21 Shoulder Exercises for Men

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Shoulder Exercises for Men

The following 21 shoulder exercises for men and accompanying videos work the deltoid and trapezius muscles. Select any of the shoulder exercises to watch the accompanying video. Below the exercises, find four shoulder workouts as well as links to EMG’s other muscle specific guides. These exercises are grouped as follows.

  • Barbell Press Exercises
  • Dumbbell Press Exercises
  • Dumbbell Raise Exercises
  • Smith Machine Exercises
  • Cable Raise Exercises
  • Machine Press Exercises
  • Row Exercises for Traps
  • Shrug Exercises for Traps

 


 

 

Shoulder Exercises for Men

Barbell Press Shoulder Exercises for Men

Standing Military Press

The standing military press is one of the basic shoulder exercises for building deltoid size and strength. Typically, a grip just wider than shoulder-width is used. The military press can be used with a wider grip if the user wants to limit the secondary tricep workout and better isolate the deltoid. Anything closer than shoulder-width grip should not be used because it takes the focus off the shoulder and puts too much on the triceps. By performing the standing military press, the user is able to get under the weight more effectively. The user can help the weight up with his legs, though this self-spotting should only be done on the final few reps or on any reps past the needed rep range. If you are helping the weight up with your legs for the majority of the exercise, this is called a push press and is a different exercise.

 

Seated Military Press

Seated Military Press

The seated military press is another one of the basic size and strength building shoulder exercises for the deltoids. Typically, a grip just wider than shoulder-width is used, but the military press can be used with a wider grip if the user wants to limit the secondary tricep workout and better isolate the deltoid. By performing this exercise seated, the user protects his lower and isolates the deltoid better. When seated, the user cannot use any other body momentum to get the weight back up.

 

Behind the Neck Shoulder Press

Behind the Neck Press

The behind the neck press is a variation of the seated military press that builds size and strength. By performing the behind the neck shoulder press, the deltoid is more isolated than if the press was performed in front of the neck. The disadvantage to performing the press behind the neck is that you can not achieve the same deep stretch as if the exercise was performed in front of the neck. This exercise can be a tough exercise to feel comfortable with. First, it is tough to get the weight off the rack and therefore a spotter should be used to help you get the bar in the proper place. Second, it is important to not lower the weight too far behind you.

 

Push Press

Push Press

The push press is one of the more advanced shoulder exercises for developing size and strength in the frontal deltoids. This exercise is very similar to a standing military press. The stance and grip are the same. Where the two exercises differ is in the execution of the press. The military press requires the user to press the weight without using momentum from the legs to help the weight up. The push press has the user lower the legs slightly as the weight goes down and then push back up. The push press is one of the shoulder exercises that is very beneficial for those looking to add explosive power in the shoulders or those who are struggling to lock out at the top of the military press motion. This exercise should not be performed by those with a history of back problems.

 


 

Dumbbell Press Shoulder Exercises for Men

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The dumbbell shoulder press is one of the basic shoulder exercises. Using dumbbells instead of a barbell allows the the user to work each deltoid independently of the other. It also allows the user to lower the weight more and get a deeper stretch of the muscle. Furthermore, because the user must hold each dumbbell independently, the stabilizer muscles of the deltoid are worked more than if a barbell was used. While the dumbbell shoulder press can be performed standing, it is more often performed seated. This helps to preserve the user’s back health and isolate the muscle by preventing “cheating.”

 

Arnold Press

Arnold Press

Named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Arnold press is a more complex version of the dumbbell shoulder press. Whereas a regular shoulder press works the frontal deltoids with a small secondary tricep work at the top, this exercise works both the frontal and lateral deltoids. To accomplish this, the exercise involves a longer motion than the regular shoulder press. This can make it a tougher motion for first time users. Until you are comfortable with the longer motion, use a lower weight. Once the motion can be performed smoothly, you can raise the weight. Depending on the rep range and weight used, the Arnold press can be used as a strength building exercise or a shaping and developing one. To focus more on the shoulders and less on the triceps, stop just short of locking out at the top of your reps.

 

Dumbbell Raise Shoulder Exercises for Men

Dumbbell Front Raise

Dumbbell Front Raise

The dumbbell front is one of the best shoulder exercises for targeting the the frontal deltoid. It can be used as either a shaping and developing or a size and strength exercise. The front dumbbell raise is a simple exercise but it can be performed in a variety of ways. The exercise can be performed with both arms at the same time or one arm at a time. If one arm at a time is preferred, the user can alternate arms or perform all the repetitions with one arm before switching to the other. The height to which the weight is raised also determines how exactly the exercise works. If the weight is raised above the shoulder, the traps are engaged at the top of the motion in addition the frontal deltoid.

 

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The dumbbell lateral raise is one of the best shoulder exercises for targeting the lateral head (middle part) of the deltoid muscle. It is also a good exercise for those who are looking to add size and strength to their lateral deltoid and better define their lateral deltoids.

 
 

Bent Over Lateral Raise

Bent Over Lateral Raise

The bent over lateral raise is one of the primary shoulder exercises for targeting the rear deltoids. Since the rear deltoids are a small muscle, not a lot of weight is required to work them effectively. The further the user bends over, the more the bent over lateral raise works the rear deltoid instead of the lateral deltoid. This can be a tough exercise for those with low back pain. Even though the back remains in the same position throughout, there can be pressure in the low back toward the top of the movement. If this is the case, lateral dumbbell raises can be performed in a seated position, rather than standing. Depending on the degree of the back pain, performing the exercise seated may not alleviate the pain and the exercise should not be performed at all.

 

Smith Machine Shoulder Exercises for Men

Smith Machine Shoulder Press

Smith Machine Shoulder Press

The smith machine shoulder press is a variation on the seated military press and provides many of the same benefits. This exercise allows the user to build size and strength in the frontal deltoids without having to worry about the need for a spotter or controlling the weight up and down. The downside to this is that the stabilizer muscles are not being worked. The smith machine is doing all the stabilizing here. Nevertheless, the smith machine shoulder press can be easier on those with shoulder, elbow or wrist pain. Users can also put a safety latch on the smith machine that sets the low point that the bar can reach.

 

Smith Machine Behind the Neck Shoulder Press

Smith Machine Behind the Neck Press

The smith machine behind the neck press is a size and strength building deltoid exercise. By performing this exercise behind the neck, the deltoid is more isolated than if the press was performed in front of the neck. The disadvantage to performing the press behind the neck is that you can not achieve the same deep stretch as if the exercise was performed in front of the neck. This exercise can be a tough exercise to feel comfortable with. First, it can be tough to unhook the weight from the bar while reaching behind your head. While the smith machine is usually used in place of a spotter, one can be helpful when unhooking and re-hooking the weight. Second, because the weight is on a track, this strict motion may cause shoulder pain for those who are not as flexible in their shoulders.

 

Cable Raise Shoulder Exercises for Men

One Arm Cross Cable Lateral

One Arm Cross Cable Lateral

The one arm cross cable lateral is one of the good shaping and developing shoulder exercises for the lateral deltoid. It allows the user to isolate the lateral deltoid and not use body sway to help move the weight. This exercise can be performed with the off-hand on the hip or against the cable machine for support. This exercise should be performed slowly and deliberately at a high rep range.

 

One Arm Side Cable Lateral

One Arm Side Cable Lateral

The one arm side cable lateral is another one of the good shaping and developing shoulder exercises for the lateral deltoid. This exercise allows the user to isolate the lateral deltoid and not use body sway to help move the weight. This exercise can be performed with the off-hand on the hip or against the cable machine for support. This exercise should be performed slowly and deliberately at a high rep range.

 

Machine Press Shoulder Exercises for Men

Machine Shoulder Press

Machine Shoulder Press

The machine shoulder press is one of the basic machine shoulder exercises for building size and strength in the frontal deltoids. This exercise is often preferred to the dumbbell shoulder press or the military press because the motion is easier on the joints. As men age, the heavier weights can cause pain in the shoulder joint. This exercise provides a good range of motion. Because you are not actually pushing the weight overhead, it is easier to get a longer range of motion. You no longer have to worry about bring the weight down too far and not being able to get it back up. The downside to this exercise is that the stabilizer muscles are not being worked because of the strict range of motion determined by the machine.

 

Machine Lateral Raise

Machine Lateral Raise

The machine lateral raise works the lateral head of the deltoid muscle. This exercise is one of the good shoulder exercises for those who have back problems and can not perform dumbbell lateral raises without discomfort. It is also a good exercise for those who are looking to define their lateral deltoids more. The strict motion of the machine allows for better isolation of the muscle than if performed with dumbbells.

 

Deltoid Fly

Deltoid Fly

The deltoid fly (also known as the machine reverse fly) is one of the primary machine based shoulder exercises that works the rear deltoid. It can often be the only way for those with back troubles to work the rear deltoid. The deltoid fly has the advantage of providing a chest pad to brace the upper body. This pad allows both support of the back and better isolation of the rear deltoid.

 

Trap Exercises for Men

Row-Based Trap Exercises for Men

Upright Rows

Upright Rows

Upright rows are one of the primary size and strength building shoulder exercises for the traps. This exercise is most commonly performed with an EZ bar. It can also be performed with a barbell. The EZ bar should be gripped just within shoulder-width. The curvature of the bar provides an ergonomic grip position that is easier on the wrists and forearms. It is important to get a full stretch when performing upright rows, regardless of the amount of weight being used. Normally, a shoulder-width foot position is used, but for those doing heavier weight or those with a back injury, a wider foot position can be used.

 

Smith Machine Upright Row

Smith Machine Upright Row

The smith machine upright row is another one of the size and strength building shoulder exercises for the traps. The grip position on a barbell is a slightly less than shoulder-width grip. It is important to get a full stretch when performing an upright row, regardless of the amount of weight being used. A benefit to performing the upright row on a smith machine is that you do not have to control the weight from moving horizontally; the machine takes the body sway out of the exercise. This can allow the user to perform the exercise with weight heavier than he would normally be able to do. As with any exercise performed on a smith machine, the downside is that the stabilizer muscles are not being used because the user is not fully controlling the weight.

 

Shrug-Based Trap Exercises for Men

Barbell Shrugs

Barbell Shrug

Barbell shrugs are one of the primary size and strength building shoulder exercises for the traps. It is usually chose over the dumbbell shrug if higher weight is desired. By having the weight on a barbell rather than dumbbells, the weight is less concentrated in the users hand, allowing for heavier weight. This exercise is often performed in a squat rack, with the safety bars set at arm’s length. This allows the user the safety of both having a shorter distance to pick the weight up from and being able to drop the weight if it becomes to heavy to hold.

 

Dumbbell Shrugs

Dumbbell Shrugs

Dumbbell shrugs are a another one of the primary size and strength building shoulder exercises for the traps. One of the benefits to performing the shrug with dumbbells instead of a barbell is that the hands will get stronger in order to hold each dumbbell. When you first start performing this exercise, your hands may be weaker than your traps. This will limit the weight you can do at first. Do not use wraps to allow you use heavier weight. Your forearm and grip strength will increase the more the exercise is performed and will eventually even out with trap strength. Resist the urge to help the weight up by bouncing at the knees. This increases the risk of injury greatly and the traps are not a muscle that benefits from “cheating” the weight up. Instead, this exercise should be performed in a slow and deliberate motion, holding briefly at the top of the motion to maximize the exercise.

 

Smith Machine Shrugs

Smith Machine Shrugs

The smith machine shrug is a size and strength building exercise for the traps. The smith machine shrug is commonly performed with a grip that is slightly wider than shoulder-width but may be performed with a wider or shorter grip depending on preference. A wider grip will work the traps closer to the shoulders and a shorter grip will work the traps closer to the neck.

 
 

Shoulder Exercises Infographic

Shoulder Exercises Complete Compressed
 

Shoulder Exercises Video Playlist

 
 

Pre-Designed Shoulder Workouts

 


 

Shoulder Workout #1:

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Arnold Press 4 10-12
2. Dumbbell Shrugs 3 20-25
3. Upright Rows 3 10-15

 

Shoulder Workout #2:

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Seated Military Press 3 10-12
2. Machine Lateral Raise 3 12
3. Deltoid Fly 3 15
4. Barbell Shrugs 3 20-25

 

Shoulder Workout #3:

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Dumbbell Front Raise 3 12
2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 12
3. Bent Over Lateral Raise 3 12
4. Dumbbell Shrugs 2 15

Shoulder Workout #4:

Exercise Sets Reps
1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 10-12
2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 12-15
3. One Arm Cross Cable Lateral 3 15-25

 

Additional EMG Exercise Sets

Updated: April 2nd, 2015