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Five Ways to Workout Your Shoulders


When you think of a powerful, attractive physique, there’s no doubt that a pair of cannonball shoulders are part of the picture.

The shoulders are an extremely important set of muscles — both for a balanced and aesthetically pleasing look, and for overall athletic performance.

So, because your shoulders matter, here are five top shoulder workouts you can do in the gym today.


Click here to check out our FREE Exercise Guide for more exercise ideas


Standing Barbell Military Press

The standing barbell military press is perhaps the king of mass building exercises for the shoulders, as well as being a fantastic way to train the muscles of the core.

The key is that this exercise allows you to handle greater weight than any isolation movement, as well as allowing you to use the rest of your body to support the lift.

Doing this exercise is simple:

  • Load the barbell in the squat rack, so that the bar is positioned at about upper-chest height.
  • Position yourself under the bar and grab it at about shoulder width, with palms facing outward.
  • Unrack the weight, keeping your abs tight and back straight, but not hyperextended.
  • Press the weight up in a controlled manner, exhaling as you press, and inhaling as you lower.
  • Try to keep the rest of your body still and allow the shoulders to handle the weight. This isn’t a push press. If you really need help on the last few reps, however, you can squat down very slightly and push your hips up for added momentum, just as long as you can control the weight.
  • Press the weight from your upper chest. Don’t press it behind your head as this increases your risk of injury.

Arnold Presses

Arnie did a lot of interesting stuff back in the day, from bringing bodybuilding global recognition, to beating various invading UFOs and criminal masterminds. He even saved Christmas, once.

One of the other interesting things he did was to create his own variant on the standard, seated dumbbell press, allowing it to work the muscles of the shoulders more evenly and aggressively.

To perform an Arnold Press:

  • Grab your dumbbells and sit on the bench.
  • Hold the dumbbells up in front of you, with your palms facing inward towards your body.
  • Press the dumbbells up, but ‘twist’ halfway through the movement so that your elbows are pointed out to the sides, and your palms are facing out in front of you.

Shoulder Press Machine

Shoulder press machines are an easy and safe way to get comfortable with the basic pressing motion, and make a great addition to an overall shoulder training program.

These machines are pretty self-explanatory, with the seat generally moving up or down to allow you to adjust your position under the handles. You’ll want to position yourself so your hands are at about shoulder height when gripping the handles. You’ll also want to keep your back and head flat against the backrest.

There are typically two grips on the machines:

  • A ‘hammer grip’, which will be further out in front of the body. This will work the front of the shoulders more.
  • A ‘palms-out’ grip, which will position your arms more out to the sides of your body. This will work the muscles of the shoulders more evenly.

Barbell Rear-Delt Rows

A barbell rear-delt row is similar to a standard barbell row, except with a slight modification meaning it targets the back of the shoulders instead of the more powerful lat muscles. This different target muscle also means you’ll have to use significantly less weight when performing rear-delt rows compared to standard rows.

To perform a rear-delt row:

  • Grab the barbell off the floor and stand up, keeping your back flat while bending over at the waist.
  • Row the bar up towards your chest, NOT towards your abs, as you would during a standard row.

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

The lateral deltoid muscles are the muscles on the sides of your shoulders which are the key to that ‘cannonball’ look everyone’s after. Dumbbell lateral raises are one of the best ways to target those muscles specifically.

To perform the exercise:

  • Grab a (relatively light, manageable) dumbbell in each hand and stand up straight, dumbbells hanging at your sides.
  • Lift each arm out to the side simultaneously, while keeping a slight bend in your elbows and controlling the movement carefully.

For more ideas on how to train and tone the upper body, check out our free exercises section here.

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