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Top 3 Best Exercises for the Shoulders

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Building bigger and stronger shoulder muscles is a must for creating a balanced physique, both for strength and aesthetics. In this article, I will be sharing the best exercises for the shoulders.

  1. Lateral raises (any type)

  2. Barbell/dumbbell shoulder press

  3. Dumbbell rear-delt row

I will explain in more detail about these individual exercises further down.

What Is the Shoulder Muscle?

The shoulder muscle, named the deltoid muscle, is a group of three larger muscles connecting the upper arm to the body.

Its job is shoulder abduction, flexion, and extension.

shoulder abduction and flexion diagram

It is unclear what the makeup of human deltoid muscle is, however, according to one study the deltoid is probably a mix of type 1 and type 2 muscle fibres and is able to readily adapt to its stimulus and it's environment.

Why should you train the deltoids?

Well firstly, the shoulder muscle is used as a stabiliser during many different exercises and enhanced strength and size in the deltoid muscles will result in better performance in many other exercises.

Secondly, a developed deltoid muscle can enhance your physique and make frame look much wider, bigger and more aesthetic, if you're into bodybuilding this is what you're after.

Lastly, the stronger your shoulders are the stronger you will be on many different exercises, this is what you are after if you're into strength training.

1) Lateral Raises

Lateral raises are likely one of the best overall exercises for building up the deltoid muscle group.

This exercise will activate most of the three groups of the deltoid, and can be adapted to your needs.

The lateral raise is a fairly simple and easy exercise to do, therefore it should be a staple exercise in most shoulder workouts. The equipment you will need to complete the lateral side raise can usually be found in almost every gym and can be purchased at home if needed.

> You can read more about the lateral raise exercise here.

You can also use the seated variation of this exercise, the machine lateral raise and most other forms, you can see all of our shoulder exercise guides here.

This exercise doesn't need to be just using dumbbells, you can use cables, resistance bands and other methods.

lateral raise exercise

2) Shoulder Press

The shoulder press is another great shoulder exercise and is also an extremely popular exercise, possibly the most used shoulder exercise.

This exercise will activate most, if not all of the deltoid muscle fibres. However, it will also activate the triceps muscle group so is a good choice to add to a shoulder and triceps workout.

This exercise can be done in almost all gyms which have an adjustable bench and a pair of dumbbells or a barbell and rack.

There are many variations of the shoulder press, such as the machine press, the log lift, the standing press and many more.

> You can read our guide on the shoulder press here.

shoulder press exercise

3) Rear-Delt Row

The rear-delt row is a unique and useful shoulder exercise.

Because the two exercises mentioned above are targeted more to the front and side deltoid fibres, we have included the rear deltoid row as one of the best rear deltoid specific exercises.

However, it is also a useful addition to a shoulder workout for overall deltoid activation.

This exercise will need access to a pair of dumbbells and possibly a bench or cables depending on how you want to do this exercise.

The rear delt row is also slightly more complex than the other shoulder exercises.

> If you want to try the dumbbell rear delt row read our guide here.

rear-delt row

Mixing up the exercises you use in your workouts is the best way to improve muscle growth and strength, these three are staple exercises that you can include in all of your workouts.


Written by Billy White

billy white

Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.

He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.


The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.

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