Shoulders are the most mobile joints in the body, giving our arms free range of movement — which also means they’re more prone to injury. A major key to preventing doctor visits is working out your shoulders and strengthening them. Focusing on this socket-less body part will not only allow you to achieve that long-desired X frame, but will also decrease your risk of injury when lifting heavy objects overhead.
To make sure your shoulders are built proportionally, you’ll have to focus on every section. This includes the anterior (front), medial (lateral), and posterior (back) delts. When working out your shoulders it’s important to use proper form and to do a couple of warm-up sets before reaching working weight.
If you want to create mass in your shoulders, emphasize work on the lateral delts. Whatever your goal is, here are the 30 best shoulder exercises, no matter what equipment you have on hand so that you can turn those shoulders to boulders.
Table of Contents
Dumbbell Shoulder Workouts
- High Row on Bench
Place your stomach on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Row towards your shoulders with the dumbbells. Emphasize squeezing your shoulder blades. Return to start.
- Bent-Over Fly
With a dumbbell in each hand slightly bend the knees and lean forward while keeping your back flat. Lift both arms out to your side with a bend in the elbows. Squeeze your shoulder blades then lower your arms towards the ground. Repeat.
- Shoulder Press
Sit with your back pressed against the bench. With a dumbbell in each hand, use your knees to assist in raising the dumbbells. The dumbbells should be aligned with your head. Creating a U-shape with your arms, press the dumbbells up. Return to start.
- Arnold Press
Sit with your back pressed against the bench. With a dumbbell in each hand, use your knees to assist in raising the dumbbells. Start with the dumbbells facing towards your forehead. Open each arm out then press as if you were performing a shoulder press. Return to start.
- Lateral Raise with Static Hold
Stand feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand. Raise both arms to shoulder height as if you were making a T. With a slight bend in the arms bring one down to your side. Return to start. Repeat with the other arm.
- Single Arm Press
Stand feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in one hand. Raise the dumbbell over your shoulder. Use your free hand to stabilize your core and press up. Repeat with the other arm.
Barbell Shoulder Workouts
- Military Press
Stand with both feet together. Place hands shoulder-width apart and raise the barbell from your chest over your head. Return to start.
- Military Press (Behind the Neck)
Stand with both feet together. Place hands shoulder-width apart, beginning with the barbell behind your neck, press up. Return to start.
- Upright Row
Stand with both feet together. Place hands shoulder-width apart, start with the barbell on your thighs, and raise the barbell towards your chin — keep the barbell close to your body. Return to start.
- Front Raise
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Place hands shoulder-width apart, raise the barbell out in front of you, stopping when it reaches your face level. Repeat.
- Incline Bench Press
Lie with your back flat on an incline bench. Place hands shoulder-width apart on the barbell and extend the arms out forward as if locking elbows. Lower the bar towards your upper chest. Return to start.
- Shoulder Shrug
Stand with both feet together. With a barbell in front of your thighs grab the barbell with hands shoulder-width apart. Shrug your shoulders towards your ears. Repeat.
Cable Shoulder Workouts
- Single Hand Upright Row
Place the cable in the lowest setting. Stand with both feet together and knees slightly bent. Grab the cable with one hand while the other is placed on your core. Pull the cable up with elbow pointing towards the sky. Return to start.
- Cable Fly
Place the cables to shoulder height. Stand in the middle. Grab a cable with each hand. Legs slightly bent, lean forward and push the cables towards each other with elbows bent. Return to start.
- Face Pulls
Place the cable at the highest setting. Grab the cable with both hands, feet together, take a step back and lean back while pulling the cable towards your face. Repeat.
- Incline Cable Bench Press
Place an incline bench between the cables and place the cables on the lowest setting. Lie back flat with both hands gripping a cable. Push up until arms are extended. Repeat.
- Single Arm Shoulder Rotation
Place the cable at elbow height. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Grab the cable with the outer hand and pull the cable as far away from the body as possible. Return and repeat on the other arm.
- Front Raise
Place the cable in the lowest setting. Position your back to the cable stand. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Grab the cable through your legs and pull the cable out in front of you. Repeat.
Banded Shoulder Workouts
- Reverse Fly
Attach the band to a secure post at chest height. Face towards the band. Grab each side of the band. Start with arms out in front then pull back to align your arms out in a T. Repeat.
- Rear Shoulder Squeeze
Stand with feet hip-width apart and hands shoulder-width apart. Lift the band out front so it’s parallel with your chest. Stretch both arms out as if you were broadening your chest. Repeat.
- Lying Front Raise
Place the band around a secure post. Lie on your back with knees bent. Grab the band with both hands and raise your arms over your body until your hands are above your chest. Repeat.
- Y Fly
Stand with both legs together. Grasp the band with arms overhead to create a Y-shape with your body. Broaden the chest while pulling the shoulders and arms out against the resistance. Repeat.
- Seated High Row
Place the band around a stable post. Make sure the band is knee height. Sit firmly on the floor facing the band. Position your arms parallel to the floor, palms down, pull the elbows straight back until they line with the shoulders. Repeat.
- Banded Lunge
Begin as if you were going to perform a lunge. Place the band under the front foot with hands clasped on the bands. When you lunge up push your arms up as if you were performing an overhead press. Repeat.
Bodyweight Shoulder Workouts
- Incline Pushup
Face a bench. Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart on the bench keeping the body straight. Bend your elbows to lower towards the bench. Push up. Repeat.
- Pike Pushup
Stand with both feet on the ground. Bend over to place both hands on the ground — your body should be in a V-shape. Bend the elbows and lower your head towards the ground with the elbows wide. Push back up. Repeat.
- Side Plank With Lateral Raise
Position yourself into a side plank. Raise your arm toward the sky and then back down. Repeat.
- Arm Circles
Sit up straight. Place your arms out to your side. Start rotating the arms in small circles. Repeat in the other direction.
- Plank Shoulder Taps
Position your body parallel to the floor as if you were doing a plank. Use your right hand to tap your left shoulder. Return to plank position. Repeat with each hand.
- Eagle Arm Pumps
Sit down. Extend your arms out and place your right arm under your left (or vice versa) and cross your wrist to clasp your hands. Raise your hands toward the sky. Lower the arms back down parallel to your face. Repeat.
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