Shoulder workouts are a crucial component of any good fitness routine. Not only will the right shoulder exercises do wonders in helping you achieve those fitness goal – as well as the inverted Dorito / Tom Hardy in Warrior build – but also keep things interesting at the gym. Stronger shoulders also mean you’re less likely to sustain a training-related injury from regularly hitting the iron church. Here’s what you need to know about the best shoulder exercises for men.
What are the different shoulder muscles?
By comparison, shoulder muscles are one of the easier muscle groups to develop through the right exercises. With a little direction and consistency, you can expect relatively fast gains. But it’s important to employ a varied routine that targets all the different regions.
From your traps to your cluster of rotator cuff muscles, there are about 20 distinct muscles which all play a part in stabilising the shoulder and controlling its movements. The most fundamental ones include:
This muscle connects your two shoulders in the back and extends to support your neck. It runs all the way down to just before your lower back.
- Deltoid muscles
The deltoids are a set of three muscles. These thin layers of tissue connect your shoulder to your chest. You’ll find the anterior deltoid between your chest and shoulder, your lateral deltoid on top of your shoulder, as well as your posterior deltoid between your upper arm and shoulder blades.
- Pectoralis major
You may be more familiar with these muscles as pecs. Your pectoralis major is a large muscle that covers your chest and connects it to your shoulder.
- Rhomboid major
The rhomboid major is a back muscle that connects your shoulder blades together with your spine.
- Serratus Anterior
You can find this muscle on the side of your chest, directly underneath your armpit.
- Rotator cuff
The rotator cuff muscles are a collection of four components. The function of rotator cuff muscles is to support articulation between your arm and shoulder.
Top 10 Best Shoulder Exercises for Men
The following shoulder exercises are some of the best techniques for bulking up various shoulder muscles. According to the experts, you’ll get better results if you perform two to six sets of ten, increasing weight, reps, and sets as you build muscle mass.
Avoid working on your shoulder muscles two days in a row as the body will need time for recovery and muscle building. Consume some protein before and after a shoulder workout and make sure you introduce some carbs during the recuperation period to support those gains.
Pushups are the ultimate shoulder workout, arguably one of the most fundamental ones for both strength and muscle building. Out of all the shoulder specific exercises, it’s the go-to and arguably the best. Bonus: you can do them practically anywhere without any equipment. There are, however, plenty of variations to try out.
The standard pushup almost needs no introduction – get down on all fours, extend your legs behind you, and lower your upper body. Hold this position for a few seconds and push yourself back up parallel to the floor.
As for those variations, here are some you can use to target different muscles:
- Incline pushup – use a bench or chair to elevate your body
- Push-back pushup – instead of raising your body straight off the ground, fold your knees to bring your body back into a frog-like posture
- Pike pushup – adopt an inverted V-shape instead of keeping your body straight
- Diamond pushup – place your hands close together in a diamond shape
- Wide pushup – keep your hands further apart (targets your pecs)
- Cross-body pushup – this is where you lift a leg and cross it above the other when lowering your body, which can be more challenging for your shoulders
- Staggered pushup – stagger your hands by moving one up about ten to fifteen centimetres away from your shoulder and the other down about ten to fifteen centimetres toward your waist
2. Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press – sometimes referred to as an incline dumbbell press – is a shoulder exercise that’s the cornerstone to any solid shoulder workout, targeting your upper pecs. Adjust your bench at a 45-degree angle and perform a standard shoulder press by lifting either a barbell or a dumbbell in each hand. Using this angle will engage the upper portion of your chest instead of the entire pectoral muscle and strengthen your chest’s connection to your shoulders.
3. Lateral Raise
Lateral raises are a versatile shoulder exercise that you can perform with a pair of dumbbells, resistance band, cable machine, or improvised weights like books or water bottles (and isn’t completely unlike a rear delt fly – more on this later). It’ll help you develop your lateral deltoid muscles and improve shoulder mobility.
To do a lateral raise stand up straight with your arms relaxed by your sides. With your pair of dumbbells in hand, resistance band, cable handle, or what have you and raise your arms until it forms a 90-degree angle with your body. Control your movement as you slowly lower the weight.
Combine the lateral raise with a set of front lateral raises – one arm or two -which targets your anterior deltoids. You can also perform a front raise with dumbbells, resistance bands, cable machines, and yes, you can perform a front raise another improvised weight. Stand straight with your arms relaxed by your sides. Raise your arms straight in front of you slowly. The resistance should engage your anterior deltoids.
And if you accomplish lateral raises bent 45-degrees over with a straight back, in a similar fashion to an upright row, you’re suddenly doing a rear delt fly.
4. Overhead Press
The overhead press – sometimes referred to as an overhead shoulder press – is the perfect shoulder exercise for any routine aiming to develop both strength and muscle mass. You can turn up the difficulty setting by using heavier weights. This one will target your deltoids, pectorals, trapezius, and triceps. Alternatively, you can also check out our guide on best triceps exercises for men.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart apart. Lift a barbell or dumbbells to shoulder level and perform an overhead shoulder press by raising the barbell or dumbbells over your head. Hold the weight above your head for a few seconds before gradually lowering in a controlled motion.
You can perform a variation called the military press. The military press is a shoulder training option you should consider if you’re an operator with a more advanced fitness level. This exercise will target your shoulders, back, and core.
This is similar to an overhead shoulder press, but instead of standing shoulder width apart, you’ll need to keep your feet together. With this stance, you’re forced to engage your core for more stability.
Get into the starting position by standing with your barbell tucked underneath your chin and your hands close to your shoulders and palms facing upwards. Extend your arms to raise the barbell above your head. Wait a few seconds before gradually lowering the barbell.
Also see: Arnold press here.
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5. Standing Cable Pulley Fly
The standing cable pulley fly is an excellent exercise for targeting your deltoid muscles and your chest. Use two cables at chest height and extend your arms to your sides while adopting a neutral posture.
Take a step forward and lower the weights slowly while letting your shoulders open up. Engage your pecs to make the lift.
You can try a variation of this exercise known as a reverse cable fly. Stand facing the cable machine, and reach across your body to grab two cables at shoulder height. Your arms should form a cross on your chest. Pull on the cables by extending your arms to the side while moving your shoulders back.
6. Crab Walk
The crab walk is a bodyweight exercise that targets your shoulder, core, arm, and leg muscles. The starting position is a seated one. Bridge your hips off the ground, bend your knees, and support yourself using your hands. The purpose of this exercise is to crawl by moving one hand along with the opposite foot and repeating on the other side. It’ll takes some practice to master, but it’s a worthy inclusion to to any full-body workout.
7. Prone T
The prone T is a shoulder exercise that improves stability. Lie belly down on a bench with your head, neck, and spine aligned. Let your arms hang loose in front of you before raising them to form a T. You can make this exercise more challenging by throwing some small weights into the mix.
A variant of this exercise is called a prone Y. Instead of raising your arms laterally, raise them above your head to form a Y or V shape.
8. Dumbbell Shoulder Push Press
Dumbbell shoulder push presses engage your deltoids and trapezius. This exercise also works your glutes, quads, and core. It’s a simple move to learn, which is why we definitely recommend it if you’re new to weight training.
Start by holding the dumbbells at shoulder level. Knees slightly bent, lower your torso as you exhale. Stand up straight and raise your arms above your head.
9. Cable Face Pulls
Cable face pulls target your lateral and posterior deltoids, teres minors, trapezius, and more.
Start by standing in front of a cable machine, cable in hand at shoulder height. Bring your elbows to a slight bend pull it towards your face in an upward motion.
10. Straight Arm Circles
Arm circles are a good way to warm up before a workout or to simply stretch yourself out and cool down after an intense shoulder workout session. It’s yet another simple exercise you can do anywhere, for instance, during a break at work or while watch Netflix.
Stand up straight and extend your arms to form a T shape. Form circles with your arms and widen these circles as time goes on until you achieve a full range of motion. Change direction after a few seconds.
Straight arm circles are also great for improving mobility. They can help you adopt a healthier posture by opening up your shoulders. If your goal is to develop muscle mass in your shoulders, it’s definitely important to add exercises like straight arm circles that allow you to preserve your mobility.
Now that you’ve read all about the best shoulder exercises for men, be sure to check out how to beat post-workout muscle soreness.