by Will Grumke February 20, 2020 6 min read

Your shoulders are much more important than you think.

If you haven’t been dedicating part of your workout to improving your shoulders, you should start. Especially before tank top and cut off-season! 

In this article, we’ll talk a little bit about why this is.

Shoulders – An Introduction

When it comes to 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.

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 and aid your back, chest, and arm muscles do their jobs.

Well-developed shoulder muscles also help create the V-shape that so many people are looking for as the start building muscle. If you’re just working on your back, chest, and arms you’ll never quite get the look you’re going for.

Needless to say, your shoulder muscles are important and they deserve some attention while you’re working out.

They’ll help you do more with your arms and they’ll support other muscle groups as well.

What are some good shoulder workouts

So what are some good 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 body how you want?

Below we have a list of six different exercises. Each one of them will help you work out and develop your shoulder muscles differently. Incorporate these into your workouts to help build and strengthen your shoulders in a well rounded manner.

1) The Barbell Push Press

The barbell press is kind of a whole-body exercise in that you use a lot more than just your shoulders to do it. The upside to this is that you can work out more muscle groups while working out your shoulders.

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.

This is how you do a barbell push press. First, you place the barbell on top of your upper chest. Then you bend your knees slightly and lift the barbell and your body upward. Be sure to be standing on the balls of your feet. Keep that explosive movement going until the barbell is straight in the air and above your head. From there, slowly lower it down back into position.

2) The Dumbbell Incline Row

Row exercises are generally known as great back workouts. But rows are for more than just your back. The dumbbell incline row is also great for your rear delts.

You get more isolation with dumbbell incline row than you do other exercises that involve more muscle groups, but you still get to work out your muscles a little bit.

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. Raise your hands up as straight 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 helps strengthen your entire shoulder, but it puts a specific emphasis on the sides of your deltoid muscles.

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 outward until your arms are parallel with the ground.

Once you’ve achieved the proper height, lower your arms 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 doing this exercise slowly means you have to use each of those different parts for longer.

4) The Bent-over Reverse Fly

The bent-over reverse fly is a variation of the lateral raise. This exercise not only gets your shoulders, but it gets your back muscles as well. It’s particularly good at targeting that back deltoid.

This is how you do it. First, grab a pair of dumbbells. Second, bend at the hip. 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.

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 towards your sides 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 you do this, the better.

5) The Upright Row

The upright row works your delts, but it also does a great job working your traps. This exercise uses a barbell, but you could use dumbbells if you wanted. That being said, barbells would likely give you better results.

You start off with your feet shoulder-width apart with your arms hanging down slightly in front of your body and your hands holding onto the barbell. 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 above your shoulders.

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

6) The Arnold Press

This movement is, of course, named after the legend, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. It helps make that V-shape we mentioned earlier. It does this by working all three heads of your deltoids.

You do this exercise by grabbing a pair of dumbbells and raising bent arms until your upper arms are nearly parallel with the ground and your palms are facing inward.

The weights in your hands should be horizontal and parallel with the ground. From there you spread your arms out to the sides, keeping them bent, and then slowly raise them up above your head until they are straight and your palms are facing outward.

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

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.”

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

Once you’ve been doing that regularly for a couple of months you can then examine your progress 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.

The fact is 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 no good.

Post-workout supplements and protein shakes that consist of protein and glucose will help you with this problem.

They’ll give your body the raw materials they need to make a full recovery and they’ll also offer an extra dose of certain amino acids which will help further aid in the recovery process.

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

It just won’t work.

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 sign up for the Free or Premium version of the My TransPHORMation 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 Monday thru Friday from 6am CST to 10pm CST. 

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

Will Grumke
Will Grumke

Will Grumke is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.