Shoulder Workouts: Your Ultimate Guide

July 24, 2019 by  
Filed under Weight Lifting

woman exercising

Image by Pexels

When deciding which shoulder workouts to perform, it depends on what athletic level you are, what goals you are aiming to achieve and what type of equipment you have. In this article, we have reviewed 10 popular shoulder workouts and discussed how they could benefit your workout routine. Remember to consult a professional trainer on more complex moves, especially if you are a beginner, so you avoid any potential injuries. Check out our discussion below to decide which shoulder workouts you should incorporate into your exercise regimen.

Product FAQ

Before we begin our discussion on various shoulder workouts, we will answer some frequently asked questions.

Why Are Shoulder Workouts Important?

group of women doing work out

Image by Pexels

The shoulder provides stability and has a large range of motion, but it is also one of the most susceptible joints to injury. It is important to ensure that your shoulders are strong and resistant to potential harm from daily use.

2. What Level of Athleticism Should I Have to Perform Shoulder Workouts?

man carrying exercise equipment

Image by Pexels

The level of athleticism, distinguished as beginner, intermediate, or expert in this article, determines which shoulder workouts are appropriate for you.

Insert Image

3. What Equipment Do I Need to Perform Shoulder Workouts?

woman using cable and pulley machine

Image by Pexels

Typical shoulder workouts require dumbbells or barbells. You can choose to either buy the appropriate equipment or find the necessary items in a standard gym.

4. How Can I Determine How Many Sets and Reps to Complete?

shirtless man exercising on the gym

Image by Pexels

If you are training for strength, you should choose a higher weight and aim to perform one to six reps. While performing higher reps at a lower weight also builds muscle, it focuses on endurance building. You should aim for sets of 12 to 15 to increase your endurance over time.

How We Reviewed

We reviewed each of these 10 shoulder workouts by discussing their pros and cons, how to perform each exercise, what equipment you should use when performing the exercise and what level of athleticism you should be before performing the exercise.

Overall Price Range Of This Product (And Similar Products)

The price of the equipment for these shoulder workouts ranges between about $ and $$$ if you buy the equipment yourself. You can also find this equipment in a standard gym.

What We Reviewed

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • Push Press
  • Upright Barbell Row
  • Standing Military Press
  • Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise
  • Dumbbell Incline Row
  • Side Lateral Raise
  • Barbell Shoulder Press
  • Standing Front Barbell Raise Over Head
  • Arnold Dumbbell Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

man exercising on the gym

Image by Pexels

Insert Image

Type

The dumbbell shoulder press is a strength exercise that works the shoulders. This is one of many shoulder workouts that utilizes dumbbells. You sit on a military press bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand, place them on the top of your thighs, then raise the dumbbells to shoulder height one at a time. From this starting position, push the dumbbells upward until they touch the top in a contracted position. Then, repeat this exercise for the amount of repetitions in your set.

Pros

  • A multi-joint exercise that will work your shoulders and triceps
  • Allows for more range of motion than using a barbell
  • Greater range of motion increases time under tension, which utilizes the traps 

Cons

  • Lifting too much weight will compromise your form
  • If you use bad form when performing the shoulder press, it can hurt your shoulders
  • Important to keep your elbows positioned correctly

Equipment

Level


Push Press

man lifting dumbbell at the gym

Image by Pexels

Type

The barbell push press allows you to load up the most weight above all other overhead press moves. It is considered a whole-body movement due to its lack of isolation effect. You perform it by putting the barbell atop your upper chest, bend your knees slightly, and explode upward on the balls of your feet while pressing the bar overhead. This works your lower body, core, delts, triceps, and upper pecs.

Pros

  • Utilizes the legs, chest, arms, shoulder, and lower back
  • Olympic weight training technique
  • Segue into more advanced overhead moves

Cons

  • Need to have a high level of skill to perform
  • An explosive exercise, so more potential for injury
  • Detrimental if performed with incorrect form

Equipment

Level


Upright Barbell Row

shirtless man lifting dumbbell

Image by Pexels

Type

You perform the upright barbell row by grasping a barbell with an overhand grip, with hands slightly less than shoulder width apart. The bar should start by resting on the top of your thighs with extended arms. Then, raise your elbows up and keep the bar close to your body as you move upwards. Continue to lift the barbell until it reaches your chin. Then, lower it back down and repeat for the intended number of repetitions.

Pros

  • Targets the upper back and shoulders
  • Great exercise for athletes aiming to gain muscle and power in their deltoids
  • Appropriate for athletes of all experience levels

Cons

  • Can irritate the anterior shoulder
  • Can hurt your neck if done incorrectly
  • You need to use strict form in order to work the shoulders versus the forearms and biceps

Equipment

Level


Standing Military Press

Type

The standing military press is another example of shoulder workouts for beginners, and you can perform it sitting or standing. You begin with slightly bent knees and lift the barbell up over your head by locking your arms. You hold the barbell at about shoulder level, then lower the bar down to the collarbone slowly. Then, you lift the bar back up. You repeat this exercise for the number of repetitions within your set.

Pros

  • Great option for developing shoulder muscles
  • Can perform either standing or seated
  • Can help to stabilize your spine

Cons

  • Lifting too much weight can compromise your form and cause injury
  • Can put unnecessary strain on your lower back
  • Mainly focusses on your shoulders and not on other muscle groups

Equipment

Level


Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise

man holding dumbbells while sitting

Image by Pexels

Type

Also known as the rear delt fly, you place a couple of dumbbells in front of a flat bench with the dumbbells behind your calves, then you bend at the waist with a straight back and lift the dumbbells straight to the side until both arms are parallel to the floor. Then, slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat for the intended number of repetitions.

Pros

  • Great workout for the shoulders
  • Works the rear deltoid muscles 
  • Uses isolation to build strength and power

Cons

  • Can harm your back if you do not maintain a straight position
  • Relatively strict movement that needs to be controlled
  • Can be dangerous for your neck if you do not have a safe spinal position 

Equipment

Level


Dumbbell Incline Row

woman doing exercise inside the gym

Image by Pexels

Type

The dumbbell incline row is one of the shoulder workouts that works the delts, while also targeting the middle back. For this exercise, you need to lean into an incline bench. Then, you take a dumbbell in each hand and retract the shoulder blades to row the dumbbells to your side.

Pros

  • Works the back and rear delts
  • A powerful, multi-joint rowing exercise
  • Great way to strengthen the back muscles

Cons

  • Great if performed correctly, but harmful if performed with incorrect form
  • Can be detrimental to your neck if your spine is not straight
  • Can cause injury if you use too much weight

Equipment

Level


Side Lateral Raise

man exercising on the gym

Image by Pexels

Type

The side lateral raise is a great single-joint movement for the middle delts, but it is important that you perform this exercise with the correct form. You pick a pair of dumbbells, maintain a stationary position, lift the dumbbells to your side, and lift up your arms to be parallel to the floor. Then, lower the dumbbells back down slowly. Repeat this exercise for the appropriate number of repetitions, according to your set.

Pros

  • Great exercise for the middle delts
  • An appropriate exercise for beginners
  • Can be performed sitting down or standing up

Cons

  • Should not lift very heavy weight with excessive momentum
  • Should ensure that you do not "swing" the weights
  • Should keep abdominals engaged, as it is common for people to relax their abdominal muscles during this exercise

Equipment

Level


Barbell Shoulder Press

woman lifting a barbell

Image by Pexels

Type

With the barbell shoulder press, you sit on a bench with back support and position a barbell at a height above your head. Then, you pick up the barbell and lift the bar over your head by locking your arms. You then lower the bar down to the shoulders slowly, and you lift the bar back up to the starting position.

Pros

  • A great and powerful shoulder workout
  • A multi-joint exercise that allows you to lift more weight
  • Builds muscle and strength in the traps, triceps, and upper chest

Cons

  • Can be dangerous if practiced incorrectly
  • Should not over-do the weight to avoid potential injury
  • Upper and lower back pulls are possibilities if you perform this exercise in an extreme manner

Equipment

Level


Standing Front Barbell Raise Over Head

man lifting barbell

Image by Pexels

Type

Begin this exercise by standing straight with a barbell in your hands, gripping the bar with palms facing down. Your elbows should be slightly bent, and you lift the barbell up until it is over your head. Then, lower the barbell back down to the starting position and repeat it for the appropriate number of repetitions.

Pros

  • Isolation exercise, which requires movement around one joint and builds strength around it
  • Develops your anterior (frontal) shoulder muscles
  • Works the triceps in addition to the shoulders 

Cons

  • Only targets a few muscles
  • Proper form should be used to avoid injury
  • Not appropriate for people with previous shoulder injuries

Equipment

Level


Arnold Dumbbell Press

man holding pair of dumbbells

Image by Pexels

Type

With the Arnold Press, you start with the dumbbells in front of your shoulders with your palms facing you. Press the weights overhead while rotating your wrists so that your palms face forward. Then, rotate your wrists back to the starting position when lowering the weights. You should perform this sitting down, but you can also perform it standing up if you do so with the correct form.

Pros

  • Allow for greater freedom of motion than using a barbell
  • A great move for your delts 
  • Forces your elbows to drop in front of your body, which activates the anterior delts

Cons

  • Must warm up shoulders and rotator-cuffs before performing this exercise
  • If you are a beginner, you should start with lighter weights
  • Dumbbells require the most coordination, so you need to have a concentrated motion

Equipment

Level

The Verdict

While all of these shoulder workouts are great exercises, some will be appropriate for your skill level and goals, while others should be tested with a professional. If you are a beginner, we recommend that you try the side lateral raise to work your delts, the dumbbell incline row to strength your back muscles, the standing military press to stabilize your spine or the upright barbell row to target your upper back. If you are an expert, we recommend that you try the push press to utilize your full body. Regardless of which exercises you choose, make sure you research proper form to avoid injury.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.