10 Best Shoulder Exercises To Build Mass And Strength

If you’re looking to build a stronger, more defined shoulder, incorporating the right shoulder exercises into your workout routine is key. Shoulder exercises help you build strength in your upper body and improve your overall body shape.

A well-shaped shoulder is one of the most important qualities of a good physique.

In order to achieve this, you must train with a variety of shoulder exercises to develop the anterior deltoid (in front), lateral deltoid (at the side), and posterior deltoid (behind), and you must also work the trapezius muscle in the upper back.

In this blog, we will provide an in-depth overview of the following topics:

  • The anatomy of the shoulder muscles
  • Different types of Shoulder exercises
  • Tips for maximizing your shoulder workout.
  • Shoulder Muscle Training Volume
  • Workout plan for beginner, intermediate and advance.

Shoulders Anatomy And Function

In fitness, “shoulder exercises” refers to resistance exercises that target the deltoid muscle. The shoulder is a “ball-and-socket” joint between the humerus bone of the upper arm and the scapula bone (shoulder blade).

Six main movements that occur at the shoulder are flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, internal rotation, and external rotation.

The deltoid muscle of the shoulder consists of three separate sections or heads.

You need to work all three of them, along with the trapezius muscle in the upper back, to build an impressive shoulder.

Shoulder Anatomy

Anterior Deltoid

It is commonly called the front delt. It arises from your collar bone and inserts into your humerus (upper arm bone).

Your front delt’s main function is to move your arm up, forward, and to your center. 

Lateral Deltoid

It has a few common names, such as side delts, middle delts. It arises from a little area on the shoulder blade called the acromion process and inserts into the humerus.

Your lateral delt’s main function is shoulder abduction, which is bringing it up to the side.

Posterior Deltoid

It also knows as the rear delt. It arises from the spine of the scapula (upper part of your shoulder blade) and inserts into the humerus.

Your posterior delts main function is moving the arm outward and backward.


It is often called the traps, this is a large triangular shaped upper back muscle.

The main function of the traps is to support head movement, stabilize certain arm motions and provide stability in pushing and pulling movements.

Types Of Shoulder Exercises

The two types of shoulder exercises are compound movements and isolation movements.

Compound Shoulder Exercises

Recruit multiple muscle groups and contribute towards more functional movements. With more muscle groups being recruited, you will also be able to take more load, resulting in faster and more consistent movement patterns, utilizing heavier weights.

These include overhead pressesupright rows and push-ups.

Isolation Shoulder Exercises

Focusing all the load on one muscle group, no secondary muscles are taking over and making that target muscle group’s life any easier.

It involves just extension at the elbow with no other joint movement, such as front raiselateral raise and side raise.

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Top 10 Shoulder Exercises For Strength And Shape

The shoulder exercises are divided into pressing exercises, machine, Front raise, Rear Delt fly-type exercises, push-up pullover exercises.

Here are the 10 best chest exercises that will help build a massive and well-shaped shoulder muscle.

1. Overhead Press

The Shoulder Press Exercise is the best exercise for building shoulder muscle mass and strength. It remains the grand-daddy of all shoulder exercises to build big, round shoulder muscles.

Seated shoulder press has been the favorite shoulder exercise with bodybuilders as it builds muscle fast and is a power move.

Performing the exercise while seated upright is a stricter version than standing and prevents cheating the weight upward using momentum generated by the legs.

Note: Dumbbell Pres is also good for training the shoulder muscles. Research has shown that using dumbbells makes your muscles work harder, even if you can’t lift as much weight as compared to barbell press

There are several variations of the barbell press for shoulder development.

  • Dumbbell shoulder press (single-arm, alternating)
  • Standing military press
  • Smith machine shoulder press
  • Machine shoulder press
Barbell Shoulder Press

How To Do Barbell Overhead Press

  1. Sit on the bench with your feet flat on the floor and a slight bend in your knees.
  2. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Your palms should be facing forward, and your wrists should be in line with your forearms.
  4. Carefully lift the barbell off the rack or have a spotter hand it to you.
  5. Hold it at shoulder level, just above your upper chest, with your elbows bent and pointing forward.
  6. Press the barbell upward by extending your arms. As you push, focus on keeping the barbell balanced and moving in a straight line directly above your head.
  7. Once the barbell is fully extended overhead, pause for a moment and squeeze your shoulder muscles.
  8. Slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position by bending your elbows and bringing it down to shoulder level.
  9. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Perform a warm-up with 50% weight for 1-2 sets.
  • Keep your head in a neutral position, looking straight ahead, to maintain proper alignment of your spine.
  • Engage your core and avoid excessive arching of your back.
  • Exhale as you press the barbell overhead, and inhale as you lower it back down.
Related Post: Barbell Shoulder Exercises To Build Mass And Strength

2. Arnold Shoulder Press

The Arnold press is a great exercise for building shoulder muscles. It stands out from the crowd when it comes to the best exercise for shoulder muscles with the best range of motion.

It gives a wide range of motion as you lower the dumbbells well down in front, giving that maximum stretch other shoulder exercises lack.

A study found that the Arnold dumbbell press was more effective than the overhead dumbbell press at activating the anterior and medial deltoid muscles.

Arnold Press

How To Do Dumbbell Arnold Shoulder Press

  1. Stand straight, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Raise the dumbbells to shoulder position with palms facing you.
  3. Now press the dumbbells overhead just like dumbbell presses, but twisting them so that palms face forwards at the top of the movement.
  4. Now lower the dumbbells in a reverse movement.
  5. Repeat the desired number of reps.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Inhale when you lower the weight and exhale when you lift.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Keep a strict form. Do not lock your arms overhead.
Know More: Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises & Workouts For Mass

3. Smith Machine Behind The Neck Shoulder Press

The standard military press and the overhead dumbbell presses hit more of the anterior head of the deltoid, which is often stimulated a lot even during the bench press.

Behind the neck press, on the other hand, stimulates all the three heads of the shoulder, It also recruits the triceps, traps, and rhomboids.

The seated behind-the-neck shoulder press with the Smith machine is not recommended, especially if you are a beginner. The reason is that, bringing the weight behind your neck under heavy load may place your shoulder joint in a position where it can get damaged.

If you do not have a fair amount of shoulder mobility, it is not recommended to perform these smith machine shoulder exercises.

Smith Machine Behind The Neck Shoulder Press

How To Do Smith Machine Behind The Neck Shoulder Press

  1. Put a bench under a smith machine.
  2. Set the Smith machine bar to the height of your shoulders when you sit on the bench.
  3. Elevate the bar overhead by fully extending your arms while breathing out.
  4. Hold the contraction for a second and lower the barbell back down to the starting position by inhaling.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Don’t bounce the bar off your neck. Perform the exercise in a slow and controlled manner.
  • Perform a warm-up with 50% weight for 1-2 sets.
  • Keep your elbows flared out, in line with the shoulders or slightly behind.
Know More: Best Smith Machine Shoulder Exercises And Workout Of All Time

4. Machine Press

The shoulder machine press is an excellent exercise for building the front and side deltoid muscles.

Machine presses have advantages over free weight presses, as they provide better stability and safety. They also offer a choice of handgrips. A neutral grip (palms facing together) targets the anterior deltoid better than a pronated grip (palms forward).  

This exercise requires a very strict movement because the bar is fixed to the rack and the weights can go much lower. This gives the front deltoid muscles a good stretch.  

Machine Press

How To Do Machine Press

  1. Sit with your back against the backrest and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Depending on the machine design, grip the handles with an overhand grip or a neutral grip (palms facing each other). Make sure your grip is secure and comfortable.
  3. Bend your elbows at about a 90-degree angle and keep them level with your shoulders
  4. Now press the handles overhead until your arms are nearly locked out.
  5. Lower the handles back to the starting position under controlled motion.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Avoid using momentum or excessive swinging of the handle. Keep motion-controlled.

5. Lateral Raise

The side lateral raise with dumbbells works the side of the shoulders, also called the lateral head. It is one of the best shoulder isolation exercises that primarily targets the lateral head of the shoulder. 

With isolation exercises, you might need to use lighter weights as more load is placed on a specific part of the body.

As a lighter weight is used, a higher number of reps can be used — anything from 10 to 20 reps.

You can use several lateral raise variations to build a bigger shoulder.

Lateral Raise

How To Do Dumbbell Lateral Raise

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold dumbbells in each hand with your palms facing inward.
  2. Keep your elbows slightly bent and keep your back straight.
  3. Lift your arms out to the sides, away from your body, while keeping them slightly angled forward.
  4. Continue raising your arms until they are parallel to the floor or slightly below shoulder level. Avoid lifting them higher than your shoulders to prevent excessive strain on the shoulder joints.
  5. Pause for a moment at the top, feeling the contraction in your side shoulder muscles (deltoids).
  6. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  7. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips for Proper Form

  • This exercise is important, and the form is a big part of it.
  • Don’t just swing your arms. Keep controlled motion throughout the exercise.
  • Perform a warm-up with 50% weight for 1-2 sets.
  • You should always use weights that you can handle comfortably.

6. Dumbbell Front Raise

Dumbbell front raise is an excellent exercise to isolate the anterior deltoid Muscle. This exercise helps to build muscle mass in the front head of deltoids.

Front dumbbell shoulder raises exercises can be done standing as well as seated with a pair of dumbbells. This exercise is done in an alternating movement as well.

This exercise can work well with a medium to light weight for higher reps.

It’s a challenging exercise to do with heavy weights, so focus on growing the muscles rather than maxing out on a heavy load.

Front Raise

How To Do Dumbbell Front Raise

  1. Stand holding a pair of dumbbells across the front of your thighs.
  2. Your feet are shoulder-width apart, and your knees are slightly bent.
  3. Raise one dumbbell (say right hand) in front, until it reaches just above shoulder level.
  4. Now lower the weight (of the right hand) while raising the left in front of you.
  5. Perform this exercise in this alternating manner.
  6. Aim for 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Pause for a moment at the top before slowly lowering the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Avoid arching of the lower back.
  • Concentrate on training the front delts, raising dumbbells in front of you, and not raising outside the body.

7. Upright Row

The barbell upright row is a weightlifting exercise that targets the muscles of the shoulder and upper backincluding the deltoids, trapezius, as well as the rhomboids, and even the biceps — making it a great addition to any full-body workout.

Barbell upright rows can be done with both narrow grips and wider ones.

  • The narrow grip focuses on the trapezius,
  • The wider focuses on the entire shoulder girdle.
  • Also, the wider grip allows some cheating movement, thereby allowing you to lift more weight.

The upright row variations for shoulder mass and strength.

Barbell Upright Row

How To Do Barbell Upright Row

  1. Stand facing the barbell with your feet shoulder width apart and load it with the weight you want to use.
  2. To grasp the barbell, hold it with an overhand grip and hands that are slightly closer than shoulder width apart.
  3. Pick up the bar with your back straight and bend your knees.
  4. Keeping your back straight and eyes facing forwards, lift the bar straight up while keeping it as close to your body as possible. 
  5. Hold for a moment before you go back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Focus on keeping your elbows higher than your forearms.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Keep your back straight.
Read More: How To Do Upright Row, The Muscle Worked, Proper Form, Benefits and Its Variations

8. Rear Delt Fly

The dumbbell rear delt fly is a simple yet effective exercise that increases deltoid muscle definition and strength.

The rear delt dumbbell fly targets your upper back muscles and shoulder muscles, particularly the rear deltoids, (backside of your shoulders). It is one of the best to isolate and work specifically on For complete shoulder muscle development.

This exercise can be performed in both standing and seated positions. Prefer the seated version as it calls for strict movement.

Lateral Bent over row

How To Do Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

  1. Now lower the dumbbells back to your sides.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.
  3. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  4. Bend forward at the hips while keeping your back straight.
  5. Your torso should be almost parallel to the floor. Maintain a natural arch in your lower back.
  6. Engage your core and keep your neck in a neutral position. Your gaze should be towards the floor.
  7. Keep your elbows slightly bent, and raise both arms out to the sides until the dumbbells are level with the height of your shoulders.
  8. Your body should resemble the letter ‘T’ at the top of the movement.
  9. Hold for a count of two and then slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  10. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Your arms should be parallel to your shoulders.
  • Do not lift backward or forward.
  • Keep form strict to isolate the rear delts.

9. Machine Rear Deltoid Fly

Machine Rear Deltoid Fly is an excellent exercise for the rear deltoid. The rear deltoid fly machine provides a uniform resistance throughout the range of motion. This machine also offers several technical adjustments to grip. Trajectory and range of motion are used to isolate the posterior deltoid.

How you hold the handles affects the degree of rotation at the shoulder joint.

  • Using the horizontal handles with a pronated grip (palms down) is the best method of isolating the posterior deltoid because the shoulder is internally rotated.
  • A neutral grip (thumbs up) using the vertical handles allows the lateral deltoid to participate because the shoulder is externally rotated.
Pec Deck Rear Delt Machine Fly

How To Do Machine Rear Deltoid Fly

  1. Sit facing the rear deltoid machine with your chest against the backrest.
  2. Grasp the handles directly in front of, arms outstretched at shoulder level.
  3. Pull the handles back in an arc as far as possible, keeping your elbows high and arms parallel to the floor.
  4. Return the handles to the start position directly in front.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Do not use very heavyweight for this exercise.
  • Exhale during effort, inhale during rest.
  • Maintain tension on the rear deltoids.

10. Face Pull

Face pull is a cable machine exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoid and to a lesser degree also targets the trapbiceps, and triceps.

Use a cable pulley machine to pull the weight straight toward your forehead.

This exercise prevents muscular imbalance and builds overall shoulder strength.

Face Pull

How To Do Face Pull

  1. Grab the ends of the rope attachment using a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and slightly lean back.
  2. Pull the rope toward your face as you spread the ends of the rope, so they end up on the sides of your ears just above your shoulders in the finish position.
  3. Hold this position for a second as you squeeze your shoulder blades together, contracting rear delts and middle traps as hard as possible.
  4. Then slowly return the rope to the start position and repeat for reps.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Stand straight with feet in a comfortable, balanced stance.
  • Be sure to exhale when pulling weight toward your face.
  • Think about trying to pinch your shoulder blades as tight as possible when pulling weight toward your face.
  • Your upper arms should be straight out to your sides with elbows bent.

Training Volume For Shoulder Workout

The number of repetitions (reps) and sets you perform for chest exercises will depend on your fitness goals and current fitness level. Here are some general guidelines:


  • Beginners: ~10 sets per week.
  • Intermediate: ~15 sets per week.
  • Advanced: ~20 sets per week.

When a certain amount of volume stops being effective and your progress stalls, you can add sets to increase volume and use that as a driver of renewed progress. 


The best rep ranges and loads to work with.

  • 6–8 reps with heavy load
  • 8–15 reps with moderate load
  • 15-20+ with light load

Training Plan As Per Your Goal

  1. For muscle endurance: Aim for 3–4 sets of 12–15 reps, with a moderate amount of resistance.
  2. For muscle strength: Aim for 3–5 sets of 6–10 reps, with a heavier amount of resistance.
  3. For muscle hypertrophy (increased muscle size): Aim for 3–4 sets of 8–12 reps, with a moderate to heavy amount of resistance.

It is always best to start with a lower number of reps and sets, and then gradually increase as your strength improves.

Furthermore, it is important to allow for adequate rest between sets, typically 60–90 seconds.

Incorporating a mix of exercises, cardio, and weight training can help to achieve a balanced and well-rounded workout routine.

Workout Samples For Beginner, Intermediate & Advance

This workout contains multiple shoulder exercises that are designed to target all the muscles in your shoulder and increase overall muscle mass.

This workout plan is a starting point and can be adjusted based on individual fitness levels and goals.

Shoulder Workout Routine For Beginner

Dumbbell Shoulder Press3-48-10
Dumbbell Lateral Raise3-48
Bent Over Raise48-10

Workout Routine For Intermediate

Arnold Shoulder Press48-10
Smith Machine Press3-410-12
Dumbbell one-arm lateral raise410-12
Dumbbell Upright Row38-10

Shoulder Workout Routine For Advance

Barbell Shoulder Press48-12
Dumbbell Front Raise3-410-12
Bent Over Lateral Raise48-10
Barbell Upright Row310-12
Face pull38-10

Warm Up Exercises Before Shoulder Workout

Warm-up is the process of preparing your body for physical activity or exercise. It involves performing low-intensity exercises that gradually increase your heart rate, blood flow, and body temperature to strengthen your body’s readiness for the workout ahead.

Benefits Of Warm Up

A proper chest warm-up can benefit your body in several ways, including:

  1. Increases blood flow to the muscles.
  2. Raises the body temperature and improves muscle flexibility.
  3. Enhances mental focus and attention.
  4. Reduces the risk of injury by preparing the body for exercise.

Warm-up exercises can include activities such as jogging, jumping jacks, cycling, or dynamic stretching. The types of warm-up exercise you choose should be tailored to the specific workout you will be performing. 

It’s recommended that you perform a warm-up for at least 5–10 minutes before any shoulder workout to prepare your body for the activity ahead.

Best Warm Up Exercises For Shoulder Workout

Here are some of the best warm-up exercises for a shoulder:

  1. Jumping jacks
  2. Arm circles
  3. Push-ups
  4. Chest flies with light weights
  5. Dynamic stretches


How Many Shoulder Exercises Per Workout

  • Beginners should do 2-3 exercises per week. (~10 sets)
  • Intermediate should do 3-4 exercises per week. (~15 sets)
  • Advanced should do 5-6 exercises per week. (~20 sets)

How Often Should I Train My Shoulder Muscles?

It is recommended that you train your shoulder muscles 1–2 times per week, with at least 48 hours of rest between workouts. This allows for proper muscle recovery and growth.


There are tons of shoulder exercises that will allow you to constantly progress and hit your chest from different angles.

The key to achieving hypertrophy (building muscle) with exercises is maximizing tensions and time under tension.

Thanks for reading, enjoy your Workout.


  1. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences, 35(11), 1073–1082. 
  2. The Effect of Weekly Set Volume on Strength Gain: A Meta-Analysis.
  3. Hrysomallis C. Effectiveness of strengthening and stretching exercises for the postural correction of abducted scapulae: a review. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2010;24(2):567-574.
  4. Overhead shoulder press – In-front of the head or behind the head? Journal of Sport and Health Science. Volume 4, Issue 3, September 2015, Pages 250-257.

10 Best Shoulder Exercises To Build Mass and Strength

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