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June 13, 2022 8 min read

Your shoulders are an important part of your anatomy and are essential in completing tasks in your everyday activities. There are few other muscle groups that are as connected and essential, as your shoulders are essential for just about everything you do with your upper body.

Whether you’re bodybuilding or just weightlifting making sure that you build strong and evenly developed shoulder muscles is essential.

When you consider that almost every exercise involves using your shoulder, that's a lot of responsibility for a group of muscles that don’t take up a lot of room on your body.

So being smart when training your shoulders is especially important when it comes to making them stronger and preventing injuries.

It's easy to overtrain these muscles because even when you're not expressly targeting them, they're still getting plenty of work.

Luckily, shoulder muscles are one of the easier muscle groups to develop through the right workout routine. With good programming and consistency, you can expect great gains. To get the most out of your shoulder workouts you need to use a diverse routine that targets all the different parts of your shoulders.

 

Muscles Used While Shoulder Training

Your shoulders are made up of roughly 20 distinct muscles which all play a part in stabilizing the shoulder and controlling its movements.

Larger Shoulder Muscles

The large shoulder muscles are responsible for most of the shoulder’s work.

  • The trapezius is responsible for elevating the shoulder blade and rotating it during arm abduction.
  • Deltoids are a set of three muscles that are responsible for flexion and medial rotation of the arm. The deltoid muscles are also responsible for arm abduction, extension, and lateral rotation.
  • Pectoralis major (pecs) are responsible for aiding in arm adduction and medial rotation of the arm. 
  • The rhomboid major helps keep the shoulder blade attached to the rib cage and allows you to pull your shoulder blades back.

Rotator Cuff Muscles

The four muscles of your rotator cuff keep the head of your upper arm bone from popping out of the shoulder blade socket.

  • Supraspinatus is responsible for beginning the upward motion of your arm. After roughly 15 degrees of elevation, the deltoid and trapezius muscles do the work. 
  • Infraspinatus mainly helps the rotation of your arm away from the center of your body. 
  • Teres minor helps with the lateral rotation of your arm.
  • Subscapularis helps stabilize the shoulder joint and allows it to rotate so the arm can turn in toward the midline of your body.

To help make sure you guys are getting the most out of your shoulder workouts, we have put together five shoulder programs with some of the best shoulder exercises that will help you build muscle and increase your strength.

You’ll be getting the best of both worlds while also keeping your shoulders healthy. Don’t forget to warm up your shoulders and rotator cuffs before each workout to help prevent injuries. 

Gym Shoulder Program 

You will need to do this workout at a gym since it requires machines and free weights. Each exercise is done individually and is designed to work all parts of your shoulders. 

Seated Arnold Presses


How to Do the Seated Arnold Press: 
  • Sit holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing you.
  • Press them up overhead, rotating your wrists as you go, so you end with straight arms and palms facing away.
Sets: 3

Reps: 15,10,5

Rest 45 seconds

Seated Lateral Raises 

How to Do the Seated Lateral Raise: 

  • While seated upright, lean forward slightly, raise the dumbbells off to your side to shoulder height.
  • Pause at the top, then lower back under control.

Sets: 3

Reps: 10

Rest: 45 seconds

Bent Over Reverse Fly

How to Do the Bent Over Reverse Fly:

  • Stand up and bend forwards from your hips.
  • Lead with your elbows to raise the weights to shoulder height.
  • Pause, then lower back under control.

Sets: 3

Reps: 12

Rest: 60 seconds

Barbell Shrugs

How to Do Barbell Shrugs:

  • Start by holding the weight in each hand with your arms straight, you only want to move your shoulders, so your elbows should be fully extended.
  • Keep your neck in a neutral position and don't look down. Keep your glutes and core engaged.
  • Shrug your shoulders straight up, hold for a count, then lower the weight under control.

Sets: 3

Reps: 10

Rest: 45 seconds 

Shoulder Ladder Progression

This ladder program uses dumbbells and a kettlebell and consists of three exercises, making this perfect for people in a time crunch and who want to get a killer shoulder workout in. The goal of this workout program is to complete each exercise one after another.

Once you complete the first set for all three exercises, you immediately go again, adding one to your rep count each time.

So there’s no rest, just keep climbing until failure. We recommend starting light or you will burn out quickly. This would be a great workout to do in your home gym as it doesn’t require much equipment. 

1A. Dumbbell Thrusters

How to Do the Dumbbell Thruster:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and rest both dumbbells on your shoulders, elbows pointing forwards.
  • Squat down slowly, then explode up, driving through your heels.
  • As you reach standing, press the dumbbells overhead.
  • Lower the dumbbells to your shoulders.

Starting Reps: 6

1B. Standing Lateral Raises

How to Do the Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise:

  • While standing, lean forward slightly, raise the dumbbells off to your side to shoulder height.
  • Keep the tempo high and don’t pause at the bottom of the exercise. 

Starting Reps: 6

1C. Kettlebell Swings

How to Do a Russian Kettlebell Swing:

  • Start with the kettlebell on the floor just in front of you, with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in the knees.
  • Keep your back ramrod-straight throughout.
  • Hinge at the hips and lean forwards to take hold of the kettlebell and pull it back between your legs.
  • Drive your hips forwards to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height.
  • Let the swing end naturally and come back down again, hinging at the hips as the kettlebell passes between your legs, then drive your hips forwards to power the next swing.

Starting Reps: 6

Shoulder Centurion

In this program, the exercises are put into a tri-set, so you do the first set of exercise A, then the first set of exercise B followed by the first set of exercise C with as little rest as possible.

Then return to the first exercise to do the second set, competing for a different number of reps as indicated. To make this a full workout session repeat this entire thing three times. 

1A. Kettlebell Swings

Sets: 7

Reps: 5,10, 20, 30, 20, 10, 5

1B: Barbell Shrugs

Sets: 7

Reps: 3, 5, 10, 15, 10, 5, 3 

1C. Military Shoulder Press

How to Do the Dumbbell Military Press:

  • Stand holding two dumbbells at your shoulders.
  • Tighten your core and glutes. Your elbows should be slightly off to your side. This is the start.
  • Now press the dumbbells upward, straightening your elbows and shoulders.
  • Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders with control.

Sets: 7

Reps: 5, 10, 20, 30, 20, 10, 5

Superset Shoulder Program

This is a six-move session with two straight-set moves followed by two supersets.

Do exercise 1, sticking to the sets, reps, and rest shown, then do exercise 2. Then do exercises 3A and 3B as a superset, and the same again for exercises 4A and 4B, to work your shoulder hard and get stronger.

  1. Push Press

    How to Do the Push Press:

    • Stand tall holding a bar across the front of your shoulders.
    • Lower into a quarter squat, then stand up powerfully to press the bar directly overhead.
    • Slowly lower it back to the start. This entire movement should look like it’s in one motion. 

    Sets: 4

    Reps: 10

    Rest: 45 seconds

    1. Barbell Upright Row

      How to Do the Barbell Upright Row:

      • Lean forwards from the hips holding a barbell with an overhand grip just outside of shoulder width.
      • Keeping your chest up and core braced pull the bar up to your upper chest. Elbows to stay above the bar. 
      • Lower it back to the start under control.

      Sets: 4

      Reps: 12

      Rest: 60 seconds

      3A. Prone Reverse Flyes

      How to Do the Prone Reverse Fly:

      • Lie chest down on an incline bench, holding a light dumbbell in each hand.
      • Keeping your chest on the bench and a slight bend in your elbows, raise the weights to shoulder height, then lower them back to the start.
      • Make sure to get the full range of motion. 

      Sets: 3

      Reps: 12

      3B. Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise

      Sets: 3

      Reps: 12

      Rest: 60 seconds

      4A. Dumbbell Front Raises

      How to Do the Dumbbell Shoulder Front Raise:

      • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your glutes, core, and shoulder blades engaged.
      • Squeeze your shoulders to lift the weight up, just until your arms are parallel to the ground.
      • Hold for a one-second count, then lower back down under control.

      Sets: 3

      Reps: 10

      4B. Shoulder Dips

      How to Do Shoulder Dips: 

      • Grasp the parallel bars and hop up so your arms are straight.
      • Lean forward at about a 45-degree angle, bend at the waist so your legs are vertical, and pull your toes up toward your shins.
      • Pull your shoulders down and back. Maintain this body position throughout the exercise.
      • Slowly bend your elbows to lower your body into the dip until your upper arms are about parallel to the ground.
      • Keep your elbows tight to your body. Straighten your arms to drive your body up to the starting position.
      • To keep up your driving power for your next workout check out BCAAS/EAAS to support muscle recovery. 

      Sets: 3

      Reps: 10

      Rest: 60 seconds

      Serious Shoulder Strength

      This workout is fantastic for setting the foundation for stronger shoulders and is perfect for individuals who are looking to get introduce shoulder days into their workout regiment. It has a mixture of compound and isolation exercises making it a great option whether you’re a beginner or an experienced lifter.

      1. Band Pull Aparts

        How to Do the Band Pull Apart:

        • Set up in an athletic position with a band in both hands and your palms facing down.
        • Lift the hands to shoulder height with the elbows extended.
        • Exhale and pull the band apart until it nearly touches your chest.
        • Getting full activation in the rear delts.
        • Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

        Sets: 5

        Reps: 12

        Rest: 30 seconds

        1. Resistance Band Face Pulls

          How to Do Banded Face Pulls:

          • Assume a split stance with the arms straight out in front of you utilizing a pronated grip.
          • Inhale and pull the rope towards your face while keeping the elbows high.
          • Slowly lower the rope back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions on both sides.

          Sets: 5

          Reps: 10

          Rest: 30 seconds

          1. Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press

            How to Do the Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press: 

            • Stand holding two dumbbells at your shoulders.
            • Tighten your core and glutes. Your elbows should be slightly in front of you.
            • Now press the dumbbells upward, straightening your elbows and shoulders.
            • Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders with control.
            • Also called a seated dumbbell shoulder press or military press, this is a great way to isolate your shoulders by taking your lower body out of the equation.

            Sets: 4

            Reps: 12

            Rest: 45 seconds

            1. Standing Lateral Raises

            Sets: 3

            Reps: 12

            Rest: 45 Seconds

            1. Dumbbell Shrugs

              How to Do Dumbbell Shrugs:

              • Start by holding the weights in each hand with your arms straight at your sides, your elbows should be fully extended.
              • Your palms should be in a neutral position.
              • Keep your neck in a neutral position and don't look down.
              • Keep your glutes and core engaged and shrug your shoulders straight up, hold for a count, then lower the weight under control back to the starting position. 

              Sets: 3

              Reps: 10

              Rest: 60 seconds

              Challenge Your Shoulders 

              Your shoulders are an important part of your anatomy and are essential in completing tasks in your everyday activities. So making sure that you’re strength training and evenly developing shoulder muscles is essential. 

              So instead of hitting the same exercises every shoulder day, try something different to challenge your shoulders and build some serious strength by switching it up with one of these shoulder workout programs. Your shoulders will thank you.