• Home
  • Workouts
  • The Best Shoulder Exercises to Add to Your Workouts

The Best Shoulder Exercises to Add to Your Workouts

You already know that exercising is good for you and that it’s important to exercise and work out different parts of your body. And if you’re already a gym fanatic, you probably have different days for your leg workouts, back workouts and arms. While working on your upper back and arms, don’t neglect your shoulders! Shoulder exercises are important to keep your range of motion and flexibility.

Why Are Shoulder Exercises Important?

According to Men’s Health, a study by Karolinska Hospital’s Department of Orthopedics found that “when patients with recurrent shoulder dislocations performed exercises that targeted the rotator cuff muscles and the deltoid, they were relieved from pain and the number of dislocations they suffered were limited.”

In accordance, shoulder exercises are necessary to keep your muscles loose and flexible, providing a better range of motion and decreasing your chance of injury. Shoulder exercises also are great for building strength, muscle mass, and endurance.

Image of an african bodybuilder raising hands pumping up dumbbells

Your Shoulder Muscles

Before you begin your shoulder workout for mass and strength, it’s important to be familiar with the different muscles in your shoulders. You have both extrinsic and intrinsic muscles. Extrinsic muscles originate from the torso and attach to the bones of the shoulder — the clavicle, scapula or humerus. Intrinsic muscles originate from the scapula and/or clavicle and attach to the humerus.

Extrinsic Muscles

  • Trapezius — The triangle-shaped muscle that runs down along your spine and across your shoulder blade. The right and left trapezius support your arms and shoulders and are needed to raise your arms.
  • Latissimus Dorsi — One of the largest muscles in your back and partially covered by the trapezius, the “lats” make it easier for you to manage your body weight.
  • Levator Scapulae — Located at the side and back of the neck, this muscle lifts the scapula, which connects your humerus with the clavicle, or collarbone.
  • Rhomboids — Located at the top of the back and middle of the shoulder blades, these muscles pull your shoulder blades together when contracted.

Intrinsic Muscles

  • Deltoids — Made up of three main sets of muscle fibers (anterior, lateral and posterior), which are connected by a very thick tendon and are anchored into a V shape. This muscle allows arm rotation and stops dislocation and injury to the humerus when carrying heavy loads.
  • Teres Major — A small muscle located on the underside of the upper arm, this muscle partners with the latissimus dorsi.
  • Rotator Cuff — A group of muscles and tendons that surrounds the shoulder joint, keeping the head of your upper arm bone within the shoulder socket.
Image of a man performing shoulder exercises

The Best Exercises for Your Shoulders

With all of this in mind, it’s time to find your best shoulder workout. Many can even be done at home, with necessary equipment ranging from a shoulder dumbbell to kettlebells and resistance bands.

Overhead Shoulder Raises

Suggested by Top Fitness Mag, overhead shoulder raises are among the most common shoulder exercises. Stand up with your feet firmly planted on the floor, holding a weight in each hand. Next, bring your arms out to the side so they are parallel with your shoulders and bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle. Raise your arms, bringing the weights over your head, before lowering them back to the 90-degree position and repeating.

Saw Press

For this exercise, hold two dumbbells just behind your shoulders, palms facing forward. Look up and tilt your body to the left. While doing this, extend your right arm straight above you. Next, lower the dumbbell and repeat on the other side to create a seesaw motion.

Seated Lateral Raise

You will need a bench and two dumbbells for this exercise. Sit on the bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand by your side. Raise both dumbbells to your side until they’re shoulder height. Lower under control and repeat.

One Arm Dumbbell Swing

If you’re looking for more motion and that burning sensation, the one arm dumbbell swing is the way to go. To do this, hold a dumbbell at arm’s length between your legs and sink into a squat, swinging the dumbbell through your legs before immediately driving yourself forward. While doing this you will be bringing the dumbbell up toward your head as you straighten your legs. Repeat before swapping sides.

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

For the seated dumbbell shoulder press, sit on a bench and hold two dumbbells at shoulder height with an overhand grip. Push the weights above your head until your arms are fully extended. Then, return slowly to the start position.


The spellcaster is a fun shoulder exercise for anyone. Begin by holding a dumbbell in either hand and standing with your legs wide, knees slightly bent. Swing both dumbbells to one side and lift them up — it will appear as if you’re drawing a circle from hip level to above shoulder height. Next, swing the weights to the other side, dipping down to your hip before raising them again.

Military Press

To perform the military press, stand holding two dumbbells at your shoulders, then tighten your core and glutes. Your elbows should be slightly in front of you. Next, press the dumbbells upward, straightening your elbows and shoulders. Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders.

Resistance Band Face Pull

This is one of the best rear delt exercises you can do. Although you can use a high pulley cable station, you also can simply use the ends of a resistance band set high. Grab the pulley station’s rope or the ends of your resistance band and back a few steps away until your arms are extended in front of you.

Pull the rope or band toward your face, pulling it apart as you do. Be sure to pull so that your elbows are in line with your shoulders and try to rotate your hands back at the end.

Kettlebell Single Arm Press

For this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a kettlebell in front of your shoulder with your palm in, elbow tucked and the weight resting on the top of your forearm. Then, press it straight up, rotating your arm until your palm faces forward. Be sure to do equal reps for both arms.

Arnold Shoulder Press

A variation of the military press, the Arnold shoulder press hits the front, lateral and rear of your deltoids. This is also an exercise that can take time to master and should only be done once a week maximum, according to Men’s Health.

Men’s Health states the Arnold can be done from standing, seated and kneeling postures. For the kneeling setup, tighten your core and glutes and hold dumbbells at your shoulders, palms facing your chest. Press the dumbbells up and rotate your palms so they turn away from your chest; stop rotating before they turn fully away. Reverse the movement back to the start.


Overall, there is no lack of variety when it comes to shoulder exercises and the purposes they serve. Additionally, you don’t necessarily need to hit the gym in order to get your shoulders in shape! The more you work out your shoulders, the greater chance you will have to pack on mass and strength while improving your endurance and range of motion, as well as a lesser chance for injury. For clarification on correct form and performance for any of these exercises, simply search the name of the exercise on YouTube for instructional videos.

Affiliate Disclaimer

Please understand that in some cases we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.