Shoulder workouts are exercises designed to isolate, strengthen, and tone muscles in your shoulders. Shoulder workouts target several muscle groups in the shoulder area, including the rotator cuff muscles, trapezius muscles, deltoids, and rhomboid muscles. Integrating shoulder exercises into your fitness regimen improves posture, relieves shoulder pain, enhances flexibility, and boosts both athletic and functional performance. Regularly training the shoulders promotes better overall health, as strong shoulders support a healthy spine and neck.
Training shoulder muscles is important for four primary reasons. First, rotator cuff muscles enable us to move our arms in a circular motion, while also keeping our shoulder joints stable. Strengthening your rotator cuff muscles through specific exercises helps stabilize your shoulder joints and facilitates smoother circular arm movements. Second, trapezius muscles support our shoulders and neck, controlling the head and shoulder position, while also helping keep our arms raised. Targeting the trapezius muscles through shoulder workouts provides crucial support to your shoulders and neck, Third, deltoids are located at the top of our arms and are responsible for enabling arm movements, such as adduction (outward movement) and flexion (bending). Training the deltoids improves the stability of your upper body during everyday movements such as pushing, pulling, lifting, and carrying. Finally, shoulder exercises activate the rhomboid muscles, which connect your spine to your shoulder blades and play a role in lifting your arms up and inwards.
Shoulder workouts readily accommodate various types of exercise, including dumbbells, resistance bands, exercise balls, and weight machines. It’s possible to perform many types of shoulder workouts at home without equipment as well.
Below is a list of the nine most important shoulder workouts and their benefits.
- Lateral raise: The lateral raise is an effective shoulder exercise that targets the deltoid muscles, helping improve shoulder strength, stability, and aesthetics.
- Arnold press: The Arnold press is a popular shoulder exercise. Rotation of the arms and palms characterize the exercise as you press weights overhead—all of which help to target the three heads of the deltoid and other areas of the upper body.
- Cable shoulder workouts: Cable shoulder workouts offer a versatile and efficient way to target the shoulder muscles using cable machines. Cables help enhance shoulder strength, stability, and muscle development by providing constant tension throughout the movement.
- Rear deltoid exercises: Rear deltoid exercises are a class of workouts that specifically target the rear deltoid muscles, found on the back of the shoulders. Working out the area is essential as the rear delts are responsible for a number of functions.
- Dumbbell lateral raise: The dumbbell lateral raise is a fantastic exercise for working the shoulders and boosting deltoid strength. Dumbbell raises result in elevated muscle definition and enhanced shoulder strength through frequent practice.
- Bodyweight shoulder exercises: Bodyweight shoulder exercises offer a practical and effective way to strengthen and sculpt the shoulder muscles without the need for equipment.
- Lateral deltoid exercises: Lateral deltoid exercises effectively target and develop the lateral head of the deltoid muscle, promoting shoulder width, stability, and upper body strength for improved aesthetics in your workout routine.
- Compound shoulder exercises: Compound shoulder exercises refer to a group of exercises that target and engage multiple muscle groups—leading to a comprehensive and challenging workout routine.
- Overhead press variations: Overhead press variations offer a range of effective exercises for shoulder workouts, targeting the deltoid muscles and promoting strength, stability, and overall shoulder development.
Shoulder workouts are beneficial for almost everyone, as they are an effective way to strengthen and enhance flexibility in the shoulders and neck. Furthermore, men and women benefit equally from shoulder exercises as there are no specific distinctions between gendered exercises. That said, the optimal shoulder-training equipment varies according to your strength, build, flexibility, and health. You should prioritize proper form and safety regardless of the exercise you perform in order to prevent injuries or a plateau in your progress. Below we cover the technique, mechanics, and benefits of the most important shoulder raises.
1. Lateral raise
The lateral raise is a beneficial shoulder exercise specifically tailored to target the lateral or middle deltoid muscles. The movement of lateral raises is a symmetrical outward lifting of the arms from the sides of the body until they reach shoulder level (creating a “T” shape with the torso). This motion is then reversed as the arms are lowered back down to the sides in a controlled manner.
Later raises engage several additional muscle groups, such as the trapezius and the muscles of the rotator cuff. Incorporating lateral raises into your shoulder workout routine improves shoulder stability, posture, definition, and broadness. The key to achieving comprehensive shoulder development lies in targeting the deltoid muscles from multiple angles, including the anterior, lateral, and posterior parts. This is where lateral raises truly shine, as they are adaptable to emphasize different parts of the shoulder. For instance, altering the plane of movement during your lateral raises more effectively engages the front deltoids and the trapezius muscles. However, maintaining proper form is crucial to ensure effective muscle engagement and prevent injury.
How to perform lateral raises safely
Follow the five steps below to perform lateral raises without risking injury.
- Assume the stance: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hips bent forward slightly, and the back and neck straight.
- Ready the weights: Hold one dumbbell in each hand with a closed, neutral grip (thumbs around the handles and palms facing your body). Position the dumbbells alongside your thighs with your elbows extended or holding a slight bend.
- Lift: Slowly and steadily lift the weights out to the side until your arms are parallel to the floor, with the elbow slightly bent. Do not use your back to help yourself lift the weights.
- Lower: Lower the weights back down in a controlled manner, avoiding any sudden movements or speeding up.
- Repeat: Repeat the same movement for the desired number of repetitions.
The five steps above help make the lateral exercise safe and effective for developing shoulder muscles. The stance described above protects your muscles and joints from injuries while you’re lifting weights. Meanwhile, the mechanics help you isolate the shoulder muscles so that your exercise is as effective as possible.
What are the best lateral raise variations for strengthening and defining shoulder muscles?
The following list consists of ten different lateral raise variations that help build shoulder strength and definition.
- Cable lateral raise: The cable lateral raise is an effective exercise for strengthening the lateral deltoid muscle and improving shoulder stability. Perform a cable lateral raise exercise by attaching a handle to the low pulley of a cable machine, standing sideways to the machine, and lifting the cable out to the side. Incorporating cable lateral raise exercises into your routine targets the lateral deltoid muscle and promotes shoulder stability.
- Seated lateral raise: The seated lateral raise is an exercise where you sit on a bench and lift the arms out to the side while holding dumbbells to target the lateral deltoid muscles. Seated lateral raises help improve shoulder strength and stability.
- Y raise: The Y raise exercise gets its name because you have to lift your arms up and out to form a “Y” shape with your body. The exercise zeroes in on the upper back and shoulder muscles, bettering your posture and shoulder mobility in the process. You may perform the Y raise while lying on an incline bench at a set angle or while standing.
- Machine lateral raise: The machine lateral raise is a type of shoulder workout using a weight machine that targets the lateral deltoid muscles. You perform the exercise by sitting on the machine with your arms at your sides, grasping the handles or pads, and placing your arms at a 90-degree angle to your body. You lift the lever arms out to the side until your arms are parallel to the floor, then slowly lower them back down to the starting position.
- Leaning-away lateral raise: The leaning-away lateral raise requires you to lean away from a pole, cable machine, or other vertical support while holding a dumbbell. You then lift the weight out to the side in order to target the lateral deltoid muscles.
- Landmine lateral raise: Another type of lateral raise is the landmine lateral raise. You perform the shoulder workouts by standing in a straight and neutral position. Next, hold a barbell in one hand and start with it positioned near or close to the hip level. You complete the movement by raising and extending the arm up, then bringing it back down to the starting position.
- Kneeling lateral raise: The kneeling lateral raise is another shoulder workout to consider. Start by kneeling on the ground on a comfortable and secure surface with a straight posture. Perform the exercise by lifting your arms out to the side while holding weights—staying in a kneeling position all the while. You can also do the exercise in a half-kneeling position.
- Three-way lateral raise: The three-way lateral raise (or 3-way lateral raise) gets its name because you create three shapes with your body, a “T”, “Y”, and “I” shape. You start by lifting your arms out to the side while holding weights for a “T” shape, then move to the front for a “Y” shape, and finally extend to the back in an “I” shape. The exercise is beneficial for your shoulders because it targets the entire shoulder muscle group.
- Wall press lateral raise: Wall press lateral raises consist of pressing one hand against a wall while lifting your opposing arm sideways, weight in hand. It’s similar to the lean away lateral raise exercise as it also requires vertical support.
- Kneeling landmine lateral raise: The kneeling landmine lateral raise is performed by kneeling on the ground with one knee down and the other leg raised in a half-knee position. Next, press a barbell out to the side in a similar motion as the kneeling landmine lateral raise.
Lateral raises are an effective exercise for building shoulder strength and preventing injury. You can perform lateral raises using dumbbells, a cable, or a weight machine as the above list illustrates. The listed exercises reduce imbalances and improve shoulder function in addition to increasing shoulder stability. That being said, avoid performing lateral raises if you have a shoulder injury or impingement. Moreover, build up your core strength if you have weaker core muscles or poor posture before attempting lateral raises with heavy dumbbells. Using heavier dumbbells with weak core muscles or poor posture may otherwise lead to injury.
What are the best lateral raise alternatives?
People who cannot do lateral raises should consider lateral raise alternatives. Below are some alternative exercises that target the shoulders.
- Arnold press: The Arnold press targets all three deltoid heads for a comprehensive shoulder workout. Hold dumbbells at shoulder level, press them overhead while rotating your palms outward, and lower them back down while rotating your palms inward. Ensure deltoid muscles are engaged throughout the movement.
- Push press: The push press is a dynamic exercise that generates momentum from the lower body by combining a dip and drive motion. Conducting a push press enables you to lift heavier weights overhead and target your deltoid muscles more efficiently.
- Upright rows: The barbell or dumbbell upright row is effective for targeting the lateral deltoid and upper back muscles. Grasp dumbbells in front of your thighs with an overhand grip and lift them vertically towards your chin, leading with your elbows. Squeeze your shoulder blades at the top and lower the dumbbells gradually.
- Front raises: Front raises primarily target the front deltoid muscles (anterior deltoid) located in the shoulders. Front raises involve lifting dumbbells or other weights in front of your body, focusing on the front deltoid while also engaging the upper chest muscles.
2. Arnold press
The Arnold press is a popular shoulder workout that enhances shoulder strength and stability. The exercise gets its name from bodybuilder, actor, and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger who popularized the exercise. The Arnold press involves a dynamic range of motion, starting from a bicep curl into a rotating overhead press, which targets multiple parts of the shoulder muscles. The rotation motion in the Arnold press engages the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids, providing a complete shoulder workout. Additionally, the overhead pressing motion further strengthens and develops the shoulder muscles.
The involved movements take inspiration from the traditional shoulder press, incorporating a rotation of dumbbells which you’ll require to complete the exercise. Doing the exercise garners benefits such as improving shoulder health, increasing range of motion, and engaging all three heads of the deltoids from different angles.
How to do the Arnold press safely
Follow the steps below to perform the Arnold press safely.
- Set up: Set up by sitting on a bench with your feet flat on the ground. Keep your back straight as you hold a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip. Make sure that your palms are facing away from you as you do so.
- Lift: You begin the lift by bringing the dumbbells up to your shoulder height. Your elbows should be bent, your palms now coming to face you.
- Rotate: The Arnold press incorporates a rotation at the top of the lift. In other words, rotate your palms away from you until they’re facing forward as you press the dumbbells up.
- Extend: Your arms should come to fully extend following the rotation with the dumbbells overhead.
- Reverse: Follow up the extension by reversing the motion, bringing the dumbbells back down to shoulder height, and rotating your palms back towards you.
Repeat the five steps above for your preferred number of reps, keeping in mind your body’s limits and proper form. Maintaining proper form for an Arnold press involves keeping your back straight, engaging your core, and avoiding arching your back. You should also ensure that your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle throughout the motion to avoid shoulder pain or injury. Readers with injuries like rotator cuff tears or impingement syndrome should consequently avoid doing Arnold presses as the exercise may worsen or aggravate the condition.
What are the best Arnold press variations for consistent shoulder development?
Consider the following Arnold press variations to prevent stagnation in your shoulder workouts.
- Seated Arnold press: The Arnold press is traditionally done while standing, but you can perform a variation while seated. Sitting while doing Arnold presses stabilizes the core, allowing you to lift heavier weights and focus on the movement better. Follow the traditional steps as normal except while sitting on a bench.
- Single-arm Arnold press: The single-arm Arnold press is a variation of the Arnold press that you conduct with one arm at a time. The variation helps to isolate each shoulder and prevent imbalances in traditional Arnold presses. Perform the exercise by standing with a dumbbell and completing the traditional steps with one hand.
- Incline Arnold press: The incline Arnold press utilizes an incline bench which helps engage and target the anterior deltoids. Set up on an incline bench, lying down. Proceed to do a traditional Arnold press, extending dumbbells overhead with your back supported by the incline bench.
- Alternating Arnold press: The alternating Arnold press is similar to a single-arm Arnold press, the difference being that you alternate sides with each repetition. You perform the exercise by holding two dumbbells in both hands, extending and rotating one arm as you normally would. Meanwhile, the dumbbell in your second hand should stay at shoulder height, palms facing toward you before extending it after completing the first side.
- Resistance band Arnold press: The resistance band Arnold press is a shoulder workout that incorporates resistance bands instead of dumbbells. The exercise is effective for those who want to challenge their shoulders without having to use heavy weights. Simply attach a resistance band to a high anchor point (such as a door) and press the band overhead, rotating your arms so that your palms face away.
- Kettlebell Arnold press: The kettlebell Arnold press variation uses kettlebells instead of dumbbells to complete the movement. You should opt for the kettlebell variation if you want to challenge your shoulders and improve grip strength. To complete the exercise, set up and stand with kettlebells in each hand, extending the kettlebells as you normally would with dumbbells.
- Cable machine Arnold press: The cable machine Arnold press is a type of Arnold press you do on a cable machine. The variation helps to target the deltoids while also providing some resistance. Complete the exercise by attaching a D-handle to a high cable machine and pressing the handle overhead. As you press the weights overhead, rotate your arms so that your palms face away from you at the top of the movement.
3. Cable shoulder workouts
Cable shoulder workouts are a class of resistance training exercises that use cable machines to train the shoulder muscles. Cable exercises generally allow for a greater range of motion than traditional free weights. The workout is consequently beneficial for building strength and size in the shoulder muscles, such as the deltoid, rotator cuff, trapezius, and rhomboids. Cable shoulder workouts involve a wide range of movements to target the muscles of the shoulder. The exercises typically involve raising and lowering cables and extending the arms in specified motions.
Below are eight of the best cable shoulder workouts to incorporate into your upper-body workout routine.
- Cable face pulls: Face pulls are a vital exercise in cable shoulder workouts because they target the rear delts and upper back muscles. Face pulls also improve posture by strengthening the targeted muscles. You perform the exercise by standing in front of the cable machine and grasping the rope with an overhand grip. Squeeze your shoulder blades together while pulling your elbows up to shoulder level.
- Cable upright row: Cable upright rows utilize a cable machine to lift the arms straight up towards the chin, targeting the upper back and shoulder muscles. Remember to use the lowest position for the cable pulleys and keep your posture straight as you pull the cable to your chin.
- Cable front raise: Cable front raises are ideal for shoulder workouts as they promote shoulder strength among other benefits. Cable front raises consist of utilizing a cable machine to lift both arms straight out in front of the body.
- Cable reverse fly: A cable reverse fly is a type of exercise where, instead of lifting your arms out in front, you cross your arms and grab a cable in each hand. You then extend the cables out to the side, creating an “X” shape with the cables, and then return to a starting position with your arms out straight and cables crossed.
- Cable shoulder press: A cable shoulder press is a variation of the standard overhead press, the main difference being that you’re using a cable machine. You perform a cable shoulder press by standing with your back to the cable machine, holding your arms up, and gripping the cables from behind. You then extend your arms overhead in a slow, controlled movement to better focus on your shoulder muscles.
- Kneeling cable shoulder press: A kneeling cable shoulder press is another type of cable shoulder workout to keep in mind as you build your routine. The exercise involves kneeling on the ground and using cables to press the arms overhead, similar to the aforementioned standing cable shoulder press.
- Bent-over reverse cable flies: Performing bent-over reverse cable flies involves bending over at the waist. Use a cable machine to lift the arms out to the side and back in order to isolate the rear deltoid muscles.
- Seated cable military press: A seated cable military press is a variation of the standard military press, targeting both your triceps and shoulders. Start by grabbing the cables on either side of you and sitting on the bench. Proceed to push your arms overhead in a synchronized fashion, extending to your arms’ full length and then back down again.
Cable shoulder workouts are beneficial for people looking to train their arms and shoulders, as they effectively target the trapezius muscles. Beginners can safely conduct cable shoulder workouts by starting small and using a cable machine with a straight bar and lower weight. Move slowly and use the correct breathing technique to control your movements. Take breaks between reps to avoid shoulder strain and injury.
What are the best cable shoulder workout alternatives?
There are plenty of other options to effectively target and strengthen your shoulder muscles if you’re not a fan of cable exercises. Below are three examples of alternatives to cable shoulder workouts.
- Dumbbell shoulder press: Perform shoulder presses using dumbbells, lifting them overhead while seated or standing.
- Barbell shoulder press: Use a barbell to perform overhead presses, targeting the deltoid and trapezius muscles.
- Resistance band shoulder exercises: Utilize resistance bands for exercises like lateral raises, front raises, and shoulder presses.
4. Rear deltoid exercises
Rear deltoid exercises are key to any shoulder workout routine because they target the muscles in the back of the shoulder. The rear delts enable shoulder extension and horizontal abduction, making them responsible for pulling movements and retraction of the shoulder blades in both exercise and daily life. Rear deltoid exercises consist of motions that specifically target these muscles, including but not limited to reverse flyes, face pulls, and rear deltoid raises. Adding such exercises to your routine provides numerous benefits such as improved posture, reduced risk of injury (be it in shoulder workouts or daily activity), and increased shoulder strength which aids in many different types of shoulder exercises.
Below are eight of the best rear deltoid exercises to incorporate into your shoulder workout.
- Face pulls: Face pulls are a rear deltoid exercise that’s performed on the cable machine. Start by attaching a rope to a high cable machine. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the rope with both hands, palms facing each other. Pull the rope to your face, keeping your elbows high before returning to the starting position.
- Inverted row: The inverted row is an effective form of rear deltoid exercise that targets the upper back. Begin by lying underneath a bar or suspension trainer. Grab the bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width grip and hang with your arms fully extended, keeping your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Pull your body up towards the bar while keeping the elbows close to the body.
- Dumbbell reverse fly: The dumbbell reverse fly is a variation of the traditional reverse fly. You perform the exercise by holding dumbbells and bending forward at the hips. You then lift the arms out to the sides to shoulder height while keeping the elbows slightly bent—engaging the rear deltoids, as well as the upper back muscles and rotator cuff throughout the movement.
- Rear delt row: The rear delt row helps improve shoulder stability. The motions of the exercise consist of first positioning yourself so your feet are shoulder-width apart. Bend forward at the waist, keeping your back straight. Hold dumbbells in each hand and row them up to your sides, bending your elbows. Complete the exercise by slowly lowering the weights back down.
- Single-arm bent-over row: The single-arm bent-over row is similar to the exercise described above except that you focus on one arm at a time. Follow the previous instructions, bending forward and rowing one dumbbell to your side before repeating the motion with the other arm The exercise is effective for strengthening the rear deltoids of one arm, improving any imbalances and weaknesses.
- Machine reverse flies: The reverse flies utilize a machine to work the rear deltoid exercises. Begin by sitting down on the machine and adjusting yourself so that your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Grasp the handles with both hands, palms facing down, and then slowly pull the handles down towards your sides. Make sure to keep elbows slightly bent throughout the motion and hold the position briefly before returning to the starting position.
- Barbell bent-over row: The barbell bent-over row is similar to rear delt rows and single-arm bent-over rows. The key difference is that you employ a barbell in the exercise. Proceed as usual, bending forward at the hip. Proceed to pull the barbell to your chest while keeping the elbows close to the body
- Dumbbell incline Y raise: The dumbbell incline Y raise is another rear deltoid exercise to consider. The involved movements consist of lying on an incline bench, feet flat on the floor. You then hold and extend dumbbells straight up overhead with your palms facing each other. Keep your elbow bent as you bring the weights down to your sides before returning to the first position.
It’s essential to execute proper form while doing any of the exercises listed above. Proper form for rear delt exercises generally consists of a straight back, an engaged core, and bent elbows where specified. You should also use a weight that’s right for your fitness level and avoid swinging or using momentum to lift the weight as this can cause injury or exacerbate existing injuries. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase the weight as your arms and shoulders become stronger to better pace yourself.
What are the best rear deltoid exercise alternatives?
You may also consider alternatives to rear deltoid exercises that target the same muscles or provide similar benefits once you’re ready to. The three examples below serve as a starting point.
- Pull-ups: Pull-ups are basic but effective compound exercises that engage the rear deltoids, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and trapezius muscles. Utilize a pull-up bar, either in the home, park, or gym. The proper form for a pull-up involves hanging from the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing away from you. Slowly pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, then slowly lower yourself back down before repeating.
- Band pull-apart: The band pull-apart is similar to a face pull but utilizes a resistance band. You perform the exercise by anchoring the band at a low point, such as a squat rack. Next, grab the band with both hands, with your palms facing each other. Slowly pull the band apart, keeping your elbows high.
- Wide grip cable rows: Wide grip cable rows are a cable machine shoulder workout that targets the rear deltoids, as well as the lats. The exercise consists of standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasping the handles with both hands, palms down. After which, row the handles to your chest with your elbows high.
5. Bodyweight shoulder exercises
Bodyweight shoulder exercises include pike push-ups, handstand push-ups, and shoulder taps. Bodyweight exercises are a method of strengthening your shoulders without weights or machines. The exercises are consequently ideal for beginners or readers who don’t have access to the gym or don’t have time to get there regularly. Furthermore, bodyweight shoulder exercises engage multiple muscle groups. The muscles engaged include the deltoids and trapezius which promote balanced shoulder development. It’s therefore possible to achieve impressive shoulder gains and enjoy a convenient workout at home by focusing on bodyweight exercises.
The following ten bodyweight exercises target and engage your shoulder muscles, helping you build strength and improve overall shoulder function.
- Side plank: Side planks are a popular type of isometric bodyweight exercise. Start by lying on one side and propping up the body with the forearm, while lifting the hips off the ground. The side plank targets the core, hip, and shoulder. For the shoulder, side planks improve the muscles in the rotator cuff, boosting stability and strength in that area.
- Incline push-up: Incline push-ups are a type of shoulder bodyweight exercise that also begins in a plank. The main difference is that you start your plank on an elevated surface, then lower the body towards the surface while keeping the elbows close to the body. Incline push-ups are good for upper-body strength, targeting the anterior deltoids in the shoulders as well as the pectoralis major and triceps.
- Bear crawl: Bear crawls incorporate bodyweight and more extensive movement. Perform the exercise by getting on all fours and crawling forward or backward while keeping the hips low. Avoid putting weight on your knees and instead bear down on your hands and toes. Stabilizer muscles, as well as quads and abdominal muscles, benefit from bear crawls, providing benefits such as improved shoulder health and mobility.
- Pike push-ups: Pike push-ups begin in a downward dog position with your hands and feet on the ground. You then lower the head towards the ground while keeping the elbows close to the body. Pike push-ups are an upper-body workout so they affect different parts of the body, including the shoulder muscles (namely the anterior deltoids).
- Shoulder taps: Shoulder taps affect your core, but they also target the shoulder muscles, particularly the stabilizer muscles. Shoulder taps are consequently ideal for anyone comfortable doing planks. You start in a plank position then begin tapping one shoulder with the opposite hand. It’s important that you maintain a stable core to hold the posture.
- Plank push-up: Plank push-ups begin in a plank position and end in a push-up. Begin in a plank with your forearms to the ground. Lift to a full plank and then lower the body while keeping your elbows close to the body for a push-up. Rise to full plank and drop once again to another plank, forearms bracing for your weight.
- Handstand push up: Handstand push-ups are a variation of standard push-ups. Begin the exercise in a handstand position. Next, lower the head towards the ground while keeping the elbows closed in, before pushing back up to the starting position. Handstand push-ups challenge core stability and heighten shoulder strength for a highly advanced bodyweight shoulder exercise.
- Wall walks: Wall walks begin in plank, similar to other types of bodyweight shoulder exercises. Press your feet against a wall while in a plank. Next, begin walking your feet up the wall and hands across the floor until your body is in a handstand position, your face now toward the wall and to the ground. You follow up the handstand by walking the hands forward and feet down the wall to the starting position. Wall walks are challenging but effective as they target the stabilizer muscles.
- Handstand hold: A handstand hold is an exercise where you start and hold your handstand for a certain amount of time. It’s also an advanced option for people looking for a more difficult bodyweight shoulder workout that heavily depends on your stability and control.
- Plank to alternate pike: A plant to alternative pike is a challenging shoulder workout. The workout is conducted by beginning in a plank position and lifting your hips toward the ceiling. Next, touch a hand to the opposite knee or foot. Repeat as many times as desired.
Doing bodyweight shoulder exercises keeps your shoulders strong and healthy. It’s possible to do bodyweight shoulder exercises safely by ensuring your elbows are firmly tucked in the right position, pushing back up, and keeping your core engaged. Bodyweight shoulder exercises are often ideal for beginners because they don’t require gym equipment. That said, individuals with existing shoulder injuries or pain should check with their physician or personal trainer before attempting any bodyweight exercises as they heavily rely on your range of motion.
What are the best bodyweight shoulder exercise alternatives?
Alternatives exist if bodyweight exercises prove limiting or unsafe. Below are five alternative shoulder workouts to bodyweight exercises that you can perform with gym equipment.
- Dumbbell shoulder exercises: Dumbbells in shoulder workouts target both sides of the shoulder simultaneously. Dumbbell shoulder exercises are also adjustable since dumbbells are available in various sizes.
- Resistance band shoulder exercises: Utilizing a resistance band during shoulder exercises helps engage the stabilizer muscles, while still providing an intense workout.
- Medicine ball shoulder exercises: Medicine balls add resistance to your shoulder workout and help increase strength. Medicine ball shoulder exercises are also beneficial for challenging the stabilizing rotator cuff muscles in the shoulders.
- Cable or pulley machine shoulder exercises: A cable or pulley machine exercise focuses on creating tension in the muscles. It is important to select a weight that is heavy enough for resistance, but not so heavy that it causes shoulder pain or injury.
- Shoulder presses with a barbell: Barbells are beneficial for targeting the larger muscles of the shoulders due to the intensity of shoulder presses. It’s important to note that pressing too much weight leads to injury, so start light and increase gradually.
6. Lateral deltoid exercises
Lateral deltoid exercises target and isolate the lateral deltoid muscles of the shoulders. The previously described lateral raises are a type of lateral deltoid exercise but not all lateral deltoid exercises incorporate lateral raises. For example, barbell upright rows and Arnold presses are two types of lateral deltoid exercises that are distinct from lateral raises. The different types of lateral deltoid exercises primarily target the muscles in the middle part of your shoulders and activate the muscles of your rotator cuff. Activating the rotator cuff improves stability and makes the shoulders more resilient against injury.
Below are eight exercises that effectively target the lateral deltoid muscles in your shoulders.
- Barbell upright row: The wide-grip barbell upright row is a type of lateral deltoid exercise that focuses on the middle deltoid. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and lift the barbell upward to perform the exercise. Keep your elbows wide and the barbell close to your body.
- Barbell overhead press: A barbell overhead press is an exercise where you stand with a barbell on your shoulders and press the barbell overhead. It targets the entire shoulder muscle group, including the lateral deltoids.
- Arnold dumbbell press: An Arnold dumbbell press requires you to stand rather than sit. Begin by standing with dumbbells at shoulder height, then rotate the palms to face forward as the dumbbells are pressed overhead to maximize your shoulder muscles.
- Seated Arnold press: The Arnold press is a targeted exercise for the outer delts. The seated Arnold press is an intermediate to advanced exercise that involves a slight incline bench and dumbbells held at upper chest height. Push the dumbbells overhead while rotating your palms, keeping tension on the lateral deltoid.
- Arm circles: Arm circles are a shoulder exercise that may be done with weights or the bodyweight alone. The exercise calls for you to stand with your arms out to the side and create circular motions with the arms to tone up the bicep, tricep, and shoulder muscles (which include the lateral deltoids).
- Band upright row: A band upright row introduces a resistance band into your shoulder workouts. Hold the band in your hands with your feet holding down the other end of the band. Lift the band toward your chin to focus on your upper back and shoulder muscles—all while keeping a straight posture.
- Side plank with lateral raise: One example of a lateral deltoid exercise combines side planks with a lateral raise. The result is a dynamic movement that engages both lateral deltoids simultaneously, utilizing bodyweight and dumbbell resistance. Performing the side plank lateral raises strengthens your shoulders and core with proper form and alignment.
- Single-arm dumbbell upright row: A single-arm dumbbell upright row modifies the standard upright row we discussed earlier. Begin in the same position but using a dumbbell instead of a resistance band. Hold and lift the weight to your chin as per a traditional upright row.
Strong lateral deltoids are vital for enhancing shoulder stability, width, and overall aesthetics. Lateral deltoid exercises offer numerous benefits, including improved shoulder strength, reduced risk of injuries, and enhanced posture. Proper form, gradually increasing weights, and maintaining controlled movements without excessive swinging are necessary to both reap the benefits of lateral deltoid exercises and conduct them safely. People with shoulder issues, such as rotator cuff tears or shoulder impingement, should consult their doctor before performing lateral deltoid exercises. Additionally, individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, should always consult a physician before attempting the listed shoulder exercises.
What are the best lateral deltoid exercise alternatives?
Below are the four of the best alternatives to lateral deltoid shoulder exercises for readers who can’t or prefer not to do lateral deltoid exercises.
- Front raise: The front raise targets the front deltoid and is performed using dumbbells, cables, or resistance bands.
- Reverse fly: The reverse fly targets the rear deltoid but also engages the lateral deltoid to a certain extent. The alternative shoulder workout additionally uses dumbbells or a cable machine.
- Bent over lateral raises: Bent over lateral raises emphasize the rear deltoid, while still engaging the lateral deltoid. The movement involves bending forward at the waist as suggested by the exercise’s name.
- Handstand push-ups: Handstand push-ups put significant emphasis on the shoulders, especially the lateral deltoid, as you press your body weight against gravity.
7. Compound shoulder exercises
Compound shoulder exercises are a group of workouts that simultaneously target multiple muscle groups in the shoulders, arms, and upper back. Compound exercises play an important role in shoulder workouts because they deliver a more comprehensive workout than exercises that isolate only one muscle group. Some exercises we’ve already discussed in the article are compound shoulder exercises, such as Arnold presses. Other examples include pike push-ups and barbell upright rows.
Compound shoulder exercises offer several benefits, including improved shoulder strength, increased muscle mass, improved posture, and an increased range of motion. The exercises also burn more calories than isolation exercises as they incorporate several intensive movements in one exercise. Compound shoulder exercises are consequently an effective choice for gym goers who want to lose weight while strengthening their shoulders.
Below are ten examples of compound shoulder exercises to add to your shoulder workout routine and target multiple muscle groups.
- Bench press: A bench press is an exercise that involves lying on a bench and pressing a barbell or dumbbells up toward the ceiling. A bench press functions as a compound exercise that engages the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
- Arnold press: We discuss the Arnold press in-depth earlier in the article, but the exercise also functions as a compound exercise because it targets the three heads of the deltoids as well as the biceps, triceps, and trap—making it a highly effective compound exercise to add to your shoulder workout routine.
- Overhead press: An overhead press is a popular compound shoulder exercise that shouldn’t be confused with an Arnold press. The overhead press serves as a compound exercise because it targets the front and side deltoids in the shoulders, while also engaging the triceps and upper back muscles.
- Front raise: The front raise is a compound exercise that engages the delts, the upper chest, and the triceps. You may do the exercise while holding a pair of dumbbells or other equipment and lifting them to your shoulder height.
- Pike push-up: The pike push-up incorporates the pike position and a push-up. We consequently categorize the exercise as a compound exercise because the combination helps to target multiple muscle groups, including the shoulders.
- Seated dumbbell press: The seated dumbbell press is both a shoulder workout and a compound exercise. The motion incorporates a bench and pressing a pair of dumbbells overhead to engage muscles in the chest, shoulder, upper arms, and back.
- Barbell upright row: The barbell upright row is a traditional upright row. The exercise is an effective addition to compound shoulder exercises because it targets the shoulders, particularly the side deltoids, while also engaging the upper back and biceps.
- T-bar row: The t-bar row consists of lifting a barbell to the chest in a neutral grip. T-bar rows are a type of compound exercise because they work multiple muscle groups at the same time. This primarily includes the upper back and shoulder muscles, as well as the biceps, forearms, and core.
- Handstand push-ups: Handstand push-ups are a shoulder bodyweight exercise that also functions as a compound exercise. Doing a push-up while in a handstand significantly challenges the shoulders, chest, and triceps.
- Supported incline dumbbell row: The supported incline dumbbell row refers to a pulling exercise that involves moving the weight from a lower position to a higher position. The incline bench provides support, allowing you to target multiple muscle groups in the arms, back, biceps, forearms, and core.
Be sure to maintain proper form while attempting any of the exercises listed above. Pace yourself appropriately and scale up intensity via repetitions or heavier weights as you become more adept at the exercise, allowing for adequate rest and avoiding overtraining throughout. You can also try out alternative exercises if the compound shoulder exercises are strenuous, difficult, or otherwise inaccessible.
What are the best compound shoulder exercise alternatives?
The four best alternatives to compound shoulder exercises are listed below.
- Cable exercises: Cable exercises employ cables to provide resistance and variety while also targeting multiple muscle groups in the shoulders, arms, and upper back. Examples include cable rows and cable flys.
- Resistance band exercises: Resistance band exercises function as a compound shoulder exercise because they’re highly adaptable. The band creates great tension, helping to engage the shoulders and other muscle groups in the arms and upper back.
- Dumbbell exercises: Dumbbell exercises, like the seated dumbbell press we discussed in the above list, often help to engage multiple muscle groups in the shoulders, arms, and upper back.
- Bodyweight exercises: Bodyweight exercises are a class of alternatives that can function as compound exercises. You can effectively challenge and provide resistance to multiple groups through your body weight alone (as exemplified by the aforementioned pike push-ups and handstand push-ups).
8. Overhead press variations
Overhead press variations refer to shoulder workouts that modify the basic overhead press exercise. The overhead press is a compound exercise that affects the deltoids, trapezius, triceps, and serratus anterior muscles. Variations of the overhead press exercise promote upper body strength and stability. The key action performed during overhead press variations is lifting the weight overhead, either with both hands together or with each hand separately. The arms are extended above the head while keeping the palms facing forward throughout the motion. Overhead press variations offer several benefits to your shoulder workout routine, including increased shoulder and upper-body strength, improved muscle balance, enhanced core stability, and functional upper-body movement.
Boost your shoulder workouts with the following overhead press variations.
- Arnold press: We’ve discussed the Arnold press before, but it’s also a good overhead press variation because it emphasizes a greater range of motion. Arnold presses involve rotating the palms of the hands from a neutral grip to a supinated grip as you extend the dumbbells overhead. The movement engages the entire shoulder muscle group, including the lateral deltoids—further emphasizing its qualities as a good overhead press variation.
- Dumbbell shoulder press: A dumbbell shoulder press is an effective overhead press variation because it addresses muscle imbalances. Holding two dumbbells allows you to strengthen your weaker side while avoiding dominance by the stronger side. Start with dumbbells above your shoulders, elbows bent at 90-degree angles. Exhale as you push the weights overhead, keeping your core engaged and avoiding leaning back or using your legs. Inhale as you lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
- Z Press: The Z press intensifies the seated overhead press by eliminating the bench. You must engage your core and stabilizer muscles to perform the exercise. The Z press is performed with barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells. Sit with legs extended, engage the upper back, press the weight overhead, lock the arms, and lower the weight back down.
- Strict press: The strict press is an overhead press variation that’s also known as the military press. The variation is done with proper form, consisting of feet hip-width apart, locked knees and hips, and hands outside shoulders. Remember to inhale, brace your core, and press the bar overhead in a straight line from your wrist to your elbow. Keep your core engaged and knees slightly bent throughout the movement for optimal results.
- Barbell push press: The barbell push press is a variation that engages the legs to help generate momentum to press the barbell upward. Benefits of this overhead press variation include improved arm power and overall shoulder strength.
- Pin press: A pin press works as an overhead press variation due to the movement involved. You perform the exercise by starting from a dead stop, with the barbell resting on pins in a power rack. You then lift the weight and descend it with measured control onto the rack. Pin presses engage all your shoulder muscles and help sharpen stability.
- Single arm landmine press: The single arm landmine press serves as a variation that calls for a landmine attachment and a single barbell. You proceed to do the movement similar to how you would do a standard landmine press, raising and slowly descending the barbell with one arm to promote unilateral strength.
- Seated barbell overhead press: A seated barbell overhead is an overhead press variation that isolates the shoulder and upper back muscles, relying solely on upper body strength. You perform the shoulder workout on a bench in a squat or power rack, sitting with back support with feet flat on the ground. Next, press the bar overhead, lock the elbows at the top, and exhale on the descent.
- Trap bar press: A trap bar press is a suitable overhead press variation because it modifies the regular movements of an overhead press and exchanges them with a trap bar. It’s also a good option for individuals with shoulder injuries or limitations that prevent them from doing other variations.
- Single arm kettlebell overhead press: The single arm kettlebell overhead press is a suitable variation if you lack barbells or dumbbells. The exercise strengthens the core and addresses weaknesses, as it requires stability and balance while lifting one arm overhead. Start in a front-racked position, exhale as you press the kettlebell up, and inhale on the descent.
Overpress variations safely incorporate into your routine by following three tips. First, select an appropriate weight for your fitness level. Second, be sure to allow for good rest and recovery. Finally, warm up adequately, maintain good posture, engage the core, and listen to your body to avoid overexertion or injury.
Overhead press variations should be done by gym goers with a good understanding of proper form, adequate stability, and sufficient strength in the shoulder, core, and upper body. Readers with shoulder pain or injuries should consult with a physician prior to attempting overhead press variations. Beginners may also want to start with lighter weights, focusing on perfecting their form and technique before progressing to heavier weights.
What are the best overhead press alternatives?
Below are two examples of alternative exercises that target the same shoulder muscle groups as overhead presses.
- Pike push-up: A pike push-up is a bodyweight exercise that mimics the pressing motion by placing the emphasis on the shoulders and engaging the triceps and core. Pike push-ups are a challenging shoulder workout option for people without access to weights.
- Handstand push-up: A handstand push-up is an advanced exercise that requires a strong upper body and core stability. By performing push-ups while upside down, you challenge the shoulders, triceps, and core in a unique way.
How to increase your overhead press
You increase your overhead press by perfecting your form, progressively overloading the weight, and focusing on strength and hypertrophy. Start by positioning your feet hip-width apart, bracing your core, and pressing the barbell vertically overhead while maintaining a straight line from wrist to elbow. Gradually increase the weight you lift over time to challenge your muscles and promote strength gains. Incorporate compound exercises into your training regimens, such as bench presses, military presses, and push-ups, to engage multiple muscle groups. Include both low-repetition, high-intensity sets, and higher-repetition sets for muscle growth and endurance. Additionally, warm up adequately, prioritize core stability, and always allow for sufficient rest and recovery to improve overhead press.
Follow the seven steps below to increase your overhead press.
- Brace your core: Proper core engagement and trunk stability are crucial for a strong overhead press. Tuck your pelvis, brace your core, and maintain a neutral spine to enhance stability and strength.
- Avoid a wide grip: Opt for a narrow grip over a wide grip because the latter disrupts your movement. Employ a narrow grip and keep your elbows tucked close to the body to maintain proper alignment and prevent injuries. Stack your wrists with knuckles facing the ceiling for optimal form.
- Increase reps: Vary your training by focusing on volume rather than weight. Increase reps while reducing weight to continue building strength and overload the muscles.
- Do stand-alone training: Consider dedicating a separate training session solely to the overhead press to avoid fatigue from other upper body exercises and maximize your progress.
- Incorporate accessory exercises: Incorporate accessory exercises like pull-ups, push presses, seated dumbbell shoulder presses, and Turkish get-ups to target and strengthen the muscles involved in the overhead press.
- Utilize fractional plates: Employ fractional plates to make small weight increments when progress stalls. Small increases can add up over time and help overcome plateaus in your overhead press.
- Prioritize health: You should always prioritize your health while improving any exercise, including overhead presses. Warm up properly with dynamic movements and focus on mobility training to improve flexibility, prevent injuries, and maintain shoulder health throughout your overhead press journey.
Increasing overhead presses provides benefits such as increasing upper body strength, functional movement, and shoulder stability but only if conducted safely. Start with proper form and gradually progress the weight to safely increase your overhead press. Warm up before each session and use appropriate weights that challenge you without compromising form. Listen to your body, and if you experience pain or discomfort, reduce the weight or seek guidance. Always allow for adequate rest and recovery between sessions to prevent injuries during your overhead press.
What is a shoulder superset workout?
A shoulder superset workout is a high-intensity routine involving two or more consecutive exercises that activate the same shoulder muscle groups. Shoulder superset workouts target the three major muscles of the shoulder—the deltoid, trapezius, and rotator cuff. The goal of a superset workout is to maximize the effect of each exercise and create a greater challenge for muscles. Doing so leads to faster results and improved strength. Furthermore, supersets allow you to perform more reps in a shorter period, unlike in traditional sets. Performing shoulder supersets consequently allows your muscles to work harder and break down faster.
The following are four superset shoulder workouts to consider.
- Standing military press and barbell upright row: Barbell upright rows and standing military presses create an effective superset shoulder workout by targeting different aspects of the shoulder muscles. Upright rows engage the lateral deltoid and upper back. Meanwhile, military presses target the anterior deltoid, triceps, and upper chest. Incorporating both exercises in a superset optimizes shoulder development and maximizes workout efficiency.
- Seated dumbbell shoulder press and alternating dumbbell front raise: The seated dumbbell press primarily engages the anterior deltoid, while the alternating dumbbell front raises focus on the medial deltoid. Combining the two exercises in a superset routine enhances shoulder strength and definition for well-rounded shoulder training.
- Kettlebell push press and half-kneeling landmine press: Kettlebell push press and half-kneeling landmine press are dynamic shoulder exercises. The kettlebell push press involves explosively pressing a kettlebell overhead, using the legs and hips for power. Meanwhile, the half-kneeling landmine press focuses on unilateral shoulder pressing while in a half-kneeling position, engaging core stability and shoulder strength. Including both exercises as a superset helps to build shoulder muscle and improves upper body strength and stability.
- Cable single-arm lateral raises and rear delt fly machine: Cable single-arm lateral raises engage the lateral deltoid, helping shape and define the shoulders. Meanwhile, the rear delt fly machine specifically targets the rear deltoid, improving posture and creating a balanced shoulder appearance. Taking advantage of both exercises as part of your superset routine enhances shoulder strength and aesthetics due to their combined benefits.
Individuals who perform the above exercises back-to-back maximize the intensity and effectiveness of their shoulder workout. Gym goers consequently gain several benefits, including but not limited to increased muscle activation, improved muscular endurance, and time efficiency. However, you must safely perform shoulder supersets to benefit from and prevent injury.
Choose exercises that target different muscle groups within the shoulders, such as combining a compound exercise like the barbell overhead press with an isolation exercise like lateral raises. Start with lighter weights and focus on maintaining proper form throughout the superset.
Superset workouts are ideal for increasing the intensity of their shoulder training if you have no underlying shoulder or joint issues. If you’re new to working out, have existing shoulder injuries, or suffer from any medical conditions, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional or expert fitness trainer before including shoulder superset workouts in your routine. Safety should always be a top priority for your health and fitness journey.
What are the best home shoulder workouts?
The best home shoulder workouts are exercises that help build strength and definition of the shoulders without any special equipment or a gym membership. Home shoulder exercises help strengthen and define all shoulder muscle groups depending on the type of workout. The most common home shoulder exercises, such as shoulder presses, lateral raises, and flys, help increase strength in all areas of the shoulders. The exercises employ either bodyweight, dumbbells, or resistance bands for more advanced levels of difficulty.
Five examples of the best home shoulder workouts are as follows.
- Pike push-up: The pike push-up is a powerful, modified version of the classic push-up that specifically targets the shoulders. Pike push-ups provide an effective upper-body home workout by focusing on the anterior deltoid and lateral deltoid muscles.
- Inverted rows: Inverted rows are a versatile home exercise that targets the rear shoulder head, traps, and back muscles. You can perform the exercise using a bedsheet over a table if you don’t have a bar or TRX.
- Neutral grip pull-up: Pull-ups are effective calisthenic exercises that target the back and shoulder muscles. Wide grip pull-ups emphasize the posterior head, while a neutral grip activates the front deltoid. If you don’t have a bar at home, you can perform pull-ups on the monkey bars at a local playground.
- Upright dumbbell rows: Upright dumbbell rows effectively target the anterior and posterior heads of the shoulders, along with the traps. Hold dumbbells with an overhand grip to perform the exercise. Lift the dumbbells while keeping your elbows close to your torso, and pause when your elbows reach shoulder height.
- Prone ITWYs: Prone ITWYs are a type of home workout that strengthens and protects your shoulders for optimal performance by moving through different positions. You begin the workout by lying face down on the floor or a bench. Next, extend your arms overhead and move them outward and diagonally to complete the positions. Perform the exercise with slow and controlled movements, optionally adding light weights or water bottles for added intensity.
Home shoulder workouts are beneficial for anyone looking to improve their overall strength, mobility, and posture in a home environment. For example, the listed exercises above target the deltoid muscles in the shoulders, as well as the rhomboids, trapezius, and other supporting muscles in the back. Targeting these muscles helps to achieve stronger shoulders, backs, and upper body muscles. That said, readers with existing shoulder injuries should consult a doctor before engaging in any type of upper-body exercise program.
The variety of exercises you can perform at home depends heavily on the equipment you have available. While it may be difficult to replicate a fully equipped gym environment, there are plenty of effective exercises done with minimal equipment or even using body weight alone. Resistance bands, dumbbells, and even household objects may be creatively utilized to target the shoulder muscles while performing upper body exercises.
What shoulder workouts can you do with no equipment?
The shoulder workouts you can do with no equipment primarily consist of body-weight exercises. Bodyweight shoulder workouts, also known as equipment-free shoulder workouts, utilize the resistance and weight of your own body to effectively target and strengthen the shoulder muscles.
Five of the best no-equipment shoulder workouts are highlighted below.
- Push-ups: Push-ups are a classic exercise that targets the entire shoulder complex, including the anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids. Start in a plank position and lower your body by bending your elbows, then push back up.
- Pike push-ups: Pike push-ups are a variation of push-ups that place more emphasis on the shoulders. Get into a downward dog position, with your hips elevated and legs straight. Lower your upper body towards the floor by bending your elbows, then push back up.
- Arm circles: The arm circle exercise targets all three deltoid muscles. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms out to the sides. Make small circles with your arms, gradually increasing the size of the circles.
- Plank taps: Engage your shoulder muscles and core stability with plank taps. Start in a high plank position and alternate tapping your shoulder with the opposite hand while maintaining a stable core.
- Pike shoulder press: Begin in a pike position, similar to a downward dog. Lower your head towards the ground by bending your elbows, then press back up to the starting position.
No-equipment shoulder workouts offer a convenient and accessible way to effectively engage and strengthen your shoulder muscles. To add them safely to your routine, start with practicing proper form and gradually progressing while listening to your body. Always allow for proper rest and recovery between exercises.
Equipment-free shoulder workouts are also generally suitable for individuals of all fitness levels. However, beginners and gym goers with pre-existing shoulder conditions or injuries should exercise cautiously as any exercise, especially those done incorrectly, can aggravate or cause further injuries.
What are the best teres major and minor exercises?
Teres major and minor exercises are shoulder workouts that target the stabilizing muscle of the latissimus dorsi and a part of the rotator cuff. The teres major and minor are two small muscles located on the upper back near the shoulder blades. The muscles allow for external rotation of the humerus and adduction of the arms at the shoulder joint, which helps maintain correct posture, stability, and mobility. The teres major muscle functions to internally rotate and adduct the arm toward the midline of the body, while the teres minor muscle is responsible for the external rotation of the shoulder. Working on teres major and minor muscles helps reduce any pain or discomfort in the neck and shoulder area.
Teres major and minor exercises include a variety of different movements. For example, some of the most common exercises that help target these muscles include shoulder rotations, internal and external shoulder rows, reverse flys, and pull-ups. Below are several beneficial exercises to consider if you’re looking to target and strengthen the teres major and minor muscles.
- Face pulls: We’ve previously discussed face pulls as cable shoulder workouts, but they should be considered for teres major and minor exercises as well. Including face pulls in your workout strengthens the shoulders, rhomboids, and teres minor muscles. The exercise is done by attaching a rope to a cable machine at shoulder height. Grab hold of both ends of the rope, take a step back to create tension, and exhale as you pull the rope towards your face.
- Dumbbell pullover: Dumbbell pullovers are performed by lying on a bench and holding a dumbbell with both hands. You then extend the dumbbell overhead and lower the weight behind the head. This exercise boosts upper body strength by targeting the chest, lats, and the teres major and minor muscles.
- Inverted row: Incorporating inverted rows into your shoulder workouts consists of lying under a bar or suspension trainer. You then pull your body up towards the bar or handles in controlled movements, focusing on the teres major and minor muscles, as well as the upper back and biceps with every pull.
- Single arm dumbbell rows: Single arm dumbbell rows target your teres major workout and strengthen the muscle and its synergy with your lats. Grab a dumbbell, hinge at your hips, and place your other hand on a bench. Retract your scapula, bend your elbow to pull the dumbbell toward your hip, and inhale as you return to the starting position, retracting your scapula for full shoulder motion.
- Dumbbell rear delt fly: Dumbbell rear delt flyes are beneficial for teres minor workouts because they improve your shoulder range of motion and external rotation. Remember to use light dumbbells to avoid strain and maintain focus on the rear delts and teres minor. Hold the weights with palms inward, hinge at the hips, and exhale while opening your arms to the sides. Retract and squeeze your shoulders, then inhale and return to the starting position.
- Straight arm cable pulldown: A straight arm cable pulldown is an example of a cable shoulder workout that strengthens the teres major and minor muscles, as well as other areas. To do the exercise, stand in front of a cable machine and pull the cable down towards the thighs with straight arms.
- Underhand grip lat pulldown: The underhand grip lat pulldown is a type of lat pulldown that benefits the teres major and minor muscles. You start by sitting at a lat pulldown machine and then pulling the bar down towards the chest with an underhand grip.
- Dumbbell Cuban press: Dumbbell Cuban presses refer to exercises where you stand with dumbbells at shoulder height. You then proceed to rotate the arms outward and press the dumbbells overhead. The dumbbell Cuban press strengthens both the teres major and minor muscles and the cuff muscles—boosting upper body strength overall.
- Single-arm seated cable row: Single-arm seated cable rows are a type of shoulder exercise that enhances the isolation of the shoulder and upper back. Sit upright on a cable machine bench, grasp the handle with your palm inward, and follow three steps. First, exhale while retracting your scapula. Second, bend the elbow to pull the handle toward your hip. Third, inhale and return to the starting position, retracting your scapula for a complete exercise.
- Resistance band horizontal rotations: Including resistance band horizontal rotations in your teres minor workout helps strengthen the muscle and promote shoulder health. The exercise is done as part of a warm-up or standalone exercise. Use a light resistance band, create tension, raise your arm to a 90-degree angle, exhale while rotating your upper arm downward, and inhale as you return to the starting position.
Teres major and minor workouts are important for developing strong and functional shoulder muscles. Strengthening the teres major and minor muscles helps improve shoulder stability, posture, and overall upper body strength. You can incorporate teres major and minor workouts safely by starting with proper form and using appropriate resistance or weights for your fitness level. Additionally, you should only gradually increase the intensity and weight as your strength improves as it may otherwise lead to injury.
Teres major and minor alternatives
Not everyone can or should do the exercises we’ve listed above due to health reasons or personal limitations. That said, the teres major and minor muscles benefit from different angles with alternative exercises. Below are three alternative teres major and minor exercises that promote balanced strength development and overall shoulder health.
- Lat pull-down: Sit at a lat pulldown machine and grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Pull the bar down towards your chest, while keeping your elbows pointed downward to perform a lat pull-down.
- Prone shoulder extension: You perform prone shoulder extensions by lying face-down on an incline bench and holding a pair of dumbbells. Lift the dumbbells out to your sides, keeping your arms straight, until they reach shoulder level.
- Cable internal rotations: Stand sideways to a cable machine with your arm at your side, and grasp the handle with your hand. Rotate your forearm across your body against the resistance to complete a cable internal rotation.
What are the best shoulder workouts for pain?
The best shoulder workouts for pain are exercises that promote stability, mobility, and proper alignment. Shoulder workouts for pain are exercises that target shoulder muscles and ligaments to relieve and prevent pain. Examples include wall slides, arm circles, and isometric shoulder holds. Such exercises focus on strengthening, stretching, and improving flexibility of the shoulder area.
Targeting shoulder pain requires workouts that primarily focus on the rotator cuff muscles, which include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. The movements conducted during pain-relieving shoulder workouts typically involve controlled and gentle exercises. The most effective pain-relieving shoulder workouts include the following five examples.
- Arm circles: Arm circles involve making circular movements with the arms, both forward and backward. The exercise helps improve shoulder mobility, increase blood flow, and reduce muscle tension, providing relief from shoulder pain.
- Isometric holds: Isometric hold exercises involve holding a static position without joint movement, typically at various angles, to engage and strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. The exercise promotes stability and helps alleviate pain.
- Postural exercises: Correcting postural imbalances through postural exercises helps relieve shoulder pain. For example, wall slides are a type of postural exercise performed by standing with your back against a wall, and sliding your arms up and down the wall in a controlled manner. The exercise helps strengthen the muscles of the upper back and shoulders—while promoting proper posture and alignment.
- Shoulder flexion and extension: Controlled movements of raising the arm forward (shoulder flexion) and backward (shoulder extension) are performed to enhance the range of motion, strengthen the shoulder muscles, and alleviate pain.
- Scapular retraction and depression: Movements that focus on retracting the shoulder blades (bringing them together) and depressing them (downward movement) are called scapular retraction and depression. The exercises help improve posture, stabilize the shoulder girdle, and alleviate pain caused by improper alignment.
Performing the targeted workouts listed above helps strengthen your shoulders, and alleviate and prevent pain and injury. Keep three tips in mind while conducting the listed exercises. First, prioritize exercises that use the rotator cuff muscles around your shoulder joint. Doing so will benefit your shoulder health and prevent pain.
Second, hold your movement to make your shoulder muscles strong and stable. Postural exercises sometimes require you to hold your movements which will help reduce shoulder pain. Furthermore, postural exercises involve strengthening the upper back muscles and stretching chest muscles, which will improve posture, so it won’t hurt as much in your shoulders.
Third, pay attention to your limitations and consider any existing conditions or injuries before attempting pain-relieving shoulder workouts. The shoulder workouts mentioned in the list above should be done by gymgoers who experience shoulder pain due to improper alignment. However, the exercises should not be done by anyone with an existing shoulder injury or medical condition that could affect your performance. You should seek medical advice before incorporating pain-relieving shoulder workouts into your regimen.
What are the best shoulder workouts for men?
The best shoulder workouts for men typically focus on building muscle mass and a broad, V-shaped upper body. These include supersets, overhead press variations, teres major and minor exercises, and workouts designed to reduce pain. An effective shoulder workout helps build strength, stability, and flexibility in the shoulders, as well as improve posture and reduce injury risk.
The following is a list of five of the best shoulder exercises for men.
- Arnold press: The Arnold press exercise engages all three deltoid heads. It involves rotating the palms from a neutral grip to a pronated grip as you press dumbbells overhead.
- Upright rows: Upright rows primarily target the lateral deltoid and also engage the traps. The exercise involves lifting a barbell or dumbbell close to the body, leading with the elbows.
- Barbell shoulder press: The barbell shoulder press is a compound exercise that targets the entire shoulder complex, including the anterior, medial, and posterior deltoid. The exercise also engages the triceps and upper chest muscles.
- Dumbbell lateral raises: Lateral raises isolate the medial deltoid, which helps in achieving broader and more well-defined shoulders. The exercise involves lifting dumbbells out to the sides while keeping the arms straight.
- Bent over dumbbell reverse flys: Reverse flys target the rear deltoid, helping to improve posture and create a balanced shoulder appearance. You activate the posterior deltoid by bending forward and lifting dumbbells to the sides.
There is no significant difference between the listed shoulder exercises and other types of shoulder workouts for men and women. The shoulder muscles are the same for both genders because the exercises that target these muscles are generally similar. However, individual variations in strength, flexibility, and fitness goals may lead to variations in exercise selection, intensity, and progression. It’s important for both men and women to focus on proper form, gradually increase the intensity and weight, and listen to their body’s limitations and capabilities. The effectiveness of shoulder exercises ultimately depends on individual factors, not gender.
What are the best shoulder workouts for women?
The best shoulder workouts for women typically prioritize creating a balanced, toned physique rather than achieving as much mass as possible. That said, women’s shoulder workouts are similar to those for men because there’s no distinct difference between men’s and women’s shoulder muscles–just their goals. Effective shoulder exercises for women include barbell shoulder press, dumbbell lateral raises, and upright rows. These exercises target the different heads of the deltoid and help build strength, stability, and flexibility in the shoulders. Women need to focus on proper form, gradually increase the intensity of the exercises, and listen to their body’s capabilities to achieve the desired results.
Five of the best shoulder exercises for women are as follows.
- Lateral raises: Lateral raises focus on the medial deltoid, which contributes to broader and well-defined shoulders. Hold dumbbells by your sides with palms facing inward. Lift the dumbbells out to the sides, keeping your arms straight, until they are parallel to the ground. Lower them back down with control.
- Arnold press: The Arnold press exercise engages all three heads of the deltoid. Start with dumbbells at shoulder level, palms facing you. Rotate your palms away from your body until they face forward as you press the weights overhead. Reverse the motion on the way down.
- Dumbbell shoulder press: A dumbbell shoulder press exercise targets the entire shoulder complex and is performed seated or standing. Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder level, palms facing forward, and press them overhead until your arms are fully extended. Lower back down to complete one rep.
- Front raises: Front raises primarily target the anterior deltoid. Hold dumbbells in front of your thighs with palms facing your body. Lift the dumbbells forward until they reach shoulder level while keeping your arms straight. Lower them back down under control.
- Bent-over reverse flyes: The bent-over reverse fly exercise targets the rear deltoid, helping to improve posture and balance out the shoulders. Bend forward at the hips with a slight bend in your knees in order to perform the exercise. Hold dumbbells with palms facing each other and lift them out to the sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower the weights back down.