When you are juggling work, family and other responsibilities, working out can seem impossible. Between dropping your children off at school and running errands throughout the day, even simple shoulder exercises can seem very difficult to incorporate into your day. Although your day may seem completely full of critical tasks and responsibilities, it is important for you to spare at least one hour, three times a week, to exercise.

Your routine doesn't have to be difficult; it can be something as simple as doing some leg, abdominal, or shoulder exercises. There are so many benefits you get from working out. It not only improves your mood and sleep quality, but it also makes you stronger and healthier. This enables you to better handle whatever your day throws at you with ease.

What You Should Know About Shoulder Exercises

To achieve great results from shoulder exercises, you not only need to be consistent but also understand how different activities work to improve your shoulder strength. Below are some of the essential things you should know before you begin.

How much can the average man bench press?

How much can the average woman bench press?

What are deltoid muscles?

What are trapezius muscles?

Does exercise work without diet change?

How many times a week should you work out?

Does the bench press exercise work your shoulders?

How We Selected ​The Best Shoulder Exercises


To come up with this list of best shoulder exercises, we compared different shoulder workouts recommended by bodybuilders and expert trainers. What’s more, we examined each exercise to determine the main muscles they target and whether or not they help work the shoulders to give you a wider range of options.

Top 10 Shoulder Exercises


Whether your goal is to build muscle definition or strength train (which, surprisingly, are not the same thing), this list of top shoulder exercises will help you attain your goal. However, we recommend that you learn the right way of doing each exercise before you begin. Doing this will not only prevent you from getting injured but also help you target the right muscles.


One-arm ​Cable ​Lateral ​Raises

A lot of people prefer compound exercises to isolation exercises because they tend to work several muscles at a time. However, when it comes to shoulder exercises, it is better to do isolation exercises. This is mainly because the shoulder is a smaller muscle group that benefits the most from targeted conditioning. One-arm cable lateral raises are one of the best shoulder exercises because they specifically target the middle delts. The recommended number of one-arm cable lateral raises is 10 to 15 repetitions (reps) for each set.

To do this exercise, begin by grabbing a handle from a lower pulley and turn your body to the side. When doing this, ensure your back is straight, your chest is forward, and bend your knees slightly. With your arms facing your body, raise the weight outward, making sure it is up to the side. Keep your elbows higher than your wrists every time you lift and lift up to shoulder height (do not exceed this height). Next, lower the weight until your hand is in front of your body once again and repeat.


Dumbbell ​Lateral ​Raise

Dumbbell lateral raises are also an excellent workout for the middle delts. However, most people do not get the most from this exercise because they do it wrong. If you want to benefit from this exercise, ensure you have no hip movement as you do it because it might make the workout less effective. The recommended number of reps is 10 to 12 for each set maintaining perfect form.

To perform this shoulder exercise, stand with a dumbbell in each hand at your side. Next, straighten your back, engage your core, and slowly lift the weights to your side until your hands are parallel to the floor keeping your elbows slightly bent. You may find it easier to do if you do not rush the movements.


Seated ​Dumbbell ​Shoulder ​Press

The seated dumbbell shoulder press is an excellent exercise because it targets the anterior, middle and rear delts. The advantage of seated dumbbell shoulder presses is that they prevent strength imbalances. This is mainly because with a dumbbell in each hand; you will be able to complete each motion exclusively. The recommended number of reps for this exercise is 10 sets of 10 reps with 90 to 120 seconds of rest between each set.

To perform this shoulder exercise, hold a dumbbell in each hand using a pronated grip (where your palms are facing forward) and sit on a low-back bench. Keeping your back straight, eyes focused in front of you, and shoulders back, lift both dumbbells overhead in an arc without letting them touch. Next, reverse the motion and repeat.


Arnold ​Press

The Arnold press is a great shoulder exercise that targets your front delts. However, to reap the benefits of this exercise, you need to do it correctly. To do the Arnold press, start by sitting in a low-back bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Next, hold the dumbbells in front of your shoulders with your palms facing you. Press the weights overhead while rotating your wrists so that your palms face forward at the top. Rotate your wrists in the opposite direction while lowering the weights to the starting position and repeat. For the best results, four to five sets of eight to 10 reps are recommended.

And, yes, it's named after Arnold Schwartzenegger, who came up with this particular exercise.


Front ​Dumbbell ​Raise

A lot of trainers believe front dumbbell raises are unnecessary because the front delts get worked enough during shoulder and chest exercises. However, according to bodybuilder Dorian Yates, most people dismiss this exercise because they do it wrong hence they do not see results. According to him, with the right technique, a trainee can benefit from the exercise.

To perform front dumbbell raises, stand with your back straight and eyes focused forward with a dumbbell in each hand. Bring the dumbbells in front of your thighs with your palms facing your body. Next, lift one of your hands to shoulder height and lower. Repeat this on the other side. For the best results, it is recommended that you do two or three sets of eight to 16 repetitions.


Upright ​Cable ​Row

The upright cable row is among the best multi-joint movement shoulder exercises that also works your middle delts. To get the most out of this shoulder exercise, you need to ensure your delts are activated and that there is little bicep roll. This can be achieved by maintaining a wider grip.

To perform the upright cable row, start by setting your cable station. Next, adjust the pulley to the lowest setting and attach a lat pull-down bar onto it. Grasp the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. Ensure your back is straight with your knees slightly bent and your arms extended down in front of you. Next, bend your elbows to pull the bar straight up to your body until your arms are parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat. For the best results, three to four sets of 10 to 12 reps are recommended.


Dumbbell ​Incline ​Row

You are probably wondering what a multi-joint rowing exercise is doing in a shoulder exercise list. Contrary to popular belief, rowing exercises do not target your back only. They are also very useful in working your rear delts. On days when you want to pair back and shoulder exercises, this is one of the best transition exercises for both body parts.

To do a dumbbell incline row, lean into an incline bench and hold onto a dumbbell in each hand while maintaining a neutral grip. Retract your shoulder blades and flex your elbows to row the dumbbells to your side. Pause at the top of the movement and return to the start. The recommended number of sets is three to four for 10 reps.


Barbell ​Push ​Press

Barbell push presses are considered whole-body movements for developing explosiveness. Also, they allow you to load up the most weight compared to other overhead presses. This exercise works your triceps, upper pectorals (pecs), delts, core, and lower body. To perform this shoulder exercise, begin with the barbell atop your upper chest with your knees bent slightly. Explode upwards on the balls of your feet as you press the bar overhead. For best results, you should do three sets of 10 reps.

This is the only exercise on this list that you really shouldn't do alone. Be safe and have a spotter with you.


Face ​Pull

Although it sounds like an item on the to-do list of an aging Hollywood star, the face pull is an effective shoulder exercise that works rear delts and middle traps. To do a face pull, start by attaching a rope to a pull-down station. Next, stand in front of the pulley grasping each end of the rope with your palms facing each other. Lift your elbows to shoulder length and to the sides. Next, place one of your feet on the kneepad as this helps anchor you better compared to having both of your feet on the ground. To begin, lean back until your body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keeping your elbows elevated, pull the rope towards your face until your hands are alongside your ears. Squeeze and slowly go back to the starting position and repeat.

For the best results, you should do two sets of 20 reps.


Cable ​Front ​Raise

The cable front raise is a highly effective muscle sculpting shoulder exercise that targets the anterior delt.

To do a cable front raise, begin with your hand holding on to a D-handle. Maintain a staggering shoulder width stance with your back to a lower cable pulley. Next, place the other hand on your hip. With your back straight, chest elevated, and knees bent, raise the cable up and out such that it is in front of you until your arm is parallel to your working shoulder. Squeeze and slowly go back to the starting positing without allowing the stack to touch down and repeat. The recommended number of sets for a cable front raise is four to five sets of six to eight reps.


Ready ​To Try Some New Shoulder Exercises?

man lifting a barbell

image source: pexels

The shoulder exercises on this list are great for strength training as well as muscle building because they work all of the different shoulder muscles. They are also excellent for beginners as well as advanced athletes. For the best results, we suggest combining at least two of the exercises every time you want to target your shoulders, making sure you maintain perfect form each time. Also, be consistent with your workout routines and maintain a healthy diet. It might take some time to notice changes, but before you know it, your shoulders will be the envy of many.

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