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The 14 Best Shoulder Exercises

Having developed shoulder muscles will make you stronger, lead to better performance and even help you avoid injuries. They are also one of the muscle groups that will exponentially improve your aesthetics.

The shoulders muscles are smaller than the chest or back ones, but their development requires no less time and effort. To help you, we have compiled a list of the 14 best shoulder exercises.

Best Shoulder Exercises:

  • Standing Barbell Overhead Press
  • Standing Dumbbell Press
  • Resistance Band Shoulder Press
  • Handstand Push-ups
  • Dumbbell Front Raise
  • Side Lateral Raise
  • Shoulder L Raise
  • Rear Dealt Fly
  • Plate Pressout
  • Landmine Press 
  • Shoulder Figure 8s
  • Bus Driver
  • Rear Delt Row
  • Face Pulls

1. Standing Barbell Overhead Press

If you are looking for a compound exercise that will load your deltoids, traps, upper chest muscles, and make your shoulders bigger, a standing barbell overhead press is just what the doctor ordered.


This is an exercise in which you may load a lot of weight, which will help you build larger shoulders.

The standing barbell overhead press can also help you with your other lifts like a bench press.

The exercise is also useful for athletes who want to improve their pushing power. Standing overhead press can be safely used as preparation for the mentioned movement if you have not reached the desired level yet.

How to do standing barbell overhead press:

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-length apart in front of the bar
  • Begin the exercise with the bar around the bottom of your chin. Make sure you keep your wrists above your elbows and don’t grab the bar too wide. Don’t let your shoulders come too forward. Keep them back
  • Push the bar straight up, extending your arms. Press all the way up to the top to benefit from the full range of motion
  • Come back to the starting position

2. Standing Dumbbell Press

The primary muscles involved in this exercise are anterior and middle deltoids as well as your upper chest. Secondarily, it also activates your triceps. Rotator cuffs, traps, teres major and minor, and lats work as stabilizers. 


The use of dumbbells will force stabilizing muscles around your shoulders to work harder. If one of your arms is stronger than the other, this exercise will also expose muscle imbalances.

Another benefit of the exercise is that it will be more available to people who train at home, as more people have a set of dumbbells in their home gym than a barbell.

Standing dumbbell press is also perfect for bodybuilders because it helps to load the most muscle fibers and increase muscle growth.

How to do a standing dumbbell press:

  • Begin the exercise standing with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Grab the dumbbells, palms facing forward. The weights should be down by your shoulders
  • Push the weights straight up, and get a full extension. But don’t make dumbbells touch each other
  • Come back down

3. Resistance Band Shoulder Press

Bands help you build strong shoulders, similar to dumbbells. This exercise also involves tricep activation and improves shoulder stability.


The use of a band in this exercise makes it affordable and versatile. Bands are inexpensive, light, and mobile. With them, you can train anywhere – from your apartment to the nearby park.

Bands provide constant resistance during the whole range of motion, making your workout more intense and effective.

You’ll be exercising your deltoids, triceps, trapezius, and pecs simultaneously, making your shoulders bigger and stronger. 

How to do a resistance band shoulder press:

  • You can use one or two bands for this movement. Get the handles, step on the band with your feet, and make sure the band is in the middle.
  • Place the band behind your arms and ensure your hands are facing forward.
  • Press up to get the full arm extension.
  • Come down, keeping the hands over the elbows.
  • Do slow controlled reps, feeling the tension in your shoulder muscles

4. Handstand Pushups

Handstand push-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises to enhance upper body strength. This exercise simultaneously improves your shoulders, chest, arms, and back muscles. However, it can be too challenging for beginners. 


One of the main benefits of a handstand pushup is that it is a bodyweight exercise, which means you can do them almost anywhere.

Besides strengthening your shoulder muscles, this exercise will also train your traps and your core. It also can bring your balance to a new level if you practice regularly. 

Handstand pushups are challenging, but challenges work best for your development and growth. Mastering the technique of this exercise means that you will increase upper-body strength and perfectly control your body.

How to do handstand push-ups:

There are many ways to do this exercise. You can use a wall as support or do freestanding push-ups. We’ll tell you how to do the exercise with a wall.

  • Stand next to the wall leaving a small distance of about 50cm (~20 inches) between you and the wall. You should be facing the wall
  • Bend forward, put your hands on the floor and lean on them
  • Kick up into a handstand and have your heels touch the wall. Your hands should be at about shoulder-width apart
  • Lower yourself down until your head almost touches the floor
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position

5. Dumbbell Front Raise

The dumbbell front raise is another great classic shoulder exercise that will focus primarily on your front delts. You can add this exercise to your workout routine in order to make it more versatile and give your muscles a different stimulus.


This is an isolation exercise for your front delts, that will help you focus on your anterior shoulders.

It’s also an excellent option to enhance general upper-body strength and improve shoulder mobility and stability.

The exercise fits any fitness level. Starting with lighter weights will help you improve your technique and focus on the muscles you’re working on. As you build strength, gradually increase the weight.

How to do the dumbbell front raise:

  • Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grab your dumbbells. You can do this exercise with both arms or one arm at a time
  • Raise dumbbell(s) in front of you to your chin level. Keep your arms extended at the elbow. Imagine reaching towards the wall in front of you when you do lifts. It will help you make more muscles come into play
  • Breathe out as you exert the force and keep the neutral spine
  • Come back to the starting position

6. Side Lateral Raise

A side lateral raise is a shoulder strengthening exercise that primarily focuses on your middle delts.


Try the side lateral raises if you’re looking to build strength in your shoulders and upper back. It loads both your anterior and lateral deltoids at once as well as your upper traps.

Like many other dumbbell exercises, it’s convenient and accessible. You may practice side lateral raises at home, outside, or anywhere you want as long as you have a pair of dumbbells.

A great benefit of this exercise is aesthetics. Not many exercises will put as much stress on your side shoulders as the dumbbell side lateral raise. This will help you build the width of your shoulders which will help you achieve the v-shape look.

How to do a side lateral raise:

  • Grab the dumbbells and hold them by your sides. Stand up, keeping your legs shoulder-width apart
  • Raise the dumbbells to the sides of your body until they’re parallel to the floor
  • Bring the weights down. Keep your wrists straight, and shoulder blades pinched all the time

7. Shoulder L Raise

The shoulder L raise is an effective exercise for improving the strength and stability of the shoulder area. It targets primarily your front and middle deltoid muscles. This move is a combination of a front raise and a side dumbbell raise exercise.


The main advantage of the exercise is that you can train your front and later delts at once.

This exercise will also engage rotator cuff muscles to help you stabilize your shoulders during the exercise.

By using dumbbells you will be working each shoulder independently, which will help expose and address any muscle imbalances that you have in your shoulders.

Due to the standing posture, the exercise also works on your core stability, which is good for your posture.

How to do a shoulder L raise:

  • Maintaining a posture with your feet shoulder-width apart and your palms facing each other
  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand 
  • Bring the dumbbell in your right hand in front of you, and the one in your left. to the side of your body until they’re parallel to the ground
  • Bring the dumbbells down in a controlled manner.
  • Alternate when doing the next rep. This time bring the dumbbell in your right hand to the side of you, and the one in your left hand in front of you.

8. Rear Delt Fly

The standing rear delt fly mainly targets the posterior deltoids. This exercise also works the traps and rhomboids.


For those who are concerned about their posture, the dumbbell rear delt fly is an excellent option. It strengthens the trapezius muscles and rear delts, which help you maintain a proper upright posture keeping your shoulders back and down.

This exercise improves the overall stability of your shoulders.

Exercise is also beneficial for your bone health. It improves bone density and bone structure by activating the release of anabolic hormones that rebuild musculoskeletal tissues.

How to do a rear delt fly:

To do this exercise, you are going to need a pair of dumbbells. 

  • Take a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your legs shoulder-width apart
  • Lean a bit forward and hinge your hips back
  • Lift the weights out to your sides until they’re in line with your shoulders
  • Pause for a second and lower the dumbbells

9. Plate Press-out

The exercise primarily works the pectorals, triceps, anterior and side deltoids. This is a great and underutilized exercise that you can include in your workout routine.


A great benefit of this exercise is that it puts a high load on your shoulders throughout the whole exercise.

The exercise is joint-friendly and has a low risk of injury. The technique is quite simple and straightforward.

The plate pinch press is a favorite activity for many lifters because of its ability to get a strong pump with minimum equipment and weight.

How to do a plate press-out:

  • Grab a plate and stand with your legs shoulder-width apart
  • Bring the weight to your chest area, exhale and press it forward until your arms are fully extended. Try to keep the plate parallel to the ground and don’t let it go lower
  • Bring the plate back to your chest area and repeat

10. Landmine Press

The landmine press is a great exercise for strengthening and stabilizing the shoulders and the core.


Landmine press targets many muscle groups at once, saving your time and bringing you closer to the goal.

It is joint-friendly. Compared to the standard overhead press, the landmine press places less stress on your shoulder joints while using many of the same muscles.

Landmine press may teach novice lifters and those with physical restrictions to press a weight overhead properly.

How to do a landmine press:

  • Put the bar in a corner or in a landmine setup
  • Stand in front of the bar and grab it with 1 hand in front of you
  • Press the weight up and forward until your arm is fully extended
  • Bring the weight back down and repeat

11. Shoulder Figure 8s

The shoulder figure 8 is a full-body complex workout that requires the use of a single kettlebell or a plate.


The exercise doesn’t need expensive equipment and has a simple technique. So it’s available for everyone. Both novice gym-goers and professional athletes use it to get a high volume of training stimulus in a short time.

Besides your deltoid muscles, your traps, erector spinae, and your core are all targeted in this workout. It’s always better to focus on workouts that target numerous muscle groups because it improves your overall performance and makes you more efficient.

How to do a shoulder figure 8s:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slightly bend your knees for more stability
  • Grab the plate and press it in front of you
  • “Draw” figure 8 with your hands by moving them with the weight in the extended position

12. Bus Driver

This exercise’s trajectory reminds us of the bus driver’s casual moves. And the round plate is similar to the wheel. Here is where the movement gets its name. It’s a compound exercise that mainly targets the shoulders but also, to a lesser extent, your core, lats, middle back, and traps.


It’s suitable for any fitness level. Beginners will master the technique to move to more challenging exercises easily. Advanced athletes may use the “bus driver” as a warm-up.

It’s not uncommon for lifters to suffer from rotator cuff issues, particularly as they become older. The “bus drivers,” a kind of prehab activity, may help you stay injury-free and get more out of your workouts.

The exercise is convenient due to its simple technique and minimum equipment. You can practice it at the home gym or in the park nearby. 

How to do a bus driver:

  • Assume a standing stance with a plate held in both hands while maintaining a comfortable hold on the plate
  • Take a deep breath in, contract your abdominal muscles, and lift your arms in front of you while maintaining your elbows slightly bent
  • When the arms are in the correct position, spin the plate in both the clockwise and counterclockwise directions
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

13. Rear Delt Row 

The rear delt row will enhance the health of your shoulders by strengthening your upper back (rhomboids and traps) and your posterior delts.


Rear delt rows may help you prepare for more challenging exercises like bench presses and inverted rows as they strengthen the rear part of your shoulders which is crucial for shoulder stability. So practicing it is an excellent choice for moving to the next fitness level.

It’s a compound exercise. The triceps, rhomboids, infraspinatus muscle, and other scapular muscles surrounding your shoulder blades are activated while exercising.

The movement primarily focuses on your rear shoulder muscles, making it a perfect and intense workout for those who aim for bigger and stronger shoulders.

To do this exercise you will need a cable machine and a bench

How to do a rear delt fly:

  • Take a seat inside the cable machine and place the cable handle at about hip height
  • Grab the bar with a wide grip
  • Contract your abs and pull the weight back
  • Pause for a second and let it go forward in a controlled manner

14. Face Pulls

It’s an isolation exercise that primarily hits your rear delts, rotator cuff muscles, and upper traps. You will need a cable machine to perform this exercise. Alternatively, this exercise can be performed with a resistance band.


Practicing this movement will make it easier for you to do many other strength exercises as it will help you build stability in your shoulders.

This exercise will also help you build a better posture as developing those strong rear delts and rotator cuff muscles will help you keep your shoulders down and back.

How to do face pulls:

  • Set up your pulley so that it’s about your face level. You don’t want to be pulling from too high.
  • Get an overhand grip on the rope and take a couple of steps back from the machine. Make sure your shoulders are dropped. Your legs should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Pull the rope to your face. Ensure your wrists lead the way and your elbows follow. Feel the retraction in your back and make your shoulder blades pinched.
  • Come back forward

Anatomy Of The Shoulder

When it comes to joints, your shoulders guarantee the broadest range of motion. Your arm bone is held in place by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. They also protect the glenohumeral, the primary shoulder joint. But let’s talk about shoulder muscles in detail.

deltoid muscles different heads

The primary shoulder muscle is called deltoid and consists of three heads: anterior, lateral, and posterior. Other names for them are front, side, and rear delts. Let’s take a deeper look at them.

  • The primary function of the. front delts is shoulder flexion. Consider adding front lifts and overhead presses to your workout plan to train this muscle head.
  • The side delts provide shoulder abduction. If you want to target this muscle section, try moves like lateral raises.
  • The primary function of the rear delts is to move your shoulders move back behind your body. They also assist in external rotation.

These are muscles responsible for most shoulder work. But there are also many others, compromising the rotator cuff and connecting to the larger muscles. We talk about supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis, etc.

How Often Should You Train Your Shoulders

Training frequency is influenced by various factors, including age, recovery capacity, number of sets, and overall objectives. On average, experts recommend training shoulders 1-2 times a week.

Lifters must first figure out how much development they are capable of before calculating how often they should exercise their shoulders. A lack of proper stimulus might occur if muscles are not sufficiently trained. Overtraining, on the other hand, might obstruct recuperation and development. 

The load may also vary depending on the specific muscle area. It is common for side and rear deltoids to get greater tension since they are not the main mover in most pressing activities. We can’t say the same about the front delts. They are heavily used in most pressing exercises; hence increasing the number of workouts might negatively affect recovery and development.


Choosing the best shoulder exercises for your training can be challenging given the number of options available. We hope that these 14 exercises will help you develop bigger and stronger shoulders.

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