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Five Best Shoulder Exercises To Build Size & Strength

Five Best Shoulder Exercises To Build Size & Strength
Emily Wilcock
Writer and expert4 months ago
View Emily Wilcock's profile

The shoulder muscles, also known as the deltoids, are a crucial muscle group, playing a part in just about every upper body movement. They can be easily susceptible to injury, so it’s vitally important to keep them strong and healthy. Try these five shoulder exercises to help you keep your shoulders in tip-top shape.

The Workout - 5 Exercises for Shoulders

Shoulder Press

  1. Begin seated on a bench with the back set at 75-90 degrees.
  2. Press the dumbbells above your head, engaging your core and keeping your lower back neutral.
  3. Press your heels into the floor, squeeze your glutes, and keep your shoulder blades pulled back and down.
  4. Lower the dumbbells to around chin level and then press them back up.

Arnold Press

  1. Start with the same setup as the shoulder press.
  2. As you lower the weights, bring your elbows and the dumbbells together in front of your body, ensuring the dumbbells don’t drop below chin level.
  3. Take the dumbbells back out and press them back up.

Lateral Raise

  1. Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inwards.
  2. Keep your knees soft, shoulder blades back and core tight.
  3. Lift the dumbbells to your sides at shoulder height to form a “T” shape with your arms.
  4. Your palms should be facing downwards towards the floor, with your shoulders, elbows and hands in line with the floor.

Front Raise 

  1. Start in the same position as the lateral raise.
  2. Bring up one arm in front of you to shoulder height while keeping your shoulder down and back.
  3. Alternate arms to anchor yourself and potentially lift more weight.

Rear Delt Flys

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and get into an RDL position with your back almost parallel to the floor.
  2. Make sure you keep shoulder blades together, and back neutral and stable from the hips.
  3. Move the dumbbells away from each other, finishing with your hands in line with your shoulders and palms facing backwards, with your little fingers facing the ceiling.
  4. For greater focus on the rotator cuff, try facing your palms forward. For trap focus, palms facing downwards.

Best supplements for building muscle

A healthy diet rich in essential macronutrients and micronutrients is the most important thing for maintaining overall health, but supplements can provide a welcome boost if you want to develop your shoulders.

Whey protein: This fast-release protein helps with muscle repair and boosts protein synthesis, promoting muscle growth after tough workouts.

Creatine:Creatine remains one of the best supplements to take your training to another level by improving your overall physical ability.

Pre-workout: These supplements can greatly improve your workout performance, leading to improved results.

Want more supplement advice? Read this next:

Shoulder Workouts FAQs

How often should I work my shoulders?

If shoulders are your main focus, try training them three times a week with split sets, going up to 25 sets per week. If you want to work on them but they’re not your main focus, two sessions per week with around 20 sets should be enough.

Can you work out arms and shoulders together?

You can structure your routine to train muscle groups according to preference. Just keep in mind that training both muscle groups might also reduce your performance in both, potentially limiting your progress.

Try training back to back to see if you can handle the endurance. You can also split them into separate days, dedicating one day to shoulders and the other to arms.

How much weight should I use for shoulder exercises?

While weight is important if you want to increase muscle size, form is more important. This is particularly important for shoulders, which are at greater risk of injury. First, make sure you can lift a weight with perfect form for the desired number of reps. Gradually increase the weight each week without compromising on form, and you should see steady progress.

How many sets and reps should I do for shoulder exercises?

Beginners, aim for around two sets of 12-15 reps with two exercises per session. This provides a solid foundation without leaving you too worn out for the next session.

For more experienced trainers, 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps with 3-4 exercises per session.

Advanced lifters, aim for 3-5 sets of 4-12 reps with 4-5 exercises per session. Gradually increase the weight but expect to reduce the rep volume and to increase rest time. Also don’t be surprised if progress isn’t as fast as other muscle groups.

What are some tips for preventing shoulder injuries?

Health over size. Always do a proper warm-up, never compromise on form, and do a variety of exercises to prevent any muscle imbalances.

Take Home Message

It’s important to look after your shoulders. Training them not only builds strength and size but can also have improvements for everyday life and overall wellbeing.

Don’t overdo it though. Take small steps, always prioritising proper form before moving on to the next weight.

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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Emily Wilcock
Writer and expert
View Emily Wilcock's profile
Emily is studying Business Management & Marketing at the University of Birmingham and is currently on her intern year. She has a keen interest in both writing and fitness, so is happy she can now combine the two. She likes to spend time with her friends, both in & out of the gym.