5 Surefire Exercises for Deltoids to Develop Strong Shoulders

Fit man performing barbell military shoulder press, a top exercise for deltoids

Would you be surprised that broad shoulders in men are one of the most attractive features? Or that men with broad shoulder make more money and appear as better leaders? Here are your surefire exercises for deltoids to develop those broad shoulders.

Stunning Shoulder Your Top Exercises for Deltiods

Your deltoids are a complex muscle group with many different functions.  Fortunately, your deltoids are not that complicated to train. Simply by employing these five tried and true shoulder exercises you can be well on your way to shocking your shoulders into explosive strength gains.

Preventing and Dealing with Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries are some of the most common injuries in sports and life. I have had poor sleeping habits and sleep with my arms above my head frequently. This developed shoulder pain so bad that I couldn’t lift my arm above my head without hearing grinding. Because of the grinding, I thought for sure that I had cartridge or tendon damage. To my surprise, it was all because of fatigued muscles and there was no real damage. After reading “The Frozen Shoulder Workbook” I realized that I had cascading muscle fatigue in my shoulder and overcame it through self trigger point message.

Avoid Injury During Your Shoulder Routine

The best way to avoid injury is to ensure your muscles are warm prior to lifting heavy. Even doing a few repetitions (reps) with a lightweight first can help warm up your muscles. You also want to stretch your shoulders at the end of the routine. Stretching your shoulders will help you maintain mobility, recover faster and prevent injuries.

More In-depth Shoulder Warm-Up

In this video, Scott Herman goes over a few exercises to warm up your shoulders. If you find that you have frequent shoulder pain, you may want to incorporate some of these into your warm-up.

How To: Shoulder Warm-Up: Increase Mobility & Injury Prevention!

1. Barbell Shoulder Press (aka “Military Press”)

The Military Shoulder Press is your test of shoulder strength. Just as the bench press is the compound exercise to test your chest strength, the shoulder press is the test of your shoulder strength. Hence you should use the military press frequently and as one of the first shoulder exercises on days you train your shoulders.

Military Press is the Entire Shoulder Exercise

You will target your Deltoids, Anterior by performing the military press. Additionally, this compound exercise incorporates a larger number of secondary muscles (Synergists/Stabilizers).  Specifically, you will use Pectoralis Major Clavicular, Triceps Brachii, Deltoid Lateral, Trapezius Middle, Trapezius Lower, Serratus Anterior Inferior Digitations, Triceps Long Head, Biceps Brachii Short Head, Trapezius Upper, and Levator Scapulae while performing the military press.

Shoulder Press for Size and Strength

When you want to grow the size of your shoulders you want to lift a weight to near failure at 8-15 reps per set and do it for least 3 sets. If you are lifting to increase stength you want to lift a heavier weight for fewer reps. Specifically, you want to be near failure at 2-5 reps and you can even do negatives at the end when lifting for strength gains. If you are lifting for both size and strength you can do a pyramid lifting routine or a half pyramid.

2. The Dumbbell Should Press

The Dumbbell Shoulder Press is similar to the Military Shoulder Press (aka, barbell press) except that by using dumbbells. As such dumbbells, give you the options to work one shoulder at a time. Also, you can turn the dumbbell 90 degrees which will also activate different muscle fibers. In fact, using dumbbell can also be easier on your shoulder joints because it allows for better flexibility.

Like the barbell press, the Dumbbell Shoulder Press can also be done sitting or standing. Many people prefer the sitting position because by doing so you can use some additional back support.

Protect Your Back For Overhead Presses

When performing standing military press or standing dumbbell press you should wear a lifting belt. The belt will give you additional back support and reduce your risk lower back injury. Even if you have a strong core when lifting to near failure stabilizing muscles will also fatigue and lead to poor form. Consequently, poor form in overhead presses can lead to back injuries. Because you use these stabilizing muscles standing military shoulder press and dumbbell press can build a stronger lumbar spine musculature (core) as the lower back muscles have to struggle to stabilize the upper body.

You Work Stabilizers More For Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Although the dumbbell press targets the same major muscles as the shoulder press. You will find that you will use more muscles to control the dumbbells over your head. Specifically, the major shoulder muscles you will target are your Deltoids, Anterior. Similarly, the secondary muscles (Synergists/Stabilizers) you use are Pectoralis Major Clavicular, Triceps Brachii, Deltoid Lateral, Trapezius Middle, Trapezius Lower, Serratus Anterior Inferior Digitations, Triceps Long Head, Biceps Brachii Short Head, Trapezius Upper, and Levator Scapulae.

3. Dumbbell Raises For Well Rounded Deltiods

Dumbbell lateral raises are an isolation exercise since you are only using one joint movement in the exercise. Although you will work a lot of your shoulder muscles raising those dumbbells to your sides.

When you are working to isolate the top of your Deltoids, you want to maintain your upper body upright as much as possible. Because the more you lean forward the further back on your shoulders and then back will be incorporated. Similarly, if you want to work the front of your Deltoids, then lift the dumbbells in front of you doing some front raises.

Muscles Developed With Side Lateral Raises

The primary muscle you target with lateral raises is your Deltoids, Lateral. In addition, the secondary muscles (Synergists/Stabilizers) you use are Deltoid Anterior, Supraspinatus, Trapezius Middle, Trapezius Lower, Serratus Anterior Inferior Digitations, Trapezius Upper, Levator Scapulae and Wrist Extensors.

Bent Over Dumbbell Lateral Raises (aka Bent Over Dumbbell Flies)

You will target you Deltoids, Posterior by leaning forward with your dumbbell raises. Similarly, your secondary muscles used are Deltoid Lateral, Intraspinatus, Teres Minor, Trapezius Middle, Trapezius Lower,  Rhomboids, Wrist Extensors, Triceps Brachii, Erector Spinae, Hamstrings, and Gluteus Maximus.

Exercises for Deltoids at Every Angle

Incorporating the different angles for lateral raises and front raises will fatigue and strengthen your shoulder more. If you want well-rounded shoulders you need to work every part of your deltoid and these raises will do that.

4. Arnold Press For The Front of Your Shoulders

The Arnold Press shifts the focus to the front of your Deltoids, specifically your Deltoids Anterior. Because you are pressing the weight from in front of you to over your head you use the front of your shoulders at the bottom and the top of your shoulders at the top.

Additional Muscles used for the Arnold Press

You also use many stabilizing and synergist muscles while performing Arnold Press. Such as your Triceps Brachii, Deltoid Lateral, Supraspinatus, Trapezius Middle, Trapezius Lower, Serratus Anterior Inferior Digitations, Triceps Long Head, Trapezius Upper, and Levator Scapulae.

5. Barbell Upright Row

The barbell upright row is an excellent shoulder exercise, but many people find barbell upright rows challenging if they have had a shoulder injury. Some people avoid this exercise altogether.

Although there are muscles that you will not fully utilize unless you perform upright rows. So there is some controversy about upright rows, although many lifters use them. The can also benefit Olympic lifts such as the clean since they use a similar movement and muscles.

Muscles Targeted By Upright Rows

With a narrow grip, upright rows are an excellent shoulder movement that targets all three heads of the deltoids. Since Barbell Upright Rows target all three heads of the Deltoids they are included in the best exercises for deltoids. Additionally, you will target your Deltoid Anterior, Supraspinatus, Brachialis, Brachioradialis, Trapezius Middle, Trapezius Lower, Serratus Anterior Inferior Digitations, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, Biceps Brachii, Trapezius Upper and Levator Scapulae.

Building Broad Shoulders With Exercises For Deltoids

You should be ready to build some broad shoulders with these surefire exercises for deltoids. Remember to warm-up at the beginning of your training and stretch at the end to aid in recovery and prevent injuries. What other exercises for deltoids do you use in your training and why?

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