You may think you work your shoulders regularly, but if you don’t incorporate compound shoulder exercises into your routine, you won’t get the strength and size you need.
A great way to build shoulder muscle mass and strength is by doing compound shoulder exercises.
Compound exercises are those that involve movement around more than one joint at the same time. It means compound exercises work more than one muscle group.
It is highly recommended to start performing the compound shoulder exercises for those of you trying to achieve bigger and stronger.
- Muscles Worked During Compound Shoulder Exercises
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Rotator Cuff Muscles
- Pectoralis Major
- Tricep Brachii
- Compound vs. Isolation Shoulder Exercises
- Compound Shoulder Exercises
- Isolation Shoulder Exercises
- Benefits Of Compound Shoulder Exercises and Strong Delts
- 1. Efficient Use of Time
- 2. Increased Muscle Activation
- 3. Improved Core Stability
- 4. Enhanced Joint Stability and Injury Prevention
- 5. Greater Strength and Power
- 6. Hormonal Response
- 7. Increased Caloric Expenditure
- The Best Compound Shoulder Exercises
- 1. Pike Push Up
- 2. Shoulder Tap Push Up
- 3. Parallel Bar Dip
- 4. Barbell Overhead Press
- 5. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- 6. Arnold Shoulder Press
- 7. Landmine Shoulder Press
- 8. Face Pull
- 9. Barbell Upright Row
- 10. Standing Barbell Rear Delt Row
- 11. Seated Neutral-Grip Overhead Dumbbell Press
- 12. Behind-the-Neck Press
- Shoulder Muscle Training Volume
- Training Plan As Per Your Goal
- Benefits of Strong Delts
- Reduced Risk of Injury
- Improve Range of Motion
- Improve Lifts
- Give aesthetics Look
- Are compound shoulder exercises suitable for beginners?
- Is shoulder press a compound movement?
- How many compound exercises per workout
- 10 Best Shoulder Exercises To Build Muscle Mass and Strength
Muscles Worked During Compound Shoulder Exercises
During compound shoulder exercises, several muscles are engaged to perform the movements effectively.
Here are the main muscles that are worked during compound shoulder exercises:
In fitness, “shoulder exercises” refers to resistance exercises that target the deltoid muscle.
The deltoid is the superficial muscle that forms the rounded contour of your shoulder. While the deltoid is technically a single muscle, anatomically speaking it has three distinct sets of muscles fibers and muscle bellies, which are referred to as “heads.
They consist of three heads:
The trapezius muscle aka trap muscle is one of the widest back muscles.
The Trapezius muscle runs from the neck to the mid-back and is important for shoulder movements, especially scapular elevation, retraction, and depression.
Situated between the shoulder blades, the rhomboids are involved in scapular retraction, helping to bring the shoulder blades closer together.
The latissimus dorsi, or lats, are large muscles located in the back. They assist in various shoulder movements, including shoulder extension, adduction, and internal rotation.
Rotator Cuff Muscles
The rotator cuff muscles consist of four muscles that provide stability and control to the shoulder joint. They include:
- Supraspinatus: Assists in shoulder abduction and helps initiate movements.
- Infraspinatus: Aids in shoulder external rotation.
- Teres Minor: Works synergistically with the infraspinatus in shoulder external rotation.
- Subscapularis: Facilitates shoulder internal rotation.
Although the pectoralis major is primarily known as a chest muscle, it also contributes to shoulder movements, especially shoulder adduction and internal rotation.
The triceps brachii, located at the back of the upper arm, also plays a significant role during compound shoulder exercises.
Although their primary function is elbow extension, the triceps also assist in various shoulder movements, especially during pressing exercises.
Compound vs. Isolation 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.
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.
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Benefits Of Compound Shoulder Exercises and Strong Delts
Shoulder compound exercises offer numerous advantages that contribute to overall shoulder development and functional strength.
Here are some reasons why you should do compound exercises:
1. Efficient Use of Time
Shoulder compound exercises work multiple muscle groups and joints at the same time, so you can work on several areas of the shoulder complex in one exercise.
This efficient use of time can help you maximize your workout session by working multiple muscles and movement patterns at once.
2. Increased Muscle Activation
Compound exercises for the shoulders activate a larger number of muscles compared to isolation exercises for the shoulders.
It involves multiple muscle groups, such as the deltoids, trapezius, and rotator cuff muscles. This promotes balanced muscle development and functional strength.
3. Improved Core Stability
Many compound shoulder exercises require you to engage your core to stay stable and do the exercise properly.
The core muscles, including the abdominals, obliques, and lower back, work synergistically with the shoulder muscles to provide a stable base and transfer force efficiently.
4. Enhanced Joint Stability and Injury Prevention
Compound exercises strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint, providing increased stability and reducing the risk of injuries.
It helps to achieve a more balanced and stable posture, thereby reducing the risk of shoulder injuries.
5. Greater Strength and Power
It stimulates the nervous system and increases the strength and power of multiple muscle fibers.
It is possible to build substantial strength by challenging the shoulder muscles with compound movements. This allows you to perform everyday tasks with ease and excel in sports and physical activities.
6. Hormonal Response
The study has shown that compound exercises increase the amount of anabolic hormones, like testosterone and growth hormone.
These hormonal responses contribute to muscle growth and development.
7. Increased Caloric Expenditure
Due to the involvement of multiple muscle groups, compound exercises result in a higher total daily energy expenditure. Activating different muscles takes more energy, which means you burn more calories during your workout.
This can help people who want to lose weight or keep a healthy body composition.
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The Best Compound Shoulder Exercises
Here are 12 of the best compound shoulder exercises to build muscle mass and strength.
You’ll get more benefits if you introduce some compound exercises into your routine that also work your shoulder
1. Pike Push Up
Pike Push-ups aka shoulder push-up is a variation of the push-up that increases strength and stability in the chest, shoulders and triceps. Performing the exercise in a more upright position will target the shoulders more than the chest.
The pike push-up looks like a mash-up of Downward-Facing Dog and Dolphin Pose, and this move can build major strength.
- Start in a standard push-up position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and elbows completely locked out.
- Lift the hips up and back until your body forms an inverted V shape.
- Keep arms and legs as straight as possible.
- Slowly lower the top of your head towards the ground.
- Once your head is about to contact the ground, pause for a second.
- Then slowly push back until your arms are straight, and you’re in the inverted V position.
- Make sure you maintain control throughout the movement.
- Keep your back neutral and knees straight throughout the exercise.
- To make the pike push-up easier, you can place your hands on a block or a higher surface than your feet, as this reduces resistance.
2. Shoulder Tap Push Up
The shoulder tap push-up is a variation of the push-up that challenges the core to a greater extent than its traditional counterpart.
The Shoulder Tap Push-Up is a full-body strength move that focuses on your arms, shoulders, and chest while also strengthening your core.
- Start in a high plank position with your palms flat on the floor.
- Hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above your wrists, legs extended behind you
- Lower yourself by flexing your elbows so that your chest comes within a few inches of the floor.
- Make sure your body is in a straight line from your head to your knees.
- Raise your body to the starting position by pushing up with your arms.
- Tap your left hand to your right shoulder while engaging your core and glutes to keep your hips as still as possible.
- Place it back on the floor and repeat your next push up and shoulder tap with another hand.
- Tighten your core, engage your glutes, and keep your spine, head and neck aligned.
- Do not let your lower back sag or your butt rise. Ensure your body is straight and rigid.
- Your arms should resemble an arrow in the bottom position, not a “T”
3. Parallel Bar Dip
The parallel bar dip is a compound exercise that targets the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
This exercise engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, including the pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps brachii, and stabilizer muscles like the rhomboids and trapezius.
- Hold on to the parallel bars with an overhand grip, palms facing downward.
- Lift your feet off and straighten your arms, supporting your body weight on the bars.
- Lean forward slightly while keeping your chest up and shoulders back.
- Slowly lower your body by bending your elbows until your shoulders are slightly below your elbows.
- Pause briefly at the bottom position, then raise your body back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Hold a dumbbell between your legs if you need additional resistance.
- A little forward body bend will hit the chest muscles harder.
4. Barbell 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.
- Sit on an exercise bench and grab a bar with an overhand grip.
- Bring the bar over and in front of your head, under your chin, and just above your upper chest.
- Now Press the bar straight up overhead until your arms are fully extended but not locked out.
- Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
- Perform a warm-up with 50% weight for 1-2 sets.
- Always perform the Shoulder Exercises before you perform triceps.
5. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
The dumbbell overhead shoulder press is an excellent variation to the barbell shoulder press. The fact is that the dumbbells allow a full range of motion.
The dumbbell shoulder press is a fundamental compound exercise that primarily targets the deltoid muscles, specifically the anterior (front) and medial (side) delts.
It also engages the triceps and stabilizing muscles in the core and upper back.
- Sit on a bench or standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the dumbbells at shoulder level, palms facing forward, and elbows bent at 90 degrees.
- Press the dumbbells overhead by extending your arms.
- At the top of the movement, pause briefly with your arms fully extended, but without locking out your elbows.
- Lower the dumbbells back down to shoulder level.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps
- Exhale during effort, inhale during rest.
- Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements
6. Arnold Shoulder Press
The Arnold Shoulder Press is an excellent shoulder exercise for muscle building. When it comes to the best compound shoulder exercises with the best range of motion for shoulder muscles, Arnold’s press stands out from the crowd.
It gives a wide range of motion as you lower the dumbbells well down in front, giving that maximum stretch that other shoulder exercises lack.
- Sit on a bench or standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the dumbbells at shoulder level with your palms facing your body.
- Begin the movement by pressing the dumbbells overhead while simultaneously rotating your palms away from your body.
- As you press upward, continue rotating your palms until they face forward at the top of the movement.
- Pause briefly at the top, then reverse the movement by rotating your palms back towards your body as you lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
- 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.
7. Landmine Shoulder Press
The Landmine Press is not a popular exercise yet provides many benefits in regard to progressing your upper body.
It is not a popular exercise yet provides many benefits with regard to progressing your anterior deltoid and upper chest.
As it is performed in a standing position, it increases core involvement and can improve core stability and strength of the abdominal muscles.
- Stand holding the weighted end of the barbell with one hand.
- Clean that bar up to shoulder height and tuck your elbow into your side.
- Make sure the barbell is wedged securely in a landmine device or corner.
- Your feet should be level and shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your core braced and knees soft, press the bar up and away from you, fully extending your arm at the top.
- Press the weight up with both hands until your arms are extended, then bring it back down slowly.
- With control, lower the bar back down to the starting position.
- Hold a neutral spine throughout the movement to prevent injury.
- Exhale on pushing movement, inhale when returning to the starting position.
- Lean your body forwards slightly and engage your core muscles to help with stabilization.
8. Face Pull
This exercise prevents muscular imbalance and builds overall shoulder strength. However, there are many different faces pull variations that you can try out that may require different types of equipment and setup. It is recommended that you try this compound shoulder face pull exercise.
- Grab the ends of the rope attachment using a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and slightly lean back.
- 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.
- Hold this position for a second as you squeeze your shoulder blades together, contracting rear delts and middle traps as hard as possible.
- Then slowly return the rope to the start position and repeat for reps.
- 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.
9. Barbell Upright Row
The barbell upright row is a weightlifting exercise that targets the muscles of the shoulder and upper back, including 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.
- Stand facing the barbell with your feet shoulder width apart and load it with the weight you want to use.
- To grasp the barbell, hold it with an overhand grip and hands that are slightly closer than shoulder width apart.
- Pick up the bar with your back straight and bend your knees.
- Keeping your back straight and eyes facing forwards, lift the bar straight up while keeping it as close to your body as possible.
- Hold for a moment before you go back to the starting position.
- Repeat for desired reps.
- Focus on keeping your elbows higher than your forearms.
- Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
- Keep your back straight.
10. Standing Barbell Rear Delt Row
Standing barbell rear delt row is a free weight exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoid and middle back, and to a lesser degree, it also targets the biceps, shoulders, and traps.
If you haven’t tried this exercise before, load the barbell with a reasonable amount of weight, prioritizing an amount that allows you to stick to proper form rather than trying to lift heavy.
- Stand up straight while holding a barbell using a wide (higher than shoulder width) and overhand (palms facing your body) grip.
- With slightly bent knees, bend over at the waist so that your chest is parallel with the floor.
- While keeping the upper arms perpendicular to the torso, pull the barbell up towards your upper chest as you squeeze the rear delt.
- Slowly go back to the initial position as you breathe in.
- Repeat for the recommended number of repetitions.
- Refrain from using your biceps to do the work. Focus on targeting the rear delts, the arms should only act as hooks.
- Focus on the form before you go for a heavyweight.
- Maintaining the right posture while working out is extremely important.
11. Seated Neutral-Grip Overhead Dumbbell Press
The seated neutral-grip dumbbell overhead press is a very effective exercise that targets the deltoids’ anterior (Front) head.
Now, the benefit of using dumbbells over a barbell for this movement is that you develop more stabilizer muscles and have a freer range of movement.
But, using a neutral grip is also more challenging and makes for a great variation since it still works the same muscle.
- Sit on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height.
- Begin with your palms facing toward each other and your elbows just below shoulder level.
- Push the weights straight up, stopping just short of locking out your elbows.
- Then control the dumbbells all the way down until your upper arms are parallel with the floor or slightly lower.
- Keep your back and neck neutral.
- Do not lock out your elbows.
- Always warm up before training heavily to prevent shoulder discomfort.
12. Behind-the-Neck Press
The standard military press and the overhead dumbbell presses hit more of the anterior head of the deltoid.
Behind the neck press, on the other hand, stimulates all the three heads of the shoulder, It also recruits the triceps, traps, and rhomboids.
This compound shoulder exercise is not recommended if you don’t have a lot of shoulder mobility.
Primary: Anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid, rear deltoid
- Sit on an exercise bench and place the barbell to just below shoulder height.
- Elevate the barbell overhead by fully extending your arms while breathing out.
- Hold the contraction for a second and lower the barbell back down to the starting position by inhaling.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- 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.
Shoulder Muscle Training Volume
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
- For muscle endurance: Aim for 3–4 sets of 12–15 reps, with a moderate amount of resistance.
- For muscle strength: Aim for 3–5 sets of 6–10 reps, with a heavier amount of resistance.
- 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.
Benefits of Strong Delts
Big, strong, rounded shoulders have many benefits besides looking good. The deltoids are among the most important muscles in the body as we use them in everyday life activities to push, pull and lift objects over our heads.
In this post, we’ll focus on the benefits of having strong shoulders.
The benefit of having a strong, well-built shoulder is simple.
Reduced Risk of Injury
Many people experience shoulder pain or injuries at some point in their lives because the shoulders move through a large range of motion. Strengthening the delts helps to stabilize the shoulders, which can help prevent future injuries.
Improve Range of Motion
They help protect your shoulder joint, keeping it stable during arm movements. Strong delts will make arm movements that involve shoulder flexion, internal rotation, and abduction more powerful and productive.
It’ll improve the overall aesthetics and definition of your shoulders.
The deltoids play a part in stabilizing the weight when performing bench press or overhead press. By working directly on the deltoids, there will be a transfer of strength to your other lifts.
Give aesthetics Look
One hallmark of someone who’s in shape is having wide-toned shoulders. It improves the overall aesthetics and definition of your shoulders.
The delts are on the outside of the shoulder, so if you work on building them up, so can change the look of your overall body.
Can compound shoulder exercises help with weight loss?
Yes, compound shoulder exercises help to weight loss. These exercises engage multiple muscle groups, leading to a higher calorie burn during workouts.
They also help build muscle and improve metabolism, which helps you lose weight and keep it off.
Are compound shoulder exercises suitable for beginners?
Yes, compound shoulder exercises are suitable for beginners, but it is crucial to start with lighter weights and focus on proper form and technique.
Beginners may also find it helpful to do compound exercises with help or modifications until they get strong.
Is shoulder press a compound movement?
Yes, the shoulder press is considered a compound movement because it works multiple muscle groups, including the deltoids, trapezius, triceps, and core muscles.
The motion involves the coordination of various joints, such as the shoulder and elbow, making it a multijoint exercise that targets several muscle groups at once.
How many compound exercises per workout
You should train each muscle group with 2-4 different compound exercises per workout program.
Shoulder compound exercises are highly recommended for anyone who is interested in building a wider shoulder and who wants to gain strength.
It not only allows for targeted muscle development, but also provides an overall 3D look to the shoulder. It is easy to do and requires no more scientific details and fancy equipment. Include some of the compound exercises in your shoulder workout routine.
If you do these shoulder compound exercises consistently, the results will speak by themselves.
Thanks for reading.
10 Best Shoulder Exercises To Build Muscle Mass and Strength
Manish brings over 10 years of hands-on experience in weight lifting and fat loss to fitness coaching. He specializes in gym-based training and has a lot of knowledge about exercise, lifting technique, biomechanics, and more.
Through “Fit Life Regime,” he generously shares the insights he’s gained over a decade in the field. His goal is to equip others with the knowledge to start their own fitness journey.