Shoulder muscle building is an important part of developing a well balanced and aesthetically pleasing physique.
Adding mass to your shoulders adds to an overall look of strength and it provides benefits in nearly all sports activities. Strong shoulders also help prevent injury.
Shoulder Muscle Building Exercises
The following shoulder exercises will help you develop large, powerful shoulders. It is vital that when you do these exercises you always use perfect form. Shoulders are finicky joints that are susceptible to injury, and you do not want to deal with a shoulder injury.
Don’t be afraid to use light weights for these exercises; you’ll still get just as good a workout and as many benefits as if you use heavy weights and improper form.
Barbell Shoulder Press
There are two variations to the barbell shoulder press. The old-school version is the behind-the-neck press. Many people have come out against these in recent years, however, due to the risk of injury. If you perform this variation, it is best done with a smith machine so that the only movement you have to worry about is up and down.
In the other variation, you lower the barbell down in front of your face until it reaches the top of your chest and then press it back up again. There are shoulder press machines designed specifically for this workout.
To perform it, load the desired weight on the barbell, take a seat beneath the bar and then lift it up above your head. Now lower the weight slowly until it touches the top of your chest and then press it back up again.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
This exercise can be performed at any regular bench that has back support. Sit down with one dumbbell in each hand and use your thighs to help get them into position. Now raise the dumbbells up so that they are at about ear level with your palms facing forward.
Push upwards and lift the dumbbells up until both arms are extended above your head. Lower the weights once again until each dumbbell is at ear level.
Arnold Dumbbell Press
This is a popular variation of the dumbbell press. All movements are performed the same except you should begin each repetition with your palms facing inwards and your arms tucked against your sides – almost as if you are at the top of a bicep curl.
Now push the weights up, extend your arms and rotate slowly so that you end up at the top with both palms facing forward. Bring the weights back down again while rotating your palms back to the starting position.
This exercise hits all areas of your shoulder and saps a lot of strength. You should not be able to do the same weight with these as you can with normal dumbbell presses. Leave the ego at home when you do these and use lighter weights.
Bent Over Rear Delt Raise
While holding two light dumbbells, stand behind an incline bench and bend over at the waist so that your forehead touches the top of the bench. Make sure you keep your back straight and with its natural arch to avoid injury. Let your arms hang down in front of your with your palms facing inward. Now lift both dumbbells out to the side until both of your arms are parallel to the floor with both palms facing down.
It is easy to cheat on this exercise so you will need to concentrate on proper form. Keep the weights light and make sure your shoulders are doing all the work. You should not be swinging your arms around and using momentum to propel the weights.
Cable Internal Rotation
This exercise is primarily an injury prevention exercise. It is designed to strengthen the rotator cuff and keep your shoulders healthy. You do not need to use heavy weights for this exercise or build up to heavier and heavier weights. Think of it as a form of physical therapy instead.
Stand inside a pulley machine and position the pulley so that it is at about elbow height. Now grab the handle and stand so that your starting position is with the cable extended, your upper arm and elbow tucked against your side but with your lower arm pointed out towards the machine.
Now slowly rotate your shoulder and bring your lower arm across your body. Your upper arm should remain tucked against your body the entire time and your forearm should remain parallel to the floor at all times.
Cable External Rotation
Same idea as the above exercise except you reverse the motion. Begin with your lower arm across your body and pointing towards the machine. Rotate your shoulder and bring your lower arm out so that at the peak of the exercise, your forearm is pointing away from the pulley. Slowly bring it back to a rest at the starting position. This exercise should also be performed with light weights.
Cable Rear Delt Rows
This exercise is performed at a seated row station. Attach two independent handles to the pulleys and sit as if you were about to perform seated rows. Keep your back straight and knees slightly bent. Pull the cables back towards your shoulders with your palms facing down. Keep your elbows up and out to the sides as you pull the pulleys inwards.
At the peak of the exercise, your elbows will be bent but out to the sides with your entire arm parallel to the floor.
Lay face down on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Begin the exercise with your arms extended in front of you pointing towards the floor and with palms facing inwards. Now slowly move the weights out and away from each other until your arms create a T shape with your body. Lower the weights back to the starting position in a controlled movement. Your elbows should maintain a slight bend throughout the exercise.