There’s really nothing better than seeing your shoulders widen and bulk up after repeated workout sessions. Shoulder exercises can bring you even closer to that V-shaped neckline that’s oh-so desirable, but it can also keep you safer and make other workouts a little bit easier.
Adding some definition to your shoulders can help you build a better body, but only if you know what you’re doing. The best shoulder exercises target your delts, but they don’t forget about the other muscles that compose your upper body.
Here are some of our favorites so you can be the center of focus during your next gym trip.
The Importance of Shoulder Exercises
Think about how often you use your arms for everyday tasks. Opening the fridge, waving hey to a friend, or reaching up to grab a bowl from the top shelf are all actions that are impossible without our friendly shoulder joint.
Strengthening your shoulder helps keep this joint stable, which can relieve existing pain and prevent injury from occurring in the future. Shoulder exercises can also increase this joint’s flexibility, which will help reduce soreness and give you a broader range of motion in this area.
The main muscles you’re probably going to be activating in most shoulder exercises are the deltoids, which cover the front, back, and top of the shoulder joint.
However, many of these exercises activate the trapezius muscles too, which cover your upper back and the area between the shoulder and the neck. Not to mention, you’ll be getting a lot of movement in your biceps and triceps as well.
It means you’re getting some full upper body exercises while you focus your attention on the shoulders. Let’s get to work.
How to Mold Bolder Shoulders
The first set of a shoulder exercise is often deceptively easy. These muscles can become fatigued pretty quickly, so you want to make sure you’re taking adequate breaks and using a realistic weight to properly complete them.
You knew this one was coming, but it’s because it’s one of the best workouts to target your shoulders specifically. Often called the overhead press, this is a fun workout because of how many variations it can use. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. You can also choose to sit on a bench if you’re using dumbbells.
- Keep the weights on your front shoulders with your hands next to the shoulders.
- Press the weights over your head, nearly locking your elbows at the top.
- Slowly return the weights back down to the starting position.
- For an added challenge: Using the Gorilla Bow, perform a bow twist when the bar returns to the starting position to work your obliques and core. Then, take it back up to your shoulder press.
You can also perform a shoulder press on an incline bench to activate more of your chest. Also, you can use dumbbells and do single-hand overhead presses where you just focus on one arm at a time.
Additionally, you can take this into a push press by dropping it down to a squat and using the momentum on your way up to push the weight up towards the sky. This is a great explosive variation that incorporates some cardio.
Shoulder presses are great exercises for really toughening up the deltoids, but you also get some great tricep action and trap action too.
When we say that shoulder workouts are deceptively easy, this is a quintessential example. While the movement is extremely simple to perform, it’s very difficult to perfect. You’ll need either a dumbbell, hand weight, or medicine ball for this one.
To execute a front raise:
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and hold your weight at your hips in front of you.
- Retracting your shoulder blades, lift the weight to shoulder level, trying not to bend your elbows.
- Lower the weight steadily.
- For an added challenge: You can incorporate your delts and hamstrings into this exercise by taking it down to a squat when you bring the weight to the starting position. At the apex of your squat, perform the front raise, and repeat.
Front raises target the front of your shoulders, or the anterior deltoid, which is a muscle used in shoulder flexion. However, these also work the biceps and activate your traps.
Lateral Raises / Flys
Lateral raises, also called flys, are one of the most versatile upper body workouts because of how many ways you can add some variation. We’ll start with a standing lateral raise to get your bearings:
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the weights at your sides and lift the weights up until your arms are parallel to the floor, elbows slightly bent. Keep your back straight and core tight.
- Slowly lower back down to your sides.
- For an added challenge: You can use resistance bands to perform this exercise a bit differently. Detach the band from your Gorilla Bow and wrap the ends around your hands for stability. Hold it straight out in front of you. While keeping your arms straight, pull both ends of the band away from each other until your arms are straight out at your sides.
You can also do a lateral raise while seated on a flat or incline bench to really engage your chest muscles in addition to your anterior deltoids. Or, you can do a reverse dumbbell fly by hinging your hips behind you and keeping your spine at a 45-degree angle with the floor. This focuses more on your posterior, or back, deltoid as well as your traps.
Lateral raises can really be done in so many different ways, and mastering different techniques will open up tons of new options in your workout so you’ll never get tired of the same old routine.
Become a master of nonverbally saying “I don’t know” by perfecting the shoulder shrug. This is a great workout that requires a limited range of motion despite being extremely effective.
To do a shoulder shrug:
- Feet shoulder-width apart. Hold your dumbbells at your side, or stand on the resistance band portion of your Gorilla Bow. Keep the bar at your thighs.
- Keeping your arms straight, engage your shoulders and traps, slowly shrugging them up and down. Focus on squeezing your back and shoulders into your neck.
So what we mean? Two steps are all it takes, but it’s much easier said than done. You’re going to want to use high weights on this one, so break out those fifty-pound dumbbells or throw on some added resistance bands.
Lat pulldowns are another one of those workouts that gives some love to every muscle, particularly the posterior deltoid and your back muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi (hence the name of the workout).
You usually need a pulldown machine to complete this exercise, but not if you’ve got your Gorilla Bow handy. Just find a sturdy place to attach the band, like a tree branch or pole.
And then, you can do this:
- Kneeling on the ground, or sitting on a bench, hold the bar with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Pull the bar straight down to your chest. Focus on squeezing the back of your shoulders and tighten your lower back.
- Slowly bring the bar back up to starting position.
You can also do this while standing. Thrust your glutes back and keep your spine straight, then pull the bar down at a 45-degree angle. Instead of pulling the bar to your chest, pull it down to your thighs. This variation will engage your lower back a little bit more than the traditional lat pulldown.
The Cool Down
Boulder shoulders aren’t just for making you look your best. Having strong deltoids can help prevent injury and make your shoulders more flexible in the long run. You can strengthen this area with a number of really great exercises.
To primarily target your shoulders, front raises and shoulder presses are staples for a good reason. But if you’re looking for something that can help accomplish a bit more of a total body feel, then lateral raises and lat pulldowns are fantastic options to work your back and core.
You can also incorporate tons of different exercises in addition to your shoulder workouts with the Gorilla Bow. Learn new techniques and follow guided lessons with an All-Access Membership that gives you access to live and pre-recorded classes, as well as some health and wellness tips to get you even closer to that perfect bod.