3 of the Best Exercises to Build Your Shoulders
Shoulder exercises are a mainstay in any great training program. Not only do shoulder exercises help sculpt a well-rounded physique, but they’re essential to overall strength and contribute to a high-performing upper body and core.
If you’re on a mission to build strength and muscle in your shoulders, this guide to three of the best shoulder exercises will help you get started.
1. Barbell Shoulder Press
Variations: dumbbell shoulder press, kettlebell shoulder press, resistance band press
Why this is one of the best exercises for your shoulders: You really can’t go wrong with this classic shoulder exercise. The barbell shoulder press works your front deltoids and lateral (side) deltoids, resulting in a rounder and bigger look. Your upper back and triceps also get a nice push from the overhead press.
How to do the barbell shoulder press:
- Hold a barbell in the front-rack position: The bar should rest along your collarbone. Keep a full grip on the bar and point your elbows forward.
- Brace your core, plant your feet, and press the barbell overhead.
- At the top, your elbows should be fully extended and your palms should face forward (knuckles to the sky).
- Lower the barbell back to the starting position to complete one rep.
2. Dumbbell Arnold Press
Variations: kettlebell Arnold press
Why this is one of the best exercises for your shoulders: This exercise comes straight from a bodybuilding legend — yes, that Arnold. The rotational aspect of the Arnold press means your shoulders work in multiple planes of motion, an additional element of muscle-building potential.
How to do the dumbbell Arnold press:
- Hold two dumbbells in the front-rack position: Rest one head of each dumbbell on your shoulders and support the other head by using a full-grip and pointing your elbows forward. The dumbbells should be parallel to the ground and perpendicular to your body.
- Press the dumbbells above your head. As you do so, rotate your arms so that the dumbbells turn outward. Your palms should face forward when you reach full extension of your elbows.
- Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, rotating your arms inward to reassume the front rack position. This completes one rep.
3. Dumbbell I-Y-T-W
Variations: resistance band I-Y-W-T
Why this is one of the best exercises for your shoulders: This dumbbell complex works your shoulders from every angle and in every plane of motion. Your front, lateral, and rear deltoids (as well as your trapezius) will all feel the burn.
How to do I-Y-T-Ws:
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down, palms facing your body.
- With your elbows extended, raise your arms above your head, keeping your arms close so your biceps almost graze your ears. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
- Raise your arms again, this time moving your biceps away from your ears. Make a “Y,” like you would when dancing to the YMCA song.
- For the “T” portion of the exercise, perform a lateral raise. Lift your arms out to your sides while keeping your elbows extended.
- Finally, make a “W” with your arms by bringing your elbows parallel to your shoulders and performing an external rotation of your shoulders.
Want more exercise ideas? Here are the three best exercises for your glutes, plus a guide to building muscle without lifting weights.