Best Shoulder Workouts


Building shoulders is a great way to give your physique some width that you might be looking for.  Capping off the top of the arm gives the illusion that you not only are wide but helps provide you with the illusion of a smaller waistline.  Now, your waist itself might not change while you are working on building your delts, but the taper coming down from your shoulders can trick the eye.  With all of that being said, I’m sure you’re wondering what are some of the best shoulder workouts?  And we’re going to get to that.

In order to understand the method behind the madness when building up your shoulders, you need to understand the different heads of the shoulder itself.  To create the roundness you are looking for, you need to hit the shoulders from all angles and all heads.  Your shoulder is made up of anterior, medial, and posterior heads (front, side, and rear).


What does each head of the shoulder do and what is its function?

Anterior Deltoid:

The responsibility of the anterior deltoid (or front deltoid) is to move the upper arm away from the body (shoulder abduction) when the shoulder is rotated externally.  The anterior deltoid also helps with transverse flexion even though overall strength of the movement is not optimal.  It originates on the collar bone (clavicle) and then moves along and inserts on the upper portion of the humerus called the deltoid tuberosity [1].


Medial Deltoid:

The role of the medial deltoid (or middle deltoid) is the same as the anterior deltoid in that it aids in moving the upper arm away from the body through shoulder abduction (moving the upper arm up and away from the body) only this time when the shoulder is internally rotated.  It originates on the acromion and then just like the anterior deltoid, travels across and inserts on the humerus at the deltoid tuberosity [1].


Posterior Deltoid:

The main job of the posterior deltoid (rear deltoid) is to extend the shoulder, rotate it externally, along with transverse extension and abduction.  It originates on the shoulder blade (the spine of the scapula) and then moves up and across to attach and insert on the deltoid tuberosity on the upper portion of the humerus [1].


How to Build Boulder Shoulders

When looking to build massive shoulders, you can’t neglect any head of the shoulder – doing so will create imbalances in size and strength while potentially compromising the rotator cuff.


Shoulder Exercises

  • Cable Front Raises
  • Dumbbell Front Raises
  • Barbell Front Raises
  • Resistance Band Front Raises
  • Machine Front Raises
  • Cable Side Laterals
  • Dumbbell Side Laterals
  • Resistance Band Side Laterals
  • Machine Side Laterals
  • Cable Rear Laterals
  • Cable Bent-Over Rear Laterals
  • Dumbbell Bent-Over Rear Laterals
  • Cable Shoulder Press
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • Barbell Shoulder Press
  • Resistance Band Shoulder Press
  • Smith Machine Shoulder Press
  • Dumbbell Arnold Presses
  • Cable Upright Row
  • Dumbbell Upright Row
  • Resistance Band Upright Row
  • Smith Machine Upright Row


The Best Shoulder Workouts

It’s time to showcase some shoulder workouts that can help with hypertrophy and add quality size to cap your shoulders and add width to your frame.  You can utilize the workouts listed below by changing them up from workout to workout or you can stick with one and work on adding more weight to each exercise.  The key is to constantly work towards overloading the muscle [2].

Below are some of the best shoulder workouts that you can use and implement in your own training protocol.  You can also take the exercises listed above and make substitutions if you wish.


Workout #1

Dumbbell Side Laterals 3×8-12

Dumbbell Front Raises 3×8-12

Dumbbell Bent-Over Laterals 3×8-12

Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3×8-12


Workout #2

Cable Side Laterals 3×8-12

Cable Front Raises 3×8-12

Cable Bent-Over Laterals 3×8-12

Cable Shoulder Press 3×8-12


Workout #3

Dumbbell Side Laterals 3×8-12

Barbell Front Raises 3×8-12

Rear Delt Machine 3×8-12

Dumbbell Arnold Presses 3×8-12


Workout #4

Lateral Raise Machine 3×8-12

Front Raise Machine 3×8-12

Rear Delt Machine 3×8-12

Shoulder Press Machine 3×8-12


Workout #5

Cable Lateral Raises 3×8-12

Barbell Front Raises 3×8-12

Cable Bent-Over Laterals 3×8-12

Military Presses 3×8-12


Workout #6

Dumbbell Side Laterals 3×8-12

Cable Front Raises 3×8-12

Dumbbell Bent-Over Laterals 3×8-12

Barbell Upright Rows 3×8-12


Workout #7

Resistance Band Side Laterals 3×8-12

Resistance Band Front Raises 3×8-12

Resistance Band Bent-Over Rear Laterals 3×8-12

Resistance Band Shoulder Presses 3×8-12


  1. Franke Rde A1, Botton CE, Rodrigues R, Pinto RS, Lima CS.
    Analysis of anterior, middle and posterior deltoid activation during single and multijoint exercises.
    J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015 Jul-Aug;55(7-8):714-21. Epub 2014 Jun 20.
  2. Alison R. Shire,corresponding author#1 Thor A. B. Stæhr,#1 Jesper B. Overby,1 Mathias Bastholm Dahl,#1 Julie Sandell Jacobsen,1 and David Høyrup Christiansen2
    Specific or general exercise strategy for subacromial impingement syndrome–does it matter? A systematic literature review and meta analysis
    BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2017; 18: 158.
    Published online 2017 Apr 17. doi: 10.1186/s12891-017-1518-0
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