever so slightly higher than shoulder height.
This is a great exercise to use drop sets with, so consider decreasing the weight after each set performed slightly and cranking out another set. It’s the perfect way to bring your muscles to a state of full fatigue.
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I’m Troy and I’m the creator of SuperHuman You and Co-Founder of Alpha Lion.
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