Best Shoulder Workout

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What to Do if You Really Want to Build your Shoulders to the Maximum

Deltoids from the best Shoulder Workout

Before You Jump into the Best Shoulder Workout, Please Read the Following

A system is only as strong as its weakest link. In the shoulders, the weakest link is the stabilization system: the rotator cuff. If you think you have a rotator cuff injury, then you should probably avoid these shoulder workouts and focus on rotator cuff exercises and stretches.

Shoulder strengthening exercises make up a large part of the best shoulder workout. You will perform exercises which work every muscle in the shoulder complex in multiple planes of motion.

If you want to get a complete shoulder workout,  include isolation exercises for all motions the of which the shoulder complex is capable.

The Best Shoulder Workout Covers it All

Shoulder strengthening exercises which isolate the anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids are included because the goal of the best shoulder workout is to build the shoulders completely.

This workout is best for muscle building because there will be a large training volume on a single muscle group.

If you choose to do the full workout, the shoulder strengthening exercises described in this article should be performed on their own. You should wait one or two days before and after this workout to perform any upper body exercises.

If you care more about functional strength for athletics, you should probably stick to the more basic but effective shoulder exercises.


Here Are the Shoulder Strengthening Exercises Which Make Up the Best Shoulder Workout

Behind-the-Neck Press

Behind-the-neck press is not for everybody. If you have any kind of shoulder problems or have had problems in the past, you should probably avoid pressing the barbell behind the neck.

Some “experts” say to avoid these at all costs, but like most shoulder strengthening exercises, if you can do it and it feels natural, there is no reason not to because they are very effective.

There are many ways to perform the behind-the-neck press. It’s best if you have a spotter, as racking the weight should be done safely to avoid a high chance of injury.

Start: Sit on a bench with a barbell behind your head, on the top of your shoulders as if you were going to perform a set of squats.

You or your spotter can bring the bar up to a position with arms fully extended above your head. Draw in your core and make sure your shoulder blades are retracted (squeezed back).

Begin the motion: Slowly lower the bar downward. Lower the bar behind your neck to a position which is around the base of your skull. Pause for a split second and press the bar back up towards the ceiling.

Modifications: You can always perform a standard military press if behind the neck press doesn’t work for you. Alternatively, you can perform these on a bench with a spotter who has a knee in your back for back support, standing or seated from a back supported bench.


Dumbbell Y Press

Dumbbell Y press is a great way to work your deltoids at a different angle than standard shoulder presses.

The Y press tends to be less stressful on the shoulder joint for people with past shoulder injuries.

Start: Stand with a pair of dumbbells in the high hang position. Keep your core tight and your glutes contracted tightly so your body is in optimal posture to target the medial and anterior deltoids.

Begin the motion: Keep the weights close to your body as you press them out to the side and upward.

Fully extend your arms outwards until they form a Y shape. Hold your arms in the Y position for a split second and bring the back to the original position.

Modifications: You can perform the Y press from a seated position. If you choose to perform these shoulder strengthening exercises from a seated position, make sure you don’t arch your back or use the back rest to cheat.


Barbell Upright Rows

Barbell upright rows are another shoulder strengthening exercise which some “experts” recommend to avoid. Again if you feel comfortable performing them and your shoulders are pain free they are a great exercise for your medial deltoids and s.

Start: Grab a barbell with an overhand grip which is no wider than shoulder width. Unrack the weight and step away from the rack. You should be holding the barbell against your body.

Begin the motion: Take a deep breath and lift the bar straight upwards leading with your elbows.

Your elbows should raise up to about ear level as the bar reaches just below your chin. Always keep the bar close to your body. Hold for a split second and lower the weight back to the original position under complete control.

Modifications: You can vary the grip to your preference. The upright row may be stressful on the wrists and shoulders. It should go without saying, if you feel any joint or nerve impingement type of pain, stop and find an alternative exercise.


Dumbbell Front Raises

Front deltoid raises isolate the anterior deltoids. The anterior deltoids get a lot of work with chest exercises so it is important to avoid overworking them. If you overwork the anterior deltoids you may build your body out of proportion. Front raises are great to superset with upright rows during the best shoulder workout.

Start: Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at your hips with your arms relaxed. Make sure you stand with optimal posture meaning your glutes are contracted and your core is drawn in.

Begin the motion: Keep your arms either completely straight or preferably slightly bent. Take a deep breath and lift the weights outwards to a position directly in front of your shoulders.

The dumbbells should come together at the end. Pause for a split second and slowly lower them to the original position.

Modifications: You can perform dumbbell front raises from a seated position, or one side at a time. For the best shoulder workout you should perform both arms at the same time to make the most out of your time in the gym.


Low Cable Rear Raises

Your rear deltoids are very weak compared to your other parts of your shoulders. This is due to the structure of your body as well as poor posture and exercise selection.

The low cable allows for a more complete muscular contraction compared to dumbbells. This is because the resistance is constant for the duration of the motion.

Start: Position the cables to the lowest position. If you are using a free motion machine the arms should be at the setting one above the lowest one.

Grab the each handle with the opposite arm. It is very important to use a light weight and keep your arms in the same slightly bent position for the duration of the movement.

Begin the motion: Take a deep breath, keep your glutes tight and your core drawn in and raise your arms up as you bring them back to a position which is in line with your shoulders out to the side. Hold for a split second and return to the original position exactly as you raised them.

Modifications: You can perform these seated on a bench or physio ball as well as on your knees. The seated varieties will lower the chance you will jerk your body around and cheat with momentum from other body parts such as your legs.

These shoulder strengthening exercise for your rear deltoids can be done on the best shoulder workout or on the day you exercise your back.


Tube Lateral Raises w/ Circles

The tube lateral raise with bi-directional circles finisher is a fabulous way to finish off the best shoulder workout.

It totally isolates your medial deltoids in the part which is the most difficult part of the shoulders to tone.

Start: Grab a relatively light surgical tube or bungee cord and stand directly in the middle with only 1 foot. This will ensure you get equal resistance with both shoulders.

Hold the handles directly at your sides. Keep your arms almost straight but slightly bent. Slightly internally rotate your upper arms so your thumbs are tilted towards your body.

Begin the motion: It is important to keep your arms internally rotated as you raise your arms directly out to the side. Stop when your fists are at shoulder level.

Perform a given number of clockwise circles and then the same number of counterclockwise circles. Lower your arms back down all the way to your sides and repeat. This cap to the best shoulder workout will have your deltoids absolutely begging for mercy in the spot which is difficult to isolate for most people.

Modifications: Just another reminder to slightly internally rotate your arms. The crease of your elbow should be directly perpendicular to the floor.

You can also perform this shoulder strengthening exercise with a light pair of dumbbells or even with no weights other than the weight of your fully pumped arms!


Read Why the Best Shoulder Workout is Most Effective when Combined with the Following Exercises

  • Rotator Cuff Stretches
    Even if you do not have an injury you can find information which can help you get the most out of the best shoulder workout. Knowledge about how the rotator cuff works can help you avoid injury as well.
  • Effective Shoulder Exercises
    Learn why the best shoulder workout for you may be different. If you care more about overall body tone or possibly weight loss, you probably shouldn’t focus on too many shoulder isolation exercises. Effective shoulder exercises will give you the most bang for your buck.
  • Shoulder Workout Videos
    Find over 30 more shoulder strengthening exercises organized by equipment in the exercise video library.
    Just click on any body part and you will find exercise descriptions, videos and simplified anatomy information.
  • Shoulder Exercises to Prevent Injury
    Here are 3 simple shoulder exercises that you can perform to help avoid injuries.

Author Profile: Mike Behnken

Mike Behnken is a personal trainer who holds multiple NASM certifications and a MS in Exercise Science. Mike loves fitness, travel, and photography among many other interests.

Disclaimer: The views of the author are his or her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ask The Trainer.

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