Shoulder Exercises

Strong shoulders are important for being able to do chest and back exercises properly and are one of my favorite muscle groups to work.

Below are some of workouts I do when I work shoulders. I normally work them by themselves, but you can incorporate them with another muscle group if you want, like triceps.

Like I mention in my Getting Started with Fitness page, I recommend finding a weight that allows you to do 3 sets of 6-10 reps. Just find what you’re comfortable with so that you do not feel like you’re injuring yourself, and also something that challenges you.

shoulder muscle
Shoulder Muscle

(all underlined exercises hyperlink to the exercise as it appears in the bodybuilding.com Exercise Database)

Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises

  1. Hold two dumbbells by your side, with you palms facing you. This will be your starting position.
  2. While maintaining the torso in a stationary position (no swinging), lift the dumbbells to your side with a slight bend on the elbow and the hands slightly tilted forward as if pouring water in a glass. Continue to go up until your arms are parallel to the floor. Exhale as you execute this movement and pause for a second at the top.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back down slowly to the starting position as you inhale.

Variation: This exercise can also be performed sitting down. (1)

Alternating Front Dumbbell Raises

  1. Hold two dumbbells in front of your thighs at arm’s length with the palms of the hand facing your thighs, holding your torso straight. This will be your starting position.
  2. While maintaining the torso stationary (no swinging), lift the left dumbbell to the front with a slight bend on the elbow and the palms of the hands always facing down. Continue to go up until your arm is slightly above parallel to the floor. Exhale as you execute this portion of the movement and pause for a second at the top. Inhale after the second pause.
  3. Now lower the dumbbell back down slowly to the starting position. Repeat with right dumbbell.

Variations: This exercise can also be performed both arms at the same time. Also, you could use a barbell as well. (2)

Upright Barbell Row

  1. Grasp a straight barbell with an overhand grip that is slightly less than shoulder width.
  2. Now exhale and use the sides of your shoulders to lift the bar, raising your elbows up and to the side.
  3. Lower the bar back down slowly to the starting position and inhale.
  4. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Variations: This exercise can also be performed using a straight bar attached to a low pulley and it can also be performed using dumbbells, though this later exercise should be reserved by people that are well familiarized with correct execution. (3)

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  1. While holding a dumbbell in each hand, sit on a military press bench or utility bench that has back support. Place the dumbbells upright on top of your thighs.
  2. Now raise the dumbbells to shoulder height one at a time using your thighs to help propel them up into position.
  3. Make sure to rotate your wrists so that the palms of your hands are facing forward. This is your starting position.
  4. Now, exhale and push the dumbbells upward until they touch at the top.
  5. Then, after a brief pause at the top contracted position, slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position while inhaling. (4)

Note: Be careful not to do too much weight on this one so as to not hurt your Rotator Cuff. You want it to be very controlled.

Standing Military Press

  1. Start by placing a barbell chest high on a barbell rack. Grab the barbell using a pronated (palms facing forward) grip. Make sure to grip the bar wider than shoulder width apart from each other.
  2. Slightly bend the knees and place the barbell on your collar bone. Lift the barbell up keeping it lying on your chest. Take a step back and position your feet shoulder width apart from each other.
  3. Once you pick up the barbell with the correct grip length, lift the bar up over your head by locking your arms. Hold at about shoulder level and slightly in front of your head. This is your starting position.
  4. Lower the bar down to the collarbone slowly as you inhale.
  5. Lift the bar back up to the starting position as you exhale.

Variations: This exercise can also be performed sitting as those with lower back problems are better off performing this seated variety. (5)

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