Beyond being an essential component of a complete workout routine, the best shoulder exercises for men get you one step closer to the desired V shape. Indeed, strengthening your deltas gives the appearance of a slimmer waist while adding definition to your overall physique. Also, studies have determined that shoulder exercises reduce pain and reduce the likelihood of future dislocations. When all is said and done, you want a better body and that alone is reason enough to jump ship.
If shoulder muscles are new to your workout, you’ll find that these muscles develop quite quickly compared to other parts of your body. However, this doesn’t mean that shoulder exercises are easy, many gym junkies dread shoulder day at the gym because the workout can be pretty intense…assuming you’re doing it right. To ensure that, we’re going to tell you about the top 13 best shoulder exercises for men, but first, let’s figure out what shoulder muscles are.
What are the different shoulder muscles?
Your shoulder muscles are divided into two separate groups: external muscles and internal muscles. The former stars are attached to the trunk and shoulder bones, while the latter begins above the upper body (scapula, clavicle) and connects with the humerus. You have a set of special muscles in both of these related groups. These are as follows:
External Shoulder Muscles
- Trapezius – Shaped like a triangle (as the name suggests), these shoulder muscles run down the spine and along the scapula, supporting your arm and shoulder as you lift. You have a trapezius muscle on both your left and right sides.
- Latissimus Dorsi -The name of this muscle means “the widest muscle in the back” and its physical structure stands as it should. More commonly known as your “lat” muscle (because who wants to say latissimus dorsi?), it helps with extension and internal rotation of each arm.
- Levator Scapula – As the name suggests, the levator scapula muscle helps raise the scapula bone (shoulder bone) that connects the humerus (upper arm bone) and clavicle (collarbone).
- Rhombuses – These rhomboid-shaped muscles are primarily responsible for the retraction of the scapula. They are located in the middle of your shoulder blades at the top of your back and are divided into left and right.
Intrinsic Shoulder Muscles
- Deltoids – Named after the Greek letter delta, this triangular muscle is located on the top of the shoulder. It is divided into three main muscle fibers: anterior, middle, and posterior, all connected by a thick tendon. The fact that shoulder exercises are more or less synonymous with working your delts shows how important this muscle really is. Accordingly, your deltas provide a foundation for things like arm rotation and injury prevention.
- Teres Major – This small muscle runs from the bottom of the shoulder joint to the back of the armpit. Due to his association with Latissimus dorsi, teres major earned him the nickname “lat’s little helper”.
- Rotator Cuff – If you’re wondering why your upper arm bone doesn’t come out of your shoulder socket on a regular basis, you should thank this group of muscles and tendons. Not surprisingly, the rotator cuff muscles surround the shoulder joint.
Top 13 Best Shoulder Exercises for Men
Now that we’ve done all of the “Gray’s Anatomy” on your shoulder muscles, it’s time to work those same muscles. From dumbbell shoulder press exercises to invert cable crossovers, you’ll find all the shoulder exercises you need below. A quick note: if you want to do a shoulder workout for the mass, you’ll want to start each routine with the most intense workouts. Without further ado, here are the best shoulder exercises for men.
1. Barbell Overhead Shoulder Press
A barbell overhead shoulder press (aka barbell standing shoulder press) works not only your shoulders but most of your body. This makes it a terrific core booster and mass builder, among other things. To start,
- Put your feet shoulder-width apart and tighten your abs while holding a barbell across your shoulders with your palms facing forward.
- Next, push the bar up and squeeze your shoulder blades at the apex.
- Lower steadily and carefully.
The push-up is the ultimate shoulder exercise, arguably one of the most essential for building both strength and muscle. Of all the shoulder-specific exercises, it’s the must-go and arguably the best. Bonus: You can make these practically anywhere without any equipment. However, there are plenty of variations to try.
Standard push-ups require almost no input – get down on all fours, stretch your legs behind you, and lower your upper body. Hold this position for a few seconds and push yourself up parallel to the floor.
As for these variations, here are some options you can use to target different muscles:
- Incline push-ups – use a bench or chair to elevate your body
- Push-back – instead of lifting your body directly off the ground, bend your knees to bring your body into a frog-like stance
- Pike pushup – adopt an inverted V shape instead of keeping your body straight
- Diamond push-ups – bring your hands closer together in a diamond shape
- Wide push-ups – keep hands apart (targets your pecs)
- Cross-body push-ups – This is where you raise one leg and cross over the other as you lower your body, which can be more challenging for your shoulders
- Staggered push-ups – stagger your hands by moving one about ten to fifteen centimeters above your shoulder and the other about ten to fifteen centimeters down towards your waist
3. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
A proper deltoid workout wouldn’t be complete without a seated dumbbell shoulder press. In fact, some say exercises with dumbbells are a deltoid regimen in itself, targeting the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoid muscles (with emphasis on the middle delts). Meanwhile, lifting two separate dumbbells (rather than using a machine) prevents you from using one side of your body over the other, thus providing tighter balance and distribution. Naturally, it takes a fair amount of coordination to achieve this, especially when you’re increasing the weights.
To do a seated dumbbell shoulder press,
- Sit on a low-backed bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward.
- Keeping your head and spine completely straight, raise the dumbbells above your head, stopping just before they touch each other at the top.
- Hold the position for a few seconds and then carefully reverse course. Repeat.
4. Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press sometimes referred to as the incline dumbbell press, is a shoulder exercise that is the cornerstone of any solid shoulder workout that targets your upper chest muscles. Set your bench at a 45-degree angle and do a standard shoulder press, lifting a barbell or dumbbell in both hands. Using this angle will engage your upper chest instead of your entire pectoral muscle, and will strengthen the connection between your chest and shoulders.
5. Front Raise
You can use a weight plate or barbell for this shoulder workout that targets the front deltas. Whatever you decide to use, prepare for some seriously intense time with one of the best shoulder exercises for the mass. Do not increase the weight to the maximum, as this will quickly turn healthy pain into unhealthy injury.
- Keep your hands at hip level while holding the weight in front of you.
- Your feet should be in line with your shoulders and your core should be tight.
- Next, pull your shoulder blades back and keep your arms straight as you raise the weight to shoulder level.
- Breathe regularly and carefully lower the weight.
6. Reverse Pec Deck Fly
This shoulder exercise targets your back delts and requires a pec deck machine. It’s also an excellent chest, back, and shoulder exercise to build mass. To start;
- Face the machine and position the seat so that the handles are at shoulder level on either side.
- Then, hold the handles with your palms facing inward.
- Tighten your torso and extend your arms out to the sides, pushing them all the way.
- Responsibly return to the starting position.
7. Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise
This insanely effective full shoulder workout targets your mid deltoids but also improves your overall physique. You can perform it standing (obliquely) or sitting.
- Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand, keeping your chest up, your back straight, your knees slightly bent, and your eyes focused on a fixed point on the floor.
- Now bend down until your core is basically parallel to the floor and hang the dumbbells directly below you while keeping your elbows in a slightly bent position.
- Next, lift the two dumbbells up and to the sides, creating an arc until your upper arms are in line with your torso.
- Take a short pause at the top before lowering the dumbbells back to the starting position.
8. Dumbbell Lateral Raise
If you prefer a more traditional lateral raise, look no further than this complete shoulder exercise. It likewise targets the middle deltoids and works wonders when applied properly.
- Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart, your abs tense, your chest up, your head straight, and your shoulders tucked. Hold the dumbbells on both sides, maintaining a neutral grip.
- Now, here comes the hard part. Using only your shoulders and arms, lift the dumbbells one notch above shoulder level.
- Hold for a few seconds.
- Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Your elbows and hands should move in harmony the entire time and you should be in a neutral, balanced position. If you notice that your core or neck changes as you perform each rep (i.e. you’re using your body’s momentum), reduce the weight accordingly.
9. Push Press
Part of heavy compound workouts, this shoulder exercise is not for novices. However, even experts often start out light (sometimes using nothing but a bar), adding weight as they progress. If you can master this, be prepared for it to appear almost anywhere on your body. The push press should be done in a standing position.
- Start by placing the barbell on your chest with your palms up, elbows turned out and your upper arms parallel to the floor.
- Lower your hips and bend your knees into a quarter squat, and then lift the bar overhead with ample push-ups, fully extending your arms and elbows.
- Hold for a few seconds before returning to the starting position for the next rep.
10. Reverse Cable Crossover
For this popular shoulder gym exercise, you’ll need to attach D-arms to the top pulley of the two cable machines.
- Use your left hand to hold the handle from the machine on your right or vice versa.
- Pull the cables into a cross on your chest, keeping your elbows stable and your arms level with your shoulders.
- Bend forward slightly before crossing the weights on each machine, extending your arms as far as the cables go before bringing the cables in.
- If possible, increase the weight with each subsequent set.
11. One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise
Similar to the reverse cable crossover, this shoulder exercise targets the mid deltoid muscles and provides plenty of tension. To start,
- Stand next to the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp the D-arm using the hand opposite the reel.
- With your abs tense and your shoulders back, lift the cable using only the motion of your arms and shoulders.
- Take your arm slightly above shoulder level and hold for a few seconds before slowly returning to its original position.
- Repeat as needed and then switch sides. Your hand and elbow should move in conjunction with each other the entire time.
12. Standing Barbell Shrugs
Save this neck and shoulder exercise for the end of your overall routine.
- Keeping your feet level with your shoulders, bend your knees and raise the barbell to waist level.
- Then lift your shoulders up and back (i.e. “shrug” or pinch), squeezing for about five seconds before releasing.
- Keep the movements limited to your shoulders, meaning your arms should be relatively loose and the barbell should only rise and fall very slightly.
13. 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, with the cable in your hands at shoulder height. Bend your elbows slightly and pull them up towards your face.