Shoulder exercises

best shoulder exercises

The Best Shoulder Exercises in Bodybuilding

Shoulder exercises, more than any other body part, require irreproachable performance technique of each repetition. Correct performance technique is the main key of success.

The best shoulder exercises in bodybuilding can be divided into two big main groups:

1. Presses (compound exercises to gain muscle mass)
2. Raises or fiyes (Isolation shoulder exercises )

shoulder exercises bodybuilding Presses

• Barbell Shoulder Presses (Seated or Standing)
• Barbell Presses Behind Head/Military Presses (Seated or Standing)
• Dumbbell Shoulder Presses (Seated or Standing)
• Machine Shoulder Presses


• Front Barbell/Dumbbell/Cable Raises (for front deltoids)
• Lateral Barbell/Dumbbell/Cable Raises (for middle deltoids)
• Bent Over Dumbbell/Cable Flyes (for back deltoids)

It’s better to start your shoulder workout session with difficult shoulder presses and after them ‘finish’ target muscles with isolated shoulder exercise (different raises). Such practice has two advantages: first, you have enough energy to complete the most difficult shoulder exercises in the very beginning; and second, raises are less dangerous. That’s why you’d better end your workout with these exercises that use rather light weights.

deltoid exercises       MILITARY PRESSES: their aim of this shoulder exercise is to train front and middle deltoid muscles. I’ve written a lot about this shoulder exercise in military press article. I advise you to do it in the standing position: in this case it turns into a truly power shoulder exercise.


Starting exercise position: obtain a sitting or standing position and bend your lumbar spine section a bit; grip the bar with both hands a bit wider your shoulders width. Lower your elbows when holding the barbell at the shoulder blade level; legs are parallel to each other.

Exercise Performance: press the barbell above your head till your arms straighten. Slowly return the barbell to the starting position. Don’t throw back your head. Look right before you.

BARBELL PRESSES BEHIND BACK (SEATED OR STANDING): the aim of this shoulder exercise is to workout front and lateral deltoid muscles and also tricep muscles to some extent. All heavy weight presses from behind one’s head are potentially dangerous for joints. That’s why I don’t advise you to perform this exercise in the very beginning.

Starting exercise position: grip a barbell with a direct grip so that your forearms are strictly parallel to each other and strictly perpendicular to the floor. Hold your head straight and by no means lean forward. You need to straighten your torso and bend a bit in your lumbar spine section. Lower the bar to the upper part of trapezius muscles.

Exercise Performance: carefully raise the barbell over your head till your arms straighten. Slowly return the barbell to the starting position.

shoulder exercises with dumbbells  DUMBBELL SHOULDER PRESSES: their aim is to train front and lateral deltoid muscles. The range of this shoulder exercise is higher because of using dumbbells instead of a barbell. The total weight of dumbbells is always lower than a barbell due to additional work of stabilizing muscles.

Exercise Performance: grip dumbbells from above (palms are facing away) and hold them with your arms bent at shoulder height. Raise the dumbbells till they touch each other in the upper movement point; then lower them as low as possible. You’ll feel that you can move dumbbells higher and lower than a barbell though the necessity to control independent movement of two exercise apparatus means that you need to workout with lighter weights.

exercises for deltoids  LATERAL DUMBBELL FLYES: the aim of this deltoid exercise is to workout the lateral head of the deltoid muscle. Don’t cheat (don’t rock with your whole body in order to simplify the movement) when performing this exercise.

Performance: take a dumbbell in each hand; lean a bit forward and stretch your hands before you. Begin each new repetition with a defined stop in order not to do swings. Raise the dumbbells up and sideward having your wrists a bit turned (as if you’re pouring water from a jug): the back part of the dumbbells should be higher than the front one. Raise the dumbbells a bit higher your shoulders; then slowly and smoothly lower them downward.

ALTERNATE FRONT DUMBBELL RAISES: the aim of this shoulder exercise is to train the front head of deltoid muscles. Secondary load falls on trapezius muscle in the upper point of the exercise amplitude. Most probably, you won’t need this shoulder exercise if you regularly perform Military Presses.

Exercise Performance: Obtain the standing position; your arms are holding dumbbells and hanging along your torso. (1) Raise one dumbbell up and forward along a wide arch till it’s above your head. (2) Smoothly lower the dumbbell controlling each phase of its movement and raise another dumbbell at the same time in order both dumbbells are in motion and move in the opposite directions against each other in front of your face. Watch over that the dumbbells meat right in front of your face (not aside it) in order to influence the front deltoid head directly.

shoulder exercises dumbbells  REAR DELT RISES:their aim is to isolate and train the back head of deltoid muscles. When leaning forward you make back deltoids work more intensively. Try to do this shoulder exercise slowly and with a second pause in the upper movement point.


Exercise Performance: (1) Take dumbbells and lean forward (approximately 45° or even more); stretch your arms with dumbbells before you. (2) Keeping the obtained torso position, raise the dumbbells: your wrists should be turned so that your thumbs are lower than little fingers (don’t allow the dumbbells to ‘fall’ behind your shoulders). Smoothly lower your arms, overcoming resistance. This shoulder exercise can also be performed in the sitting position.

The best SHOULDER EXERCISES bodybuilding UPRIGHT ROWS:the aim of this shoulder exercise is to train trapezius and front deltoid muscles. The broader your grip is the more load moves from trapezius muscles to deltoids.

Exercise Performance: (1) Grip a barbell with your palms facing away; the distance between your hands should amount 10 inches. Hold the barbell with your lowered arms before you. (2) Raise the barbell upright holding it close to your torso till the bar reaches your chin. Keep your back straight and try to feel the tension of your triceps when moving the barbell. Move your elbows forward. On reaching the upper movement point return the barbell to the starting position.

Deltoid exercises: workout anatomy.

Is it difficult to exercise shoulders making them wider? – At first sight, it seams easy because shoulder muscles represent quite a strong muscle group. They are much less than such ‘giants’ as legs, back or chest but still, in spite of their ‘modest’ size, they can generate great force. Regarding shoulders everything seams simple: just increase weights and deltoids will grow on their own. However, in spite of the strength they possess, shoulders appear to be rather a ‘delicate’ structure that can be injured very easily. But why? – The reason is that shoulders possess maximum mobility and minimum stability. Movement of a shoulder joint is much more difficult in comparison with other joints (for example, knee or elbow ones). Depending on activeness of certain fibers, shoulder joints are able to provide shoulder turn inside or outside, raise of arms as well as their straightening or moving backward.

 best SHOULDER EXERCISES bodybuilding Mobility is the advantage that we pay for with ‘delicacy’ of our shoulders. This situation reminds me a car suspension. There are different types of a car suspension: ‘firm’ frame one for jeeps and soft multilever one – for modern business class cars. It’s clear that we pay for bigger comfort of the last variant with more often and expensive suspension repair because it includes many more movable parts in comparison with a jeep suspension. By the way, speaking about levers, we need to admit that lever characteristics of shoulder muscles are rather poor. It means that even in case of making shoulder exercise with a small weights significant muscle efforts are required. For example, raise of a 20 lb dumbbell with a straightened hand requires shoulder effort of 200 lb ! By some people shoulders are attached to the humerus a bit lower and, consequently, farther from shoulder joints; this increases their lever strength. Such advantage allows some athletes to lift much heavier weights than ordinary bodybuilders can do.

Shoulder joints appear to be a junction of the outer part of the shoulder blade, the socket of the upper part of the shoulder blade and the humerus round head. It’s a ginglymoid joint; it’s socket is rather shallow and this allows our shoulder to move in any direction. This is the main reason of minimal stability of the joint that is provided only by minor muscles and ligaments.

 anatomy deltoids exercises

Deltoids are such muscles that are associated with shoulders most of all. The deltoid muscle (lat. musculus deltoideus) is a surface muscle situated right under our skin; it covers shoulder joints from the front, from above and from behind shaping recognizable shoulder roundness.
The deltoid muscle consists of three parts: front, lateral and back ones. Unequal disposition of muscle fascicles of certain parts of the deltoid muscle against the shoulder joint as well as their length and way of attachment to the humerus define different vectors of their force application.

The main function of deltoids: these muscles can contract both entirely and with only certain of their parts; they develop great strength. Front deltoids are responsible for bending of our shoulders and turning them inwards; they also raise our arms. Back deltoids extend shoulders, turn them ectad and lower raised arms. The task of middle deltoids is to move our arms sideward: when contracting, they can move our arms to approximately 70°.

The deltoid is a muscle that is able to increase shoulder size best of all. Still, it is only one of six muscles constituting our shoulder girdle; the rest are the following: supraspinous muscle (lat. musculus supraspinatus), infraspinatus muscle (lat. musculus infraspinatus), teres minor muscle (lat . musculus teres minor), teres major muscle (lat . musculus teres major) and subscapular muscle (lat . musculus subscapularis).

Athletic constitution presupposes the optimal V-shape symmetry (correlation of the width of shoulders and thighs). In this sense deltoids are a tool by means of which we can achieve such proportion.

Military press — the best shoulder exercise in bodybuilding

The best SHOULDER EXERCISES bodybuilding - deltoids exercises Classic Barbell Press is also known as Military Press. Not long ago it wasn’t a problem to find a barbell in gyms for uniformed service men but sometimes they were lacking benches. That’s why military men had to press barbell in the standing position and nobody complained. Those ones who did this exercise regularly could always boast of particular strength of their shoulder girdle.
This is a great exercise; that’s why I devoted a whole chapter to it. In the previous century Standing Barbell Press together with barbell snatch and jerk were obligatory Olympic movements during weight lifting competitions. You can ask ‘Why’? – It’s because this exercise shows the real strength of an athlete very effectively.

There are exercises that you can’t skip; Standing Military Press is one of such exercises for your deltoid muscles. This exercise is fairly considered a compound one and it’s usually performed in the beginning of a training session. What comes to me, I do it in the very beginning right after easy raises to warm up deltoids.

The main load of this exercise falls on front and middle deltoid fascicles; indirect load – on back deltoid fascicles, triceps, the upper part of pectoral muscles and muscles of back. This exercise is a ‘nail’ of your deltoid training; it’s the main criterion of your deltoid size and strength progress. Be sure that even if you perform only this exercise your deltoids will grow very good anyway.

You perform the shoulder exercise Military Presses like this:
Hold the bar with both hands a bit wider your shoulders width. You need to grip the barbell so that your forearms are perpendicular to the floor in the lowest movement point. Raise barbell to your chest and move elbows a bit forward in order your palms face strictly upwards. Press the barbell from this position till you fix it in the upper movement point with your straight arms above your head. When doing it try not to lean backward.

Don’t choose Barbell Presses Behind Head as your main shoulder exercise. The idea is that it’s vitally important to increase training weights and when performing presses from behind head your unnaturally twisted joints can easily become the reason of a serious injury during deltoid training. You need to remember that shoulder joints are very mobile but extremely unsteady. Standing Military Presses is a very convenient exercise for both your joints and deltoid muscles. Besides it, the amplitude of this exercise is much longer… it means that it’s more difficult to perform it.

Still, nobody promised an easy going. It’s a direct dependence between the quality of your training efficiency and the quality of your results. In the end, it’s up to you whether to have big deltoids or not to have.

The Best Shoulder Exercises in Bodybuilding is Written by: Dennis Borisov
© June 2009 All rights reserved. Reprint article with link only.