Ahh, shoulder boulders! My favourite muscle group to train.
I’m so excited to show you guys a ton of my favourite exercises for shoulder day. When I first started out on my fitness journey, shoulders were my weakest muscle to train. I overused my traps a lot more than my shoulders. I finally mastered the muscle-mind connection and fell in-love with training these babies. I think I love it so much because it was my weakest muscle to train and now I’m so defined in that area, but also it’s because there are so many different exercises and variations for shoulder day. It’s always fun knowing I have so many options to choose from for my training.
Don’t forget to switch up how you train because our muscles love that! Rotate between a heavy and a high rep day. The pump you get for going a tad lighter with a sh*t ton of reps is insane! Always keep it fun and challenging. The goal is to never get bored of the gym, so always, always try new things and keep your gym days interesting.
Let’s get growing! Follow along for your next shoulder day.
Never forget to warm up, no matter what exercise you’re doing. I used to slack, but now I make sure I do it and boy, do I notice a huge difference. I’m not stiff, I have a good pump going and it helps me focus more on the muscle-mind connection.
1. Wide W Press
These are awkward at first, but the burn is amazing. I usually do these in the beginning of my workout for a warm up. I go light weight. Between 2-5 LB is what works best. You don’t want to go too heavy on your warm ups. Feel the movements and squeeze those muscles as you get ready for an intense shoulder workout!
Stand shoulder width apart and instead of doing a normal standing shoulder press, I want you to go outwards then bring the weight back in with your elbows close to your sides. Make sure to squeeze your core the whole time. You will feel unstable when you bring the weights out to the side, so squeezing the core will help you balance properly.
I prefer using plates. I have a better grip than a dumbbell.
2. Alternating Front & Lateral Raises
These make a great warm up, end of workout burn out or just a fun exercise to try. I do these for my warm ups sometimes to switch things up. Phew, let me tell you, these are fire. These are the same normal lateral and front raises, but instead you’re doing both at a time! YUP! 😉
Start with your feet shoulder width apart and start raising! One arm does the front raise and the other does the side and alternating them each time. Make sure to have a slight bend in your elbows.
3. Bent Over Rear Delt Flies
We all need to train more of our rear delts! I do them on shoulder and back day.
Bend over from your hips and make sure your body is almost parallel to the floor. Let your arms hang while having a slight bend in your elbow. With a neutral grip pull the weight towards the sky using your rear delts. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Make sure you’re not swinging and moving your whole body. Pick the weight accordingly and let your delts do the work!
4. Classic Shoulder Press
Seated and standing shoulder press are one of my main big lifts for shoulders. I like rotating them to switch things up. Doing seated or standing shoulder press on the machine is great too! I absolutely love doing it on the smith machine as well because you can go a bit wider with your grip. Drop sets are extremely challenging and the time under tension is great with that machine.
Sit on an upright bench holding a dumbbell in each hand. Make sure the weight is challenging but not ruining your form. Keep your chest up and core tight. Press the weight directly upwards and back down. You don’t ever want to lock your arms when you reach the top. Keep that tension by not bringing that weight past your jaw. Once you bring it too low you will have gone too far.
5. Standing Behind The Neck Press
Another fun but different variation of the shoulder press. You don’t want to go crazy heavy with these just because it takes effort to bringing the weight up and over a million times. Play it safe!
I like to grab a fixed EZ bar of about 20-30lb. Feet are shoulder width apart. Press the weight up in front of you like a regular press but then bring the weight behind your head. Bring it back up and in front of you again and repeat.
6. Underhand Shoulder Press
Everything is about variety, different grips and positions! This underhand exercise focuses on the front delts and a little bit of the upper chest. This can feel weird at first. If you have weak wrists or elbows it can cause some discomfort, so I recommend to try light weight and see how you feel. You can do these seated or standing. Always have your chest up and sit upright.
Start off by sitting straight up on the bench and gripping the dumbbells with an underhand grip. Lift up focusing on your front delts. Make sure you don’t lock your arms straight up. Always have a little bend.
7. Seated Lateral Raises
You can do these seated or standing. Seated is great for having full control over the weights. Since you’re seated, it’s a bit harder to swing your body to help you move that weight up. You see a lot of gym ego lifters who just swing their body all over the place just to help them get the weight up. When you’re seated you have to lift with your full strength and leave your ego behind. 😉
Pick a weight that’s challenging but good to do with proper form. Sit on the bench and have your weights in front of you beside your thighs with your palms facing in. Lift those weights up beside you and back down. Keep it around shoulder height when you raises your arms. Now if the weight is heavy your body will want to move and rock front to back, so make sure you’re just moving those shoulders to get the full workout. You don’t want to just go through the motion, so try to have a second pause at the top of the movement.
8. Front Raises
Standing or seated work great for this workout. I love seeing my shoulders pop when I do these. This workout mainly focuses on the front of the shoulders, but along with some side delts, upper and lower traps. You can even feel a bit in your biceps as well.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Keep your back straight and make sure your feet are nicely planted on the floor. Have the dumbbells hanging in-front of you horizontally. Palms should be facing back towards your thighs. Keep your core tight and lift those weights up in front of you with a slight bend in your elbow. Pause when you feel the contraction. Don’t go past your eyes, so keep your arms mostly inline with your shoulders.
To make this a bit challenging use one plate and if you have a workout partner have them push down on your arms each time you bring that plate up. Try to resist going down. You’ll feel the burn!
9. Upright Row
You can do these with a dumbbell or an EZ bar. I suggest you try this exercises with the wavy EZ bar just so it takes a bit of pressure off your wrists. This exercise works the front and middle head of your delts.
Stand straight with your feet about shoulder width apart. Hold the EZ bar in front of you and let it hang. Hold it with your palms facing down. Make sure your hands are shoulder width apart from each other. Don’t go closer, but you can go a tad bit wider to work more of the side delts. Keep your core tight, back straight, chest straight up, and lift that bar up towards your chin, you should be leading this movement with your elbows and end the movement with your elbows up higher than your wrists. Pause at the top of the lift and return back to starting position.
10. Around The Worlds
These are an amazing finisher! They burn and will have your shoulders on actual fire. It’s one of my favourite exercises to end my workout. If you’re looking for something different and fun this is a good one to try.
Feet should be shoulder width apart. Have a pair of plates hanging infront of you with your palms up. Move those arms up and over your head letting your delts to the work. Bring it back down nice and controlled.
11.Butterfly Raise (swimming inspired)
Taking your workout or warm up to the next level? I highly recommend trying this exercise out! I saw it on Youtube from an amazing bodybuilder and woah!! These are amazing. They help me warm up my entire shoulders and get the blood flowing in all the right places.
Start by finding a light pair of weights and get yourself on an incline bench. Use a neutral grip with your pinkies up. Bring your arms back, up and around, forward and back to the starting position. When you bring your arms back you’re working your rear delts. As you come around you’re working your medial delts, and heading to the starting position you work you’re front delts. So you’re working on everything in your rotator cuff, which is so important onshoulder day. You want to hit every muscle, even if it’s tiny and you can’t see it yet.
12. Inclined Upright Row
I love using the bench to make things a tad different and challenging. Don’t be afraid to get out there and play with what’s around your gym. These are fun to do and pretty challenging when you drop set these with no breaks. Talk about muscle pump!
Get on the incline bench with your chest touching the edge of the bench. Find weights that are challenging and have them hanging in front of you. With an overhand position raise your arms straight up with a 90 degree angle and back down.
13. Reverse Shoulder Press
OMG! I swear I’ve said all these exercises are my favourite but I recently fell in love with this workout. Turning your body around makes such a HUGE difference with this exercise. With this position you’re working basically just your front and rear delts. If you do these at the end of your shoulder work out trust me, you will be dead at the end of this, but I mean a good dead. If you were the normal way you would work some chest, front and medial delts. If your gym has this SP machine try this out!
Find weights that you’re comfortable with and fix the seat to make sure it’s a tad lower than normal. Tuck yourself in nice and tight. Have your arms both at the same grip on each bar and push it up an back down again.
To make this even more challenging, Jamie and I do 3-4 drop sets for one set. The last set will end with 0 plates on the machine but your partner pushing on the handles as you go down slow and controlled! #ouch
Workout Example #1
You will do 5 different workouts for 12-15 reps and 4 -5 sets. (warm up doesn’t count) Yes, I’m trying to kill you. 😉 muhaha!
Warm up: Light weight doing alternating front and side lateral raises. Get the blood flowing. Add in some wide w presses. Slow and controlled. Do these for 3 sets each between 15-20 reps.
- Seated dumbbell press
- Standing behind the neck press
- Seated lateral raises
- Front raises
- Burnout with around the worlds
Workout Example #2
A superset is when you go back to back with 2 exercises and rest after you finish both workouts for the same amount of reps.
Warm up: Bent over flies and butterfly raise. Go light and focus on the muscle. Do these for 3 sets each between 15-20 reps
- Seated shoulder press
- Front lateral raises superset side lateral raise
- Incline upright row
- Standing upright row
- Burnout with reverse seated shoulder press
I’m so happy you stopped by to check out some of these videos! I really hope you enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed filming them(Thanks Jamie). These are all my favourite go-to’s and let me just tell you they work wonders! You can’t just go through the motions you really have to use that muscle-mind connection and let your shoulders do the work.
If you have any questions contact me and I would love to answer them to the best of my ability. I live in Sarnia Canada, so if you are ever here I suggest you check out O2 Fuel Fitness and Sharkys. Great gym and amazing sweaty classes.
Never give up and remember if it’s burning keep pushing through!! Don’t stop when it hurts! You got this.