Top 6 Exercises For Better Shoulder Workouts

Top 20 Shoulder Exercises For a Better Workout

Your shoulders are much more important than you think.

Whether you're wanting to look good in your new clothes, get stronger for your day-to-day tasks, or just want a bigger/stronger upper body...

If you haven’t been dedicating part of your workouts to improving your shoulders, it could be beneficial to start!

And in this article, we’ll talk a little bit about why this is ... and how these 20 simple exercises can help take your shoulder workouts up a notch right away.

Shoulders – An Introduction

For starters, when it comes to our shoulder muscles, people are usually talking about one of two groups of muscles.

There are intrinsic shoulder muscles and there are extrinsic muscles. The intrinsic muscles start somewhere near your scapula (or clavicle) and run down your arm, attaching themselves to the humerus in your arm. Extrinsic muscles start in your torso and run up your back until they attach to your shoulder bone.

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Your intrinsic muscles include:

• Your deltoids
• Your teres major
• Your rotator cuff

    And your extrinsic muscles include:

    • Your trapezius
    • Your latissimus dorsi
    • Your levator scapulae
    • Your rhomboids

      All of your shoulder muscles exist to help support your back, chest, and arm muscles in doing their jobs.

      With that, well-developed shoulder muscles can also help create the V-shape that so many people are looking for as they start their workout plan or just building muscle in general. If you’re just working on your back, chest, and arms, you’ll never quite earn the look you’re going for.

      Needless to say, your shoulder muscles are important, and they deserve some attention while you’re working out ... as they can help you do more with your arms and they can help support other muscle groups as well.

      What Are Some Good Full Shoulder Workouts?

      So, what are some good full shoulder workouts? What can you do to make sure you’re exercising both those intrinsic and extrinsic muscles, so that you can fully develop your shoulders, and look & feel the way you want?

      Below we have a list of 20 different exercises. Each one of them can help you work out and develop your shoulder muscles differently. Therefore, you can incorporate these into your workouts to help build and strengthen your shoulders in a well-rounded manner.

      Suggested Shoulder Exercises:

      1. Barbell Push Press
      2. Chest-Supported Dumbbell Incline Row
      3. Lateral Raise
      4. Bent-Over Reverse Fly
      5. Upright Row
      6. Arnold Press
      7. Overhead Press
      8. Face Pull
      9. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
      10. Barbell Front Raise
      11. Behind the Neck Press
      12. Dumbbell Front Raise
      13. Dips
      14. Farmer's Walk
      15. Lateral Plank Walk
      16. Inverted Row
      17. Renegade Row
      18. Clean and Press
      19. Single-Arm Cable Row
      20. Incline Bench Press

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      1) The Barbell Push Press

      The barbell press is really a full-body exercise in that you use a lot more than just your shoulders to complete it. The upside to this is that you can stimulate more muscle groups while working your shoulder muscles.

      The downside is that it’s hard to modify the barbell push press to isolate specific parts of your shoulder. Generally speaking, the more muscle groups an exercise uses, the less you can isolate one muscle group by modifying the exercise.

      That’s just how it works.

      So, let's break down the barbell push press.

      First, you place the barbell on top of your upper chest. Then, you bend your knees slightly and push the barbell and your body upward. Be sure to stand on the balls of your feet. Keep that explosive movement going until the barbell is straight in the air on the palms of your hands and above your head. From there, slowly lower it down back into the starting position on top of your upper chest. Then, complete the set with the same motions.

      2) The Chest-Supported Dumbbell Incline Row

      Row exercises are generally known as great back workouts, but rows are for more than just your back. For instance, the dumbbell incline row is also great for your rear deltoids.

      You get more isolation with dumbbell incline row than you do other exercises that involve more muscle groups.

      To do this movement, all you do is lay face down on an incline bench. Allow your upper chest to rest at the upper end of the bench. Put a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms lay to your sides. Pull the dumbbells up as much as you can until they are parallel with the bench. Once you’ve lifted them high enough, pause and slowly lower them down to their original position.

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      3) The Lateral Raise

      The lateral raise is probably one of the most common shoulder exercises out there, and that’s not a bad thing. The lateral raise can help strengthen your entire shoulder, but it puts a specific emphasis on the sides of your deltoid muscles. Side note: your deltoid is split into three parts, front (anterior), side (lateral), and rear (posterior).

      You do a lateral raise by standing with dumbbells in your hands. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart and your arms should be by your sides. From there you lift your arms upward and out to your sides slowly until your arms are parallel with the ground.

      Once you’ve achieved the proper height, lower the weights slowly until they’re back to resting position by your side.

      As a side note, the slower you do your lateral raises, the more the exercise will work different parts of your shoulder muscle. Think of it this way... the effort required to raise and lower the dumbbells passes through different parts of your shoulder muscles. So, performing this exercise slowly means you have to use each of those different muscles for a longer period of time during each rep and set.

      4) The Bent-over Reverse Fly

      The bent-over reverse fly is a variation of the lateral raise. Doing sets of this exercise not only targets your shoulders, but it can also utilize your back muscles as well. It’s particularly effective at targeting your rear deltoids.

      This is how it works. First, grab a pair of dumbbells. Then, bend at the hip with your knees slightly bent. Keep bending until your upper body is near parallel with the ground. The closer you can get, the better. Hold one dumbbell in each hand and let your arms fall naturally toward the ground. Make sure you keep your core tight, and your lower back in a flat, neutral position.

      Your arms should be perpendicular to your upper body. With your feet shoulder-width apart, and your palms facing each other ... start raising your arms up toward your sides, but away from your body, until they are parallel with the ground.

      You should look kind of like a bent-over airplane at this point.

      After you get to this position, pause and slowly lower your arms back to their relaxed position.

      Again, the slower and more controlled you do these repetitions, the better.

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      5) The Upright Row

      The upright row works your delts, but it can also do a great job of working your traps. This exercise uses a barbell or EZ bar, but you can also use dumbbells if you'd rather do it that way.

      To perform this movement, start off with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your arms hanging straight down keeping them slightly in front of your body, and your hands holding on to the barbell. Note: The barbell should be parallel with the ground.

      Then, raise your elbows and arms up until the barbell is close to your upper chest. Your elbows should be raised above your shoulders at this point. Then, slowly lower the barbell back to its starting position.

      This is an exercise that you don't want to load up the weight and go for a max PR on. Instead, work on proper movement mechanics and recruiting the right muscles to be able to safely and effectively complete each rep. 

      6) The Arnold Press

      Arnold presses can help make that V-shape we mentioned earlier. It does this by working all three heads of your deltoids.

      Start by grabbing a pair of dumbbells and raising them in front of your face, palms facing towards you. Your elbows should form a natural 90 degree angle in this position.

      Next, from this position, rotate your palms outward until both dumbbells are on either side of your head. From here, press the dumbbells upward and over your head.

      Next, just reverse this motion until your arms are back in their original position.

      7) The Overhead Press

      To do an overhead press, begin with a shoulder-width stance and grasp the barbell with hands slightly beyond shoulder-width.

      Elevate the barbell from shoulder level to overhead.

      Ensure a tight core and maintain a straight bar path, focusing on controlled movements for optimal muscle engagement and shoulder development.

      8) The Face Pull

      You will need a cable machine for the face pull shoulder exercise.

      Start by attaching a rope at face level and grasp it with an overhand grip.

      Pull the rope towards your face by spreading your upper arms outward.

      This isolates the rear deltoids and upper trapeziuses, which promotes improved posture and shoulder stability.

      Emphasize squeezing the upper back muscles at the peak of the movement for maximum benefit.

      9) The Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

      Just like the name suggests, a seated dumbbell shoulder press is performed while sitting on a bench to enhance stability.

      Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height, and press them overhead while keeping your back against the bench.

      10) The Barbell Front Raise

      The barbell front raise is a great choice if you want to target the anterior deltoids.

      Begin by holding a barbell with an overhand grip in front of your thighs, lift it forward until it’s shoulder height, and then lower it back down.

      This movement specifically engages the front part of the shoulders for a well-rounded shoulder workout.

      It can also enhance the overall aesthetics of the shoulder muscles.

      11) The Behind the Neck Press

      Although it’s similar to the overhead press, this shoulder exercise involves lowering the barbell behind your neck.

      It requires careful execution and good shoulder mobility, so it might not be the best choice if you are just starting out.

      Begin with a shoulder-width stance and grasp the barbell with hands slightly beyond shoulder-width.

      Lift the barbell overhead, but instead of lowering it to the front, lower it behind your neck.

      Maintain control throughout the movement to avoid undue stress on the shoulder joints.

      12) The Dumbbell Front Raise

      Dumbbell front raises are especially effective for targeting the anterior deltoids.

      To start, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight down in front of you.

      Lift the dumbbells forward until they reach shoulder height.

      This isolates the front part of the shoulders and provides a controlled range of motion, promoting both muscle engagement and development.

      13) The Dips

      This is a compound exercise that engages the shoulders, chest, and triceps.

      Using parallel bars or dip stations, lift yourself up and lower your body by bending your elbows.

      This movement can provide a challenging workout that contributes to upper body strength and stability.

      14) The Farmer's Walk

      The farmer’s walk is a full-body exercise that challenges grip strength and engages the shoulders.

      Start by holding a heavy weight in each hand, such as dumbbells or kettlebells.

      Then, walk forward for a set distance or time.

      This exercise is great for targeting the shoulders, but it also enhances overall functional strength and endurance.

      15) The Lateral Plank Walk

      This dynamic exercise can help strengthen your shoulders and core.

      Starting in a plank position, move sideways by stepping with your hands and feet simultaneously.

      The lateral movement boosts shoulder stability, activates the core, and improves overall body control.

      Remember to maintain a tight core throughout the exercise to maximize its effectiveness.

      16) The Inverted Row

      If you are looking for an exercise that targets the shoulders and upper back, inverted rows are a great option.

      Set up a bar at waist height and lie under it.

      Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, and pull your chest towards the bar.

      This bodyweight exercise engages the muscles of the upper back to promote balanced shoulder development.

      17) The Renegade Row

      Renegade rows combine a plank position with a rowing movement to engage the back and core, as well as the shoulders.

      Starting in a plank with a dumbbell in each hand, perform a row with one arm while stabilizing with the other.

      Alternating rows helps you strengthen both shoulders independently.

      This helps promote balance and stability in the shoulder muscles and core.

      18) The Clean and Press

      The clean and press is another compound movement that engages other muscle groups in addition to the shoulders.

      To perform this exercise, lift a barbell from the ground to shoulder height in a clean motion, then press it overhead.

      This exercise combines strength and power, providing a comprehensive workout for the whole upper body.

      19) The Single-Arm Cable Row

      This shoulder exercise targets the rear deltoids and upper back.

      Using a cable machine with a single handle attachment, pull the handle towards your body while maintaining a straight back.

      This unilateral movement allows for focused muscle engagement, which can help to isolate and strengthen the muscles of the shoulders and upper back.

      20) The Incline Bench Press

      The incline bench press, a variant of the traditional bench press, concentrates on the upper chest and shoulders.

      It is relatively simple to perform as you set up an incline bench at an angle, lie on the bench, and perform a bench press.

      The inclined angle directs focus to the front of the shoulders and upper chest, delivering a comprehensive upper-body workout.

      It’s important to maintain proper form and control throughout the movement for optimal results.

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      How Long Should I Wait To Work Out My Shoulders?

      So, you may be asking yourself, “How long should I wait to work out my shoulders?” or “How many times should I do shoulder workouts per week?”

      The answer is going to depend on what your individual needs are, but a good starting point is to give your body two days to recover between workouts, or at least before hitting your shoulders again.

      Once you’ve been doing that regularly for a couple of months, you can then examine your progress, performance, and recovery time, and alter your workout routine based on what you’ve learned about your body.

      Why Nutrition Matters

      Nutrition matters because recovery matters. Most of the motions you make with your arms require your shoulders for support. A lot of back and chest motions also require help from your shoulder muscles.

      Because of this, if your shoulders are sore and need more time to recover, a lot of your upper body workouts will suffer as a result ... and that’s not good.

      That said, post-workout supplements and protein shakes, that consist of protein and glucose, can help support better recovery in these situations.

      They can help give your body the raw materials they need to make a full recovery and they can also provide certain amino acids which can help further aid in the recovery process.

      You simply cannot work out your shoulder muscles and expect to get great results without taking recovery and nutrition into account.

      It just won’t work. The muscle you break down during your workouts needs to be repaired through proper post-workout nutrition. Otherwise, you’ll never earn the results you’re after.

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      1st Phorm Can Help You Recover

      You know you need to get a hold on your nutrition, so you can optimize your recovery. So how do you do that?

      You can download the 1st Phorm App or you can contact us here at 1st Phorm and one of our NASM Certified Personal Trainers can help you out! Just send us an email at or give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 every day from 6AM to 10PM Central. 

      If you have any questions at all, or need any help, we’ve got your back!

      Top 6 Exercises For Better Shoulder Workouts Top 6 Exercises For Better Shoulder Workouts