Do you know why most people joined the gym?
Of course! Either for weight loss or weight gain.
However, most people also joined the gym to look bigger and wider in front of others and do you know which muscles will help you the most in that case?
It will be Chest, Shoulder and Back.
Most people often have bigger and well-developed chest and back but they don’t have well-developed shoulders and that’s what they are missing in their body to look aesthetic.
So, in this article, We’ll see the best shoulder exercises that will hit all of your shoulder muscles based on many scientific studies and the mistakes most people do while training shoulders.
P.S. You can skip the anatomy of shoulders if you’re not a super fitness geek!
Anatomy Of Shoulder
If you have either a well developed anterior and lateral shoulder or have intermediate level, you can skip this section because I assume you already know about the anatomy of the shoulder.
But Beginners should read the section to understand it, to change exercises in shoulder workout, if you will have any difficulty in the exercises below.
The shoulder is divided in 3 muscles.
- Anterior Muscle (Most-Trained Muscle)
This is the muscle, most people will see when you stand somewhere. In simple language it is the front muscle of the shoulder.
The movements of this muscle are Abduction, Flexion, Transverse Flexion and Internal Rotation.
So, whenever you perform any of the above movements in shoulder workout, you will also train your front delts up to a certain degree.
But, most of the time you train your shoulder with exercises involving flexion movements.
This is the side muscle of the shoulder and plays a very important role in a well-developed shoulder.
The movements of this muscle are Abduction, Flexion and transverse abduction.
But, lateral delts activate most when you perform abduction moments than others.
As you see both front and side delts have the same insertion, so, whenever you train either front or side delts, you’ll likely hit one of the muscles up to a certain degree.
Posterior Muscle (Never Trained Muscle)
If you want a well-developed back or shoulder, you must have well-developed rear delts.
Most people forget to train this muscle while developing front and side delts.
However, if a person doesn’t have proper development of this muscle, it won’t have a rounded shoulder and good looking upper back.
The movements of this muscle are extension, transverse extension, transverse abduction and external rotation.
Rear delts activate most when you perform exercises with transverse extension and abduction movements.
Mistakes Most People Do In Shoulder Workout
No doubt about your fitness level, we all make mistakes in our gym life while training different body parts.
But if you learned from that, you’ll definitely develop a particular body part and if not then it comes at a big cost. That’s TIME.
There are many mistakes you made and may be still making if you’re at an intermediate level. Check the below list for the mistakes and try to correct them for better shoulder development.
If you’re a beginner then you should see these mistakes in order to have wider and rounder shoulders.
#1 Mistake: Never Do Warm-up
No matter which body part you are training, it is very important for us to warm-up the shoulder, lower back and knee joint at least for better performance in the workout.
If you’re doing shoulders today then you should focus more on the shoulder joint and vice versa for lower back and knee joints.
If you’re not doing warm-up for shoulder before workout, you won’t have proper shoulder activation or have shoulder impingement while exercising.
There are many articles for warm-up on the internet and the videos on YouTube but the best warm-up routine I found especially for the shoulder is from T-Nation. Read the full article HERE.
If you have any past shoulder injury or have problems with shoulder mobility then you shouldn’t start your shoulder workout without the warm-up.
Read Related Article: Can You Workout Chest and Shoulders Together?
#2 Mistake: Over-arch Back
If you’re at intermediate level or a beginner with ego lifting, you will definitely make this mistake while doing pressing movements in shoulder workout.
Many people over-arch back while doing conventional shoulder press, which will damage more of your lower back.
If you’ve weak supporting muscles i.e. serratus anterior (Most people have Don’t worry), you shouldn’t over-arch your back because it will transfer all of your load to that muscle.
So, never do over-arching while shoulder pressing, if you really want to build a big shoulder.
#3 Mistake: Short Range of Motion
This isn’t a technical mistake but sometimes I saw people not doing shoulder presses with full range of motion.
I agree with the notion that partial range of motion will help to fatigue muscles fast but if you want to build them you should do full range of motion.
When you do short range of motion, you are not stretching and squeezing your working muscle. So if you don’t do it with full range of motion your development will be restricted.
#4 Mistake: Never Train Rear Delts or Over-trained Front Delts
The number one reason for the people who don’t have good looking back is little to no development of rear delts.
Most people target front delts first and rear delts last, yet, you should start first with the rear delts to grow them.
Most of the chest compound exercises target your front delts up to some degree. So, you shouldn’t be targeting more of your front delts.
In fact, I suggest you train your front delts 2x a month only and rear delts 4x a month.
One article by T-Nation clearly states that we don’t need to train front delts because it stimulates horizontal press and even at high degree in incline bench press.
#5 Mistake: Lack of Exercise Variety
Many beginner or sometimes intermediate gym going people only do shoulder exercise with dumbbells or barbells.
You can also do various intensity level exercises with the machine.
There are so many variations you can do while doing shoulder exercises either with the dumbbells, barbells or machines.
Try to include different types of compound and isolation exercises in shoulder workout after 6 to 8 weeks.
Don’t stick with the same type of shoulder exercises, you can also change the numbers of reps and sets.
The Best Shoulder Exercises
There are plenty of shoulder exercises you can do but we don’t have to do more exercises when only a few exercises can hit all of the shoulder heads.
In this article we’ll see only four exercises that will target all the shoulder muscles.
Read Related Article: Here’s is Why Your Biceps aren’t Growing and How to Fix Them
Exercise 1: Emphasise Overall Shoulder
The Best Shoulder Exercises You should do!
As I said Earlier, you don’t have to train your front shoulder more but you have to do one compound exercise which targets your overall shoulder.
For the target overall shoulder, there is one exercise that comes out on the top. Can you guess?
Well, your guess may be wrong or right if you’ve been in the fitness industry for a quite a long time.
The overall shoulder exercise is standing dumbbell press and this is determined by the Saeterbakken in the 2013.
In his study, he and his colleague found that while doing standing dumbbell press muscle activation is 15% higher than other three shoulder presses.
If you have any doubt that this can’t be true, shoulder barbell press is all time overall shoulder press exercise, check this research by yourself.
Another study done by the ACE also found that the dumbbell shoulder press has significantly higher muscle activation than any other exercises tested.
Exercise 2: Emphasise Lateral Head of Shoulders
If you want a rounded shoulder, you must have well developed side delts.
There are many exercises you can do for the side delts but the best one is the bent arm lateral raises.
When it comes to doing bent arm lateral raises, most people will tell you to do it at this and that angle but your elbow should be less than 90 degree or often at 70 degree.
If you don’t know which angle is 70 degrees, you can imagine the dumbbell as a water bottle and think its top is open then do a lateral raise.
At which angle your bottle won’t have any water that is the 70 degree angle. However, you can decide your own bending angle but it should be between 50 to 90 degree angle range.
Sometimes some people are not performing lateral raises up to the shoulder height and this leads to 16% lesser muscle activation.
Exercise 3: Emphasise Posterior Head of Shoulders
This could be the most important exercise for your shoulder if you are lacking in rear delts development.
There are a total of two exercises which are highly effective when it comes to rear delts development according to several studies.
1. 45 Degree Incline row
2. Reverse Fly or seated rear lateral raise
Seated rear lateral raise is somewhat different than reverse fly but you can do it if you feel more rear delts activation.
How to Do 45 Degree Incline Row?
- Step 1: Lying prone on a 45-degree incline bench, let your arms hang straight while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Step 2: Slowly lift your arms as high as possible by squeezing the shoulder blades together. Throughout the movement, the upper arms should remain perpendicular to the body, with the forearms pointed toward the floor.
- Step 3: After reaching the top of the movement, slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Most people know how to do reverse fly but when it comes to the angle of arms and the grip many people don’t know which grip and angle is best for training rear delts.
This study shows that 45 degree arms to torso angle is best for training rear delts in reverse deck pack machine
Because if you train with more than 45 degree angle you will also train lateral head of the shoulder by 29%
For grip, the handles of the reverse fly machine from the out- instead of the inside (external vs. internal rotation of the arm), takes away -20% of the stimulus.
The Best Exercises for the Rotator Cuff
The reason behind adding rotator cuff exercise in this routine is that most people have shoulder injuries related to rotator cuffs.
So, it is better to train them also to strengthen them for upcoming lifts.
You can do this exercise either at the beginning or at the end of the workout.
While most trainees do not even feel them working, the muscles of the rotator cuff are crucial for the stability of the most flexible and volatile joint in your whole body, your shoulder.
It is imperative for these largely overlooked and often under-trained muscles to hold the ligaments and bones of your shoulder in position so that your other muscles such as the deltoids or the pectoralis can do their job.
To target your rotator cuff, you should be doing dumbbell exercises with external rotation.
You can do these exercises standing, laying on the bench or with the help of cable.
It is hard to isolate rotator cuff but you can try this technique by Mr. Jobe that DB lateral raises performed with a 30° horizontal adduction of the arms fully isolates the m. supraspinatus if you rotate your shoulders so that your palms are facing the floor.
Read Related Article: Lose Belly Fat Thigh Fat and Arm Fat With This on Trick
Best Shoulder Workout Routine
So what would be the best shoulder workout?
DB Overhead press: 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps
Lateral Raises: 4 total sets (2 sets 8-10 reps, 2 sets 12-15 reps)
Reverse Pec Deck: 4 total sets (2 sets 8-10 reps, 2 sets 12-15 reps)
DB Lateral Raise(30 degree adduction): 2 sets of 8-12 reps
This is just a sample workout, you can still change any of the above exercises if you found more activation in some shoulder exercises than these.
But these are the BEST!
If you’re really lacking in rear delts development after years and years of training, try to do it twice a week with some other exercises like lying face pull or 45 degree incline row.
So, these are the best science based shoulder exercises for maximising its development.
I hope you like this article and if you have any doubt or need any advice related to shoulder workout, feel free to ask me in the comment section and let me know how is your overall shoulder development?