Shoulder Strength Exercises

1
Upright Row

Paige Waehner

More Shoulder Exercises: Upright Rows | Rear Delt Raises with Band | External Shoulder Rotation | Rear Delt Squeeze | Incline Front Raise | Incline Lateral Raise | Clean and Press

The upright row is a compound movement targeting the shoulders, the upper back and also involving the biceps. You can do this move with dumbbells (as shown), which will work each arm independently, or with a barbell which may allow you to handle more weight. You can also change your hand position to target the muscles differently - if your hands are closer together, you'll focus more on the upper back. If your hands are further apart, you'll focus more on the shoulders. If you have any shoulder problems, you may want to avoid this exercise or use a shorter range of motion.

  1. Stand holding a barbell (or dumbbells), hands close together and palms facing you.
  2. Bend the elbows and pull the weights up until they're at about chest level or higher, if you have the flexibility.
  3. Your elbows should be slightly above the shoulders and the wrists straight.
  4. Try not to shrug as you pull the weights up.
  5. Lower the weight and repeat for 1 to 3 sets of 12-16 repetitions, with a 20-30 second rest between sets.

2
Rear Delt Raises with a Resistance Band

Paige Waehner

More Shoulder Exercises: Upright Rows | Rear Delt Raises with Band | External Shoulder Rotation | Rear Delt Squeeze | Incline Front Raise | Incline Lateral Raise | Clean and Press

It's tough to work the back of the shoulder, but these rear delt raises offer a great way to target the posterior deltoids. The resistance band offers constant tension throughout the exercise and, because you're doing it one arm at a time, you can really focus on the muscle. You'll also work the upper back muscles (rhomboids and traps) for a bonus.

  1. Begin on all fours and place a resistance band on the floor in front of you.
  2. Hold one side of the band with the left hand and grab the other side with the right hand, keeping a few inches between the hands.
  3. Keep the left hand on the ground as you lift the right arm straight up to shoulder level, leading with the elbow and squeezing the back and shoulder.
  4. The knuckles should face the floor at the top of the movement.
  5. Adjust hand placement to increase or decrease tension and repeat all reps on the left arm and then switch to the right arm.
  6. Complete a total of 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.

3
Outward Shoulder Rotation

Outward Rotation
Paige Waehner

More Shoulder Exercises: Upright Rows | Rear Delt Raises with Band | External Shoulder Rotation | Rear Delt Squeeze | Incline Front Raise | Incline Lateral Raise | Clean and Press

When working the shoulders, you don't want to forget the smaller, internal muscles that provide stability and allow your arms to rotate in and out. These small rotator muscles are involved in a variety of activities, so keeping them strong can help protect you from injury. To keep this move safe, keep the range of motion small - you only need to rotate the forearms a few inches to engage the rotators. Rotating too far out could cause injury or pain. If you have any shoulder problems, you may want to check with your doctor before trying this exercise or skip it completely.

  1. Hold a resistance band with hands a few inches apart, palms facing up.
  2. Keeping the elbows in a fixed position, rotate the forearms out a few inches until you feel the shoulder rotators engage.
  3. Rotate the arms back in while keeping tension on the band.
  4. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
  5. This is a small movement and should be done in a slow and controlled manner to avoid injury.

4
Rear Delt Squeeze

Paige Waehner

More Shoulder Exercises: Upright Rows | Rear Delt Raises with Band | External Shoulder Rotation | Rear Delt Squeeze | Incline Front Raise | Incline Lateral Raise | Clean and Press

The rear delt squeeze is a deceptively simple move that targets a variety of muscles including the rear shoulders and the upper back. The key to making this move effective is to, first, make sure you have enough tension on the band as you're pulling the arms open. Second, keep the shoulders down and away from the ears and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Finally, keeping the palms facing up to the ceiling may help you focus more on the rear shoulders.

  1. Hold a resistance band in the middle, arms straight out in front of you, palms rotated towards the ceiling.
  2. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and pull band so that arms are out to the sides like an airplane.
  3. Stop when your arms are slightly past the torso, keeping the shoulders down and away from the ears.
  4. Return to start and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
  5. Change the tension on the band by bringing the hands closer (harder) or further apart (easier).

5
Incline Front Raise

Incline Front Raise
Paige Waehner

More Shoulder Exercises: Upright Rows | Rear Delt Raises with Band | External Shoulder Rotation | Rear Delt Squeeze | Incline Front Raise | Incline Lateral Raise | Clean and Press

Front raises are a great way to target the front of the shoulder (anterior deltoid), and one way to add intensity and variety is to do this move at an incline. The angle of the movement makes this exercise harder, with your arms having to work even harder against gravity. You can do this move on a bench or on a ball, as shown, for more of a balance challenge.

  1. Sit on a ball holding light-medium weights and roll down until you're at an incline, knees bent and back supported on the ball.
  2. With the palms facing in and the arms straight, lift the arms up to shoulder level, focusing on the front of the shoulders.
  3. Lower back down to starting position and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

6
Incline Lateral Raise

Paige Waehner

More Shoulder Exercises: Upright Rows | Rear Delt Raises with Band | External Shoulder Rotation | Rear Delt Squeeze | Incline Front Raise | Incline Lateral Raise | Clean and Press

The traditional lateral raise is a great exercise for targeting the shoulders, but slightly changing the angle of the movement can add challenge and intensity. By doing this exercise on an exercise ball, you increase the pull of gravity, forcing your muscles to work harder to lift the weight. Not only that, the ball adds both support and instability, making this a more dynamic exercise.

  1. Lie with your left side resting on the ball, left knee on the floor for support and the right leg straight.
  2. Rest the right arm on the ball in front of you for support.
  3. Hold a medium weight in the left hand and lift the arm up to shoulder level.
  4. Keep the elbow slightly bent and the wrist straight throughout the movement.
  5. Lower the weight and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on each side.
  6. As you get fatigued, avoid swinging the weight or letting the elbow and wrist bend to get the weight up.

7
Clean & Press

Paige Waehner

More Shoulder Exercises: Upright Rows | Rear Delt Raises with Band | External Shoulder Rotation | Rear Delt Squeeze | Incline Front Raise | Incline Lateral Raise | Clean and Press

The clean & press is an excellent compound exercise for the shoulders with a focus on the rotators as well as the front, middle and rear heads of the deltoids. If you have any problems with your rotators, you might want to skip this exercise to avoid pain or injury. The key to keeping this move safe is to keep the move slow and controlled and work within your strength and flexibility.

  1. Begin with light-medium weights in front of thighs, palms in.
  2. Bend elbows and raise weights to chest in an upright row.
  3. In a smooth movement, flip the weights up and rotate the elbows down so that they point towards the floor.
  4. Press the weights overhead without locking the elbow joints.
  5. Lower the weights, rotate the hands back down to an upright row and return to starting position.
  6. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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