2 Best Shoulder Workouts

Whether a bodybuilder or home-fitness enthusiast, the shoulder muscles are too often not seen as important. It is very easy to work on the more prominent muscle groups, such as the chest or arms. But this means the shoulder muscles are either forgotten about. Having the best shoulder workout plan can improve all-round body training, overall fitness and enhance appearance.

This article examines the shoulder muscles themselves and the benefits of completing an all-around shoulder regime. Also, it includes are the best workouts to ensure the muscles can be built safely and effectively. There are workouts for those who have access to weights and those who do not.

What Are the Shoulder Muscles?

The shoulder comprises seven main muscles:


The deltoids are typically the most prominent of all the shoulder muscles. When they are worked hard and bulked up, this group of muscles creates the bodybuilding ‘v-taper’ - wide shoulders leading down towards a narrow waist.

The deltoids are comprising three individual muscles: the posterior, lateral and anterior deltoid. They surround the upper shoulder - being on the front, middle and back.

Pushing this muscle group by the best shoulder workout creates what is known in bodybuilding circles as ‘cannonballs’. This effect gives the appearance of a large, rounded look on the side of the body.

Anterior Deltoid

The anterior deltoid is on the front of the shoulder, eventually meeting up with the pectoral muscle. Its function allows the arms to be brought forward in front of the body and over the head.

Lateral Deltoid

Located on the side of the shoulder, working this muscle can give the appearance of broadening the shoulders. Imagine uniform epaulettes.

The lateral deltoid is responsible for shoulder abduction - the movement where arms are raised at the sides to create a ‘cross’ effect.

Posterior Deltoid

As the name suggests, the third deltoid is located on the back of the shoulder. Its function is to pull the shoulders backward (shoulder extension).

Rotator Cuff

The four rotator cuff muscles (teres minor, infraspinatus, subscapularis and supraspinatus) allow the shoulder to rotate the arms in a ‘windmill’ motion. Furthermore, they stabilize the shoulder joint to keep the arm securely located in its socket.

While working the rotator cuffs will not lead to obvious physique improvements, it will increase stability during bench pressing and reduce the likelihood of injury.

What Are the Benefits of Doing The Best Shoulder Workout?

A complete shoulder workout should address all the muscle groups above, whether using weights or without. Here are the benefits:

Improves Overall Body Training

When working the chest, biceps, and triceps, the shoulders are always involved to some degree. Often, they are exercised unintentionally as a secondary group.

Doing the best shoulder workout improves strength and stability which will carry through to other workouts.

Enhances Physique

If you are looking for an overall ‘ripped’ appearance, working the shoulders is essential. Otherwise, it can result in a ‘pigeon chest’ appearance: an enhanced torso meeting small and weak-looking shoulders.

A good workout can provide width to the upper body, making the body appear more proportioned.

Prevents Injury

As chest and arm exercises require the use of the shoulder muscles, an increase in intensity can place unwanted stress on the shoulders.

The shoulder is often to be the most unstable joint in the body (as the ball is larger than the socket). This means it can be easily damaged by training. A good shoulder workout strengthens the important shoulder muscles leading to less likelihood of injury.

What Is the Best Shoulder Workout Without Weights?

A shoulder-building workout does not necessarily imply constant access to weights and a constant visit to the gym. We have compiled the best shoulder workout below that will exercise all the shoulder muscles, without the need for weights.

Crab Walk

A good ‘warm-up’ shoulder exercise which works the deltoids. Ensure that you have enough space to do this exercise, as it requires additional room for movement.

  1. Start by sitting flat on the floor with legs outstretched in front of you.
  2. Plant your hands firmly on the ground, palms down, fingers pointing towards your feet with arms straight by your sides.
  3. Raise your buttocks off the floor and bend your knees at nearly 90-degrees. You should appear from the side to be a human ‘table.’
  4. This is the starting position.
  5. Slowly start walking forwards exercises your hands and feet.
  6. At all times, ensure that your torso down to your thighs is as horizontal as possible.
  7. Walk for thirty seconds.
  8. Rest for three minutes, then repeat.

Although a good exercise to start, it does require some balance and perseverance to discover the best walking technique.

Pike Press

Another great exercise which works the deltoids, with the added bonus of giving the triceps a workout.

  1. Start from a standard push-up position: lay face down on the floor. Support yourself off the ground with your hand's palms down beneath your shoulders. Arms lock with your legs outstretching behind you.
  2. ‘Walk’ your feet up towards your head. This has the effect of raising your buttocks into the air. From the side, you would appear as an inverted V-shape (the pike position).
  3. Ensure that your back is straight. Avoid the temptation to ‘round’ the spine.
  4. This is the starting position.
  5. Lower your head towards the floor by bending your arms. Back and legs should remain straight.
  6. When your head comes close to the floor, push up again into the starting position.
  7. Complete ten repetitions, rest for three minutes, then complete one more set.

It can be tempting to use momentum in this exercise to both drop and rise. This will not work the shoulders sufficiently. Instead, slow and controlled movements will ensure maximum benefit.

Single Arm Plank

Planking mostly works with the abdominal. While this exercise does ensure that, a small variation can push the shoulders too.

  1. Start from the traditional plank position: lay flat on the floor legs outstretched behind you. Place your forearms on the floor pointing forwards. Raise your body to support your entire frame along with your forearms and toes.
  2. Ensure that your back is straight.
  3. Remove your right hand from the floor and place it lengthways against your side.
  4. You are now supported on toes and your left forearm.
  5. Hold for thirty seconds.
  6. Return your right arm to the floor.
  7. Complete the same exercise again but this time with your left arm.
  8. Complete ten repetitions.

For stability, the single arm on the floor may adjust from the normal plank position. Angling the arm slightly inwards can help, especially for beginners.

Standing Wall Angels

A perfect warm-down shoulder exercises to finish with. The standing wall angel works the rotator cuff muscles and is popular with physiotherapists for improving posture.

  1. Stand against a wall with your back touching it, feet slightly apart.
  2. Lift your arms so they are outstretching and straight, as in an ‘airplane’ position. The back and arms should be in contact with the wall at all times.
  3. Bend the arms at ninety degrees so your fingers are pointing upwards, palms outwards.
  4. This is the starting position.
  5. Press the arms back into the wall and raise your arms directly above your head. All the time the elbows and wrist should both remain in contact with the wall and pushing against it. The move completes when your arms are completely vertical.
  6. Lower the arms to the starting position.
  7. Complete twenty repetitions.

The more you push back into the wall with the arms, the more benefit received from this exercise.

That completes this workout. Try to complete at least twice a week with two days’ rest in between. Do not work out on consecutive days.

What Is the Best Shoulder Workout With Weights?

To achieve both the V-shaped look and ‘cannonball’ shoulders, weights are essential the best shoulder workout. The following exercises do involve some equipment and shows which one to use for each exercise.

Military Press

This exercise works the deltoids and rotator cuffs. It is a good warm-up to the workout since weights are not essential, but it does need a barbell (and optional weights).

  1. From a standing position, feet apart, raise the barbell onto your collarbone. Your palms should be facing forward and positioned further than shoulder width apart.
  2. Lift the barbell directly above your head until your arms are locked. This is the starting position.
  3. Slowly lower the barbell down to your collarbone and inhale.
  4. Raise the bar above your head again while exhaling.
  5. Complete ten repetitions. Rest for three minutes, then repeat.

This is a basic exercise but one that works all the shoulder muscles. If you have lower back issues, this can be done while sitting on a bench.

Front Dumbbell Raise

This exercise requires some technique and efficient breathing. It works all three deltoid muscles hard, especially the anterior and lateral. This exercise needs dumbbells.

  1. Start from a standing position, legs slightly apart, with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Position the dumbbells, so they are on the thighs, arms straight with your hands facing your legs.
  3. This is the starting position.
  4. Now, for the control. Without swinging or moving the torso, exhale and raise the barbells in front of you until they are at the same height as your head. Keep the arms fairly extended with a slight bend in the elbow.
  5. Keep hands facing downwards.
  6. Hold for one second.
  7. Lower the weights in a controlled manner back to your thighs while inhaling.
  8. Complete ten repetitions.

If you prefer, this exercise can be done with a barbell.

Rear Deltoid Fly

This section of the workout specifically targets the lateral deltoid muscles. It uses dumbbells and a bench.

  1. Sit on the side of a bench, legs together and feet flat on the floor.
  2. With a dumbbell in each hand, lean forward so your chest is as close to your thighs as possible.
  3. Arms should be lying parallel to your legs, with the dumbbells touching the sides of your calf muscles.
  4. This is the starting position.
  5. Exhale and raise the dumbbells upwards and to the side until they are level with your shoulders. Arms should be slightly bent. Chest remains on your thighs.
  6. You should now be in the ‘airplane’ position.
  7. Hold for one second.
  8. Slowly lower to the starting position again as you inhale.
  9. Complete ten to twelve repetitions.

Dumbbell External Rotation

Warming down with the dumbbell external rotation exercises the rotator cuffs and provides a good conclusion to the best shoulder workout. This exercise requires dumbbells.

  1. Start from a standing position, feet apart, with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Move the arms into an ‘airplane’ position.
  3. Bend only the forearms upwards 90-degrees at the elbow, palms facing forward.
  4. This is the starting position.
  5. Keep both biceps horizontal and on the same plane as your shoulders throughout this exercise.
  6. Exhale. Lower the weights by rotating at the elbow and shoulder, biceps still horizontal.
  7. Inhale and raise the weights back to the starting position again.
  8. Complete ten repetitions.

This entire workout should be completed twice a week (not on consecutive days) and with three days in between workouts.

Do not immediately follow a shoulder workout with exercises that use these muscles such as bench pressing or curling. Furthermore, do not start a shoulder workout with a rotator cuff exercise.

Both of these scenarios can leave you weak and liable to injury if you follow up with heavyweight exercising.


Too often the shoulders become the forgotten muscles. However, doing the best shoulder workout improves all-over physical appearance, prevents injury and enhances other training exercises.

Here are some important things to remember:

  • Ensure your workouts address all the muscle groups in the shoulder
  • If using weights, start light and work upwards as the shoulders can easily be damaged
  • Always ensure that specific rotator cuff exercises are the last shoulder muscle you work

The two workouts above meet these requirements, whether you are seeking tone or large muscles mass. Looking after your shoulders means looking after yourself.

5 Best Shoulder Workout

This Best Shoulder Exercises article will explore the functions of the shoulders, the benefits that exercising this part of the anatomy can bring, and most importantly, give you the best shoulder exercises for numerous different scenarios.

When we think about the shoulders, more often than not we only consider the bony structure at the top of the arms (scapula). But there is much more to the shoulder than just being a support for clothing.

The shoulders contain numerous muscles that work in conjunction with the arm and chest to allow us to complete hundreds of different tasks throughout the day. Hence ensuring that they are in excellent condition will enhance our performance, make us look more appealing, and may prevent injury.

What Are the Shoulders?

Essentially, the shoulders are of two elements: bones and muscles.

Shoulder Bones

If I were to ask you to place your hands on your shoulders, you will most likely be touching two different bones. Towards the front is the clavicle (collarbone) and to the rear and sides, the scapula (shoulder blade). These bones, together with the humerus (upper arm), form the shoulder joint.

The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket, with the rounded head of the humerus sitting partly inside a cavity in the scapula. Unusual for a joint, the ball is much larger than the socket in which it resides.

This gives the shoulder joint two important characteristics:

  1. As the ball doesn't have a cavity, it allows for a much larger range of movement than most joints. The arms can move up, sideways, across the chest and in a circular motion. It is the shoulder joint has the largest range of movement of any joint in the body.
  2. Since the ball is not contained and therefore protected, it can be easily damaged or dislocated.

Shoulder Muscles

The shoulder muscles fall into two main groups: the deltoids and the rotator cuffs.


There are three deltoid muscles: anterior, lateral and posterior. These muscles are located on the side, front, and back of the shoulder, and are responsible for vertical and lateral arm movement and strength.

Bodybuilders concentrate on this group, as they provide a wide upper-body appearance when worked hard.

Rotator Cuff Muscles

The supraspinatus, teres minor, infraspinatus, and subscapularis muscles form this group. These are responsible for ensuring that the ball joint remains stable and does not easily get out of place.

If the rotator cuff muscles are exercised, it does not lead to visible physical improvements. However, the benefits of more stability should not be underestimated.

What Are the Benefits of Exercising the Shoulders?

As it is one of the most versatile parts of the human anatomy, exercising the shoulders can provide both aesthetic and practical benefits.

When we work the shoulders, it is not only the muscles that improve. Exercises which involve resistance can also provide increased density and strength to the bones.

best shoulder exercises: woman carrying baby near grassy field

Here are the main benefits of exercising the shoulders:

Improves Everyday Life

Every time that you move your arms during the day, you are using your shoulder muscles too. Whether gardening, carrying groceries, opening doors, or drinking coffee - all require the shoulder bones and muscles.

Doing the best shoulder exercises improves flexibility and strength, meaning that normal day-to-day routines can become less taxing.

Reduces Chance of Injury

Strong shoulder bones and muscles can prevent muscle overstretching, tears, and even fractures to the bone.

Whether your shoulders are worked hard through heavy iron weightlifting or just picking up your children, exercising reduces the chance of injury. Shoulder pain is one of the most common afflictions, with up to 26% of adults suffering from this problem. If severe enough, this can lead to absence from work and naturally affect finances.

Improves Posture

Studies have shown that exercising the shoulder muscles improves posture. In particular, strengthening the lateral and posterior deltoids has the effect of ‘pulling’ the shoulders back. This is particularly useful to combat ‘rounded’ shoulders.

Improved posture has the benefits of making you appear taller and more statuesque; it can also prevent issues with the spine later in life.

The Best Shoulder Exercises

The best shoulder exercises below should not be a complete workout to build muscle. However, there is no problem combining them for healthy muscles and bones.

Instead, we have put together some of the best shoulder exercises for achieving specific goals. If you’re looking for tone, mass, posture or flexibility, there’s an exercise to suit you.

The Best Shoulder Exercises for Increased Flexibility - Door Frame Stretch

To allow the shoulder and arm to both be as flexible and have the largest range of motion as possible, the rotator cuff muscles need to exercise. Here is an easy and effective method of ensuring that this group is in top form.

This exercise is can be done on an inside doorway, where the width is narrower than an exterior door.

  1. Stand in an open doorway, feet slightly apart.
  2. Stretch out arms to either side of the door frame. The arms should be slightly lower than the height your shoulders.
  3. Grasp the outside of the door frame with your hands, palms facing forwards.
  4. Without moving your feet lean as far through the door into the next room as possible. When your arms are fully locked and you feel the ‘shoulder stretch’, stop.
  5. Hold for one minute.
  6. Return to the upright position.

Now the exercise is complete in the opposite direction:

  1. Stay in your current position.
  2. This time, grasp the inside of the door frame (i.e. the part in which is in the room in which you are facing)
  3. Your palms should be facing backward.
  4. Holding tight, lean back until arms are locked and you feel the ‘shoulder stretch’ again.
  5. Hold for one minute.
  6. Return to the upright position.

Complete 3 sets in both directions.

It is worth checking that the door frame is secure prior to completing this exercise, as often they are on hold by just a few panel pins. If it is not safely attached, you could endure an injury, or pull your house apart.

The Best Shoulder Exercises for Improved Posture - Cat Crawl

An exercise which works by pushing resistance back into the muscles and bones. It strengthens lateral, posterior, and anterior deltoids.

  1. Start with your body in the ‘all-fours’ position (technically, it should be ‘all-sixes’ as your palms, knees, and toes are all in contact with the floor at this point).
  2. Slightly raise both knees off the floor, only by about one or two inches.
  3. You should now be supported only by your palms and toes.
  4. Ensure that your back and buttocks are in a straight line.
  5. Focus your eyes on the floor a few inches in front of your hands.
  6. Begin to ‘crawl’ by moving opposite limbs: right-hand goes forward with left leg, then left hand with right leg.
  7. At all times, remember to keep back and buttocks straight and knees no more than a couple of inches from the ground.
  8. Take five steps forwards.
  9. Take five steps backward.
  10.  That completes one set. Repeat immediately twice more.

This exercise does involve a little bit of coordination, but with perseverance, this will come. If you have a lot of space available, you can increase the steps to 10 instead of five. However, always ensure you do the same number of forwarding steps as backward steps. Otherwise, you are giving your deltoids an unbalanced workout.

The Best Shoulder Exercises for Shoulder Pain - Arm Stretch with Neck Release

If you have injured your shoulders through resistance training or just normal household chores when the pain does not subside it is always best to consult a professional healthcare practitioner.

However, if you are just suffering from annoying pain, say from leaning over your computer too much, the following exercise is a great way to exercise and stretch all the shoulder muscles, speed recovery and alleviate discomfort.

  1. From a standing position, arms by your sides, slowly lower your chin towards your chest.
  2. You should push slightly with the shoulder and neck muscles,
  3.  so you feel a ‘stretch’ in the back of your neck.
  4. Hold for this position for one minute.
  5. Raise your head until it is vertical.
  6. Lower your right ear towards your right shoulder, again until you feel the ‘stretch’.
  7. Hold for one minute.
  8. Raise your head vertically again and complete on the left side, again hold for one minute.
  9. Bring your head to the vertical position.
  10. Grasp your right elbow with your left hand, your left palm facing towards you.
  11. Pull the right arm across your chest with your left hand, culminating in a position with your right elbow as close to your left shoulder as possible.
  12. Hold in this position for one minute.
  13. Repeat with the opposite arm, and again hold for one minute.
  14. Once this is all completed, conduct the entire exercise one more time.

If you find that pain increases during this exercise, cease immediately and consider consulting your doctor if the discomfort continues.

The Best Shoulder Exercises for Shoulder Mass - Overhead Press

This exercise requires weights and a barbell. If you are looking to achieve shoulder ‘cannonballs,’ this is one of the best exercises. In addition, it also works the arms.

  1. Start from a standing position with a barbell and weights on your thighs.
  2. Raise the barbell to your collarbone and rest.
  3. Ensure that your back is perfectly straight, your feet are apart for stability and your palms are facing away from you.
  4. Your hand grip should be wider than your shoulders.
  5. In one movement, raise the bar above your head until your arms are locked.
  6. This is the starting position.
  7. Slowly lower the bar down to your collarbone.
  8. Return in one smooth movement to the starting position.
  9. Complete repetitions as below.

For building large mass, the heavier the weights on the barbell, the better. However, there is little point starting at the extreme if you cannot complete this exercise adequately and safely. Depending on where you are on the fitness, experience, and strength spectrum will determine how much weight you need.

As a guide, first, start with no more than 10 kg on the bar, and ensure that you can complete the exercise properly and with confidence. Then, increase the weight until you can complete 12-14 repetitions until failure. Finally, for real mass gain, increase the loading until three to five reps result in complete fatigue.

This exercise can be completed sitting or standing. However, standing provides a better overall body workout as the core and legs are constantly under resistance, controlling stability.

The Best Shoulder Exercises for Home Fitness - Feet Elevated Push-Up

This is a good exercise for working the deltoids and the rotator cuffs at home. All you need is enough space to complete a push-up and something to elevate your feet off the floor, such as a bench, sturdy box or firm chair seat. It will improve strength, flexibility and muscle tone.

  1. First, ensure the object that you are using for elevation is firmly planted and unlikely to move, as this could otherwise result in injury. It should be no more than three feet high.
  2. Sit on all-fours in with the object behind you. Hands should be palm down on the ground, arms locked.
  3. One foot at a time, place your toes onto the support. You should now be raised off the ground, held by only palms on the floor and toes on the object.
  4. Ensure your back, buttocks, and legs are in a straight line. You may have to move your arms slightly forward to achieve this posture.
  5. This is the starting position.
  6. Lower your head towards the floor by bending your arms. Once the arms reach 90-degrees, push back into the starting position again. At all times keep back, buttocks and legs straight.
  7. Complete 10-12 repetitions.

This exercise is a great all-rounder for the shoulders, with the added bonus of working pectoral and arms muscles too.

Best Shoulder Exercises Conclusion

The shoulder muscles are constantly pushed throughout the day, whether at work, the gym or at home. It is therefore essential that they are given the respect they deserve.

Completing shoulder exercises can help prevent injury, build muscle, relieve pain, and assist with the normal daily routine.

Select the best shoulder exercises for you, and the results will be worth all the effort.