Top 5 Shoulder Exercises

If you’re after a fantastic set of shoulders you’ll need to know what are the best shoulder exercises. Whether that being strong and muscular or toned and defined, then I’m here to help. To do this requires several different exercises as there are 3 different muscles that make up the shoulder. These are also known as “heads.”

These are:

  • The Anterior Deltoid, the front of the shoulder.
  • The Lateral Deltoid, the side of the shoulder.
  • The Posterior Deltoid, the rear of the shoulder

So today I’m going to show you some great exercises to hit all 3 heads of the shoulder muscle and get yourself a set of shoulders you can be proud of. So here we go, my top 5 shoulder exercises:

1. Straight Arm Raises

Now although I’m not a massive fan of isolation exercises, these are great for working out the shoulders. With either dumbbells or resistance bands, you can hit every head of the muscle. You can perform front raises to hit the anterior head, lateral raises to hit the lateral head or bent over raises to hit the posterior head.

2. Pike Presses or Handstand Push Ups

These are fantastic bodyweight exercises that really work out your shoulders and even your triceps. Depending on your hand placement and how far you’re sticking your elbows out, you can hit both the anterior and lateral heads of the shoulder. Handstand push ups are the best, but pike presses are great if you can’t quite do them yet.

Handstand push ups can either be performed up against the wall or free standing. It takes great balance and strength to perform them free standing but it’s something that can be done with some serious training.

3. Arnold Presses

These are a great variation of a dumbbell shoulder press. The rotation at the bottom of the movement creates a greater Range Of Movement (ROM), compared to the dumbbell shoulder press, which therefore makes the exercise tougher. These are great for hitting the lateral head of the shoulder and even work your rotator cuff. Although this exercise probably isn’t suitable for someone with shoulder injuries or is prone to shoulder injuries because of the extended ROM at the bottom of the move.

4. Barbell Shoulder Press

This exercise is similar to the handstand push up. This is a great exercise that hits the lateral head of the shoulder muscle. This move gets a great range of movement to really work the muscle fibres which means it’ll be a good workout for your shoulder. An alternative to this would be the dumbbell variation. The dumbbell variation is great if you have a muscular imbalance as you can work each side individually so the lagging muscle can catch up.

5. Upright Rows

These are great for the lateral head of the shoulder muscle, but they also work the biceps and traps. These exercises can be performed either with dumbbells or with a barbell. If you go with the barbell variation, I strongly recommend using an EZ-bar because of the more natural hand positions the bar provides. If you went with a normal barbell you would be adding extra strain on your wrists at the top of the movement.

I should probably move this up a position because of the extra muscles that get worked out during the exercise, but you’re only hitting one head of the shoulder with this exercise. You can hit the other hits with different exercises like the bench press/press up and seated row/Australian pull ups, so I’d seriously consider adding this exercise into your repertoire.

So now you have 5 exercises you can use to work your shoulder muscles. When it comes to the day you work your shoulders, add 2 or 3 of these exercises into your routine to build muscle, strength or tone up your shoulders.

Personally, I’d like to work on my shoulders when I’m working on my chest. Any of the exercises above are great if you decide to do the same, or you can use all the exercises above to create an entire shoulder workout. You have nice mixture of bodyweight exercises and gym based exercises, so whatever your preference is, you have something here you can use.

Is there a shoulder exercise you like performing that I haven’t mentioned here? Please tell me about them below!

Header Photo: Shoulder Silhouette © viZZZual, Flickr (CC)

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Filed under: Upper Body Exercises

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