Shoulder Exercises

The Ultimate Workout for Wider, Stronger Shoulders

Wide delts distinguish gym vets from gym newbs. Here’s your go-to routine for building up big, respectable shoulders.

Dumbbell Front Raise Static Hold
Tauseef Asri / M+F Magazine
Tauseef Asri / M+F Magazine
Duration 30 min.
Exercises 5
Equipment Yes

Olympic and professional athletes have them. So do bodybuilders, longshoremen, lumberjacks, and pretty much anyone we innately identify as a pillar of strength. In fact, of all the muscle groups, it is the one that most clearly distinguishes a longtime athlete from a guy who's just figuring out the whole gym thing. It’s the deltoids, aka shoulders, and with a broad, meaty pair, you, too, can carry the mantle of being distinctly athletic.

The Routine

This routine should be done at a quick pace, with no more than 30 seconds of rest between sets. Because the deltoids are a fairly small muscle group and the shoulder joint is susceptible to injury, it’s best to keep the weight moderate and the reps generally on the high side, as in 10 to 20. The entire routine should take you no more than a half-hour to perform, and you should do it twice per week.

You’ll notice that every exercise in this routine is performed seated. There are two reasons for that: 1) Most shoulder exercises are conducive to body English; we tend to swing the dumbbells as we tire during lateral and front raises and excessively arch our backs during presses. 2) We expend more energy stabilizing through each rep of exercises in which we stand. By sitting, we can channel all our resources for the task at hand.

The Broaden Your Horizons Shoulder Workout

Exercise 1

Seated Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells, Bench How to
Seated Lateral Raise thumbnail
4 sets
20, 17, 14, 11 reps
30 sec. rest
The idea is to keep continuous tension on the deltoids throughout the entire set. Lift for 1 second on the way up and 1½ seconds on the way down.

Exercise 2

Seated Alternating Dumbbell Front Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Seated Alternating Dumbbell Front Raise thumbnail
3 sets
14, 12, 10 reps
30 sec. rest
You should be able to use about the same weight for these as you used for seated lateral raises, if not slightly more. Keep the pacing similar to what you did on seated lateral raises.

Exercise 3

Rear-Delt Machine How to
The Ultimate Workout for Wider, Stronger Shoulders thumbnail
3 sets
10, 14, 12 reps
30 sec. rest
If your gym doesn’t have this machine, perform bentover rear-delt raises.

Exercise 4

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press thumbnail
4 sets
14, 12, 10, 8 reps
30 sec. rest
Choose the path of least resistance, such that your shoulder joints feel minimal stress while your shoulder muscles feel maximal resistance.

Exercise 5

Dumbbell Front Raise Static Hold You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Front Raise Static Hold thumbnail
2 sets
To failure reps
30 sec. rest