10 Best Shoulder Exercises For Men (2023)

Shoulder workouts are a crucial component of any good fitness routine. Not only will the right shoulder exercises do wonders in helping you achieve those fitness goal – as well as the inverted Dorito / Tom Hardy in Warrior build – but these shoulder workout routine essentials will also keep things interesting at the gym. Stronger shoulders also mean you’re less likely to sustain a training-related injury from regularly hitting the iron church. Here’s what you need to know about the best shoulder exercises for men.

Best Shoulder Exercises & Workouts For Men – Table Of Contents

What are the different shoulder muscles?

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By comparison, shoulder muscles are one of the easier muscle groups to develop through the right exercises. With a little direction and consistency, you can expect relatively fast gains. But it’s important to employ a varied routine that targets all the different regions that go beyond just your shoulder joint.

From your traps to your cluster of rotator cuff muscles, there are about 20 distinct muscles that all play a part in stabilising the shoulder, controlling its movements and maintaining great shoulder health. The most fundamental ones that will help the entire shoulder perform better include:


This muscle connects your two shoulders in the back and extends to support your neck. It runs all the way down to just before your lower back.

Deltoid Muscles

The deltoids are a set of three muscles. These thin layers of tissue connect your shoulder to your chest. You’ll find the anterior deltoid between your chest and shoulder, your lateral deltoid on top of your shoulder, as well as your posterior deltoid between your upper arm and shoulder blades.

Pectoralis major

You may be more familiar with the biggest of the pectoral muscles as “pecs.” Your pectoralis major is a large muscle that covers your chest and connects it to your shoulder. This rather large muscle makes up the bulk of the chest muscles and is positioned under the breast and the upper chest. The pectoralis major is distinctive from the pectoralis minor, which helps with the stabilisation and movement of the scapula.

Rhomboid major

The rhomboid major is a back muscle that connects your shoulder blades together with your spine. These are positioned in your upper back along with the rhomboid minor muscles; together they help hold your shoulder blade and shoulder stable so are important for shoulder joint movement. It’s one of the more crucial muscles to work on since shoulder stability is what will ultimately help you perform all the below shoulder workout routines safely and effectively.

Serratus anterior

You can find this muscle on the side of your chest, directly underneath your armpit. The fan-shaped muscle is widely referred to as the “boxer’s muscle” as it is largely responsible for the retraction of the scapula that occurs when you throw a punch. All three parts of the Serratus Anterior also work to lift the ribs and assist in respiration.

Rotator cuff

The rotator cuff muscles are a collection of four components. The function of rotator cuff muscles is to support articulation between your arm and shoulder.

(Video) 8 Best Shoulder Exercises for Boulder Shoulders

Top 12 Best Shoulder Exercises for Men

  1. Pushups
  2. Incline Bench Press
  3. Lateral Raise
  4. Overhead Press
  5. Standing Cable Pulley Fly
  6. Crab Walk
  7. Prone T
  8. Dumbbell Shoulder Push Press
  9. Cable Face Pulls
  10. Straight Arm Circles
  11. Single Dumbbell Front Raise
  12. Standing Barbell Shrugs

The following shoulder exercises are some of the best techniques for bulking up various shoulder muscles. According to the experts, you’ll get better results if you perform two to six sets of ten, increasing weight, reps, and sets as you build muscle mass.

Avoid working on your shoulder muscles two days in a row as the body will need time for recovery and muscle building. Consume some protein before and after a shoulder workout and make sure you introduce some carbs during the recuperation period to support those gains.

1. Pushups

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 10-15 per set.
Rest: 30 seconds

Pushups are the ultimate shoulder workout, arguably one of the most fundamental ones for both strength and muscle building. Out of all the shoulder specific exercises, it’s the go-to and arguably the best. Bonus: you can do this essential shoulder exercise practically anywhere without any equipment. There are, however, plenty of push up variations to try out, each targeting different muscle groups.

The standard pushup almost needs no introduction:

  1. Get down on all fours and extend your legs behind. Position your feet however you feel comfortable, although wider apart means your push ups will be more stable.
  2. Lower your upper body towards the ground.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds before pushing yourself back up parallel to the floor.
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As for those push up variations, here are some you can use to target different muscles:

Incline Push Up

  • Use a bench or chair to elevate your body.

Push-Back Push Up

  • Instead of raising your body straight off the ground, fold your knees to bring your body back into a frog-like posture.

Pike Push Up

  • Adopt an invested V-shape instead of keeping your body straight.

Diamond Push Up

  • Place your hands close together in a diamond shape and do your push ups as you normally would.

Wide Push Up

  • Keep your hands further apart while you do your push ups. This targets your pecs more.

Cross-Body Push Up

  • This is where you lift a leg and cross it above the other when lowering your body, which can be more challenging for your shoulders.

Staggered Push Up

  • Stagger your hands by moving one up about ten to fifteen centimetres away from your shoulder and the other down about ten to fifteen centimetres toward your waist.


2. Incline Bench Press

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 8-12 per set.
Rest: 60 seconds

The incline bench press – sometimes referred to as an incline dumbbell press – is a shoulder exercise that’s the cornerstone to any solid shoulder workout, targeting your upper pecs. And it’s quite an easy shoulder exercise to perform.

  1. Adjust your bench at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Start with a firm grip on your weight with both arms bent.
  3. Lift either a barbell or a dumbbell in each hand to engage the upper portion of your chest (instead of the entire pectoral muscle) and strengthen your chest’s connection to your shoulders. Bring your arms together stretched out in front of your chest.
  4. Return weights to the start position.
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3. Lateral Raise

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 8-12 per set.
Rest: 60 seconds

(Video) 15 Best Shoulder Exercises for Boulder Shoulders

Lateral raises are a versatile shoulder exercise that you can perform with a pair of dumbbells, resistance band, cable machine, or improvised weights like books or water bottles (and isn’t completely unlike a rear delt fly – more on this later). It’ll help you develop your lateral deltoid muscles and improve shoulder mobility.

To do a lateral raise:

  1. Stand up straight with your arms relaxed by your sides.
  2. With your pair of dumbbells in hand, resistance band, cable handle, or what have you and raise your arms until it forms a 90-degree angle with your body.
  3. Control your movement as you slowly lower the weight.

Combine the lateral raise with a set of front lateral raises – one arm or two -which targets your anterior deltoids. You can also perform a front raise with dumbbells, resistance bands, cable machines, and yes, you can perform a front raise with another improvised weight. Stand straight with your arms relaxed by your sides. Raise your arms straight in front of you slowly. The resistance should engage your anterior deltoids.

And if you accomplish lateral raises bent 45-degrees over with a straight back, in a similar fashion to an upright row, you’re suddenly doing a rear delt fly.

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4. Overhead Press

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 8-12 per set.
Rest: 60 seconds

The overhead press – sometimes referred to as an overhead shoulder press – is the perfect shoulder exercise for any routine aiming to develop both strength and muscle mass. You can turn up the difficulty setting by using heavier weights. This one will target your deltoids, pectorals, trapezius, and triceps. Alternatively, you can also check out our guide onbest triceps exercises for men.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Lift a barbell or dumbbells to shoulder level and perform an overhead shoulder press by raising the barbell or dumbbells over your head.
  3. Hold the weight above your head for a few seconds before gradually lowering it in a controlled motion.
  4. Just remember, feet shoulder width apart – form is important here as you slowly lower those dumbbells overhead to shoulder height.

You can perform a variation called the military press. The military press is a shoulder training option you should consider if you’re an operator with a more advanced fitness level. This exercise will target your shoulders, back, and core.

This is similar to an overhead shoulder press, but instead of standing shoulder width apart, you’ll need to keep your feet together. With this stance, you’re forced to engage your core for more stability.

Get into the starting position by standing with your barbell tucked underneath your chin and your hands close to your shoulders and palms facing upwards. Extend your arms to raise the barbell above your head. Wait a few seconds before gradually lowering the barbell.

Also see: Arnold press here.

(Video) 9 Best Exercises for BIGGER SHOULDERS and TRAPS

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10 Best Shoulder Exercises For Men (6)


5. Standing Cable Pulley Fly

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 8-12 per set.
Rest: 60 seconds

The standing cable pulley fly is an excellent exercise for targeting your deltoid muscles and your chest. If you have access to a cable machine, performing this essential shoulder exercise is easy:

  1. Use two cables at chest height and extend your arms to your sides while adopting a neutral posture.
  2. Take a step forward and lower the weights slowly while letting your shoulders open up.
  3. Engage your pecs to make the lift.
  4. Return to starting position.

You can try a variation of this exercise known as a reverse cable fly. Stand facing the cable machine, and reach across your body to grab two cables at shoulder height. Your arms should form a cross on your chest. Pull on the cables by extending your arms to the side while moving your shoulders back.

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6. Crab Walk

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 10-15 per set.
Rest: 30 seconds

The crab walk is a bodyweight exercise that targets your shoulder, core, arm, and leg muscles. The starting position is a seated one. Here’s how to perform the crab walk safely:

  1. Bridge your hips off the ground, bend your knees, and support yourself using your hands.
  2. The purpose of this exercise is to crawl by moving one hand along with the opposite foot and repeating on the other side.
  3. It’ll take some practice to master, but it’s a worthy inclusion in any full-body workout.
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7. Prone T

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 10-15 per set.
Rest: 30 seconds

The prone T is a shoulder exercise that improves stability.

  1. Lie belly down on a bench with your head, neck, and spine aligned.
  2. Let your arms hang loose in front of you before raising them to form a T.
  3. You can make this exercise more challenging by throwing some small weights into the mix.

A variant of this exercise is called a prone Y. Instead of raising your arms laterally, raise them above your head to form a Y or V shape.

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8. Dumbbell Shoulder Push Press

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 8-12 per set.
Rest: 60 seconds

Dumbbell shoulder push presses engage your deltoids and trapezius. This exercise also works your glutes, quads, and core. It’s a simple move to learn, which is why we definitely recommend it if you’re new to weight training.

  1. Start by holding the dumbbells at shoulder level.
  2. Knees slightly bent, lower your torso as you exhale.
  3. Stand up straight and raise your arms above your head.
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9. Cable Face Pulls

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 8-12 per set.
Rest: 60 seconds

Cable face pulls target your lateral and posterior deltoids, teres minors, trapezius, and more.

  1. Start by standing in front of a cable machine, cable in hand at shoulder height.
  2. Bring your elbows to a slight bend and pull the cable towards your face in an upward motion.
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10. Straight Arm Circles

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 10-15 per set.
Rest: 30 seconds

Arm circles are a good way to warm up before a workout or to simply stretch yourself out and cool down after an intense shoulder workout session. It’s yet another simple exercise you can do anywhere, for instance, during a break at work or while watch Netflix.

  1. Stand up straight and extend your arms to form a T shape.
  2. Form circles with your arms and widen these circles as time goes on until you achieve a full range of motion.
  3. Change direction after a few seconds.

Straight arm circles are also great for improving mobility. They can help you adopt a healthier posture by opening up your shoulders. If your goal is to develop muscle mass in your shoulders, it’s definitely important to add exercises like straight arm circles that allow you to preserve your mobility.

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11. Single Dumbbell Front Raise

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 8-12 per set.
Rest: 60 seconds

The single dumbbell front raise should always be part of the ultimate shoulder workout for anyone looking to really build up those alpha-looking boulder shoulders. For that, it’s necessary to work all three muscles in your shoulders and the single dumbbell front raise targets mostly the deltoids and the upper chest muscles, making it a bit of an isolation exercise to help with shoulder flexion.

  1. Start by holding the end of a single dumbbell with both hands and letting it hang between your legs.
  2. Make sure you’re holding the dumbbell vertically and make sure your legs are positioned shoulder width apart.
  3. From this starting position, lift the dumbbell directly above you while keeping your arms extended.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position and repeat.
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12. Standing Barbell Shrugs

Sets: 2-3
Reps: 8-12 per set.
Rest: 60 seconds

(Video) Shoulder Exercises Ranked (BEST TO WORST!)

You’re going to be targeting the trapezius muscle by performing standing barbell shrugs. It’s one of the most straightforward and effective exercises you can do to help develop strong shoulders, but it’s also a rather advanced exercise so make sure your form is excellent before starting.

  1. Keep your feet aligned with your shoulders in the first instance and then slightly bend the knees and pick up the barbell, bringing it to waist level.
  2. Remember to stand tall and hold the bar with an overhand grip so your hands land just outside of your thighs.
  3. ift your shoulder straight up and hold for a few seconds in this elevated position.
  4. Make sure your shoulders go back before holding them in place for just one or two seconds, remembering to keep the movements restricted to just your shoulders. This means your arms should be a bit loose and the barbell should only slightly rise and be lowered without any drastic movements.
  5. Your spine and elbows should be straight and you should a using your biceps to lift the weight.
  6. Remember to breathe out when you lift your shoulders, and breathe in as you slowly return to the starting position.
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Now that you’ve read all about the best shoulder exercises for men, be sure to check out how to beat post-workout muscle soreness.


What shoulder exercises hit all 3 heads? ›

Press exercise number one angled flies strengthen your posterior delt with the angled flies to

Is 2 shoulder exercises enough? ›

How Many Shoulder Exercises Should You Do? For optimal shoulder development, I recommend that you include one primary exercise for each shoulder muscle: Front Delts. Examples: bench press, overhead press, dumbbell press, or front raise.

Can I train shoulders everyday? ›

Yes, you can train your shoulders frequently—but only if you're not constantly slaughtering them with heavy weights. Instead, spend more time doing exercises that strengthen your mid-back muscles and rotator cuff muscles.

Do push ups broaden shoulders? ›

Push ups increase the size and strength of your deltoid muscles, making your shoulders look wider and visible. However, exercises specifically targeting the lateral head of the deltoid muscle more effectively broaden your shoulders.

Why won't my shoulders grow? ›

The main condition for constant muscle hypertrophy is increasing weights. If you don't change the weights which you lift, your shoulders stop growing. In order to prevent this, you should increase weight training by training. Certainly it may entail the decrease of reps in a set, but it is not a problem.

How do I build up my shoulders? ›

Compound Shoulder Exercises:

Barbell Push Press: great for working out the whole body. Standing Military Press (using dumbbells or barbells) Push-ups: works your anterior delts, pecks, and triceps. Pull-ups: great for a total upper body workout.

How often should you train shoulders? ›

How often to train shoulders? Training the shoulders at least two times per week is the most common approach and supported by the latest advice on training frequency.

How do I sculpt my shoulders? ›

How To Get Sculpted Shoulders (Easy Shoulder Workout!) - YouTube


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