The Best Deltoid Exercises to Build Your Shoulders

The Best Deltoid Exercises to Build Your Shoulders

If there is one muscle group that gets less praise than it deserves, it’s the deltoids. Commonly referred to as “the delts” ... these are shoulder muscles that can help you look great, while also making your life much easier.

For some reason though, the shoulders seem to get overlooked a lot ... and I couldn’t tell you why, because the deltoids are involved in all kinds of movements.

Honestly, a little shoulder development can go a long way...

...and if you want to look bigger & stronger, having well-developed deltoids is a great way to do so. They can certainly be the icing on the cake to top off a nice v-taper physique.

That's why I wanted to share some of my favorite deltoid exercises...

If you train these exercises with enough volume ... in time, you won’t even recognize your shoulders (in a good way)!

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If you just want to look fit and prevent injuries though, these exercises can also help with that.

After all, having strong deltoids goes far beyond just benefitting your looks. There are several reasons you should want strong shoulders.

So before we get into some exercises ... let's take a deep look at what the deltoids do...

What Are The Deltoids?

The deltoids are the rounded triangular-shaped muscles that sit on top of your shoulders. They may get overlooked, but they are actually very important for several reasons.

For one, without your deltoids, you’d have a hard time moving your arms in general. That's because your deltoids literally help to:

• Raise your arms in front of you
• Raise your arms overhead
• Bring your arms out to the sides
• Pull your arms back behind you

This isn’t just done by one single muscle head though. Just like a triangle has three sides, this triangular-shaped muscle has three heads as well. They are the:

• Anterior (Front) deltoid
• Lateral (Middle) deltoid
• Posterior (Rear) deltoid

Each head helps raise your arm in its respective direction.

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So the front deltoid helps raise your arm in front of you. The middle deltoid raises your arm out to the side. The rear deltoid pulls your arm behind you.

It’s pretty easy to remember when you think of it like that.

All 3 heads of the deltoid do help each other in each motion too ... but there’s more to this shoulder muscle than just creating movement.

For example, think about when you hold something heavy. Your deltoids are actually helping to prevent your shoulder from dislocating. I’d say that’s a pretty big reason in itself why we should train our deltoids.

But here's another reason ... stronger shoulder muscles can help strengthen almost every upper body lift you can think of!

I don’t know about you, but that alone has me excited to train my shoulders regularly.

...and now that you understand how important your delts are, let's talk through some delt exercises!

There are many other great shoulder exercises but here are 10 of my favorite deltoid exercises for stronger and healthier deltoids...

My Top 10 Deltoid Exercises

You can really fit these exercises in for any fitness goal. You just have to tailor the set and rep scheme to align with your specific goals.

Your diet should also reflect that same goal for best results. But enough lecturing from me ... let's get into these exercises!

1. Arnold Press

This is a classic move made popular by Arnold Schwarzenegger, hence the name “Arnold” press. It works well to target all 3 heads of the deltoid.

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If you want to build muscle ... you can definitely go decently heavy here for more volume. On the other hand, if you want to focus on muscle definition ... you can keep the weight lighter. Form will be the most important thing regardless though!

How To: Sit on a bench set up at a 90-degree angle with a pair of dumbbells held at or just above your shoulders.

Your elbows should be tucked in front of you with your palms facing toward you.

Engage your pecs, shoulders, and triceps to press the weight straight up overhead. At the same time, allow your elbow to flare out and rotate your palms to turn away in one fluid motion.

At the top of the movement, your arms should be straight overhead with your palms facing away from you. Slowly lower your arms, allowing your elbows to come out to either side. Once your elbows reach shoulder-level, pull them inward by squeezing your pecs and rotating your palms to face you.

This will put you back in the starting position. Repeat this for reps.

2. Shoulder Press

This exercise is very similar to the Arnold press, but without the rotation of the palms and flare of the elbows. It’s more of a straight up and down press movement.

The shoulder press will target your upper chest, front and middle deltoid, and triceps.

How To: Sit on a bench set up at a 90-degree angle with a pair of dumbbells held at or just above your shoulders.

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Engage your pecs, shoulders, and triceps in order to press the weight straight up overhead.

Hold for a second at the top before slowly returning the dumbbells to either side of your head. This is one rep.

Keep in mind that the angle at which your elbows flare out is up to you. The more they point out to the sides, the more emphasis is put on the middle deltoid.

The more your elbows point forward, the more emphasis is on the front deltoid and the chest.

3. Dumbbell Victory Raise

This one targets all three heads of the deltoid, and it will burn quite a bit. Try not to go too heavy on it unless you can control it with proper form.

How To: Start by placing a small resistance band around your wrists. This will create some tension when your arms are at shoulder width.

Next, grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them with straight arms and a neutral grip down by your thighs.

Keep your arms pulled apart just enough to create tension in the band at the bottom of the movement.

Raise your arms out in front of you until overhead. At the same time, pull the band further apart until you've made a “V” with your arms.

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Squeeze the deltoids at the top for a second, and slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat this for reps.

Also, make sure the tension isn't fully released in the band until the set is over.

4. Band Pull Aparts

This is an exercise that looks much easier to do than it actually is.

Don’t try to use too heavy of a resistance band for this one. The key is to isolate the rear deltoid, and it generally isn’t the strongest muscle for most people.

How To: Use a band you can control well, but still feel plenty of tension in the muscle while not being too easy.

I recommend using the long looped resistance bands without handles that resemble large rubber bands. They are easier to adjust the resistance up and down ... especially in this situation.

You can grab only one side of the band or grip it further apart to lower the resistance. You can also fold the band in half to double the resistance, or grip it closer together to increase difficulty as well.

Keep your arms straight and shoulders pulled down and back, and then slowly pull the band apart as far as you can.

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The band should make contact with your chest at your end range of motion.

Squeeze the rear delts for a second, and then slowly return back to the starting position.

Repeat this for reps.

5. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

This is a great isolation exercise for the middle deltoid, and is pretty straightforward.

How To: Grab a set of dumbbells and hold them at your sides with your palms facing one another.

Pull your shoulders down and back and create a slight bend in your hips and knees. Next, use your deltoids to pull your arms out to either side until they are parallel with the ground.

When your arms are fully to either side, forming a "T" with your body, begin slowly lowering them to your sides. Repeat this for reps and make sure you don't rock your body for momentum ... it will take a lot of emphasis out of your deltoids.

6. Seated Cable Y-Raise

This requires a bench you can put in front of a cable machine, and two single handle attachments for it as well. If you have both of those things though, you’re in for a treat that burns like crazy!

No need to go extra heavy here ... this will be a lot more challenging than you think.

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How To: Set a bench in front of the cable machine set to sit at a 90-degree angle. You will need a cable machine with two pulleys.

Set each cable to the height of your knees and attach a single handle to each cable. With your opposite arm, cross in front of your body to grab each handle. The cables should cross over each other in front of your body.

Start with your arms straight out in front of your chest ... they will remain straight the whole movement.

Form here, pull your arms overhead while also pulling them apart in order to make a “V” or the top of a “Y” with your arms.

When you reach your end range of motion, squeeze your rear delt for a second, then slowly return back to the starting position.

Repeat for reps.

7. Dumbbell Alternating Overhead Front Raise

This is a classic exercise that targets the front of the shoulder and the chest. The key here is to make sure you maintain control without rocking your body.

How To: Start by grabbing a set of dumbbells and holding them at your hips.

Keep your arms straight and engage one of your deltoids to raise it in front of you until that arm is overhead. Slowly release the arm back to its starting position before you repeat with your other arm.

You'll want to make sure you do each arm for the exact same number of reps and sets.

8. Bent-Over Dumbbell Reverse Fly

This is another great exercise to target the rear delt. The rear deltoid is often forgotten about because it’s the smallest and weakest portion of your shoulder ... but that doesn't mean it's not important.

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How To: Grab a set of dumbbells to hang at either side of your body with your palms facing each other.

Pushing your hips back, hinge forward until your back is near parallel with the ground.

Keep your core engaged, but make sure the back is flat and not arching or rounding.

Also make sure to keep your shoulders pulled down and back throughout the movement for stability.

Engage the muscles of the rear shoulder in order to pull the dumbbells out to your sides until your arms are parallel with the ground.

Squeeze the deltoids, and then slowly return back to the starting position.

Repeat for reps.

9. Cable Face Pulls

This is a great exercise to work your shoulders, traps, and rotator cuff muscles. It works best with a rope attachment, but you can also just hook two handles onto the same cable.

How To: Set up the cable at the highest setting, hook up the rope attachment, and grab the rope with both hands.

Be sure to pull your shoulders down and back to enhance stability at the shoulder joint throughout the movement.

Take a step back in order to lift the weight off of the stack.

Using your shoulders and traps, pull your elbows and hands back as far as you can. Your hands should end up on the outside of your ears and elbows slightly higher than your shoulders.

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Squeeze and hold this position before slowly returning to the starting position.

Repeat this for reps.

10. Dumbbell Sunrise-Sunset

This is a great exercise for targeting your front and middle deltoid. It's similar to a lateral raise, except you keep going until your arms are overhead.

Don't go too heavy here ... slow and controlled is the name of the game.

How To: Start by grabbing a set of dumbbells and hold them at either side of your body, palms facing forward.

With your palms facing forward the entire time, raise each arm out to either side of your body. Keep raising your arms out and up to either side until they are overhead.

From here, reverse the movement to return the weights to either side of your body. This is one rep.

Never Miss a Delt Day!

Your deltoids matter, and there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn't ignore them.

Plus, if you're someone who wants to build muscle and get muscular, training your shoulders is essential.

The same can even be said for someone who wants to be healthy and do what they can to prevent injury.

I personally love being able to carry all my groceries in one trip and lift them up to the counter with no issues. That's just one example of how stronger shoulders have made my life easier!

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Just try to remember that your shoulders are very mobile joints that are responsible for a lot. Because of this, they can be more susceptible to injury.

Developing strong deltoids can help hold your shoulder more securely in its socket.

Don’t skip out on training them!

Now, these are all great exercises, but if you're looking for more ... you should consider downloading the 1st Phorm App!

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We designed the app as the ultimate tool to help you reach your goals and maintain these healthy habits long-term.

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[1] “Deltoid.” Physiopedia,