Best Shoulder Workout Exercises

Shoulder workout exercises are a compound weight training movement that targets the delts and rotator cuff muscles to support the shoulder joints. The best workout for shoulder muscles also engages the traps, lats, and rhomboids. 

Incorporating shoulder workout routines into weekly activity is important for several reasons. Working the shoulder muscles increases strength, which improves muscle function and posture. Additionally, shoulder exercises help people recover from injuries and prevent future injuries.

Since humans rely on the shoulder muscles for many daily activities, there isn’t a downside to these exercises. Some people may find certain exercises more challenging if they have a history of a shoulder injury, but there are many options to choose from. 

Advantages of incorporating shoulder exercises into a regular workout routine include strengthening and injury prevention. The most common mistakes involve using the poor form or lifting too much weight. Skip the shoulder workout hack and focus on using proper form with a manageable weight.

Shoulder exercises are important for injury prevention, but they also support a healthy posture and improve overall strength and appearance. Comprehensive home or gym shoulder workout routine can boost self-confidence by increasing strength and enhancing definition.

The best shoulder workout exercises are listed below.

  1. Most Beneficial: Push Press
  2. Best Compound Shoulder Exercise: Military Press
  3. Best for Building Delts: Rear Delt Row
  4. Best for a Balanced Physique: Seated Dumbbell Press
  5. Best for Power: Seated Barbell Press
  6. Best for Intermediate Lifters: Upright Row
  7. Best for Advanced Lifters: Arnold Press
  8. Best Shoulder Exercise with Dumbbells: Lateral Raise
  9. Best for Beginners: Front Raise

Table of Contents

1. Push Press

The push press works the rotator cuff and delts, primarily the anterior deltoid. It also engages the upper pecs, triceps, core, and lower body. 

Push Press
Push Press

This exercise is one of the best overall shoulder exercises, especially for athletes who want built shoulders. It follows natural motions to build strength and increase support for the shoulder joint. Athletes can make noticeable gains with lighter weights, but it’s also possible to put up substantial weight.

To perform the push press, athletes should set up a barbell with manageable weights. With feet in line with the shoulders, grip the barbell and lift it to rest on the collarbone. Bend the knees to squat just a bit. Push up with the lower body and use the shoulder to lift the bar overhead. Pause with arms fully extended, then lower the bar with a controlled motion.

The common mistakes for push presses include incorrect grip, arching the back, bending the wrists, and pushing the bar forward. For grip, the hands should be even with the shoulders and wrists straight to engage the proper muscles and prevent injury. The back should remain neutral, not arched. Finally, the bar should move in a vertical motion, close to the body.

Variations of the push press include the traditional, dumbbell clean and push press, kettlebell push press, front squat push press, and dumbbell thruster.

For best results, add the push press to upper body workouts 1 to 2 times per week.

The major effects for men using the push press are increased strength, better definition through the shoulders and upper arms, and wider shoulders. Women can see more stability and strength through the shoulders by adding the push press. Plus, it helps build hip drive. 

Since most children generally do not have experience lifting weights, this is not a common exercise for young athletes. It’s challenging to learn compared to some other shoulder workouts, and many young lifters lack the strength to perform it correctly.

The effect of performing the push press for calisthenics, bodybuilders, swimmers, and runners is increased strength and stability throughout the upper body. Additionally, it’s an excellent exercise for injury prevention in all athletic endeavors. 

To build strength, athletes should start with 2 to 3 sets of 2 to 3 reps at about 80% of their max. For fine-tuning technique, do 4 to 6 sets of 3 to 5 reps at a lighter weight, even just the bar, to focus on the movement and feeling the muscles work. Athletes who want to build mass should select a moderate weight and perform 2 to 4 sets of 3 to 6 reps.

Push Press Variations for Shoulder Muscles

The barbell push press is the standard version of this exercise, but swapping out the equipment creates unique variations that engage muscles differently. For example, using dumbbells or kettlebells instead of a barbell allows an athlete to engage one side at a time. 

The kettlebell push press is an excellent variation for athletes recovering from a shoulder injury since it focuses more on stimulating the muscles than adding mass. As another variation, the front squat push press works the whole body to improve overall daily function by adding weight to natural motions to build muscle and stability.

Though the variations all have something to offer, the traditional barbell push press remains the most popular version. It’s the best for developing strength and mass.

The push press variations include the following. 

  1. Barbell Push Press
  2. Dumbbell Clean and Push Press
  3. Kettlebell Push Press (Double-Arm or Single-Arm)
  4. Front Squat Push Press
  5. Dumbbell Thruster

1. Barbell Push Press

The barbell push press engages the delts, lats, and rotator cuff muscles. It also works the core and lower body.

To perform a proper barbell push press, set the barbell up with weights on a rack. Stand with feet in line with the shoulders and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Lift it off the rack and bring it to the chest, resting the bar on the collarbone. Bend the knees slightly into a partial squat. Drive up with the legs and then use the shoulders to push the bar up.

Be sure to keep the arms in line with the shoulders or just a bit wider. The back should remain neutral and not arched. Pause at the top of the motion, with the arms fully extended, then lower back to the collarbone.

Common mistakes for this variation include using the poor form or too much weight. This exercise does not require heavy weights to yield results. It’s better to use a lighter weight and focus on proper form, keeping the wrists in line, not arching the back, and pushing the bar up vertically without drifting outward.

The barbell push press is popular because it’s excellent for bulking, strengthening, and injury prevention. Though this variation might be too challenging for a beginner, it’s not impossible to learn because it’s easy to break down the steps.

Most lifters should stick with light to moderate weights for this exercise, though bodybuilders may opt to max out on occasion. Generally, athletes should do 2 to 4 sets of 3 to 6 reps.

2. Dumbbell Clean and Push Press

Though the dumbbell clean and push press is generally seen as a total body workout, it specifically targets the delts at the end of the exercise. This variation is all about power and stability throughout the body, but primarily in the shoulders. 

Start this exercise with dumbbells on the floor and feet in line with the shoulders. Hinge at the hips and bend the knees to grasp the dumbbells. Push into the floor with the lower body. Engage the core and lower body to lift the dumbbells up to the shoulders, then move them overhead into the press. Pause and return to the starting position.

The most common mistake for this variation is using too much weight to maintain good form. It’s more challenging because each hand has to guide an individual dumbbell, so it might require athletes to start lighter and work up. Alternatively, athletes lacking the strength to complete this variation can work on building core and shoulder muscles through other drills.

Though the dumbbell clean and press is not as popular as other variations, it serves a purpose. For those willing to give it a chance, the dumbbell clean and push press can build strength and mass while improving an athlete’s explosiveness. 

This variation is not for beginners, but it’s an excellent choice for intermediate to experienced lifters hoping to balance shoulder mass and definition. Lifters using this drill for power should do 2 to 4 sets of 3 to 6 reps with a moderate to heavyweight. Alternatively, to increase endurance or perfect form, athletes should do 3 or 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps with lighter weights.

3. Kettlebell Push Press (Double-Arm or Single-Arm)

The kettlebell push press is another total body exercise, but in terms of shoulder muscles, it engages the delts and rotator cuff. This variation takes the shoulders through a full range of motion and makes it almost impossible to cheat at any point in the exercise. 

One of the neat things about the kettlebell push press is that it’s a variation with variations. Athletes can do a single-arm or double-arm kettlebell push press and then choose between standing or seated versions. That said, every version uses the same general form.

To perform a standard, double-arm kettlebell push press, start with a kettlebell in each hand at the shoulders in a traditional “clean” motion. Squat to about a ¼-squat. Using the lower body to push up, continue the momentum by engaging the shoulders to push the kettlebells overhead. Pause at the top of the motion, then return to the starting position.

Common mistakes for this variation involve poor form, namely an improper stance or failing to engage the core muscles. Lifters should feel stable with weight balanced between the feet before starting. Engaging the core muscles is critical for stability throughout the exercise.

The kettlebell push press is extremely popular because it’s a total body exercise that strengthens the shoulders and burns calories. It’s best for intermediate or advanced lifters.

To maintain proper form and isolate the muscles, try using lighter kettlebells for 2 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps. Then work up to 10 to 15 reps over 2 to 3 sets. When increasing the weight, drop back down to 5 to 8 reps and work up.

4. Front Squat Push Press

Also known as the thruster, the front squat push press engages the delts and rotator cuffs to push the bar overhead. It’s also excellent for increasing overall stability and balance.

To perform this variation, the lifter starts with the barbell resting on the shoulders. The hands should be slightly wider than the shoulders and feet in line with the shoulders. 

Engage the core and keep the back straight while moving down into a squat. Pause for a second, then push back up to the starting position and continue into the press Pause again at the top motion with arms extended. Then lower back to the starting position.

The most common mistake for this variation is rounding the back. Arching the back can lead to injury.

This variation is popular as a hybrid exercise that works the whole body and provides some cardio benefits. It’s a compound motion that focuses on everyday movements, making it a beginner-friendly exercise. 

Start light, even if it’s just the bar at first. Mastering proper form is critical, so doing 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 controlled reps with the bar can be beneficial. When increasing weight, try dropping down the number of reps to 5 to 8 until the weight is manageable enough to do more reps.

5. Dumbbell Thruster

The dumbbell thruster works the delts and rotator cuff in a different way. By using two separate weights, the lifter can alter the position of their hands and arms to work the shoulders from a slightly different angle.

To perform the dumbbell thruster, the lifter should hold a dumbbell in each hand at the shoulders and with palms facing each other. Bend the knees to start in a squat position, then thrust up using the lower body’s momentum and the shoulders to extend the weights overhead. Pause at the top of the motion, then lower back to the starting position.

The most common mistake for this variation is using too much weight to maintain proper form. Additionally, some people fail to engage the core and struggle to complete the exercise.

This variation is popular for people who have pain during the traditional barbell versions. It also works both sides equally, so the lifter can’t put more burden on their stronger side. LIfters of all skill levels can learn the proper form and make gains with this variation.

Start with lighter weights to master the form. Try 2 to 4 sets of 5 to 8 reps and work up to 10 to 12 reps.

2. Military Press

The military press targets the muscles of the upper body, primarily the deltoids in the shoulders, triceps, and traps. This exercise also engages the core, biceps, and glutes. It’s one of the best shoulder exercises for strength training because the delts do most of the work to move the weights.

Military Press
Military Press

To perform the military press, start with the barbell on a rack set about shoulder height. Stand with feet in line with the shoulders and legs straight. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip and start with the bar resting around the collarbone. Engage the abs to support a neutral spine and push up overhead. Pause with arms extended, then return to the starting position.

The most common mistake with the military press is arching the back. Rounding the back usually occurs when the athlete doesn’t engage the abs or lacks the necessary core strength. Squeezing the shoulder blades and keeping the elbows slightly forward can help keep the back in proper position and engage the shoulder muscles.

Variations of the military press include the traditional standing version, dumbbell shoulder press, dumbbell rotational shoulder press, and double kettlebell shoulder press.

Add a variation of the military press into 1 or 2 workout routines per week.

Men and women can make gains in strength and definition through the shoulders by isolating the delts and rotator cuff with this exercise. The military press is not recommended for children. It is possible to adapt the exercise to teach proper form at an early age by substituting a lightweight item for the bar, like a broomstick.

The military press can improve strength, mass, and definition for athletes specializing in various areas, including calisthenics, bodybuilding, swimming, and running.

Beginners should start with a lighter weight, even if it’s just the bar. Master the proper form with 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. Experienced lifters might want to use a heavier weight, as much as they can handle, for 1 to 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps.

Military Press Variations for Shoulder Workout Routines

The military press remains a popular shoulder exercise, but athletes can add variety by using different equipment. Swapping the bar for dumbbells or kettlebells is an excellent way to isolate the muscles differently and create a more balanced workout. 

Using dumbbells or kettlebells works the same muscles, but it forces each arm to do the work instead of allowing the stronger arm to take on more of the weight if necessary. Swapping out the bar also allows athletes to adjust their grip and the angles to work the muscles differently.

Even with the variations available, the traditional military press remains the most popular. Performing the traditional military press with heavier weights and moderate reps can help an athlete make notable gains in strength and mass.

Military Press variations include the following.

  1. Standing Military Press
  2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Double-Arm, Single-Arm, Alternating)
  3. Dumbbell Rotational Shoulder Press
  4. Double-Kettlebell Shoulder Press

1. Standing Military Press

The military press primarily works the delts and rotator cuffs. It also works the upper chest and back.

The standing military press begins with the barbell set on a rack at shoulder height. Keep the feet shoulder-width apart and legs straight. Using an overhand grip, remove the bar from the rack and rest it on the collarbone. Keeping a neutral spine, use the shoulders to push the bar overhead. Pause with arms extended, then return to the starting position.

Common mistakes include using too much weight and arching the back. It’s better to use a lighter weight to maintain proper form and target the muscles than overdo it and strain something. Rounding the back can lead to injury and usually means the lifter isn’t engaging the core muscles properly.

As a traditional exercise that builds strength throughout the upper body, the standing military press remains one of the most popular shoulder exercises. However, it’s losing ground to other variations that might be more beginner-friendly and more customizable for advanced lifters. 

Beginners should start with limited weight, possibly just the bar, and try for 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Experienced lifters might prefer heavy weights with fewer sets and reps, like 1 to 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps.

2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Double-Arm, Single-Arm, Alternating)

The dumbbell shoulder press targets the delts and rotator cuff. It forces each arm and shoulder to manage the weight for a balanced workout.

To perform the dumbbell shoulder press, stand with the feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbells at shoulder level with elbows out to the sides and palms forward. Push the weights overhead until the arms are fully extended. Pause for a second before returning to the starting position.

The most common mistake for this variation is using too much weight. It’s better to opt for lighter dumbbells because the exercise gets challenging about halfway into a set.

This variation is increasingly popular because it’s easy to adapt and allows athletes to work both sides evenly. Instead of working both arms at the same time, lifters can choose to alternate arms or do one at a time so that they can focus on isolating the muscles better.

Weightlifters at all levels can perform this variation. Beginners should start with lighter weight and more reps, like 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Experienced lifters might want to choose a moderate weight and drop the reps a little, like 5 to 8 reps.

3. Dumbbell Rotational Shoulder Press

This variation works the delts, but it also engages the abs, hips, and back for support and stability. 

To perform the dumbbell rotational shoulder press, stand with feet shoulder-width apart and dumbbells positioned at the shoulders. Palms should face each other. Keeping the back straight, rotate the body toward the right and push that weight up overhead. Lower the weight and return to the starting position, then turn toward the left and do the same with the other side. 

The most common mistake with the dumbbell rotational shoulder press is using too much weight or lacking the fitness level to do it properly. Using the correct form is more effective than attempting heavier dumbbells.

This variation is popular among experienced lifters because it adds a level of complexity and engages other muscles. Start with 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps at a light to moderate weight and work up from there. Increase the weight to build mass or add more reps to tone.

4. Double-Kettlebell Shoulder Press

The double-kettlebell shoulder press works the delts and rotator cuff.

To perform this variation, select two kettlebells at a manageable weight. Begin with the kettlebells at shoulder level, elbows wide and bent. Keeping the back and legs straight, press the weights up over the head and pause before returning to the starting position.

The most common mistake for this version is rounding the back. To avoid this, engage the core or switch to lighter kettlebells.

This variation is gaining popularity because kettlebells are easier on the shoulders than a barbell. It’s usually an intermediate-level variation, but beginners can try it if they can manage the kettlebells. 

Lifters should select kettlebells they can handle for 1 to 4 sets of 5 to 10 reps. 

3. Rear Delt Row

It’s not easy to discuss effective shoulder workouts for mass without mentioning the rear delt row. As the name suggests, this exercise isolates the delts, especially the ones at the back of the shoulder joint. This exercise also works the other shoulder muscles, biceps, and upper back.

The rear delt row allows lifters to focus on those rear delts by making them do most of the work. It’s an excellent exercise for building shoulder stability and injury prevention.

To perform a rear delt row, set up with a barbell or two dumbbells. With feet shoulder-width apart, hinge at the hips and bend the knees slightly. Grasp the weight and pull up toward the chest. Pause and return to the starting position.

The common mistakes for this exercise all involve form. To engage the shoulders properly, don’t shrug during the motion or move too fast. Use controlled motions and feel the muscles work. Additionally, keep the back straight to avoid straining the back muscles.

Variations of the rear delt row include the incline and bent-over versions. Work this exercise into a shoulder day workout anywhere from 1 to 3 times per week.

Men and women might notice improvements to their posture because it works those rear shoulder muscles and the upper back. It’s also important for injury prevention because developing rear delts provides support for the shoulder joint. It is not advisable for children to perform this exercise.

Developing the rear delts is crucial for athletes in various areas, including calisthenics, bodybuilding, swimming, and running, because it supports better posture and shoulder mechanics.

This exercise is not so much about bulk as it is about strengthening and toning for support. Try light to moderate weights for 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Rear Delt Row Variations for Shoulder Exercises

Rear delt row variations involve altering the angle to work the delts and upper back differently. Using an incline bench instead of bending over provides support for the core and limits the lifter’s range of motion to isolate muscles differently.

The bent-over variation probably takes the top spot in popularity because it requires less equipment. You just need the weights. In terms of building strength and mass, neither version outdoes the other because they both have a place and time in any heavy shoulder workout.

Variations of the rear delt row include the following.

  1. Incline Dumbbell Row
  2. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

1. Incline Dumbbell Row

The incline dumbbell row targets the delts, upper back, and biceps. 

To perform this variation, set a bench at a 45° angle. Set up on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Pull toward the chest, pause, then return to the starting position.  

It’s not easy to make mistakes with this variation because the bench restricts the range of motion so much. However, using too much weight can strain the arms and shoulders.

How to Do Incline Dumbbell Row

The incline dumbbell row is popular for targeting the rear delts and upper back. Since the bench supports the core, it allows lifters to concentrate on the target muscles more than the traditional variations. It’s also beginner-friendly.

Start with lighter weights to focus on form and engaging the muscles. Try 1 to 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps.

2. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

The bent-over dumbbell row is all about sculpting the shoulders and upper back. It targets the delts, traps, rhomboids, and lats.

To perform a bent-over dumbbell row, stand with feet in line with the shoulders. Hinge at the waist and bend at the knee. Pull the dumbbells into the body until the shoulders reach midline, pause, then return to the starting position.

Proper Form For Dumbbell Bent Over Row

Common mistakes include relying on momentum to move the dumbbells and failing to engage the abs. Use slow, controlled movements to make the muscles move the weights. Work the abs to keep the body stable throughout the motion and support the back.

This variation is popular for building muscle. It can add mass to the rear delts and upper back, especially when the lifter works with different angles and positions to target those muscles. 

It’s an excellent version for beginners but allows experienced lifters to experiment and challenge their bodies. Start with light to moderate weight for 2 to 4 sets of 6 to 10 reps.

4. Seated Dumbbell Press

The seated dumbbell press builds mass and strength in the shoulders. It also works the triceps and pectorals. Lifters might notice more strength and definition in the anterior and medial delts than in any other muscles.

Seated Dumbbell Press
Seated Dumbbell Press

To perform a seated dumbbell press, select a bench with back support and two dumbbells. Set the dumbbells on each thigh to begin, then lift them to the shoulders. With palms facing forward, push the dumbbells overhead. Gently touch the dumbbells together at the top of the motion, pause, and return to the starting position.

The most common missteps include using too much weight and locking the elbows at the top of the motion. Using lighter weight is better if it means maintaining good form. The elbows should never lock during this exercise.

Variations of the seated dumbbell press include the traditional version and the seated kettlebell press. Add a variation of the seated dumbbell press to 1 or 2 shoulder day workouts per week.

Men and women can expect to see gains in mass and strength by working this exercise into their routines at least once per week. It’s ideal for targeting the shoulders, pectorals, and triceps. This exercise is not recommended for children.

The seated dumbbell press is a good exercise for rounding out routines in calisthenics or bodybuilding. It’s especially helpful for swimmers and runners hoping to gain more definition in their shoulders to balance their physiques.

Start with a lighter weight to master the form. Try 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 8 reps, then work up to moderate weight and 10 to 15 reps. 

Seated Dumbbell Press Variations for Shoulder Muscle Hypertrophy

Athletes can change the exercise by swapping kettlebells for the dumbbells. Using kettlebells makes the exercise more challenging because the lifter has to work against gravity.

The dumbbell variation is probably more popular because it’s traditional. However, the kettlebells represent a greater challenge and more opportunities to build strength and mass faster.

The variations of the seated dumbbell press are as follows.

  1. Seated Dumbbell Press
  2. Seated Kettlebell Press

1. Seated Dumbbell Press

The seated dumbbell press works the anterior and medial delts, but it also reaches the triceps and upper pectorals.

To perform the traditional version, sit on a bench with back support. Start with the dumbbells on each thigh, then lift them to shoulder level. With palms facing forward, push the weights up and touch them together overhead. Pause for a second before returning to the starting position.

The most common mistakes for this variation involve poor form. Even with the bench back for support, it’s possible to arch the back, which is a no-no. Further, locking the elbows at any point is problematic and could lead to injury. 

Though it’s not great for beginners, the seated dumbbell press is popular among athletes because of the opportunity to build mass and strength in the upper body. Start with light to moderate weights for 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps and work up in weight and reps. 

2. Seated Kettlebell Press

The seated kettlebell press works the delts and rotator cuff. It also engages the arms, upper back, and upper pectorals.

To perform a seated kettlebell press, sit on the floor with legs spread for support. Hold a kettlebell in one hand near the shoulder to start. Lift the weight overhead, pause for a second, then lower it to the starting position. Complete the reps on one side before repeating with the other side.

Common mistakes include arching the back and moving too fast through the motions. To stabilize the core, the shoulder blades should remain down throughout the movement. Use slow, controlled motions to work the muscles instead of relying on momentum to move the weight.

This variation is popular among advanced lifters for making the exercise more complex and targeting those shoulder muscles. Start with a lighter weight and more reps, like 1 to 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps, to master the form. Slowly increase weight while maintaining good form for each rep.

5. Seated Barbell Press

Add the seated barbell press to a shoulder day routine to work the medial and anterior delts. It also engages the traps, pectorals, and core for an excellent upper body lift. The seated barbell press forces the upper body to move the weight, primarily working the shoulders as for the overhead lift.

To perform a seated barbell press, set up a bench near a rack. Sit on the bench with the bar set at shoulder height. Using an overhand grip, unrack the bar and press it up. Pause at the top of the motion before lowering it back to the chest.

Common mistakes for this exercise include using too much weight and bending the wrists during the lift. Using a lighter weight that allows the lifter to maintain the proper form is crucial. Keeping the wrists firm and in line with the arms is also key to good form. It’s also not recommended for athletes with a history of shoulder injury.

Variations of this exercise include the seated military press, Smith machine shoulder press, Smith machine behind-the-neck press, and machine shoulder press.

Add a variation of the seated barbell press to shoulder day at least 1 time per week but no more than 3 times to allow proper rest time between lifts.

Men and women can build strength and endurance with this exercise, which translates to more support for the shoulder joint. Children should avoid this exercise and look for more bodyweight training instead.

Since this exercise is all about strength and endurance, it’s an excellent choice for athletes training in calisthenics or bodybuilding. Swimmers and runners can benefit from the endurance aspect, provided they don’t have shoulder issues.

Try a lower weight with more reps for building endurance, like 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps. To build strength or mass, focus on heavier weights for 1 to 3 sets of 3 to 8 reps. 

Seated Barbell Press Types for Shoulder Muscle Growth

Athletes can vary this exercise by using different equipment, primarily by switching from free weights to machines. Lifters can swap the barbell for the Smith machine or a shoulder press machine.

The traditional military press remains the most popular variation, and it’s the best for building strength and mass. However, athletes with shoulder issues might prefer to try a machine version. 

Seated barbell press variations include the following.

  1. Seated Military Press
  2. Smith Machine Shoulder Press
  3. Smith Machine Behind-the-Neck Press
  4. Machine Shoulder Press

1. Seated Military Press

The traditional shoulder exercise targets the front and side delts, but it also works the rear delts and upper back.

To perform this variation, sit on a bench with a backrest. Keeping in contact with the back of the bench, press the bar up and pause for a second before lowering it to the chest. It may help to have a spotter available for unracking and re-racking the bar.

The most common mistake is using too much weight. If the athlete lacks the strength and stability to lift the weight, their form can suffer, which could lead to injury.

The seated military press is popular for building strength. Since lifters only need a bar, it’s easier for many people. However, this exercise is more advanced and not always a good choice for beginners.  

Start with lighter weight and more reps to master good form, like 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps. Then, experiment with more weight and fewer reps.

2. Smith Machine Shoulder Press

This compound exercise targets the front and side shoulder muscles, but it also engages the triceps.

To perform this version, set up the Smith machine with a bench. Adjust the bar setting until it’s in front of the face. Start with the weight at chest level, then press up, pause, and lower back to the starting position.

It’s not easy to make mistakes with this variation, but locking out the elbows could be problematic. Keep the elbows slightly flexed, even at the top position.

The Smith machine variation is popular for beginners who need to learn the form and people who don’t have a spotter but want to use more weight. The machine serves as a guide and provides more support.

It’s best to use lighter weight and more reps with this variation. Try light to moderate weight for 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

3. Smith Machine Behind-the-Neck Press

Using the Smith machine for a behind-the-neck press allows athletes to isolate the side and rear delts while increasing mass in the front delts. 

To perform a behind-the-neck press on the Smith machine, set up the bench so that the bar is several inches above the head. Unrack the bar and fully extend the arms to start. Pull the bar down behind the head until the arms reach a 90° angle. Pause for a second before returning to the starting position.

The most common misstep with this variation is overdoing it. Using too much weight or pushing too hard can lead to rotator cuff injuries.

This variation is more advanced and allows lifters to build mass fast. It’s an intermediate to advanced exercise. Start with lighter weight for 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Once a lifter masters the motion, they can experiment with weight and the number of reps.

4. Machine Shoulder Press

Using the shoulder press machines allows lifters to isolate the delts more than other variations. It also creates some degree of support for the core, making it easier for beginners.

To perform a machine shoulder press, select a machine. Adjust the seat and weights. Grasp the handles with an overhand grip and push up. Pause with arms extended but not locked, then lower back to the starting position.

It’s not easy to mess up with a machine, but using too much weight or failing to adjust the seating could lead to stress on the joints and spine. The form still matters, and that means setting the pads at appropriate levels and using manageable weight.

This variation is popular with beginners and lifters who don’t have spotters. That said, choose light weights to avoid straining the shoulder joints. Do 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

6. Upright Row

The upright row targets the delts and traps, but it also engages the biceps. As a compound exercise, the upright row makes an excellent addition to shoulder day exercises, especially for lifters hoping to gain strength and mass.

To perform an upright row, stand with feet shoulder-width apart and the barbell in front of the body. Holding the bar with an overhand grip, pull up toward the chin using the shoulders and back. Arms should never pass the shoulders. Pause at the top of the motion before returning to the starting position.

The most common mistakes include lifting the arms too high and using too much weight. Keeping the arms parallel to or below the shoulders prevents stressing the joints. Avoid using too much weight because it could also strain the shoulders and cause injury.

Variations of the upright row include the traditional barbell upright row, dumbbell upright row, cable upright row, and Smith machine upright row.

Add a variation of the upright row to 1 or 2 shoulder day routines per week.

Men and women can make gains in strength and mass with the upright row, as long as it’s performed correctly. Children should avoid the upright row because it could injure their shoulders.

Athletes working on calisthenics may not need this exercise as much as bodybuilders hoping to bulk up. Swimmers and runners can build strength and endurance in the delts with low weight and high reps, provided they maintain good form and don’t stress the shoulder joints.

To avoid shoulder strain, lifters at every level should stick with lighter weights and more reps. Start with 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Upright Row Variations for Shoulder Muscles

Upright row variations use different equipment but a similar motion. For those lifters who prefer free weights, try the barbell or dumbbell variations. Those athletes who prefer machines can try the cable or Smith machine versions for a little more support.

The traditional upright row is still the most popular version because it only requires a barbell. It’s also the best opportunity for building strength and mass.

Try these variations of the upright row.

  1. Barbell Upright Row
  2. Dumbbell Upright Row (Double-Arm and Single-Arm)
  3. Cable Upright Row
  4. Smith Machine Upright Row

1. Barbell Upright Row

The barbell upright row targets the delts and triceps. 

To perform the traditional upright row, stand with feet in line with the shoulders and the bar hanging in front of the body. Arms should be extended and just wider than the shoulders. Pull up toward the chin without letting the arms pass the plane of the shoulders. Pause at the top of the motion and then return to the starting position.

The most common misstep with this exercise is using too much weight. Attempting more weight than a lifter can manage leads to overcorrections which can strain the joints and lead to injuries.

Traditional upright rows remain the most popular version, but it’s more of an intermediate to advanced lift. To preserve the shoulder joint, use lighter weight and more reps, like 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps. 

2. Dumbbell Upright Row (Double-Arm and Single-Arm)

Dumbbell upright rows work the same way as the barbell version, but it’s possible to use one arm at a time for a more focused lift.

To perform the dumbbell upright row, use a dumbbell in each hand or do one at a time. Standing with feet in line with the shoulders and back straight, lift the dumbbell toward the chin. Pause when the arms reach just below the shoulders, then lower back to the starting position.

Common mistakes for this variation include using more weight than a lifter can manage and overcorrecting. It takes more effort to maintain the weight with one arm without overcorrecting on the lift, so it might be best to stick with the bar for a while and then drop down to a light dumbbell.

This variation is popular for advanced lifters seeking a challenge. It’s also a way to ensure a balanced workout.

Stick with lower weights and more reps. Aim for 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

3. Cable Upright Row

The cable upright row uses a machine to give athletes a different approach for working the front and side delts. 

To perform this variation, use a pulley machine. Set the pulley at a low setting and attach a lat pulldown bar. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and stand with arms extended in front of the body. Pull the bar up until the arms reach parallel with the floor, pause, then return to the starting position. 

Common mistakes for this variation include using too much weight and pulling too high. The form is crucial for this exercise if the lifter hopes to avoid injury. Err on the side of lighter weight, stopping the top motion below the shoulders.

This variation is popular with bodybuilders hoping to build mass but looking for a different feel than free weights. It’s an intermediate to advanced exercise because it poses a risk of injury to inexperienced lifters. Try lighter weight over 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps. 

4. Smith Machine Upright Row

This variation works the front and mid delts, but it also engages the traps. 

To perform the Smith machine upright row, set the weight and start with the bar in front of the body. Arms should be fully extended but not locked for the starting position. Pull up toward the chin without letting the arms pass shoulder level. Pause at the top of the motion and then return to the starting position.

Smith Machine Bent Over Row Correct Form

Common mistakes for this movement involve issues with the form. If lifters can’t control the weight, they may rely too much on momentum or lean back. 

Like other variations of the upright row, the Smith machine version is best for intermediate and advanced lifters hoping to bulk up. It’s a safer alternative for those lifters who don’t have a spotter, but it’s still a good idea to go with lighter weights. Aim for 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

7. Arnold Press

The Arnold press might be the most effective shoulder workout because it engages all three delts. It also works the traps and triceps for a comprehensive upper body lift. Unlike many other shoulder exercises, the Arnold press works the entire shoulder, not just the front or back delts.

To perform this exercise, use two dumbbells. Stand with the feet, hips, and shoulders in line, chin tucked, and knees slightly bent. Start with the dumbbells just above the shoulders, palms toward the face, upper arms close to the body, and elbows pointed to the ground. Engage the core to stabilize the body. 

Move the elbows out and rotate the hands to push the dumbbells over the head in a smooth, controlled motion. The shoulders should do most of the work. Pause at the top for a second, with arms slightly bent and palms forward. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.

Common mistakes for performing the Arnold press involve using too much weight and poor form. This exercise is complex and requires exceptional body control to complete it safely. Using lighter weight while mastering good form is advisable.

Variations of the Arnold press include sitting, standing, and single-leg standing.

Add the Arnold press into a shoulder workout up to 3 times per week. The Arnold press is an advanced exercise that can help experienced men and women reach the next level in terms of strength and definition. It is not recommended for beginners or children.

Bodybuilders can gain strength and mass with this exercise. Athletes training with calisthenics might appreciate the complexity and bodily control required to complete the exercise. It may not be the best choice for swimmers or runners.

Start with a lighter weight to master the proper form. Try 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps and work up to 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Arnold Press Variations for Shoulder Strength

Athletes can change the Arnold press by varying positions from sitting to standing to balancing on one leg at a time. Each variation adds a level of complexity to the exercise. It’s best to start with the sitting version to master the upper body motions and then advance to standing and ultimately single-leg standing.

The most popular version is the standing Arnold press because it requires good balance and control, so it works more of the body. It’s common bodybuilding and CrossFit exercise because of the opportunity to increase strength and build mass throughout the shoulder.

These are the Arnold Press variations.

  1. Seated Arnold Press
  2. Standing Arnold Press
  3. Standing Single-Leg Arnold Press

1. Seated Arnold Press

The seated Arnold press engages the deltoids, and it’s unique because it works the front, middle, and rear muscles. 

To perform a seated Arnold press, sit on a bench with two dumbbells. Start with the dumbbells at shoulder level, palms toward the face. Rotate the hands outward while pressing the weights overhead so that the palms now face out. Pause for a second, then reverse the motion to return to the starting position.

The most common mistakes are shrugging the shoulders to press the weights and flaring the elbows. Keep the elbows close and let the shoulders do the work.

This version is popular as a more advanced version of the traditional shoulder press. It’s an excellent way for advanced lifters to work the entire shoulder with one maneuver. 

Start out with lighter weight and more reps to establish good form. Try 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Then, experiment with more weight and fewer reps.

2. Standing Arnold Press

The standing Arnold press also works all three deltoid muscles; it just adds another layer of complexity. 

To perform this version, stand with feet in line with the hips and shoulders. Start with the dumbbells at shoulder level and palms toward the face. In one smooth motion, rotate the hands out and press the weights up to extend the arms overhead with palms facing out. Pause and then reverse the motion to return to the starting position.

The most common misstep with this variation is arching the back. Rounding the back can lead to injury, so engage the core to maintain stability.

This version of the Arnold press is popular with bodybuilders and other advanced lifters seeking a challenge. It’s an advanced lift that requires exceptional control. Start with light weights and 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. Lifters can experiment with adding weight or reps as they get better at the exercise.

3. Standing Single-Leg Arnold Press

Lifters who want to work the delts while engaging the core and improving balance should attempt the standing single-leg Arnold press. It’s the most complex variation, and it requires excellent stability and posture.

To perform this variation, stand on one leg with the other knee raised slightly in front of the body. Start with the dumbbells around shoulder level and palms toward the face. Slowly rotate the palms outward while pressing the dumbbells overhead. Pause at the top of the motion and then return to the starting position. 

The most common mistake with this variation is attempting it without enough strength and stability to complete the exercise. Athletes must have impeccable balance and solid core and lower body strength to maintain position throughout the exercise.

The standing single-leg Arnold press is popular among advanced lifters hoping for a challenge. It’s ideal for advanced and elite lifters, especially CrossFit athletes. Use lighter weight for 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps. If possible, add extra reps or more weight.

8. Lateral Raise

The lateral raise is arguably the best exercise for shoulder muscles because it targets the delts in a unique way to help lifters bulk up. Lifters who use proper form and engage the body correctly throughout the exercise can also make gains in the core, upper back, and arms.

Adding lateral raises to a bodybuilding workout is the best way to bulk up the shoulders and build strength. It also increases shoulder mobility.

To perform a lateral raise, stand with feet and hips in line with the shoulders. Hold dumbbells in each hand at the sides of the body. Engage the core and keep the back straight. Raise the weights out to the sides so that the body forms a T-shape. Pause for a second and then slowly lower the weights back to the starting position. 

Dumbbell Lateral Raise Proper Form

The most common error for this exercise is cheating on the lift by using the traps to help. Avoid shrugging to raise the weights; if the dumbbells are too heavy to do the maneuver correctly, switch to a lighter set.

Variations of the lateral raise include the cable lateral raise, leaning cable lateral raise, and dumbbell lateral raise.

Lifters should incorporate a variation of the lateral raise into their shoulder routine at least 1 time but no more than 3 times per week.

The effects on men and women cannot be underrated. Doing the lateral raise is excellent for bulking, but it can also work for toning and supporting the shoulder joints. Children might be able to handle this exercise with extremely light weights or resistance bands.

All athletes, including those focused on calisthenics, bodybuilders, swimmers, and runners, can benefit from performing the lateral raise. It’s key to developing built shoulders that look good and support other activities. 

Lifters should start light with a few sets of higher reps and then experiment with what works for them. Start with 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps and work up to 2 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps with light to moderate weight or boost the weight and reduce the reps for faster bulking.

Lateral Raise Variations for Shoulder Muscles

Athletes can try lateral raise variations by using different equipment. While the traditional exercise uses dumbbells, it’s possible to reap the same benefits by using a cable machine. Though the variations use different equipment, it doesn’t impact how the muscles work as much as how the exercise feels.

The traditional lateral raise with dumbbells remains the most popular option for people who prefer free weights, especially since it’s better for building strength and mass. However, beginners might gravitate to the cable machines.

The three lateral raise variations include the following.

  1. Cable Lateral Raise
  2. Leaning Cable Lateral Raise
  3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise (Double-Arm and Single-Arm)

1. Cable Lateral Raise

Cable lateral raises work the delts, mostly the middle muscle that sits at the top of the shoulder. It’s an excellent lift for injury prevention and recovery.

To perform the cable lateral raise, set a pulley machine at a lower level. Stand with feet in line with the shoulders for a good base. Engage the core and grasp the handle attached to the cable. Using one arm, start with it at the side of the body and raise it until it’s level with the shoulders. Pause for a second and then lower the arm to the starting position.

The most common mistake is going too fast through the motion. If the lifter fails to use slow, controlled motions that engage the shoulder muscles, then they rely on other muscle groups or pure momentum to move the weight.

The cable lateral raise is extremely popular because it’s easy to do at the gym as part of a shoulder routine, and the lifter doesn’t need a spotter. Plus, beginners can handle the activity. Start with a low weight setting and more reps, like 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps on each side.

2. Leaning Cable Lateral Raise

The leaning cable lateral raise is excellent for bulking up the delts. It forces the shoulder muscles to work a little harder by having the lateral delt move more. 

To perform the leaning cable lateral raise, set up the pulley on the lowest level. Brace the body with one hand on the machine and grasp the handle with the other. Keeping the feet together, lean away from the machine and pull the handle out until the arm is level with the shoulder. Pause for a second before slowly lowering the arm back to the starting position.

The most common misstep with this exercise is performing it before an athlete has the strength and stability to handle it. This variation is more advanced and requires good strength and stability.

The leaning cable lateral raise is a step up for advanced lifters seeking a way to bulk up the middle shoulder. Start with lighter weight and more reps to master the technique. Try 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps. 

3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise (Double-Arm and Single-Arm)

The traditional version of the lateral raise works the delts when performed correctly. 

To perform a dumbbell lateral raise, stand with feet in line with the hips and back straight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, keeping them comfortably at the sides of the body. Engage the core and raise the weights out to the sides. At the top of the motion, the body should look like a T, then pause for a second and slowly lower the hands back to the starting position. 

The most common mistake is using too much weight, but some lifters might shrug to engage the upper back in the lift. This error reduces the impact on the shoulders and can inhibit results.

Many athletes use the lateral raise for bulking or strengthening because it works the entire shoulder and increases stability. Even beginners can benefit from this exercise, even at a low weight. Start with lighter weight and more reps to master the correct form Aim for 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps and adjust from there.

9. Front Raise

Front raises work the anterior delts, or the fronts of the shoulders. It also addresses the side and back shoulder muscles, traps, pecs, and biceps. This exercise isolates the shoulders and is excellent for strengthening the muscles.

To perform a lateral raise, stand with the feet in line with the shoulders. Hold the barbell in front of the body, lift it up until it’s at shoulder level, pause for a second, and return to the starting position.

Common mistakes with the lateral raise include using a swinging motion and shrugging the shoulders. To notice benefits from this exercise, lifters need to make the shoulders work and not rely on momentum or other muscles, like the traps.

Variations of the front raise include the barbell front raise, the alternating dumbbell front raise, and the single-arm cable front raise.

It’s a good idea to add the front raise into a shoulder workout routine up to three times per week.

Men and women can strengthen their front shoulder muscles and add definition by doing the front raise regularly. This is one shoulder exercise that children and teens can perform, as long as they use extremely lightweight.

Since the front raise increases strength and stability throughout the shoulder, it’s an excellent choice for all athletes, including swimmers, runners, bodybuilders, and those who prefer calisthenics.

To strengthen and build endurance, use lighter weights with more reps, like 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps. For bulking, try moderate to heavyweights and 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps.

Front Raise Variations for Shoulder Muscles

Athletes can vary the front raise by using different equipment to change up the workout. Though all versions target the front delts, swapping a barbell for dumbbells or a machine can make the exercise feel different.

It’s not easy to choose which variation is most popular because they all have merits, and it generally comes down to personal preference. Some people might struggle with the barbell and prefer more compact dumbbells that allow them to work each arm individually. Others might prefer using the machine cable machine because they gravitate toward machines.

All three variations build mass and strength, but the free weights tend to do a better job than the cable machine.

There are three front raise variations.

  1. Barbell Front Raise
  2. Alternating Dumbbell Front Raise
  3. Single-Arm Cable Front Raise

1. Barbell Front Raise

The barbell front raise primarily works the front delts but engages the entire shoulder plus the abs and traps. 

To perform the barbell front raise, start with feet in line with the shoulders. Hold the barbell in front of the body and lift up until the bar is parallel with the shoulders. Pause for a second, then lower the bar back to the starting position.

Common mistakes for this exercise include using too much weight and failing to engage the core. When lifters pack on too much weight, they tend to rely on other muscle groups or the bar’s momentum instead of working the shoulders. Engaging the core helps stabilize the body and allows lifters to isolate the shoulder muscles better.

This variation is popular for working the front delts and increasing shoulder stability for injury prevention. It’s easy enough for beginners to do it, but advanced lifters can make significant gains. Start with a lighter weight, even the bar, and 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps. 

2. Alternating Dumbbell Front Raise

This variation works the front delts while engaging the middle and back delts. It also works with the upper pectorals.

To perform the alternating dumbbell front raise, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Stand with the feet even with the shoulders and dumbbells at the sides of the body. Slowly raise one dumbbell in front of the body until it is level with the shoulders. Pause for a second before returning to the starting position and doing the other side.

The most common mistake is swinging the weights instead of slowly lifting them. Relying on momentum negates the effect on the shoulders.

This variation is popular for people hoping to isolate one shoulder at a time. It’s ideal for lifters of all levels. Beginners and those hoping to tone should focus on lighter weight for 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps. For bulking, try moderate to heavyweights and 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps. 

3. Single-Arm Cable Front Raise

The single-arm cable front raise engages the delts, specifically the front delts. 

To perform this variation, set a pulley machine at the lowest setting. Facing away from the machine, grasp the handle in one hand and start around the thigh. Lift the handle to the front until it is level with the shoulders. Pause for a second before returning to the starting position. Complete the reps for that arm, then switch to the other arm.

It’s not easy to mess up this variation because the cable essentially neutralizes the tendency to use momentum. Lifters could attempt too much weight, but that’s easy to correct on a pulley machine.

This variation is popular among lifters of all levels because it reduces the opportunity to use poor form and allows them to isolate one arm at a time. Start with a lower weight and more reps to make the most gains. Try 2 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps. 

Best Shoulder Workout Exercises for Muscle Growth

While some athletes seek a bodybuilding shoulder workout for mass, others look for toning and strengthening routines. Building a shoulder day routine should take into account an athlete’s primary goals, aside from injury prevention.

Some ideas for different shoulder lifts include the following.

  1. Best for Building Mass: Hard and Heavy Shoulder Workout
  2. Best for Beginners: Beginner Shoulder Workout
  3. Best for Machines: Machine Pump Shoulder Workout

1. Hard and Heavy Shoulder Workout

Athletes who want to build shoulder mass need to focus on heavier weights and fewer reps. Heavy shoulder exercises usually involve the barbell so that the lifter can pack on more weight.

The best exercises for building shoulder mass include the following.

  1. Seated Barbell Press
  2. Upright Row
  3. Military Press

1. Seated Barbell Press

The seated barbell press provides core support to keep the body stable and allows the lifter to isolate the target muscles. Start with moderate weight for 3 sets of 8 reps.

2. Upright Row

Athletes get a true challenge with the upright row. Slow, controlled motions allow lifters to feel the muscles work, especially with heavier weight. Start with moderate weight and work up to heavier weights. Aim for 3 sets of 8 reps.

3. Military Press

The military press is a classic for bodybuilders because it engages all shoulder muscles and aids in injury prevention. While trying to build muscle mass, lifters don’t want to take time off with a shoulder injury, making this exercise a crucial addition. Use moderate weight for 3 sets of 10 reps.

2. Beginner Shoulder Workout

Beginners need to focus on building strength and stability in the shoulder. Exercises should involve lighter weights and learning proper form.

A solid shoulder workout routine for beginners should include the following.

  1. Front Raise
  2. Lateral Raise
  3. Military Press

1. Front Raise

The front raise is a simple exercise that works well with light to moderate weights. Beginners can still feel the burn and gain confidence for more advanced exercises. Start with light weight and high reps, so try 3 sets of 12 reps.

2. Lateral Raise

Adding a lateral raise creates a balanced workout for beginners. It works the shoulder muscles in different ways and supports injury prevention. Start with lighter weights and 3 sets of 12 reps.

3. Military Press

Learning a traditional exercise is important for every beginner, and the military press is perfect for that. It works the shoulders while engaging other muscles in the upper body and teaching good form for more advanced techniques. Try 3 sets of 12 reps with a lighter weight.

3. Machine Pump Shoulder Workout

Some athletes prefer to use machines, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to neglect the shoulders. Cable machines can assist with injury prevention and allow athletes to target those all-important shoulder muscles.

Suggested shoulder exercises for machines include the following.

  1. Cable Upright Row
  2. Cable Lateral Raise
  3. Single-Arm Cable Front Raise

1. Cable Upright Row

The cable upright row is great for those looking to maintain proper form and still lift moderate weight. Start with 3 sets of 10 reps at a moderate weight.

2. Cable Lateral Raise

Adding the cable lateral raise to a shoulder day routine helps focus on the delts more without stressing the joint. Try 3 sets of 10 reps with moderate weight.

3. Single-Arm Cable Front Raise

The single-arm cable front raise is similar to the lateral raise but allows the athlete to focus on one side at a time. It’s excellent for balancing the physique or coming back from an injury. Do 3 sets of 10 reps with moderate weight.

Shoulder Exercise Routines for Different Genders and Ages

Men and women often have different goals for workouts, even when it comes to shoulders. Further, lifters of different ages have unique capabilities and restrictions that make it necessary to create custom shoulder lifts. 

What Are the Best Shoulder Exercises for Men?

Men who commit to building muscle mass and power generally take a different approach to shoulder day. It’s helpful to select exercises that a lifter can do correctly with heavyweights.

The best shoulder exercises for men’s bodybuilding are as follows.

  1. Upright Row
  2. Arnold Press
  3. Push Press

1. Upright Row

The upright row targets the muscles in the shoulders and upper back. It’s one of the best shoulder exercises for mass. Do 3 sets of 8 reps with a heavyweight.

2. Arnold Press

There’s a reason this exercise remains popular, and it has everything to do with building shoulder muscles. It’s one of few upper body lifts that work all the delts. Do 3 sets of 8 reps with a heavyweight.

3. Barbell Push Press

It’s tough to go wrong with the traditional barbell push press. Men can pack on the weight to add mass. Complete 3 sets of 8 reps with a heavyweight.

What Are the Best Shoulder Exercises for Women?

Women might prefer strengthening and toning the shoulders to packing on a lot of extra muscle. Broad shoulders aren’t necessarily helpful for a woman’s physique, but power and definition matter.

Great shoulder exercises for women include the following.

  1. Machine Shoulder Press
  2. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
  3. Front Raise

1. Machine Shoulder Press

This compound exercise is effective for toning and defining, provided the lifter focuses on form, high reps, and light to moderate weight. Try 3 sets of 12 reps with moderate weight.

2. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

The bent-over dumbbell row challenges women to isolate those target shoulder muscles and build strength. It’s also excellent for getting definition in those muscles without bulking too much. Do 3 sets of 12 reps with moderate weight.

3. Front Raise

This exercise is all about strength and toning. It’s an excellent way for women to isolate and engage the deltoids. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps with moderate weight.

What Are the Best Shoulder Exercises for Children?

Shoulder lifts for children can be more challenging, especially since most of the exercises on this list are not recommended for young athletes. They should be using light weights and focusing on injury prevention.

A good shoulder workout routine for kids would include the following.

  1. Front Raise
  2. Lateral Raise

1. Front Raise

Younger lifters can benefit from strengthening the delts, and this exercise allows them to learn how to isolate the muscles. It’s an excellent way to learn proper form for when they can move on to more advanced lifts. Aim for 3 sets of 15 reps with lightweight.

2. Lateral Raise

Round out shoulder lifts with the lateral raise, which targets those deltoids differently. It’s a relatively easy exercise to learn, and kids can use light weights to master proper form. Complete 3 sets of 15 reps with lightweight.

Is There a Difference between Shoulder Exercises for Different Athletes?

No, all athletes can use shoulder exercises for injury prevention. While some athletes might require more shoulder strength than others, generally their main goal is injury prevention overpower or mass.

What Are the Best Shoulder Exercises for Calisthenics?

Typically, athletes who focus on calisthenics prefer bodyweight exercises, but factoring in a shoulder routine with weights is important for injury prevention. Strengthening the shoulder muscles is crucial for maintaining overall body health and supporting other daily activities.

A solid shoulder routine for calisthenics might include the following.

  1. Arnold Press
  2. Upright Row
  3. Incline Dumbbell Row

1. Arnold Press

Since it’s a complete shoulder exercise, the Arnold press allows athletes to get more bang for their buck. It works the deltoid without stressing the joint and adds both strength and definition. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps with moderate weight.

2. Upright Row

Targeting the delts is just one feature of this exercise as it also works the upper back and arms. Athletes can get more benefits with less work to shorten a routine and give them more time to focus on their calisthenics. Do 3 sets of 12 reps with moderate weight.

3. Incline Dumbbell Row

The incline dumbbell row focuses on form and isolating the delts. Aim for 3 sets of 12 reps with moderate weight.

What Are the Best Shoulder Exercises for Swimmers?

Most swimmers like to build shoulders for injury prevention, but as an added benefit, it makes them look good in the pool. Since swimmers don’t necessarily want to bulk and impair their range of motion, it’s a good idea to work on definition, strength, and stability.

Swimmers might want to focus on these shoulder day exercises.

  1. Military Press
  2. Upright Row
  3. Front Raise

1. Military Press

This exercise is great for building strength while supporting the joint. Since it also works the core, traps, and triceps, the military press is an excellent overall exercise for swimmers. Aim for 3 sets of 15 reps with moderate weight

2. Upright Row

Upright rows strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and upper back, and it’s a great exercise for increasing strength. Make sure to use proper form and not lift the bar too high. Do 3 sets of 15 reps with moderate weight.

3. Front Raise

The front raise focuses on the front deltoids, but it also engages the side delts, traps, upper pecs, and biceps for a well-rounded swimmer’s lift. Do 3 sets of 15 reps with moderate weight.

What Are the Best Shoulder Exercises for Runners?

It may seem pointless for runners to work their shoulders, but it helps with running form, posture, and developing a balanced physique. Runners typically don’t want to bulk as much as refine and stabilize. 

The best shoulder exercises for runners include the following.

  1. Dumbbell Push Press
  2. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
  3. Lateral Raise

1. Dumbbell Push Press

This shoulder exercise is one of the best options for runners hoping to increase endurance and tone. Aim for 3 sets of 12 reps with moderate weight.

2. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

The bent-over dumbbell row addresses the shoulders, but it offers a more comprehensive workout. Try 3 sets of 12 reps with moderate weight.

3. Lateral Raise

Runners can increase strength and improve shoulder mobility with the lateral raise. It’s important to maintain good form to get the maximum benefit. Complete 3 sets of 12 reps with moderate weight.

What Are the Best Muscle-Building Exercises for Other Body Parts?

Building the muscles around the shoulders is crucial for most daily activities, but it’s also about injury prevention. However, most athletes and lifters want to work the rest of their bodies as well. Some of the best muscle-building exercises for other body parts include the following.

  1. Hammer Curl for building biceps
  2. Overhead Press for triceps
  3. Romanian Deadlift for whole-body benefits
  4. Leg Press for lower body builds
  5. Bench Row for building the back muscles
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Athletic Insight Research

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

The Athletic Insight Research team consists of a dedicated team of researchers, Doctors, Registered Dieticians, nationally certified nutritionists and personal trainers. Our team members hold prestigious accolades within their discipline(s) of expertise, as well as nationally recognized certifications. These include; National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT), National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), International Sports Sciences Association Nutritionist Certification.