Shoulder Workouts & Shoulder Exercises For Men: The Ultimate Guide

Shoulder Workouts & Shoulder Exercises For Men: The Ultimate Guide

You’d reasonably assume that performing the “best” shoulder exercises would by default deliver the best shoulders possible - but as you’re going to find out over the course of this guide, that’s simply not always the case.

You’ve got to implement a great deal of intricacy in terms of careful planning, mind-body connection and ultimately a very in-depth understanding of how the shoulders work (as well as how to access them) if you’re going to stand a chance of fulfilling your boulder shoulder dream.

Over the course of this guide, you’ll learn the most effective movements, what the most effective shoulder workouts are and generally how to piece everything together to create a devastatingly powerful set of “cannonballs” to sit proudly at the top of your arms.

Are you ready to get stuck in and make some incredible progress? Read on!

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Shoulder Muscles 101: Everything You Need To Know To Get Amazing Deltoids

This is where your eyes open and you start to realize that there’s far, far more to training shoulders than you ever thought possible.

In fairness to most guys out there who target this group, they usually pick the right exercises to perform (mostly) but due to their complete lack of understanding in regards to how the shoulders are actually constructed, they never manage to construct a strategic training plan that integrates every area of the shoulder.

For instance, many people at your local gym will only ever associate the shoulders with being the front (anterior) deltoids as well as the upper traps - but if you’re going to develop the hugely impressive shoulders you’re looking for then it’s time for you to learn about every area involved in shoulder development and how best to target them all.

With that in mind, let’s get stuck into the first area - you’ll no doubt know what it is, but the information you digest here may change your perspective a little in regards to where some of your shoulder training mistakes lie.

Anterior deltoid (front deltoid)

This is the area of the shoulders that sticks out towards the front of the body and is the most commonly targeted (and typically developed) area on most trainees.

This area tends to develop fairly fast on those who undertake resistance training for the first time, and in some cases stays a dominant part of a man’s physique several years into his training.

Why though? What is it about this area that leads to it typically being so prominent, and is this due to strategic planning or pure luck? The truth often lies somewhere between the two.

One of the main problems with the anterior deltoid is that it is integrated into far more exercises than it should be due to often-terrible form when performing exercises. Combine that with the fact that it plays a huge part in the majority of people’s favorite shoulder exercises too, and you’ve got a recipe for overuse.

Every overhead pressing movement you perform relies heavily on this area, and it’s also a stabilization muscle (an important one at that) involved in every chest pressing exercise.

This stabilization integration as part of chest exercises shouldn’t be a problem, but it becomes one due to terrible technique dictating that the anterior deltoids actually become the driving force behind chest exercises due to inexperience on the trainees part.

It doesn’t stop there either - when you’re isolating your chest with improper technique, it’s again your anterior deltoid that takes the brunt of the strain instead of the chest. When you train your back with bad form, it’s the shoulders that dominate the movement.

Can you see a pattern emerging? Basically, the anterior deltoids end up being heavily relied upon so much so that they develop at an accelerated rate when compared to the rest of your muscle groups. As such, they can easily throw everything else out of balance.

You also need to be aware that this section of the deltoid array is one of the least important for developing the much sought after “cannonball” appearance - it only forms one-third of a trio of muscles necessary to create that effect.

With that in mind, you’re probably starting to think that you might have been focusing a little too much on this area when performing set after set of dumbbell or smith machine shoulder presses, when you should have been placing some of that attention on other areas too.

Speaking of which, let’s take a closer look at them…

Lateral deltoid (side deltoid)

This is an absolutely vital area that is often targeted via the “lat raise” exercise, or that’s the plan at least - sadly it rarely ever gets effectively isolated due to the position of the shoulders when performing the exercises relevant to this area.

First things first - you’re going to need to develop this area as much as humanly possible if you’re going to create the awesome shoulder “peaks” that go into creating the devastatingly powerful “ball” appearance whereas the shoulder literally bulges out from the side of the body.

As stated earlier, the anterior deltoids get a whole ton of love but the lateral deltoids often get resigned to one exercise, and considering said exercise is rarely ever performed effectively - many people have really never trained their lateral deltoids properly.

How and why though? Is this just a really hard area to target or is there a little more to it than that?

You’ve probably already guessed, but all is not as it seems - it’s not that there’s some kind of magical “secret” to targeting this area, making it more difficult to train than any other body part. It’s simply a case of the body not being in the right position in order to access it fully that’s often the real crux of the problem.

There’s about a two-inch difference between the effective isolation of the lateral deltoids and a complete exercise “override” by the anterior deltoids - it’s all about your shoulder blade position and whether or not the shoulder girdles roll too far forward.

When you’re performing a lat raise, it’s absolutely crucial that you pinch the shoulder blades together as tightly as possible in order to ensure that the movement is dominated by the side of the shoulders - this is the key to the development of this area and will make all the difference in the world.

Of course, pinching the shoulder blades together tightly is only one aspect of the issue - you also need to cut the weight back dramatically! There’s a huge difference between a lat “swing” and a lat “raise”. If you can’t stand and raise the dumbbells up to the side of the body without using the hips to swing for some momentum to assist the movement, then the weight is simply too heavy to be effective.

When you combine excessively heavy weights with terrible posture and the fact that many guys think there’s only one way to perform a lat raise exercise - you’ve got a recipe for total disaster and lack of lateral deltoid integration on the whole.

If you struggle to target the area while standing, there are many seated or even lying variants of the movement to assist you - the bottom line is, you’re going to have to get incredibly serious about your posture and level of control from now on if you’re going to see the development you need in this area.

You should practice pinching the shoulder blades together from now on with every shoulder exercise you perform to ensure that you really can access the shoulders in the manner they are supposed to be targeted.

This is easily one of the primary reasons why so many people struggle with their shoulders. It’s not about genetics, it’s simply about patience and using the correct techniques.

Posterior deltoid (rear deltoid)

The third muscle in the deltoid “trio” - this area of the deltoid is easily the most overlooked and is rarely (if at all) targeted effectively.

Most people really have no idea how important this area is because they don’t associate it with being highly visible or integral to creating the rounded effect they’re looking for - this couldn’t be further from the truth though.

If you picture your body from the front, side and back - to neglect the shoulder from any one of these angles would completely diminish the fully developed effect you’re looking for.

There is so much integration of the anterior deltoids as part of most shoulder workouts that the rear deltoids get completely suppressed - it’s not a simple case of not targeting them, they are often totally diminished as a result of the shoulder girdles being pulled forward.

This leads to all kinds of problems with the rotator cuff and shoulder blades. Winged scapula (whereas the base of the shoulder blade pulls away from the body) is a fairly common result of this shoulder “rounding”, and a strong pair of rear deltoids would have served to keep this area in check.

From a superficial and structural point of view, this area is absolutely vital - so why is it that it gets so frequently overlooked as part of a typical shoulder routine?

In a similar fashion to the lateral deltoid, this “oversight” probably isn’t intentional and often has far more to do with positional awareness when performing rear deltoid exercises.

Sure, consciously targeting the rear deltoids doesn’t tend to be particularly high on the majority of shoulder trainees’ agendas, but when they do target them it’s often not done in a particularly effective fashion. It’s down to the position of the shoulder blades and removing the hips from the equation again!

These tiny elements are responsible for not only targeting the lateral deltoid effectively but the rear deltoid area too - you’d be amazed at how much of a part this simple tweak in shoulder position plays across almost every exercise you perform actually.

One of the major catalysts for this lack of rear deltoid isolation is definitely the weight volume being used for targeting this area - as with lat raises, many guys simply use far more weight than they can effectively handle when performing rear delt fly (or other) isolation exercises.

Should the hips begin to move or any other part of the body contort in order to elevate the weight - the simple fact is that it’s too heavy for effective use. This is especially true of concentrated exercises of the type you’ll typically use for the posterior deltoids where your body position really does have to be as close to perfect as possible.

You’ll have to become almost “surgeon” like in your training approach. You can’t just head in and fling a weight about in the hope that you’ll eventually develop amazing shoulders. This is precisely the mindset that leads to the kind of stunted growth that inspired you to read this guide today.

No, instead you need to be patient, precise, strategic and above all else mindful if you’re going to integrate the rear delts for maximum aesthetic benefit as part of a shoulder routine. With a little focus and concentration - you’ll master this vital aspect of your shoulder (and every other) area in no time at all.

The Trapezius Muscle Explained For Maximum Shoulder Results

You’ve hopefully discovered at least one useful nugget of information in regards to the deltoid muscle and how it is formed - next time you train you’ll now have a different perspective, which in turn will skyrocket your results.

That’s not all there is to creating an amazing set of shoulders though. It’s now time to look at the trapezius and fully “dissect” it so that you can further enhance your entire shoulder array.

Most men will typically associate the trapezius with being the “coat hanger” like triangle muscle that sits in between the deltoids and the neck. While it’s true that this muscle plays an important part in your shoulder development when looking at the body from the front, there’s a great deal more to this area than meets the eye.

We’ll start with the upper trapezius, as this is the most commonly recognized area.

Upper trapezius

Your upper trap muscle is going to play an incredibly important part in enhancing the overall appearance of your shoulder line overall - prominent traps are one of the most significantly noticeable aspects of a strong upper body, and the successful development of this area is a much sought after end result of shoulder training in general.

You do typically integrate the upper traps as part of any pressing motion overhead, but they require some effective isolation in order to really bring them out and maximize their full potential.

You have a plethora of exercises at your disposal to achieve this end result, but it’s going to be pretty pointless taking them on headfirst until your mind is in the perfect state of readiness.

In order to prepare it, let’s consider the upper trap and how it functions as part of a shrugging exercise. This upright shrugging motion is going to play a vital part in the isolation of your upper traps in general so it’s important that you understand the mechanics behind it.

When you perform an upright shrugging motion, you should always have your shoulder blades pinched tightly together to begin with, before elevating the shoulder girdles and squeezing at the top of the motion, then returning to the bottom.

The reason why we’re covering the fundamentals of this particular exercise at this point is because most people don’t perform a shrug in the fashion we’ve just mentioned at all. In fact they make the same mistakes they make with a shrug with just about every trap exercise they perform.

You’ll frequently see others (potentially even yourself) lift and “roll” the bar by rolling the shoulder girdles forward or backward, which can not only be incredibly damaging to the shoulders in general - it also stops you from being able to fully lock the upper traps into gear at the top of the motion and successfully target them.

The same can be said for upright rows . This is a very common mistake that seriously inhibits upper trapezius development on the whole. The upper traps respond to a vertical plane of motion. As soon as you start to deviate from this path, you’re also deviating from the successful isolation of the upper traps.

Are you starting to see how important your positioning is? You may well have been performing countless exercises that are all hugely effective for developing the shoulders overall, but due to your body position being completely out of sync with your target group, you simply haven’t managed to utilize some of the most important areas in an efficient manner.

This is indispensable knowledge if that’s the case because your shoulder training results are going to skyrocket from now on should you make these small adaptations.

Middle trapezius

OK, the next two areas (including this one) are a point of potential contention. They’re important for your shoulder development but they aren’t actually a direct part of your shoulder array.

In fact, every section of the trapezius array belongs to the back - this includes the upper traps.

As a result, you might think that you don’t need to worry about the middle and lower traps too much in regards to developing your overall shoulder appearance - but you’d be completely wrong.

Consider this. Your trap muscle on the whole is an incredibly vital part of protecting and promoting good posture. We already know that pinning your shoulder blades back is a vital element of all shoulder (and most other) exercises, therefore it only stands to reason that you need to develop any area that can assist in this postural alignment and help to create a straight back.

Having weak lower and central back muscles will ultimately lead to hunching, and this in turn forces the anterior deltoids to take over on shoulder exercises. You don’t need an exaggerated forward lean to make this happen either, even the slightest deviation from the most effective postural position will create a lack of synergy.

As such, you absolutely must integrate the middle trapezius muscle as part of your back sessions so that you can better access every single area of the shoulder.

Lower trapezius

Following down from the top of the trapezius you then get the middle section of the traps followed by the lower trapezius - our next point of discussion.

This area when fully developed is again going to help “brace” the lower back and keep the spine straight (or at least encourage you to do so) which is a vital element for effective exercise posture.

Ultimately, what you’re going to need to do from now on is avoid rolling the shoulders forward and carrying yourself in a “lazy” fashion while targeting your various muscle groups. As discussed the middle and lower traps have an enormous part to play in this procedure and if you’ve been neglecting them then no wonder you’re not fully integrating your delts or upper traps.

It’ll seem like a small intricacy, but that’s ultimately what creating the immense difference between an amazing body and a typical gym-goers body is all about. When you commit to these finer details you’re truly going to advance your physique way past the “normal” standard.

How many people do you know who think about everything we’ve discussed so far when training shoulders? It’d be a surprise if you could actually name one.

That’s how genuinely rare this kind of knowledge is. Almost no one you’ve ever met, no matter how good they look will know about the body position and how to target and “sculpt” each area of the delts like this. This is insider knowledge that only the most dedicated, patient and wise trainers ever learn.

Regardless of how anyone looks, they’ll simply never achieve their full potential without adhering to the above principles rigidly. To train the shoulders in any other fashion is to neglect accessing them to their full capacity.

The 22 Best Shoulder Exercises To Build Your Delts

Here’s where we get down to the action and take a look at some of the most ruthlessly effective exercises to cover every aspect of the delts.

Within this section, you’re only going to find the most blisteringly powerful movements to guarantee results provided your nutrition is in check - every exercise listed here is with a view to maximum potency. There’s zero filler material.

Are you ready to change your game? Let’s roll through the most useful deltoid exercises on the planet.

The Best Fundamental Shoulder Exercises

These exercises are all fantastic for covering pretty much every area of the shoulders and developing overall mass when performed effectively.

You’re going to get a lot of return for your effort should you choose to include these movements as part of your routine on a regular basis. In fact, you really need to make sure at least one of these exercises features in every shoulder workout you perform for maximum development.

Exercise #1: Barbell military press

Considered the “king” of upper body exercises by many - the barbell military press is an incredibly powerful mass builder for the shoulders as well as being a great way of developing your upper body mass and strength in general.

This movement targets every head of the deltoid and even the traps - no other shoulder exercise has such a phenomenal impact. What it lacks in intricacy it more than makes up for in widespread shoulder “devastation.”

How To: Standing Straight-Bar Military / Overhead Press
How to do a barbell military press?

To perform this exercise, stand with a bar held at shoulder height with the hands placed just outside of shoulder width apart - ensure you’re holding the bar with a double overhand grip. From here, proceed to elevate the arms above the head until they are just short of being completely locked out (leave a slight bend at the elbows.) Return the bar to the starting position.

What does a barbell military press work?

You’re going to access every head of the deltoid (though it has to be said that the rear delts aren’t going to see a great level of integration here) and the upper trapezius. The areas that aren’t directly targeted (like the lower and middle traps for instance) will be used as stabilizer muscles.

A few barbell military press tips:
  • If your back starts to buckle, lower the weight. Don’t sacrifice good posture for a heavy weight
  • Never fully lock out the arms to ensure safety at all times when performing this exercise
  • Always tense the abs and glutes to ensure that your lower body stays firmly rooted throughout the movement

Exercise #2: The dumbbell Arnold press

This is an incredible seated dumbbell press variant that targets every head of the deltoids due to the rotating movement taking place throughout the course of the exercise.

It gets its name due to allegedly being one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's favorite exercises.

Arnold Press - Shoulder Exercise - Proper Form Tutorial
How to do a dumbbell Arnold press?

To perform this exercise, set a bench to the fully upright position and grab a pair of dumbbells. Proceed to raise them to shoulder height, but have the palms face inwards so that the dumbbells start exactly in line with the front of the anterior deltoid. From here, proceed to elevate the arms above the head while rotating the arms outwards and away from the body by the time the dumbbells reach the top of the movement. Return to the starting position by rotating the dumbbells back down then repeat the movement.

What does a dumbbell Arnold press work?

This exercise effectively targets every head of the deltoids with some upper trap integration too. It’s really a great movement for all round development and should definitely be included regularly as part of your shoulder routines.

A few dumbbell Arnold press tips:
  • Select your weight wisely - you’re not going to be able to lift as much weight with this exercise as you will with a standard dumbbell shoulder press
  • Never fully lock out the arms to ensure safety at all times when performing this exercise
  • Take care when rotating the wrists to avoid destabilization (loss of control), especially at the top of the movement

Exercise #3: The seated dumbbell shoulder press

It’s important that this exercise has a place in our list due to the fact that it is a different beast altogether when compared to the Arnold press.

Though you’re going to adequately use your rear delts more than you would with a standard dumbbell shoulder press using the Arnold variant, the standard variant allows you to lift more weight and is generally safer to perform due to the lack of wrist rotation. This makes it vital for slamming on some serious mass in a “no fuss” manner.

How To: Dumbbell Shoulder Press
How to do a seated dumbbell shoulder press?

Simply start with a bench raised to the completely upright position and grab a pair of dumbbells before taking a seat with your back placed firmly against the chair padding. From here, elevate the dumbbells to shoulder height and ensure they face outwards and away from the body. Proceed to press the dumbbells overhead, leaving a slight bend at the elbow at the top of the movement. Return to the starting position and repeat the exercise.

What does a seated dumbbell shoulder press work?

You’ll work every head of the delts effectively here with an emphasis being placed on the anterior deltoid and upper trapezius. It’s simply a great mass builder for the entire deltoid area.

A few seated dumbbell shoulder press tips:
  • Always use a full range of movement to ensure appropriate integration of the deltoid array to its fullest extent
  • Take extra care not to select a weight you can’t handle as this could lead to arm dislocation at the top of the movement due to the weight falling backward
  • Try to ensure that the dumbbells keep in line with the top of the shoulder clavicle as they elevate - never going too far inwards or outwards

Exercise #4: The seated smith machine military press

This is a great way to perform the military press due to the stability that the smith machine provides - you’re going to effectively target every head of the deltoid and upper trapezius when performing this exercise.

An advantage over the free weight variant is that the body is in a secure seated position, therefore more weight can be lifted when compared to the free weight version.

Christian Boeving - Military Press on Smith Machine (Bodybuilding)
How to do a seated smith machine military press?

To perform a seated smith machine military press, set the bench in an upright position then proceed to place it in the center of the smith machine rack and sit down once you have loaded the bar with an appropriate weight. From here, grab the bar with a double overhand grip and elevate it above the head while leaving a slight bend at the elbows, then return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

What does a seated smith machine military press work?

This exercise is great for targeting every area of the deltoids and the upper trapezius in a safe and controlled fashion with a small risk of injury due to destabilization.

A few seated smith machine military press tips:
  • Ensure your seat is securely anchored to the ground before lifting as should the seat slide, you risk serious injury
  • Though you are using a rack for safety with this exercise, never overload the bar as this could place a great deal of downwards force on the spine should you get stuck
  • Never fully lock the arms out at the top of the movement to ensure that your elbow joints are protected throughout the exercise

Exercise #5: The behind the neck military press

This exercise is a highly effective shoulder press variant for those wanting to incorporate their rear delts and upper trapezius a little more than when performing the standard military press, though you’re still going to be targeting every head of the deltoid. This is another truly awesome all round mass builder for the general shoulder area.

Behind The Neck Shoulder Presses
How to do a behind the neck military press?

Place a bench in the middle of a smith machine and set the back to the fully upright position. From here, load an appropriate weight onto the bar and proceed to take a seat. Start with the bar placed behind the head just above the trap line and grab it with a double overhand grip just outside of your shoulder width. Proceed to elevate the bar until it rises above the head, then return it to the starting position. You can also perform this exercise standing.

What does a behind the neck military press work?

This is a fantastic all round mass builder for the shoulders with a slight emphasis being placed on the rear delts and trapezius array throughout the exercise.

A few behind the neck military press tips:
  • Never use an excessively heavy weight on this movement to avoid tearing the anterior deltoid - the weight needs to be just heavy enough that you can control it slowly
  • Never place the chair too far forward and gauge the bar level before lifting to avoid injuring the top of the head
  • Do not bend the neck too far forward as this could potentially lead to injury via neck strain

The Best Rear Delt Exercises / Posterior Deltoid Exercises

You’ve read this far, so you already know how important the rear delts are in regards to your overall shoulder development. Now it’s time to target them effectively with the following list of exercises.

Remember, this group really is all about your body position while performing the relevant movements. Don’t sacrifice form for weight!

Exercise #6: Reverse pec deck fly

This is an absolutely fantastic way to isolate the rear delts due to the secure seated position that forces the rear delts into action without the assistance of any other muscle group.

How to do a Reverse Pec Deck Fly
How to do a reverse pec deck fly?

To perform this movement, you’ll need to find the peck deck in your local gym and set the “arms” so that they’re in the fully reversed position. From here, take a seat facing inwardly towards the weight stack, and proceed to grasp both handles. From here, spread the arms out and backward until the body is in a “crucifix” position. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

What does a reverse pec deck fly work?

This exercise effectively targets the rear delts in an incredibly isolated fashion and is one of the best rear delt exercises for mastering your form with.

A few reverse pec deck fly tips:
  • Ensure you never bend the neck forward excessively as this will strain or even tear the upper traps
  • Never lock the arms out fully to avoid hyperextending at the elbows
  • Select a weight you can comfortably control that’s going to allow you to keep your shoulder blades locked tightly together throughout the movement - otherwise it’ll be a fruitless movement

Exercise #7: Rear delt raise / Rear delt dumbbell fly

You’re going to get a tremendous amount of benefit from this exercise provided you perform it effectively - you can vary your arm position to ensure that you target a different aspect of the rear delts every time you perform the movement by either keeping the arms in a central position or raising them downwards / upwards to a 45-degree angle.

How To: Dumbbell Bent-Over Raise
How to do a rear delt raise?

First, grab a pair of dumbbells then proceed to lower the upper body down to a 45-degree angle and stretch the arms out in front of the body. From here, keep the shoulder blades tightly pinched together and proceed to raise the dumbbells backward . The end result should see the upper body fixed in a “crucifix” position. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

What does a rear delt raise work?

This exercise targets the rear delts when performed with effective posture.

A few rear delt raise tips:
  • Get your posture in check! This is going to be a completely wasted exercise unless you fully lock your shoulder blades together
  • Drop your weight and lift for results, not for ego
  • Be careful not to strain the neck by bending the head too far forward during this movement

Exercise #8: Reverse cable fly

This exercise is amazing for targeting the rear delts while ensuring constant tension is placed on the area at all times. Consider this as a hybrid of sorts between the reverse pec deck fly and the rear delt dumbbell fly.

Reverse Cable Fly - Rear Delt - A must !
How to do a reverse cable fly?

To perform a reverse cable fly, set the cable pulleys at the top of the pillars and proceed to grab the left-hand cable “ball” end with your right hand, and the right-hand cable “ball” with the left hand. From there, step backward and cross the arms out in front of the body at neck height. Spread the arms out and backward while keeping the shoulder blades pinched tightly together until the arms are in a “crucifix” position. From here, proceed to return to the starting position.

What does a reverse cable fly work?

You’re going to effectively target the rear delts with this exercise, though you can actually target different aspects of this area by spreading backward to a slightly different angle as per the reverse dumbbell fly.

A few reverse cable fly tips:
  • Don’t allow the shoulders to roll forward when performing this exercise as you could easily cause damage to the rotator cuff via dislocation
  • This movement should be slow and steady - never rushed
  • Always keep the shoulder blades tightly pinched together, otherwise your anterior deltoids will simply take over

Exercise #9: Incline prone dumbbell reverse flys

This variant of the rear delt dumbbell fly is incredible for all out isolation and really provides great access to the rear delts with a great deal of flexibility. This is a great way to master your body position for rear delt dumbbell flys in general.

Incline Prone Reverse Dumbbell Fly
How to do an incline prone dumbbell reverse fly?

For this exercise, simply lay flat on the stomach on a bench angled at 45-degrees and grab a pair of dumbbells. Proceed to stretch them out in front of the body, and pinch the shoulder blades tightly while raising the dumbbells backward and out to the side. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

What does an incline prone dumbbell reverse fly work?

Due to the free weight movement, you can vary your arm angles when performing this exercise, but ultimately it’s an incredibly effective way to target the rear delts.

A few incline prone dumbbell reverse fly tips:
  • Never strain the neck by bending it too far forward throughout the movement
  • Always select a low weight that you can control effectively
  • Keep your shoulder position at the forefront of your mind throughout this exercise in order to fully integrate the target area properly

The Best Front Delt Exercises / Anterior Deltoid Exercises

Being that most overhead pressing movements effectively target this area and they form the basis of pretty much every shoulder routine ever created - let’s discuss some of the more isolated anterior delt exercises here.

These movements are going to be fantastic for adding further detail and “shape” to the area provided you perform them all with strict form.

Exercise #10: Dumbbell front raises

It has to be said that this exercise is vastly overused, but as with many shoulder isolation exercises it’s not often that the movement gets the due attention it warrants for effective targeting of the anterior deltoid.

How To: Dumbbell Front Raise
How to do a dumbbell front raise?

To make this exercise truly effective, start with a pair of dumbbells in a neutral position at hip height and proceed to raise one arm up until it is directly in line with the anterior deltoid, having rotated throughout the movement so that the palm is parallel with the floor at the top. From here, rotate and return to the starting position before repeating on the opposite side.

What does a dumbbell front raise work?

This exercise effectively isolates and targets the anterior (front) deltoid.

A few dumbbell front raise tips:
  • Your shoulder blade position is crucial here - keep your “blades” pinched back throughout the movement to ensure total isolation of the anterior delt
  • Never lift a weight that forces you to use any other body parts for momentum. This movement needs to be performed with a very strict adherence to form
  • Always perform this movement at a slow pace to ensure the muscle is kept under tension for the relevant amount of time needed for optimum fiber stimulation

Exercise #11: Barbell front raises

This exercise is similar to the dumbbell front raise although it targets both arms at the same time and arguably allows for a greater deal of isolation due to it being more difficult to “cheat” your way through the movement.

Shoulder Workouts: Barbell Front Raise
How to do a barbell front raise?

To perform a front barbell raise, stand with a bar at hip height with a double overhand grip just outside of shoulder width apart. Proceed to pinch the shoulder blades together tightly and raise the bar up to shoulder height until the palms are parallel with the floor. Lower the bar back down to hip height.

What does a barbell front raise work?

This exercise effectively isolates and targets the anterior (front) deltoid as well as integrating some partial involvement from the upper trapezius.

A few barbell front raise tips:
  • Your shoulder blade position is crucial here - keep your “blades” pinched back throughout the movement to ensure total isolation of the anterior delt
  • The key to this exercise is to not allow the hips to swing the bar up via momentum - don’t select a weight that’s going to necessitate this action
  • At the top of the movement, ensure you don’t lean backward in order to avoid hurting the lower back via strain

Exercise #12: Cable front raises

Another great exercise for some serious shoulder isolation. This exercise will allow you to keep constant tension on the anterior deltoid area while effectively targeting it independently of the rest of the body.

Instructional Fitness - Front Cable Raises
How to do a cable front raise?

This is a simple exercise to perform, and simply involves you standing in front of a cable pulley with it set to the lowest height. From here, attach a handle to the base, and proceed to turn away from the machine. Grab the handle in either the left or right arm, and proceed to raise it until it is perfectly in line with the shoulder and the palm is facing the ground. From here, return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

What does a cable front raise work?

You’ll effectively target your anterior deltoid by performing this exercise.

A few cable front raise tips:
  • Keep the weight nice and light to allow you to slowly and effectively perform the movement
  • Never stop short of the horizontal position in order to ensure that you take the anterior deltoid through the full range of motion and target it to the maximum extent
  • Keep your shoulder blades pinched tightly together in order to fully expose the anterior deltoid throughout the movement

Exercise #13: Cleans

This is the first half of the infamous “clean and jerk” Olympic lift, and places immense stress on the anterior deltoids and upper trapezius. It’s a must have exercise as part of any shoulder routine.

How to perform the Clean
How to do a clean?

Start with a bar at hip height and ensure you have a double overhand grip with the hands placed just outside shoulder width apart. From here, proceed to raise the elbows up towards the ceiling while dragging the bar upwards. Flip the wrists so that the palms face upwards and the bar rests at shoulder height. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

What does a clean work?

This exercise is amazing for targeting the anterior deltoid and trapezius. It’s an utterly fantastic power and strength developer too.

A few front cable raise tips:
  • Form makes perfect - don’t use a weight that you have to contort your body to fully “access”
  • Practice the movement several times before you start increasing your weight due to the difficulty of the exercise
  • For aesthetic purposes, try to keep your hip involvement to an absolute minimum to keep your shoulder isolation in check

The Best Side Delt Exercises / Lateral Deltoid Exercises

So here we are now at the section where we discuss the best exercises to shape the shoulder “caps” and give you that awesome shoulder width you’re looking for (which, by the way - has got way more to do with training back than it does performing lateral exercises as we’ll later discuss.)

As with any of the individual area exercises, leave your ego at the door and keep your form in check. If you can do that, you’ll reap some serious benefits from performing the following exercises.

Exercise #14: Dumbbell lateral raises (standing)

An awesome exercise for the lateral deltoids when performed correctly, this is an indispensable movement for targeting the lateral (side) deltoids and helping to sculpt them to give your shoulders the carved Greek aesthetics we’re sure you want.

How To: Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise
How to do a dumbbell lateral raise?

Stand with a pair of dumbbells held at hip height with the palms facing inwards towards the body. From here, proceed to raise the arms up and away from the body until they are in a “crucifix” position directly in line with the shoulders. From here, return to the starting position without letting the dumbbells rest on the body until the movement is complete.

What does a dumbbell lateral raise work?

This exercise targets the side deltoids in isolation to the rest of the body.

A few dumbbell lateral raise tips:
  • Don’t select a heavy weight for this exercise. This is the number one mistake most people make when performing it
  • Ensure you slowly raise and lower the dumbbells to incorporate the relevant time under tension needed for appropriate muscular engagement
  • Never, ever swing from the hips. This makes the movement almost completely pointless

Exercise #15: Cable lateral raises

Cable lateral raises are an awesome variant of the lateral raise that ensure constant tension is kept on the relevant area at all times.

Cable Lateral Raise
How to do a cable lateral raise?

To perform a cable lateral raise, set one cable pulley handle to the lowest setting and proceed to stand with one side of the body facing the middle of the machine, and the other side facing out and away from it (you should be in front of the cable pulley pillar, facing it from a side angle.) Now proceed to step out, sideways and grab the pulley with the hand that is farthest away from the machine, and elevate it up and out to the side of the body. Stop the arm when it is parallel to the shoulder and the palm is facing the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

What does a cable lateral raise work?

This is an amazing exercise for targeting the lateral head (side) of the deltoid muscle array.

A few cable lateral raise tips:
  • As ever control is key so ensure the weight is low enough to allow this
  • Your shoulder blades should always be tightly pinched together for maximum engagement
  • Never lock the arm out fully to ensure there is no direct strain on the elbow joint and tendons

Exercise #16: Bench side raise

This is a fantastic way to target the side deltoids due to the body being laid on the side, thus eliminating all possibility of momentum taking over the exercise.

Sideways Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raise
How to do a bench side raise?

First, set a bench so that it is on a slight incline (a couple of notches above flat) and proceed to lay on the side with one dumbbell on the side that isn’t resting on the bench. From here, proceed to raise the dumbbell up and away from the body until it is in line with the shoulder. From here, lower the dumbbell back to the starting position and repeat the movement

What does a bench side raise work?

This exercise is perfect for targeting the lateral deltoid while removing the possibility of momentum leading the movement.

A few bench side raise tips:
  • Ensure you keep the body planted against the bench firmly to avoid any other body parts trying to assist in the movement
  • Always select a weight that you can control with precision
  • Never lock the arm out fully to ensure there is no direct strain on the elbow joint and tendons

Exercise #17: Lateral raise machine

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a lateral raise machine then this is potentially the most effective way to target the lateral delts full stop due to the highly isolated nature of the exercise.

How To Use The Lateral Raise Machine - Exercise Video
How to use a lateral raise machine?

To perform this movement, simply sit in the lateral raise machine and ensure the arm pads are roughly at hip height. From here, proceed to raise the arms up and away from the body until the elbows are in line with the shoulders. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

What does a lateral raise machine work?

This movement exclusively targets the lateral (side) deltoids in isolation from the rest of the body.

A few lateral raise machine tips:
  • Keep the body upright and the back straight when performing this exercise
  • Use a weight that you can slowly and effectively control
  • Never swing when performing this exercise. Use good form and allow the muscles to “breathe” throughout the movement

The Best Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

In conjunction with the free weight and machine exercises mentioned above, there are a plethora of bodyweight exercises for you to incorporate as part of your shoulder workouts (or if you’re performing an exclusively home based routine) that are going to be great for your overall shoulder development.

Check out the following list of incredible bodyweight shoulder exercises to deliver some solid muscular gains without the need for added equipment.

Exercise #18: Snake push ups

This is an awesome variant of the push up that’s going to allow you to take the shoulder clavicle through a full range of movement, thus evenly targeting every area of the shoulder muscles including the traps.

Bedlington Personal Trainer | Divebomber / Snake Push ups
How to do a snake push up?

To perform this exercise, start in a kneeling position on the ground. Balance your body weight across your tiptoes and the palm of your hands, then proceed to bend at the hips and raise the rear into the air (there should be a 45-degree angle at the hips.) From here, bend at the elbows and lower the body down until it hovers just above the ground, now slide the body forward until the hands are in line with the hips, before sliding the body backward and returning to the starting position. Repeat the movement.

What does a snake push up work?

You’re going to effectively target every area of the shoulders as well as the top of the chest with this exercise.

A few snake push up tips:
  • Never bend the upper body backward extensively on the way back up from the ground to avoid lower back damage
  • Take care when lowering the body to ensure you do not hit the floor
  • Never fully straighten the arms out at the top of the movement to avoid injury to the elbow joints

Exercise #19: Handstand push ups

This push up variant isn’t as terrifying as it may sound. It doesn’t necessarily involve you standing vertically on the hands (though it can be performed this way) and can be done against a wall. It’s a great alternative to a military press.

The Ultimate Handstand Push Up Tutorial! (How to Balance & Get Stronger)

Note: This is the version without a wall - though the body position is still exactly the same. In time you’ll be able to perform the version you see here!

How to do a handstand push up?

To perform this exercise, start in a kneeling position with your back to the nearest wall. Proceed to rest your upper body on the palms of the hands (with them placed shoulder width apart on the ground) and “walk” your legs up the wall behind you until the body is as close to being vertical as possible while still giving you full control. Proceed to bend at the elbows and lower the body until the head rests just above the ground, then extend the arms and return to the starting position. Now repeat the movement.

What does a handstand push up work?

This exercise is blisteringly effective for targeting every head of the delts as well as the upper traps.

A few handstand push up tips:
  • Ensure your body position is secure before you perform this exercise - it’s incredibly easy to lose your balance
  • Take care when lowering the body to ensure you do not hit the floor
  • Never fully straighten the arms out at the top of the movement to avoid injury to the elbow joints

Exercise #20: Wide grip push-ups

A fairly simple movement when compared to our first two exercises, this variant of the push up will allow you to place a great deal of strain on the anterior deltoids.

How to Do a Wide Grip Push-Up | Chest Workout
How to do a wide grip push up?

This exercise involves the body starting in a standard push up position (with your body weight resting across the tip toes and the palms of the hands) then proceeding to “walk” your hands out and sideways away from the body until they are as wide apart as possible. From here, bend at the elbows and lower the body until it hovers just above the ground, then extend the arms and return to the starting position.

What does a wide grip push up work?

This is a fantastic movement for targeting the anterior deltoids with some great upper trap integration too.

A few wide grip push up tips:
  • Never stretch the hands wider than you can comfortably control as this could lead to you tearing a pectoral muscle
  • Ensure your hands are firmly rooted into the ground to avoid slipping
  • Always keep the spine totally straight when performing this movement to avoid any back injury

Exercise #21: Planche

Are you ready for some serious fun? This exercise is going to challenge every aspect of your traps and shoulders as you balance your entire body weight on the deltoid and trap area.

How To Planche For Beginners 2016 [4k]

Note: You can perform this movement by resting on the palms of the hands, extra handles are not needed.

How to do a planche?

Start in a push up position, and proceed to roll the body slightly forward and place every ounce of your body weight into the palms of the hands. From here, bend at the hips slightly and attempt to elevate the lower body away from the ground. Hold this position for your desired time frame and release the hold.

What does a planche work?

This exercise is incredible for overall shoulder size development, endurance and strength across every area of the shoulders.

A few planche tips:
  • Be patient! You’re not going to master this exercise overnight
  • Ensure your hands are firmly rooted into the ground to avoid slipping
  • Always keep the spine straight and ensure that you progress into the starting position slowly to keep your balance in check

Exercise #22: Wide grip pull-ups

Yes, really!

You need to perform this exercise as part of any bodyweight routine in order to fully develop your rear delts & trapezius. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to integrate these areas in any other way without the use of equipment.

How to: Wide grip pull up
How to do a wide grip pull up?

To perform this movement, grab a pull up bar with a double overhand grip and the hands placed just outside of shoulder width apart in a fully outstretched position. From here, bend at the elbows and elevate the body away from the ground until the chin reaches the pull up bar. Now extend the arms and lower the body back down to the starting position without touching the ground.

What does a wide grip pull up work?

This exercise will target your rear delts & trapezius in an incredibly effective manner.

A few wide grip pull up tips:
  • You may need to start by using an assisted pull up platform until you can perform this exercise with your full body weight
  • Never fully lock the arms out at the bottom of the movement to avoid damaging the elbow joints
  • Ensure the head doesn’t bend forward throughout the exercise in order to protect the neck

The 10 Best Trap Exercises For Massive Trapezius Muscles

This is the section where we look at the most effective movements out there to develop the trapezius array and vastly improve your shoulder building results overall.

As we stated earlier, you need to take the trapezius incredibly seriously for not only aesthetic reasons but postural reasons too - it’s a very important muscle group.

Don’t be alarmed by some of the exercises listed in this section - you’re quite right if you think that they’re for the back. They are. With that said, they’re utterly vital for targeting the areas listed, so you’re going to have to integrate them on back day.

Just to recap there (because it’s important). Not all of these exercises belong on shoulder day - they need to be incorporated into your back routine.

Who knew training shoulders was so complicated?

The Best Fundamental Trap Exercises

These exercises are going to effectively target the traps in an “all-around” manner and lead to the development of thick, powerful looking upper, middle and lower traps.

Exercise #1: Deadlifts

The deadlift is hands down one of if not the best singular trapezius building exercise on the planet. This is due in no small part to the fact that it incorporates every area of the trapezius array to lead to total development of the area. This movement should be performed on back day.

How to Perform the Deadlift - Proper Deadlift Technique & Form
How to do a deadlift?

To perform this movement, start with a bar at ground level and proceed to grip it with any hand position of your choosing while lowering the body into a “crouched” position in front of the bar. With the bar in front of the shins and the back totally straight, proceed to pull the bar up and away from the ground until it rests at hip height. Now lower the body back down into a seated position until the bar reaches the shins, and repeat the movement.

What does a deadlift work?

This exercise will target every muscle in the back including the entire trapezius array, as well as the glutes and hamstrings.

A few deadlift tips:
  • Always keep your back straight throughout the exercise, keeping the head up will help with this
  • Never bend the lower back in an attempt to get the weight up, if this happens the weight is too heavy
  • Stop the bar at the shins rather than placing it back on the ground after every rep to keep constant tension on the back

Exercise #2: Barbell bent over rows

Another great way to target every area of the trapezius array - the barbell bent over row is another exercise that belongs on back day but is vital for the overall development of the traps.

Standing Bent Over Barbell Row Overhand Grip
How to do a barbell bent over row?

To perform a barbell bent over row, you’ll need to grab a barbell and load it with an appropriate weight. Proceed to grab the bar with a double overhand grip with the hands placed just outside of shoulder width apart. Now, with the bar at hip height - bend the upper body forward so that it is at a 45-degree angle and stretch the arms out in front of the body. Now bend at the elbows and bring the bar into the stomach (just below the sternum). Return the arms to the extended position and repeat the movement.

What does a barbell bent over row work?

This exercise is an amazing way to target every area of the trapezius effectively.

A few barbell bent over row tips:
  • Never use an incredibly heavy weight that forces you to use your hips for momentum
  • Always keep your shoulder blades tightly pinched together to fully access the trap muscles and protect the lower back
  • Try not to fully lock out the arms at the bottom of the movement to ensure that you protect the elbow joints

The Best Lower Trap Exercises

These exercises are all going to be a fantastic way to target the lower trapezius - every exercise listed here is to be performed on back day.

Exercise #3: Seated cable row

This exercise is awesome for targeting the middle and lower trapezius effectively and needs to be included as part of your back training sessions regularly.

How To: Seated Low Row (LF Cable)
How to do a seated cable row?

To perform a seated cable row, you’ll need to find a seated row machine and attach a V shaped handle to the pulley. From here, take a seat and grab the V bar with the arms fully outstretched. Proceed to bend at the elbows and bring the bar into the sternum, then extend the arms and return to the starting position before repeating the movement.

What does a seated cable row work?

You’re going to predominantly target the middle and lower trapezius with this exercise.

A few seated V-bar row tips:
  • Always ensure the body is kept completely upright when performing this exercise
  • Your shoulder blade is integral to the effectiveness of this exercise - ensure they are tightly pinched together at all times
  • Try not to fully lock out the arms at the bottom of the movement to ensure that you protect the elbow joints

Exercise #4: Back extensions

This exercise is a fantastic way to target the back extensors and lower trapezius - for postural purposes as well as effectively targeting these areas. This exercise should never be omitted from any well-rounded training program.

How to Do Back Extensions
How to do a back extension?

In order to perform a back extension, find the “roman chair” apparatus at your local gym. Set the pads so that they rest in line with your pelvis, and proceed to bend the upper body forward until you reach a 90-degree bend at the hips. From here, raise the upper body back up until you feel tension in the middle and lower back. Now return to the lower position and repeat the movement.

What does a back extension work?

This exercise will effectively target the lower trapezius and back extensor muscles.

A few back extension tips:
  • Never rush this exercise as you will pull the lower back muscles on the positive part of the movement
  • Always ensure your shoulder blades are tightly pinched together to keep the back straight throughout the exercise
  • Ensure your feet are securely anchored in place before performing the movement as this will potentially lead to you falling forward

The Best Middle Trap Exercises

Integrating the following exercises into your workout program will ensure that your middle trap development is at an optimum level at all times.

Exercise #5: T-bar rows (overhand grip)

You’ll benefit from some fantastic middle trapezius integration when performing this exercise. You need to include this movement as part of a back workout.

08 Horizontal Pull T Bar Row Wide Grip
How to do a T-bar row?

To perform a T-bar row, find the T-bar row platform at your local gym and proceed to load the appropriate amount of weight onto the bar. From here, grab the handles with a double overhand grip and bend the upper body forward to a 45-degree angle. Keep the back completely straight, and proceed to bend the elbows, pulling the bar into the stomach (just below the sternum) before returning them to the extended position and repeating the exercise.

What does a T-bar row (overhand grip) work?

This is an amazing exercise for targeting the middle trapezius muscles with some lower trap integration too.

A few T-bar row (overhand grip) tips:
  • Ensure the back never bends in order to protect the spine
  • Always ensure your shoulder blades are tightly pinched together to keep the back straight throughout the exercise
  • The key to the effectiveness of this exercise is to use slow and precise control, the movement should never be rushed in order to make it as effective as possible

Exercise #6: Mid level reverse cable flys (neutral hand grip)

This particular variant of the cable fly (with the handles in the middle position and the palms facing inwards) is incredible for targeting the middle trapezius muscle as well as the rear delts and upper trap area. You could arguably include this movement as part of either a back or shoulder workout. Either is appropriate.

RHOMBOIDS & DELTOIDS/SHOULDERS - Reverse Grip Cable Flys
How to do a mid level reverse cable fly?

To perform a mid level reverse cable fly, set the cable pulley handles to the middle position and proceed to stand directly in front of the cable machine. From here, grab the left handle with your right hand, and grab the right handle with your left hand - cross the arms over in front of the body at sternum height. From here, twist the wrists so that the palms face inwards, and with the shoulder blades pinched tightly together, pull the arms backward and out, away from the body. From here, return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

What does a mid level reverse cable fly work?

This movement targets the middle and upper trapezius as well as the rear delts.

A few mid level reverse cable fly tips:
  • Never select a weight that forces you to roll the shoulder girdles forward
  • Keep your posture in check and ensure the shoulder blades are tightly pinched together
  • Make sure you are in the center of the machine to ensure total balance between each side of the body

The Best Upper Trap Exercises

This section features some of the more familiar trap exercises that you’ve no doubt seen or performed many times before.

As you’re now aware, the upper traps are only one part of the equation when it comes to developing your traps as a whole. You can view the other areas as being the necessary foundations for your upper traps to build upon.

Here are some of the most effective upper trap exercises. Every upper trap exercise directly ties in with a shoulder workout in contrast to the other elements of the trapezius array that can really only be targeted as part of a back workout.

Exercise #7: Barbell shrugs

This exercise probably needs no introduction - this is a fantastic movement for targeting the upper traps (and the anterior deltoids) and should form a staple part of any shoulder training routine regularly.

The Barbell Shrug with Mark Rippetoe
How to do a barbell shrug?

To perform a barbell shrug, hold a bar at hip height with a double overhand grip just outside of shoulder width apart. Now proceed to raise the shoulder girdles upwards so that the bar travels up the body and rests above hip height. Hold there, then lower back down to the starting position and repeat the movement.

What does a barbell shrug work?

This exercise targets the upper trapezius with some anterior deltoid involvement too.

A few barbell shrug tips:
  • Never roll the shoulders forward or backward - this is incredibly dangerous and can damage the shoulder girdles
  • Keep your posture in check and ensure the shoulder blades are tightly pinched together throughout the exercise
  • Perform this movement slowly and pause at the top of the exercise - many people rush the exercise and severely diminish its effectiveness

Exercise #8: Face pulls

Another great exercise for fully immersing the upper trapezius with some great rear delt involvement too.

How to: Do FACE PULLS for super sexy SHOULDERS "Rear Delt's" ! (Hindi / Punjabi)
How to do a face pull?

Stand in front of a cable machine with a rope attached and ensure that the pulley is set to the highest possible position. From here, stretch out the arms and grab both ends of the cable rope - proceed to bend the elbows and pull the rope back until it the ends pass the ears and the middle of the rope is just in front of the face. Now extend the arms and return to the starting position.

What does a face pull work?

You’ll target the upper trapezius and rear delts with this movement.

A few face pull tips:
  • Keep your shoulder blades tightly pinched together throughout the course of the exercise
  • Select a weight that you can fully control and keep good form with
  • Ensure that you pause at the end of the movement to fully integrate and “carve” the upper trap muscles

Exercise #9: Upright rows

This well-known exercise is a great way to target the upper trapezius when performed effectively.

Instructional Fitness - Barbell Upright Rows
How to do an upright row?

To perform an upright row, grab an EZ curl (the bar with bends in it that’s usually used for preacher curls) and gram the inner handles with a double overhand grip at hip height. From here, bend the elbows and drag the bar up the body until it rests just below the chin. Hold here, and then return to the starting position before repeating the movement.

What does an upright row work?

You’ll target the upper trapezius in an incredibly isolated and effective manner with this movement.

A few upright row tips:
  • Try to keep the elbows pointing towards the ceiling throughout the exercise
  • Try to avoid rushing the movement as the bar may collide with the chin
  • Keep your head facing upwards throughout the movement as this well help promote good posture

Exercise #10: Dumbbell shrugs

This is a great variation of the shrug and offers a more “user friendly” alternative for those users who find it difficult to lock in their shoulder position with the barbell variant.

How To: Dumbbell Shrug
How to do a dumbbell shrug?

Stand with a pair of dumbbells at hip height with the hands just outside of shoulder width apart. The palms should be facing inwards towards the body directly in line with the hips. From here, proceed to elevate the shoulder girdles and raise the dumbbells so that they sit just above the hip line. Hold here for a moment then return to the starting position before repeating the exercise.

What does a dumbbell shrug work?

You’ll target the upper trapezius in an incredibly isolated and effective manner with this movement.

A few upright row tips:
  • Never allow your hips to swing in order to create momentum for assistance with this movement
  • Lower weights will allow for a better “squeeze” at the top of the exercise, thus integrating the upper traps more successfully
  • Never roll the shoulders. This is a recipe for disaster and shoulder injury (especially in the rotator cuff)

Before we proceed on to the most effective shoulder and trap workouts, let’s just make a quick note in regards to shrugs. You’ll commonly find that a lot of trainees will vary their hand position (either wide or narrow) to target a “different” area of the traps every session.

There is currently no hard biological evidence to suggest that this would in any way alter the development of your upper traps compared to a normal shrug being that the muscle only has one singular component. Simply put, the upper traps are the upper traps.

At best the different grip may lead to a slight shock response due to the fact that the area was being targeted from a different angle, but don’t place your hopes in a potentially misguided pursuit of “wider” traps through a wider grip.

The 9 Best Shoulder Workouts For Awesome Deltoids And Traps

You’ve made it this far - well done. Your knowledge of the shoulders will by now have surpassed almost everyone you know, and you’re now set to create some truly unbelievable changes in your physique as a result of the information you’ve patiently digested.

Are you ready to check out the most effective workout routines to piece together all of the above exercises into one glorious blueprint for devastating shoulder size and shape?

This is going to be a fun, challenging and effective journey provided you incorporate everything you’ve learned so far into the routines listed below.

Welcome to the beginning of your advanced shoulder development!

Workout #1: The Big Shoulders Workout (Full Shoulder Workout)

This one’s about all-out annihilation of the shoulders and creating as much of an effect as possible to stimulate maximum growth in the areas that are going to make your delts stick out the most. You’ll cover all of the “important” bits here to create maximum visual impact.

Perform 6-8 reps on every exercise unless stated otherwise, and perform 4 sets per exercise. Your rest period in between sets is to last between 60 - 90 seconds.

The exercises:

  • Barbell military press
  • Seated smith machine behind the neck press
  • Standing dumbbell lateral raises (perform this movement for 8-10 reps)
  • Barbell front raises
  • Rear delt raises (perform this movement for 8-10 reps)

Ensure you thoroughly stretch the shoulder area after finishing this workout to avoid blood pooling.

Workout #2: Massive Traps Workout

You’re going to develop an incredible set of traps when performing this routine. While this session is going to be primarily a back session, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it isn’t important for your shoulder development on the whole. If you’ve read this far, then you already know why.

Perform 6-8 reps on every exercise unless stated otherwise, and perform 4 sets per exercise. Your rest period in between sets is to last between 60 - 90 seconds.

The exercises:

  • Deadlifts
  • Seated cable rows
  • Overhand grip T-bar rows
  • Upright rows
  • Barbell shrugs

Ensure you thoroughly stretch the back after finishing this workout to avoid blood pooling.

Workout #3: Shoulder and Trap Workout

This is a combined workout to maximize the development of the deltoids and traps together.

Perform three sets of 6-8 reps on every exercise unless stated otherwise. Your rest period in between sets is to last between 60 - 90 seconds.

The exercises:

  • Seated smith machine military press
  • Standing dumbbell lateral raises
  • Dumbbell front raises
  • Prone reverse dumbbell flys
  • Barbell bent over rows
  • Upright rows
  • Back extensions

Ensure you thoroughly stretch the back and shoulders after finishing this workout to avoid blood pooling.

Workout #4: Deltoid Workout (Bodybuilding Shoulder Workout)

This workout is designed to target every head of the deltoid in total isolation to the rest of the body. This routine would be great as part of a bodybuilding program where extra detail is needed to fully bring the shoulders out.

Perform four sets of 8 - 10 reps on every exercise unless stated otherwise. Your rest period in between sets is to last between 60 - 90 seconds.

The exercises:

  • Barbell front raises
  • Standing dumbbell front raises
  • Dumbbell lateral raises
  • Lateral raise machine
  • Prone dumbbell reverse flys
  • Reverse cable flys

Ensure you thoroughly stretch the shoulders after finishing this workout to avoid blood pooling.

Workout #5: Dumbbell Shoulder Workout

You’re going to adequately cover every area of the shoulders while performing this workout and reap the added benefit of the extra stabilization muscle integration due to using dumbbells.

Perform four sets of 8 - 10 reps on every exercise unless stated otherwise. Your rest period in between sets is to last between 60 - 90 seconds.

The exercises:

  • Dumbbell “Arnold” presses (6-8 reps)
  • Dumbbell front raises
  • Dumbbell lateral raises
  • Standing rear delt raises (“Y” arm position)
  • Prone dumbbell reverse flys
  • Seated dumbbell press (15-20 reps)

Ensure you thoroughly stretch the shoulders after finishing this workout to avoid blood pooling.

Workout #6: Shoulder Workout For Mass

This workout is designed to pack on some thick, dense size in the shoulder area via a very simple but highly effective series of exercises.

Perform five sets of 5-7 reps on every exercise unless stated otherwise. Your rest period in between sets is to last between 90 - 120 seconds.

The exercises:

  • Barbell military press
  • Dumbbell Arnold press
  • Smith machine behind the neck press
  • Cleans
  • Cable lateral raises (8-10 reps.)

Ensure you thoroughly stretch the shoulders after finishing this workout to avoid blood pooling.

Workout #7: Rear Delt Workout

You’re going to effectively target the rear delts with this routine. Should you find that this area needs some “TLC” then performing this workout on a regular basis is going to be a must.

Perform five sets of 8-10 reps on every exercise unless stated otherwise. Your rest period in between sets is to last between 60 - 90 seconds.

The exercises:

  • Smith machine behind the neck press (6 - 8 reps)
  • Reverse cable flys
  • Prone dumbbell reverse flys (“Y” arm position)
  • Standing rear delt raise

Ensure you thoroughly stretch the shoulders after finishing this workout to avoid blood pooling.

Workout #8: Arnold Schwarzenegger Shoulder Workout

This routine is based on the training principles of the infamous Arnold Schwarzenegger that helped to develop his legendary shoulders. It’s going to take your shoulder development to places you’ve never seen before too!

Your rep count will be individually listed per exercise and you’ll be performing four sets for each one. Your rest period in between sets is to last between 60 - 90 seconds.

The exercises:

  • Smith machine shoulder press (6 - 8 reps)
  • Dumbbell Arnold press (6 - 8 reps)
  • Barbell front raises (8 - 10 reps)
  • Lateral raise machine (8 - 10 reps)
  • Reverse pec deck fly (8 - 10 reps)

Ensure you thoroughly stretch the shoulders after finishing this workout to avoid blood pooling.

Workout #9: At Home Shoulder Workout

This is a home based routine that you can perform without any equipment for convenience and / or variety to shock your shoulders into some serious growth.

Your rep count will be 12 - 15 reps per exercise and your rest period in between sets is to last between 30 - 60 seconds.

The exercises:

  • Planche (aim to hold for 60 seconds per set)
  • Handstand push ups
  • Snake push ups
  • Wide grip push ups
  • Wide grip pull ups

Ensure you thoroughly stretch the shoulders after finishing this workout to avoid blood pooling.

10 Tips To Build The Shoulders You’ve Always Wanted

You’ve got the exercises, you’ve got the workouts - now it’s time to focus on ten of the most useful tips out there for developing amazing shoulders so that you can attack the weights with the right frame of mind for optimum success.

Don’t just read these tips, absorb them. You’re going to need to keep every single one of them at the forefront of your mind whenever you train shoulders from now on and use them to “glue” everything else you’ve learned together seamlessly.

Read on now to discover the true secrets behind unlocking your shoulder potential.

Tip #1: Listen, but don’t always believe

One of the most valuable lessons you’ll ever learn in regards to training any muscle group is to entertain what others tell you in the gym, while not necessarily following their advice.

Everyone has an opinion - sadly, these opinions are sometimes going to lead to you pursuing either a completely reckless, or an incredibly dangerous course of action in order to develop the shoulders you’re looking for.

Some of the guys you see with the greatest physiques are often some of the most dangerous in regards to advising you - because they’ve seen great development themselves, they often believe that they know “everything” there is to know about training.

It’s likely that these individuals will actually display some of the most worrying traits in regards to their training habits due to getting “slack” over time. Should they have absorbed and utilized the tips you’ve read here today, they would actually have seen even further advancement.

As such, it’s always great to listen to the tips of others, but if they aren’t a qualified professional you shouldn’t ever blindly follow their advice.

Tip #2: Lose your mind

Obviously, we don’t want you to literally “lose” your mind and make yourself go insane in order to develop amazing shoulders (unless you’re going insane on the weights, that’s fine.)

What we’re actually suggesting is that you allow yourself to become “moldable” and open your mind to every tip you’ve read in this guide so far. Forget everything you’ve learned up to this point, lose your current mindset and instead adopt this new information as the basis for all of your future shoulder training activity.

We often associate using new advice with being somehow “inept” in our current practices - and sometimes this is absolutely true. This is a time for self-honesty, and there’s no shame in admitting that what you’ve done up until now hasn’t been enough to make the changes you’re looking for.

What do you have to lose at this point? Just give something new a chance and you’ll soon see that it’s going to be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

Tip #3: Nutrition is key

This tip is coming in a little late in the game. Figuring out your nutrient macros should really be the first thing you do before you even consider picking up a weight and training.

If you don’t know how much food you need to ingest on a daily basis to achieve your desired goal, then you’re never going to achieve your end result.

80% of achieving the amazing shoulders you’re looking for is all about what you eat, the other 20% revolves around your gym activity (and this guide will ensure that 100% of that 20% is capitalized upon.)

Head to www.freedieting.com and use their daily calorie total calculator to find out how many calories you need to eat on a daily basis. From here, enter this calorie total into the nutrient ratio calculator and choose the “moderate” nutrient split.

Please note that you’ll need a 500 calorie surplus should you seek enhanced mass gains, and you’ll need to create a 300 - 500 calorie deficit should you seek to enhance your muscular definition.

No matter what your goal is, don’t skip this step.

Tip #4: Remove your ego

Ego sucks. It’s the primary reason more people aren’t achieving their goals at the gym. They’re too busy trying to satisfy it (the ego) as opposed to performing truly effective training.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing at any given time, and it definitely doesn’t matter how much weight you’re lifting.

Ask yourself this - are you a competing power lifter, or are you training to improve your aesthetic appearance? If it’s the latter, then enormously heavy weights have no place here.

You’re going to have to learn to “rewire” your mind and train purely for YOUR goal (no one else’s) and follow the necessary pattern as laid out in this guide to achieve that end.

The second you start to worry about what someone else is doing - it’s game over. Never fall into the trap of being distracted from your personal end result, and use this as your fuel to sustain your effort as you push yourself onwards towards incredible shoulder development.

Tip #5: Variety is the spice of life

No matter how regularly you perform any of the routines listed above, or how many times you choose to include a certain exercise as part of your training sessions - you always need to ensure that you do things differently.

No two workouts should ever be the same - even when you’re performing the same routine for one or more weeks running, always ensure that you completely change the order of the exercises as a bare minimum in conjunction with altering the rep and set counts being performed.

Rest period reductions are also a fantastic way to ensure that your body never gets used to doing anything in the same way. All of the above elements are utterly vital for on-going progress - being honest though, how many of these principles do you regularly adhere to?

Stagnation is the killer of progress, and so many people out there do the same things week in week out. As a result, no changes take place and their bodys stay the same almost indefinitely.

You need to change your game plan constantly if you’re going to come out on top - never let your body have the same “experience” twice.

Tip #6: Stop searching for the “best” shoulder exercise or workout

This rookie mindset is another reason why so many people never achieve their physique goals. Everyone wants the “easiest” or “fastest” way to accomplish a goal but few and far between are those individuals who are willing to display patience and follow the “true” path to their dream body.

This “true” path is incredibly varied and there is no one singular element that’s going to get you to where you need to be. Only when you combine a number of elements together can you get the shoulders you’re looking for.

When you realize this and stop seeking instant gratification, that’s when you’ll really begin to make some incredible changes by adhering to every “intricacy” relevant to the development of this muscle group.

Take things down a step and come to terms with the fact that this journey will be anything but linear. You’re going to be incorporating many different elements to get to where you need to be, and that’s how it should be.

Tip #7: Get the right training partner

If you can’t get a good training partner, don’t train with anyone at all.

Having someone with exactly the same work ethic as you is incredibly vital to your success, and it’ll help to improve your workout endlessly as you skyrocket your way towards the top of your shoulder game.

However, should your training partner not desire incredible shoulders quite as much as you do, then you’re in trouble. This scenario is actually one of the main catalysts for lack of development, typically one-half of a workout duo will be holding their partner back.

If you can’t find somebody who is on exactly the same wavelength as you, then you’re going to be better off training solo.

It might sound drastic, but having someone by your side who isn’t going to go to the same lengths as you to achieve their goals is going to seriously inhibit your progress overall.

Tip #8: Visualize to actualize

One of the most important elements to incorporate into any training routine is visualization. You should always know exactly how your chosen body part is going to look at the end of your hard fought journey.

One of the best ways to do this is by selecting an image of somebody who perhaps has the best example of the body part you’re looking to develop, and stick it on a prominent surface within your household so that you constantly remind yourself of what you’re fighting for at all times.

This is an incredibly powerful form of mental re-enforcement that serves to make you believe in your goal more potently than you would if you were simply “stabbing in the dark.”

Not knowing precisely what you want to see is very dangerous, as during those periods where the going gets tough you’re really going to need to see some concrete proof that your goal can actually be achieved.

If you don’t know what to look for, then how are you ever going to find it?

Tip #9: Measurements…

This often-overlooked element of your progress is vital to ensure that you’re actually getting to where you want to be.

You should always take measurements of the area you’re looking to develop (and all others!) so that you know whether or not it is actually growing.

This measurement extends to progress pictures as they too will reveal how much the area in question has changed over the course of a few weeks - the best method will always be a combined approach integrating both forms of measurement.

Those who not only visualize, but also have some cold hard mathematical facts to support their self-belief are always going to be the ones who achieve their goals whereas others simply get lost somewhere along the way.

Keep a log of your progress (record your shoulder measurements) and take pictures every week for positive mental reinforcement. This one element alone could make or break your gains.

Tip #10: Set a time limit

It’s all well and good measuring / taking pictures on a weekly basis, but you’re going to need to have a cut-off point to create some urgency too.

Think about how long you perhaps sat for before you started training in the first place - it’s safe to say that many people endlessly deliberate before taking action, and by the time they take said action, they could have achieved their goal.

To combat this state of endless “purgatory”, decide precisely when you want to have achieved a certain shoulder measurement or appearance by, and stick to your time frame religiously.

This is going to lead to you putting your all into your training and nutrition because you won’t want to hit that two or four month limit having not achieved what you set out to do.

Combining this element with the various progress measurement mechanisms is going to skyrocket you towards your target at the speed of light.

The 10 tips you’ve read in this section will truly be vital to your progress, and if you combine them with everything else you’ve learned so far you’re going to be unstoppable.

The Most Common Questions About Shoulder Workouts And Shoulder Exercises Answered

We’re not quite done yet - it’s time for you to get the spotlight for a while now.

The questions contained in this section are some of the most popular in regards to shoulder training and development, and they’ve no doubt been nagging at you for quite some time now.

We want to systematically work through each question and give you an honest, robust and effective answer to ensure that you don’t finish this guide feeling like any stone has been left unturned.

Q: How to build shoulder muscles / how to get big shoulders?

A: This is no doubt the very question that brought you to this guide in the first place.

As you’ve read through the many sections contained here, you now know that developing big shoulder muscles isn’t a simple process - you’ve got to take a multi-faceted approach to ensure total coverage.

Building well-developed shoulders is all about the inclusion of compound (multi-joint) movements to develop size as well as isolation (single muscle) movements for added detailing. These elements must form the basis of every workout you perform as a bare minimum.

In conjunction with these aspects, you’ll also need to ensure you precisely target absolutely every individual area of the shoulders, while adhering to the tips laid out in the above “tips” section. This is truly the best way to achieve big shoulders.

Q: How to work out shoulders?

A: In short - you’re going to need to train them hard!

Include every area of the deltoids in every workout (wherever possible) and ensure you achieve total trapezius development through the inclusion of upper trap exercises on shoulder day in conjunction with middle and lower trap movements on back day.

These elements combined are exactly how your shoulders should be trained. Just don’t forget to utilize proper form at all times!

Q: How to get wider shoulders / how to broaden shoulders?

A: Achieving much sought after shoulder width is a combination of effective back training as well as performing lateral deltoid exercises with perfect technique.

An enormous part of “expanding” the shoulder girdles relies on developing the teres major and minor muscles, plus the lats and the rear delts together in synergy to “expand” the width of the upper body. This is the frame that the shoulders sit on after all.

As this area develops, evolving the lateral deltoids is going to successfully “cap” the deltoid area on the whole, thus giving you the instantly noticeable “cannonball” appearance that really helps to make the shoulders protrude out and away from the upper body.

Q: How to get bigger shoulders?

A: Ultimately, this relies on your nutrition first and your training principles second.

Firstly, ensure you follow the step laid out in the tips section in regards to figuring out how many calories you need to be eating on a daily basis.

Secondly, you’re going to need to include big compound movements like the barbell military press and perform them in the 6 - 8 rep range to lead to some dense muscular growth.

Q: How to get round shoulders?

A: Getting round shoulders relies entirely on you working all three heads of the deltoid.

As we’ve covered in this guide, you will need to evolve the anterior deltoid, the lateral deltoid, and the posterior deltoid evenly if you want to achieve the highly desirable “round” appearance.

Q: How to get defined shoulders / how to get ripped shoulders?

A: Firstly, use the freedieting.com calculator as mentioned in the tip section and ensure you work in a 300 - 500 calorie deficit.

Creating “ripped” muscles is all about lowering your body fat, and you’re going to need to be in the 15% or below range to start seeing an incredible difference.

There’s no such thing as spot reduction. You need to reduce your overall body fat content in order to see more definition in the shoulders.

It has been theorized for years now that simply performing high rep range sets for a chosen area is going to be enough to improve the definition; this isn’t the case though.

What you’ll get when performing higher rep ranges is a satisfying “burn”. Many associate this burn with body fat literally being singed away from the muscles, but in actual fact, it’s simply a build up of lactic acid.

Instead, focus on mastering your nutrition and bringing down your overall fat content. This is ultimately what’s going to deliver the rock hard appearance you’re looking for.​

Q: How to work out deltoids / how to get bigger deltoids?

A: If you want to get big, visually striking deltoids then you need to evenly incorporate all three heads of this area to fully develop it.

Don’t make the mistake of choosing one area and believing that it’ll give you the large delts you’re looking for - only a combination of all three deltoid heads will achieve this end result.

Q: How to work rear delts?

A: Working your rear delts is all about effective muscular control and body positioning while integrating the most effective rear delt exercises.

To ensure you target this area appropriately, simply read through the rear delt exercise and rear delt workout sections in this guide.

Q: How to stretch deltoids?

A: You can find a list of effective shoulder stretches here.

You should always stretch the deltoids after every workout - this is a bare minimum for not only avoiding blood pooling / cramps but also improving flexibility in the area.

This can actually lead to you accessing more of the muscle when training, which in turn will lead to enhanced size overall.

Q: How to build traps / how to get big traps?

A: Getting big traps is going to involve incorporating all three areas of the trapezius array into your training schedule as part of your shoulder and back workouts.

Take a look at the trapezius workouts / exercise sections contained in this guide if you want to see the most effective methods to utilize in order to make this area develop.

Q: How to get bigger traps?

A: Getting big traps is going to be similar to the development of big deltoids in that you’ll need to incorporate some low rep (6 - 8 range) sets in conjunction with some big compound movements like the deadlift and bent over rows.

Q: How to build neck muscles?

A: Your “neck” muscles are actually your upper traps.

If you want to develop this area, simply use the upper trap exercise list contained in this guide and incorporate these movements into your shoulder training schedule regularly to develop the muscles in the neck area.

Q: How to get a bigger neck?

A: To get a bigger neck (upper trap muscle) simply ensure you follow a nutrition split that revolves around a 500 calorie surplus (as laid out in the “tips” section) and include low rep range upper trap exercises as part of your regular training schedule to help develop dense muscle in the area.

Q: What is the world record for military press?

A: The world military (clean and press) record is 507 lbs. and is held by Vasily Alexeev.

Olympic Weightlifting, World Record - Press lifted by Vasily Alexeev - 230 kg

Q: What is the world record for the longest handstand?

A: There is no official world record for the longest handstand. Maybe you could try and set it!

Q: What is the world record for handstand push-ups?

A: The handstand push up world record is 27 in 60 seconds. This is held by Manvel Mamoyan.

Most handstand push ups in one minute - Guinness World Records

Conclusion: It’s All Down To You Now

It’s probably safe to say that you were perhaps expecting shoulder training to be a little more simplistic. Don’t worry, this is the perception of most people before they begin to unlock their true potential.

The same could realistically be said for any muscle group. As you’ve found out, it’s not simply about finding the best shoulder exercises and shoulder workouts to perform then recklessly setting upon them in the hope that you’ll achieve your end result.

This is a much more intricate process that relies heavily on many, many areas being mastered, implemented and regularly utilized in order to create a devastatingly powerful set of shoulders.

You now know not only all of the vital elements involved in true shoulder evolution but also how to bind them all together into an all-encompassing blueprint to create massive shoulders.

It would be fantastic to hear from you as you progress through your shoulder workouts over the next few weeks. There are thousands of people still out there in need of inspiration, and your shoulder development as a result of adhering to the principles in this guide could be the fuel that ignites the fire they need to succeed in their own right.

If you learned even one thing that you didn’t already know about shoulder training by reading this guide, or you think it could be an indispensable source of knowledge for anyone you know, please share it. You could have a hugely positive impact on someone.

Enjoy your shoulder training, we look forward to seeing your results!

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