The Top 5 Best Shoulder Exercises

How to Build Solid Shoulders

It doesn’t matter how big your chest and biceps are, if you have narrow shoulders you will appear to be weak and puny. Someone will surely kick sand on you at the beach, and Arnold would not approve of that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Shoulders

For bodybuilders, powerlifters, athletes, and all other fitness buffs in between, wide shoulders will make you look tall, broad, and powerful so that you can be the one defending geeks from sand kicking bullies and they can help you throw the ball hard enough to win the game. Flabby or narrow shoulders lend absolutely nothing to your physique.

Everyone needs to train their shoulders.

Strong shoulders help with every other exercise from bench press to pull ups, and for all you boxers and MMA guys, well conditioned shoulders will help you to win a fight.

It is also very important to have a strong shoulder girdle, including the rotator cuff area, to prevent injuries from sports and heavy lifting.

How to Get Strong Shoulders

Firstly, chest and back are two muscle groups that are important to train, when training for stronger shoulders. As a unit, the chest, shoulders, and back form the core of your upper body strength. Once you’ve read this article you can move on to the top 5 best chest exercises and the top 5 best back exercises.

Secondly, no one developed great shoulders by focusing on dumbbell side raises or shoulder pressing on machines. The compound exercises that involve your whole body will be most effective at building big, strong shoulders. Isolation exercises will be necessary, but only for developing super strong rotator cuffs.

We should have a working knowledge of how the shoulder is put together, to better understand how to train them effectively.

Anatomy of the Shoulders

Your shoulders are constructed as a ball and socket joint, and are one of the most unstable joints in the body but are also joint with the largest range of motion (ROM). The shoulder socket is called a glenoid, while the ball of the joint is actually the head of the humerus, your upper arm bone.

The acromion sits on top of the ball and socket, next to the acromioclavicular joint (AC Joint), which is the most commonplace for shoulder separations. Incidentally, I separated my shoulder playing football and it took me 3 months of recovery before I could bench 200 lbs again. Treat your shoulders with care!

Your shoulders can abduct 150 degrees, flex forward 180 degrees, extend 45 degrees, rotate externally 90 degrees, and rotate internally 90 degrees. That is a pretty significant ROM but also opens you up to a huge potential for injury.

Shoulder Anatomy

Rotator Cuffs

You need to take a second to examine the most frequently injured area of the shoulders: the rotator cuff. The muscles that make up the rotator cuff are small and can be strained easily. Injuries result from overuse, underuse, relative weakness, or muscular imbalance.

Before reading any further, you must check out this link about how to avoid rotator cuff injury.

Functions of the Shoulder

The shoulders, or deltoids (derived from the Greek word delta, or triangle), are triangular in shape, and have 3 distinct heads.

Anterior Deltoid

The front head of the shoulder flexes and rotates the arm inward. The anterior delts play a major role in bench pressing, other chest training, and usually get stimulated from triceps and biceps training. This is typically one of the most overdeveloped muscles for traditional weight lifters, which often develops into a muscular imbalance that can lead to injury and posture problems.

Medial Deltoid

The side head of the shoulder abducts the arm, which means it brings the arms out and away from the midline of the body. This muscle is activated more by isolated shoulder abduction movements, such as dumbbell side raises, than by anything else.

Posterior Deltoid

The rear head of the shoulder extends and rotates the arm outward. Back training such as rows, chin ups, and pull ups involve the rear delts more than most other exercises. Reverse flyes are considered an isolation movement for the rear delts.

One more time, be sure to read up on how to strengthen the rotator cuff if you haven’t already.

Shoulder Muscles

Always remember to refuel before you train, unless of course you prefer fasted training. If you are starting to feel a bit lethargic midway through your training drink energy drinks to refuel all your electrolytes. A lack of energy during a workout will stop your gains short.

The Top 5 Best Shoulder Exercises

1. Hang Clean & Press

This is the ultimate shoulder exercise if you ask me. The hang clean resembles a high pull (a powerful exercise that is similar to the upright row) and if you press without hesitation you can utilize the momentum and the stretch reflex to press more weight than you could from a dead stop. However, when using momentum like this, the press tends to turn into more of a push (using the legs and other joints to generate momentum). This is not an exercise designed for any specific kind of training. The hang clean and press mix Olympic lifting with standard weightlifting and can be used with a heavyweight to develop strength or lightweight to develop speed and power. This is not a standard bodybuilding exercise but can be used to build muscle as well.

To set up: you will want to load a standard Olympic barbell with some weight, or if you are female you might consider one of the small pre-built barbells that are sometimes set up on weight trees in the free weight area of your gym. Position your feet on the ground and your hands on the bar, both just outside shoulder width. Keeping your back flat and chin up, deadlift the weight into a standing position with the bar resting against your thighs. This is the starting position.|

To hang clean & press: from the starting position, you should lower the bar down to just above your knees bending at the knees and waist. From this position, you will perform a hang clean to get the bar up to your shoulders. When you execute a hang clean you want to extend your ankles, flex your knees, flex your traps, and execute something that resembles a 3/4 upright row in order to bring the bar up in a straight line in front of your body until it reaches your shoulders. At this point you want to rotate your elbows under the bar, catching it on the front of your shoulders, chest, and upward-facing palms. Bend at the knees slightly to assist with the catch. Immediately press the bar up to full extension. Lower the bar back to your shoulders and drop it back down to your thighs to complete the rep. The hang clean is not a reverse curl. The movement itself is a combination of a quarter squat, a calf raise, a shrug, and a 3/4 upright row. It is a powerful movement and should be explosive.

Variations: clean and press, hang clean and push, clean and push. This is the best hang clean and press video that I could find on YouTube. Her form is pretty good, especially considering she is doing high reps. Each rep is quick. I’d prefer for Olympic lifts not to be executed in sets of more than 5, or maybe 10 at the most. It is such a complex exercise that you can easily lose your form once you start to fatigue, and you don’t want to train your CNS to perform this exercise incorrectly.

2. Standing Overhead Press / Military Press

The military press is in league with squats, deadlifts, and bench presses as one of the mandatory exercises for all serious weightlifters. If you are not overhead pressing you are not really lifting. This is the ultimate compound pressing exercise for your shoulders.

The following tips should basically be used for ALL shoulder presses unless specific changes in mechanics are described.

To set up: either set the bar up in a power rack or squat rack, or you will have to clean the weight up to your shoulders to start the exercise. This is usually what I do since my gym lacks a decent rack of any sort. Grip the bar at roughly shoulder width. Keep the wrists underneath the elbows at all times – elbows should not be in front or behind the wrists, wrists should not be wider than the elbows.

To press: starting with the weight resting on your upper chest and shoulders, press the bar up in front of your face, extending the elbows just short of lockout. Because you’ve moved your head back an inch or so to press the weight up, once it passes the forehead you’ll want to bring the head back in line with the body such that the weight will be directly overhead at the top of the press, rather than in front of the head or body. As the weight comes back down of course you’ll want to move that head back an inch or so again, so the weight passes in front of the nose and is still in line with the body. Return the weight under control to your upper chest to complete the rep. Do not bounce, use your legs, or use your hips to get the weight up, as this would be a push press. Push presses are really great too, but we are talking about plain old military presses right now.

Variations: standing, seated, push press, dumbbell press, adding chains and bands.

Bonus Tip – The Push Press: similar in all ways to the military press except one – you should use a quarter squat and ankle extension to generate additional momentum, which will help you get the bar past the mid-way sticking point, and then all you have to do is continue pushing through to lockout. This is a great Olympic exercise that will build power and strength in the shoulders but is not often used for bodybuilding. Due to the added momentum, you should be able to use more weight on the push press than on the standing military press.

3. Dumbbell Shoulder Press (3 variations)

In this case, I have to point out 3 important variations of the dumbbell shoulder press, all of which I think are important in different scenarios.

1. Standing One-Arm Dumbbell Press
I chose this exercise because sometimes you can lift more when you alternate sides in rapid succession.

To set up: while standing, clean both dumbbells up to shoulder level or have someone hand them too you if you are a wuss.

To press: lift one dumbbell straight up while resting the other on the opposite shoulder. As you return the first dumbbell to your shoulder, the second dumbbell should already be moving. There should not be any rest between reps.

Variations: seated one-arm dumbbell shoulder press. could only find a seated version of this exercise with someone doing it the way I would do it.

2. Seated Dumbbell Press
Because you are seated, you are able to drive more with your legs and press back against the bench for added strength and stability.

To set up: while seated, rest the dumbbells on each respective knee. When you are ready, use your legs to pop each dumbbell up to your shoulders. You will most likely have to pop up one at a time or have someone hand them to you if you are a wuss.

To press: keeping your feet flat on the floor and your back straight against the bench, press both dumbbells up simultaneously, stopping just short of full lockout. Return the dumbbells to your shoulders to complete the rep.

Variations: standing dumbbell shoulder press – this is one of the few exercises that I find to be awkward, which probably means I should do it every workout until it becomes a habit. The standing alternating one-arm version is much less awkward in my opinion and I can lift more weight when I alternate. In the following video, Scott Herman mentions bringing the dumbbell down to where the shoulders are at 90 degrees. I disagree with that statement. But then Scott proceeds to go beyond 90 degrees and instead uses a full range of motion, which I do agree with. Therefore, DO ignore his advice about 90 degrees, but DON’T ignore his form – these are good presses.

3. Seated Arnold Shoulder Press
This is a slightly awkward exercise that is very beneficial because it hits the front and side heads of your delts. Don’t plan on using super heavyweight though, as this is a more difficult exercise than a regular dumbbell or barbell presses.

To set up: start just like a seated dumbbell press, but start with the dumbbells in front of your face, palms facing towards you, the sides of the dumbbells will probably be touching.

To press: rotate the dumbbells externally and press them up at the same time. By the time you reach full extension, your palms should be facing away from you and you will have rotated the dumbbells 180 degrees. Return the weights to the front of your face to complete the rep.

Variations: standing Arnold shoulder presses are awkward. I don’t like to do them standing, which again probably means I should.

4. Upright Barbell Rows

Some people seem to indicate that upright barbell rows are tough on the rotator cuffs, but I don’t find this to be true so long as you don’t attempt to rotate the bar higher once it has reached shoulder level. Rather, I believe upright rows are a great exercise for the medial or outside heads of the shoulders. Also, choose High Pulls (explained after upright rows) as a power exercise for the shoulders.

To set up: you will have to choose between a straight bar or an EZ curl bar, but I prefer an EZ curl. Standing, grab the bar roughly one inch inside of shoulder width.

To upright row: bring the bar straight up alongside the front of your body, bending only the elbows. Your elbows should end up point straight out to either side and the bar should end up just under chin level.

Variations: two-arm, one arm, wide grip, medium grip, close grip, high pulls, dumbbell cleans, barbell cleans, upright cable rows, upright dumbbell rows (slightly awkward).

Bonus Tip – The High Pull: to finish off your set of upright rows, or instead of upright rows, try the High Pull. Use the same sort of momentum you would use for a hang clean to pull the bar up to shoulder level. This momentum is generated by extending the ankles, shrugging the shoulders, and using a quarter squat to drive the bar – the same thing you would do for the first 1/2 of a hang clean. Don’t bother pausing at the top, as this is a power exercise, not a bodybuilding exercise.

5. Overhead Squat

This is a very awkward exercise that will build stability in your shoulders and the surrounding tissue. Despite the name, overhead squats are not particularly effective for the legs, as you typically use a load far lighter than you would use for working squat sets.

To set up: load up a barbell with some weight and set up for either a hang snatch, a power snatch, or a squat.If you’d prefer to snatch the bar into position: using a snatch grip, which is a much wider grip than you would use for any other exercise (often 1.5 feet outside of shoulder width), bend down and grasp the bar in an ultra-wide deadlift position. Deadlift the bar to a hang position if you’d rather start the exercise with a hang snatch, or keep the bar on the floor if you are comfortable with power snatching it into position. If you’d prefer to squat the bar into position: get the bar on your back for a barbell back squat using a partner, a squat rack, a power rack, or whatever else you use for a rack. Move your hands to a snatch grip position. Use a quarter squat to generate enough momentum to jerk the bar overhead and catch it in a snatch lockout.

To overhead squat: using whichever snatch method you choose, snatch the bar over your head and catch it in the standard snatch position – shoulder blades pinched together, bar directly over your head and ankles, pulling out slightly with both hands to keep your shoulders tight. Now do a squat while keeping the bar in the same vertical line of motion. The bar will end up behind your head when you are in the hole, but keep those shoulder blades pinched and keep a slight but constant outward force with both hands to stabilize the bar. Stand up to complete one rep. Don’t you dare drop the bar until the set is finished!

6. Lateral Dumbbell Side Raises

Note: This was originally #5 in my list of the top 5 best shoulder exercises, but it really doesn’t qualify. As The Reviewinsider explains, this move is best for people who are looking to fine-tune the structure of their shoulders, mostly by bodybuilders. Bodybuilders will tell you this exercise is great for shredding the delts and really putting “caps” on the shoulders. I’ll leave it on the list as #6. Definitely not compound by any means, lateral dumbbell raises are the equivalent of dumbbell curls for the shoulders. I recommend this exercise more for bodybuilding than for powerlifting, strongman training, Olympic lifting, or martial arts.

To set up: standing up, hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands with your arms hanging straight down to the side.

To side raise: using the medial delts (the side of the shoulders), raise the dumbbells straight up to the side until both arms are parallel to the floor. Bend your elbows as little as possible. Technically your arms should be straight the whole time. Then lower the dumbbells back down, but not such that your arms or the weights touch your thighs, nor should your arms ever be perpendicular to the floor. You always want to keep tension on the shoulders.

Variations: one arm side raise, cable side raise.

Honorable mentions: internal rotations and external rotations for the rotator cuffs, bent over reverse dumbbell or cable flyes.

Full Body Workout

To integrate these exercises into a full-body workout program, you should use a standing barbell press as your base shoulder exercise on the day when shoulders are trained first. On the days you train squats and deadlifts first, you should choose either heavy dumbbell shoulder presses or hang clean & press. The day that prioritizes the chest should be the day you choose lateral side raises and/or upright rows.

Split Body Workout

To integrate these exercises into a training program that splits the body amongst different days, you can choose a press, upright rows, side lateral raises, and finish off with reverse dumbbell flyes on shoulder day. This will allow you to really fatigue the shoulders from all angles and forms of tension. A ‘shoulder day’ should also include some arms and abs training, if nothing else.

A Couple More Tips

Please spend some time stretching before, between, and after your workout. It’s very easy to get tight shoulders from too much desk work! It might be worth using a resistance band from somewhere like Sports Direct. This will help reduce injury and is critical for your muscles to stretch out!’

Focusing too much on the shoulders could be a detriment to your chest training. Furthermore, focusing too much on the front delts, like if you just bench press all the time, could result in problems with your posture. Always remember to balance chest and shoulder training, and to hit your back (vertical and horizontal) just as hard as you hit your chest and shoulders combined.

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95 Responses to “The Top 5 Best Shoulder Exercises”

  1. steve what do you mean when you write in the end Honorable mentions..what’s the difrence between these exercises from the others exercises in list??

  2. The video you posted for the Hang Clean and Press was removed, and I can’t for the life of me find another one with proper form online. Do you have another?

  3. I'm just curious; what criteria are you using to determine what are the best exercises? Is it just your opinion? Is it based on some type of scientific data?

    • The criteria includes the opinions of many highly respected personal trainers and exercise scientists, my personal experience with myself and my clients, and years of published studies on muscle activation during the execution of thousands of different exercises. Yes, I did my research. No, I’m not going to publish links to the resources. I don’t have time to go find them all again.

  4. i am going to try 5 best shoulder workout today and send you how it is and thank you for the precautionary advices for rotary cuffs.

  5. In the seated dumbbell section
    “…or have someone hand them to you if you are a wuss.”
    Wuss? Really? Nice comment from an instructor. Way to encourage somebody to not ask for help or spotting when needed.
    Shockingly irresponsible choice of words for a “professional” even as a joke.

  6. In case no one noticed, the ‘rotator cuff’ diagram is incorrect mislabeling the TERES MINOR as the Infraspinatus. If your gonna post web pages, inform the readers accurately.

    The RCT (Rotator Cuff Tendon) muscles make up three muscles: Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus, and Teres Minor.

  7. […] Training System created by celebrity pro athlete trainer Jeff Cavaliere. Video Rating: 4 / 5 Indeed, there are a variety of ways to perform exercises at home. What can be done with exercise eq…ng any money at the gym. Our blog is totally focused on the exercises at home, no matter where you […]

  8. Hello! i was wondering, i’m 19 years old, been lifting for a while but only last year i discoverd about the diffrent body types; i’m an ectomorph and i dont know if this exercise also would work on me if i go really heavy. Any other advices would be appreciated!, i’m 1,69 121 lbs by the way

  9. Hello,

    Firstly, I have been using this site for many months now. Brilliant, has really helped a lot.

    Just wondering if you can advise.

    I hurt my right shoulder a few months ago whilst beginning a new routine. Since then, I have been to the doctors and he advised it is my AC joint and it will be fine with 2 weeks rest.

    I took his advice with no result. Up until a few days ago. I have been resting and have just concentrated on cardio.

    2 days ago I attempted to get back into weights, starting with a light bench press and tricep excercises. Now again, my shoulder hurts.

    The pain comes from directly at the front and I can pin point the origin of the pain with my finger

    I have rested, begun internal/external rotations (as of monday) and have been taking cod-liver tablets for a few months with no result.

    Any suggestions?

    Thank you

  10. […] posted by admin on July 19th, 2011 #leftcontainerBox { float:left; position: fixed; top: 60%; left: 70px; } #leftcontainerBox .buttons { float:left; clear:both; margin:4px 4px 4px 4px; padding-bottom:2px; } #bottomcontainerBox { height: 30px; width:50%; padding-top:1px; } #bottomcontainerBox .buttons { float:left; height: 30px; margin:4px 4px 4px 4px; } var addthis_product = 'wpp-261'; var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true}; Every time I watch professional Basketball I am blown away by the size of some of those dudes’ shoulder muscles. Just look at them! […]

  11. Hi, i usually try to get in shape like 3 times a year but either an illness stops my progress or an injury, i play a bunch of sports but want to add muscle, i’ve always been very long and thin, i am 6 foot and weigh about 175 right now, i’ve been working out 4 days a week for about a month and have lost a lot of my fat and think i’ve gained a bit of muscle but i don’t know if i’m maximizing my time in the gym. I train Mon-Thurs, Mon i do chest/triceps, Tues-back Wed i was doing bi’s and shoulders but changed to light leg workouts on wednesday, and now bi’s and shoulders on thursday, i try to do about 3 exercises for each area, for example today thurs in japan: i did sitting military shoulder press, then standing barbell curls, moved to shrugs, did some dumbell curls, then lateral dumbell side raises, finished with some cable curls? i felt like o worked out really hard but didn’t feel like i did enough for the shoulders compared to the bi’s my other days are much less busy and i don’t really feel like i get enough out of my chest workout any ideas or a new schedule i should look at, my arms are much longer than my height so i sometimes have problems with heavy weights with my elbows because of the pressure. thanks for any help Ryan in Japan

  12. Totally agree that it’s important to balance chest and shoulder training. I know a lot of guys consider chest to be the priority but if you want a great looking V-shaped torso you have to give your shoulders the attention they deserve too.


    • yeah, I’ve been doing it for about 3 months now and I’ve definitely gotten some noticeable results!

    • I like to include overhead squats on shoulder day because it’s much more taxing on the shoulders than on the legs.

  13. Hi Steve thanks for the usefull post.I’m gonna start a new shoulder program, can you pick some of them for Intermediate workout.So far no matter how hard i try i couldn’t get wider shoulders while getting stronger and biggest chest so i had to stop working out my chest muscles to not look weird you know, narrow shoulders big chest… Do you have any idea about that? can it be genetical or something? i would appreciate some advices man.Thanks

    • It could be genetic. Try doing dumbbell and cable side raises every other day for 2 months. Alternate heavy dumbbells one day – 5 reps, then moderate cables the next day – 8 reps, then light dumbbells the next day – 12 reps, then heavy cables the next day – 5 reps, then moderate dumbbells the next day – 8 reps, etc… for 2 months.

  14. Lately I’ve been finding tutorial videos on the different kinds of exercises that can build muscle on your shoulder so I was amazed of seeing the different videos about shoulder exercises in your webpage thanks for sharing this. It helps a lot!!!

    • Do more weighted chin ups and supinated barbell rows. Stop all your incessant dumbbell curls, because you’re overtraining your biceps.

  15. Hi,

    Thanks for adding a video with a female performing a strength move. I like to see videos like that to shatter the fear of women lifting heavy weights. That young lady was strong and beautiful. Overall I think your website is pretty cool.

  16. Steve,
    So far, I have been isolating shoulders on one day. After taking a look at these compound shoulder exercises, would you advise working shoulders and legs on the same day? For example: 3 sets of each:
    1st move= Barbell back Squats
    2nd move= Dumbbell shoulder press
    3rd move= Clean squat press= start with barbell on ground. Squat down to bar. In one motion, dead lift the bar and raise up to shoulders with wrist pointed towards you (front squat hand positioning). Then, perform a front squat. Then, perform a shoulder press at the top of movement. That is one rep.
    4th move= Sitting military press with barbell.
    5th move= 2 sets of barbell dead lifts, 2 sets of Romanian dead lifts.
    6th move= 45 lbs plate raises

    • I would switch move 4 with move 5, and make the shoulder press a push press on move 3. Move 6 might be overkill, although I do like that exercise once in a while for conditioning.

  17. Hi Steve, how are you? i want to start exercise but dont have any idea from where i start and what i will do. and i have a problem of my weight that i want to gain my weight. so kindly help me for this..

  18. Would you recommend these workouts for people with beginner to intermediate level experience in weight training?

    I’ve never squatted using a barbell.

  19. F***ing dumbass obviously lifting weight over your head would stunt growth due to your spine disc being pressured… it aint no rocket science and definately a myth.. use your f***ing brain, it’s pretty logical. then why do you think they made weight belt? to ease the pain on your back and spine obviously.

    • And this is the type of thinking that keeps myths around for hundreds of years. Ignorance is bliss I guess. Don’t do any lifts over your head man, keep it safe. :/

  20. Question: I’ve starting working out again , in 5 weeks i am definitely seeing and feeling my efforts , My problem is I’m going to taking a trip and will not have any weights or gym and i don’t want to lose everything completely what are some exercises i can do to at least keep active . push ups ,chin ups , pull ups , but how about my legs and shoulders . Also should i stop my protein and n.o. . I have a fast metabolism I’m 5’7 145 lbs i don’t have a problem with my weight and gain muscle really fast.

    • Shoulders – hand stand push ups, all you need is a wall. Or you could find a tree in the woods and use it for overhead presses. I’m also sure you could do one hand chair presses, or two hand table presses, in your dining room if it came down to that.

      Legs – tabata bodyweight squats, squat jumps, depth jumps onto a couch, chair, or table. Or find a tree in the woods and use it for deadlifts, cleans, and squats. Also, one leg squats and pistol squats are pretty hard.

      For push ups, remember to use a plyometric effort like clapping or jumping up onto a book, and one are push ups are great too. Diamond push ups for triceps.

  21. 15 and weigh 251 lbs nd im 6’3” tall. ive been traing 8months now all one my owm and my programs.when i started i couldnt even bench 134 lbs but now i can bench 270 lbs for 6 reps. when i started trainin i was 149 lbs now im 250 . i eat quite allot. please if anyone can give me sme advice i would really appreaciate it. is it beter to train full body workouts or to concentrate on different body parts on different days. thanks a mill.

    • Those are both good strategies depending on your current goals. Bodybuilders might split their training up with one or two muscle on each day. They might also use an upper and lower body split, twice a week. Athletes looking primarily for fitness, health, or conditioning, might use full body workouts, three times a week. All routines are good, but some are better depending on your goals.

      • so ur bench press is there is a saying,the stronger the triceps,the stronger you bench,so try to make your triceps stronger and try to do bent over barbell row which is a back exercise,and i am sure you will start putting more weights on bench press…

  22. hey hey im in the stage where I am tring to balance out all my muscles, my weaker side finally managed to do a weight ive been struggling on for a few weeks (seated shoulder press) I am wondering in I should gym my forarms to try even them out or if doing biceps and triceps and all the other excercises for chest and back will even them out by themselves? Im not a big believer of gymming forarms and wondering if i should start.

  23. Hi! I was wondering if anyone can tell me what a few good alternatives to squats might be. I had inguinal hernia surgeries on both sides a couple of years ago, and every time I try to do squats, I have pain at the site of the repair.

  24. Hey Steve, I was wondering when I should be working a shoulder “routine” in… what I mean is I’ve been doing a chest day, abs day, bi’s and tri’s day, legs day, back and shoulders day (in alternating order). From what I’m reading, I need to switch this up, but where do shoulders fit in?..

    • chest and shoulders is popular, but I would train shoulders on your arms day, since an arms day is really a waste of time given the size of those muscle comparatively.

      • I agree, since my arms are not taking the size I’m looking for no matter how hard I go… What if I go Chest/tri’s, abs, off day, back/bi’s, legs/shoulders? (alternating) I’m really trying to get dialed in cause I train really hard and spend money on sups, and I can’t afford to waste time or money any longer…

  25. Hey Steve, great article..I was wondering what a good shoulder routine for an athelete would be. I need a full range of arm movement still but having strong shoulders would really help me. I usually like to do the lateral raises and shoulder press (dumbell). What other suggestions would you have for an athelete?

  26. Hi I just read through this site and it’s great.
    I’m 16 yrs old and the trainers at the gym warn me about doing any exercises that involve putting weights over my head and they say that it would stunt my growth, I just want to know if this is true?

    • That’s one of the most ridiculous weightlifting myths and I don’t know why people still believe it. You can lift weights over your head at 16 yrs old.

      • actually it can stun your growth males stop growing between 18-22 years old the problem with putting weight over your head is the fact it puts weight on your discs in your back making them compact instead of streaching..

        • I hate to contradict someone in the military Dan, but where did you find this information. It is a longstanding myth that lifting weight over your head, as in an overhead press, compacts the spine and stunts your growth. I’m sorry to say, but it’s just not true. Point me to several legitimate scientific studies that prove otherwise and I’ll eat my words.

          • i agree with dan, was lifting weights overhead when i was 16, and im 19 now and still growing, grown about 5 inches in that tim, there’s so much misinformation in fitness

  27. Working on your calculus or protecting geeks, at least you have one. I don’t have any. I think that the 2 1/2 years I spent at the gym was too much for the 22 pounds I gained. No shoulders and arms still. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling hopeless, just envious of others who get to have the best of one or both.

    • You know, you can accomplish anything you want. Just formulate a plan and stick with it. Easier said than done, but it can be done.

  28. “protecting geeks”
    go ahead; keep eatin’ that creatine and i’ll keep working on my calculus homework. we’ll see where we are in 10 years.

    • There’s such a thing as working on your calculus homework AND protecting geeks. I know because I already did it for 4 years. What’s your major? Mine was computer science with a minor in software engineering and a concentration in technology & society. Thanks for stopping by.

  29. hey im 23 jus got in a motorcycle wreck and was in the hospital for 10days and lost mostly all the muscle mass i had ive always been skinny, i can eat anything and not gain a pound, and look like a god. i was 160lb 6’tall after the wreck which broke my shoulder, cracked 5 ribs, internal bleeding in the lungs and spleen, roadrash, ect.

    anyways i havn’t been able to workout due to the extreme pain in my shoulder. Within the past week or so i have been able to start doing pushups and trying to maintain what little i have left ya kno.

    anyways my question is, i weighed 136lb after i got released from ICU, will the muscle return quickly or do i have to start all over from scratch? Then i been trying to workout cuz i hate looking like a 12 year old boy and i had a awsome body befor i was ripped. Now my left shoulder and arm are like spegetti and my right arm is quickly growing but i find that my strength is completely gone.

    i was doing 75lb dumbell flies before now i can only use a 40lb with my right arm and a 8-12lb weight with my left should i be using differnent weights and catch up later with the left arm or should i be taking it easy and working them with the same weight?

    This site is really cool and i apreshiate whomever it was for creating a resource like this thanks man!


  30. Steve, i am new to weight training and noticing that my shoulders are not coming as good as everything else. i start with hang clean and press, then upright rows, side lateral raises, and finish off with reverse dumbbell flyes. any tips for helping to increase my shoulder size…

  31. Wow, was this article written in 1987? I’m going to complain about the introduction to this article here. What woman would be caught dead wearing a dress with shoulder pads? I just got an image of Tootsie in my head. But to your point, women’s dresses these days expose their shoulders completely and nice toned shoulders on a broad is hot.

  32. Hey Steve, I love your site; I was wondering will heavy military press compress my spine and make me shorter?

  33. My left back bone pops out more than my right side bone what exercise should i do to pop the right bone out?

    • Sorry, but I have no idea what you are talking about. I guess you should work your back with pull ups and rows to help stabilize your scapulae?

    • Keep using dumbbell shoulder presses, but always do a couple extra reps or one extra set until the shoulders equal out. Honestly, it is more complicated than that, as I would really need to know if you have any injuries, scar tissue, or other physiological issues that are messing up your form. I’d have to actually watch you train at some point to know whether or not you are doing something wrong.

  34. Hi steve, do you reccomend or maybe disagree with this example of an exercise. If say my left deltoid completely fatigues during a set of dumbell shoulder pressing but my right still has 3-6 reps still in it do you reccomend instead of finishing the set should I carry on with my right and get the few remaining reps done for growth or should i end the set there and then because of the result in muscular embalancing where my right is bigger than my left?

    • Toby: Actually you might consider doing a couple extra reps with a lighter weight on the weak side, but you shouldn’t do the extra reps with the strong side as it will just increase the imbalance.

  35. I was checking out this site for some new exercises as I’m bored with what I’m doing but I also want to know if my combination workouts are what I should be doing? I workout 3xwk @ 530am..before work..
    Mon`- 30 mins of cardio, chest & triceps, abs & stretch, Wed- 30 mins of cardio, arms, abs & stretch & Fri- 30 mins of cardio, back & biceps, abs & stretch.

    Any suggestions?


      • You are an idiot. Because you dont have the guts? Are you 5 years old? Handstand shoulder presses only allow a partial rep because your head is in the way. I think you hit your head too many times on the way down.

  36. Should we really be worried about spine compression with exercises such as military press and also squats..?
    Great article by the way.

    • Freddy: No, not in my opinion. Squats and military presses done with proper form won’t cause injury. That’s not to say I would recommend squatting 2 x body weight for a 10 year old.

      • I love the results that I get from squats, although I dread squat days as they wipe me out. Sadly, just as I was busting my squat plateau I was diagnosed with a back disorder (almost like a herniated disc). My Doctor & Chiropractor both banned me from doing squats & deadlifts. Squats and traditional deadlifts (as well as other exercises to an extent) DO compress the spine. Yes, with correct form you shouldn’t CREATE back injuries, but if you have an existing or new back injury these exercises are not recommended. I got to a point where I almost couldn’t put on my shoes due to back injury & continuing these exercises. Military press invariably uses less weight and so compresses less. This can also be negated by keeping a straight back, not hyper-extending and using a belt for stability. I have had to switch to lunges / Romanian deadlifts as these put less direct compression pressure on the spine. Squats may make you all big and tough and walk with pride, but a crippled back can stop you walking at all and really can cause a myriad of other related health problems in later life. Simply put – Bad Back + Squats = No!

        • Interesting comment. I use weights to stay in shape and do ok but I’m now hoping to build some extra mass. I do have lower back problems though (sciatica). I haven’t been able to do even light squats for a few years because of the pain. I enjoy pull ups though and have tried to bring in dead lifts to my back training again. Unfortunately though they have left me in considerable pain, even though I was carefukl with my form.

          Is there any alternative compound exercises I could do that wouldn’t put strain on my back.

          I’m 40 so no spring chicken!

  37. I think i need new exercises for my shoulders, ones using dumbells because im at a plataue i have consistently done seated arnold dumbell presses and standing dumbell presses, what other compound exercises can i do for best results ?

  38. Steve thank you. I have been working my back hard on this deployment I have never payed much attention to it until a couple of months ago but I will keep it up.


  39. I need to concentrate on the rear head of my shoulder. I think I have overtrained the front head with all the benching and what not. Someone told me my shoulders stick out of the fron wich wouldnt be a problem if they stuck out of the back too. What work out should I use to build them up?

  40. Shoulders are so important for “the look.” Smaller weights with more reps builds a women’s shoulders just so.

  41. Very useful exercises for workout.I find Seated dumbbell press and overhead millitary press to be quite effective.

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