The best shoulder exercises for building a strong upper body

Posted by for Strong Women

Your shoulders are two of the most important muscles in your upper body. Get them stronger with these moves. 

When thinking about upper body training, it’s important to hit all muscle groups in order to be balanced and strong. That means targeting your chest, back and your shoulders for all over strength. 

“Your shoulders are made up of three deltoid ‘heads’ – anterior (front), medial (lateral), and posterior (back),” says Alice Rose-Miller member of the Strong Women Collective. So, in order to give your shoulders an effective, well-rounded workout, it’s good to incorporate a few different exercises that will target all three.

Alice suggests beginning with two or three pressing exercises and also adding in one to two front, rear or side deltoid exercises in each shoulder session. Pressing exercises are all about loading up with heavy weights, so do try to push yourself on the weight. Regardless of the type of exercise you do though, it’s important to keep it slow and controlled. 

Here are some of the best exercises to add to your shoulder day. 

Arnold Press

This is a great exercise for working all three deltoid heads. Starting with a dumbbell in each hand, bend your arms at the elbows so your weights are at chest height with your palms facing in. Now,  move your arms into an overhead press, twisting your palms face outwards as you do. You should end up with your arms straight up over your head with a slight bend to your elbow.

From here, slowly return to the starting position. Aim for three sets of eight to 12, and make sure to rest for a minute in between. 

Seated Overhead Press

Start seated on a chair or bench with a back support, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Take your dumbbells out to the sides at shoulder height, with your palms facing outwards. Press upwards, raising the dumbbells over your head until your arms are straight. Hold for a second, and then slowly return to the start. Complete three sets of eight to twelve presses.  

Lateral Raises

Lateral raise
Shoulder exercises: lat raise

Exercises like lateral raises are more about that “mind to muscle connection,” explains Alice Rose-Miller. It’s important to go with a lighter weight than you would for pressing exercises, and to really engage the muscles you want to work.

Stand with your arms down by your side, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your palms should be facing inwards. Keeping your arms straight and shoulders away from the ears, slowly raise both arms outwards. Making sure the movement is controlled – you don’t want to swing your arms. Stop when your arms reach shoulder height, so that your body forms a “T” shape. Pause for a couple of seconds, then return to the starting position. Do three sets of 12 reps. 

Rear Delt Fly

For this exercise, stand with your legs hip-width apart and your arms down by your sides, a light dumbbell in each hand. Hinge forward at your hips and bend your knees slightly, so that your torso is almost parallel to the floor and your back is flat. Your arms should hang down below your body. Raise your arms out to the side by using the muscles at the back of your shoulders, squeezing between your shoulder blades as you do. You should end up with your arms extending straight out from your shoulders and your palms facing down. Hold for a second, and then bring your arms back down. Do three sets of 12 reps. 

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Image credit: Getty

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