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How to Strengthen Your Shoulders and Get the Muscles You Want

Working on your shoulders is a must to improve your posture, prevent injuries, and achieve the ideal physique. Improve your upper body and work your way to the perfect bodybuilder’s physique with exercises like lateral raise, push press, pike pushups and curls. Read more to find how to strengthen your shoulders.

Mark Robertson
How to Strengthen Your Shoulders and Get the Muscles You Want
Table Of Contents

One of the primary goals for a gym enthusiast is getting broader shoulders. It doesn't only enhance the overall appearance and physique but also makes your frame look more proportional. Once your upper body is broader, your waist appears narrower - the ideal shape that defines athleticism.

With muscular shoulders, you are more likely to carry out your everyday tasks and lower the probability of getting injured during exercise. Whether you are lifting heavy weights or objects, more muscular shoulders can play a significant role in helping you lift them with more ease.

Working on shoulders help you build strength in your back, arms and have a leaner waist. It opens up your chest and draws your shoulders back towards your spine, which helps in enhancing your posture.

At the same time, it is vital to comprehend that you can only change your shoulder's width to a certain degree. Since your bone structure comes from your genetics, you can not completely change how they look. However, you can build strength in them with specific exercises which can make them appear broader and more appealing.

People with round or sloping shoulders can gain massive help with such exercises. When working on your shoulders, you need to place a significant focus on deltoids which includes three parts:

  • Anterior deltoid: Front part of the shoulder
  • Lateral deltoid: Middle part of the shoulder
  • Posterior deltoid: Rear part of the shoulder

Before digging into the exercises that help you build brawny deltoids, here are all the reasons why working on them is imperative:

1. Fluid Movements

Strong shoulders can help you perform all your daily tasks with the utmost fluidity. No matter how small or complex the task is, you will immediately feel a difference in how convenient your chores have become. Other than the regular tasks, you will feel an instant improvement in your athletic movements. 

2. Prevents Injury

Weak shoulders will give you a tough time when performing back and chest exercises. Most people believe weak shoulders can only lead to injuries if you perform a hardcore exercises.. 

However, that's not the only case. You can suffer from injury after tossing a garbage bag into the truck or opening a dresser even. So, strong shoulders are essential to prevent injuries

3. Better Posture

Most of us deal with posterior imbalances, leading to round or plonked shoulders. Shoulder exercises help build strength in your entire upper body. A more muscular back holds onto your shoulders, improving your core strength and helping you stand tall. 

4. Improves Metabolism

One of the best things about upper body training includes improving metabolism. Since you gain more muscle mass, your metabolic rate also increases. This means you keep burning calories for up to 72 hours even when you're not working hard for it. 

5. Boosts Workout Performance 

Working on your upper body and shoulder especially allows you to enhance your workout performance. Strong shoulders don't only help you with heavier weights, but with several other sports. For example, swimmers can propel through water, or cyclists can position their upper half of the body more efficiently due to more muscular shoulders. 

Exercises to Build Stronger Shoulders

Here are some of the amazing exercises to try to make your shoulders brawnier:

1. Rear Lateral Raise

Lateral raise is a spectacular exercise for shoulder strengthening movement. If performed regularly and correctly, it can help you develop more robust and broader shoulders.

You would require a pair of light dumbbells to perform this exercise. Shoulder flexibility also plays a fundamental role in abducting your arms. Gym Body Motivation explains how to perform this exercise perfectly to strengthen your shoulders.

How to do it

  • Pick a pair of dumbbells and stand slightly bent forward. Hold the dumbbells at your sides but slightly off your body. This will help your body attain the "V" shape. 
  • Keeping your palms facing your sides, hold the dumbbells slightly drifted from your body. Now you are standing at the starting position. 
  • Slowly raise the dumbbells to the height of your shoulders. Make sure your wrist doesn't go above your elbows. 
  • Pause for a moment when you reach the top of the movement, then lower them back to the starting position. 
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Lateral Raise Tips

  • When performing this exercise, your focus should not be on lifting heavyweights. Instead, you must emphasize muscle stretching and contraction to work on the chest muscle in isolation.
  • Ensure your rep timing is slow and controlled to focus on the movement. 
  • Your elbows should be above your wrists. Keep your wrists tilted to ensure that.
  • Your dumbbells should not touch your body.

2. Dumbbell Front Raise

This is another spectacular shoulder exercise that helps enhance your body's width and overall appearance. You would need a pair of dumbbells to perform this exercise. If you are looking for a perfect pair of dumbbells, the adjustable set by DMoose is a perfect choice. 

How to do it

  • Hold dumbbells in each hand and stand straight.
  • Keep both of your arms down on your sides. The palms should be facing your thighs.
  • Now lift your left arm to stretch it in front of you. Keep your elbow slightly bent.
  • Keep raising your arm till it is slightly higher than parallel to the ground.
  • Pause after you have reached the top, then lower your arm back to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the other arm.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Dumbbell Front Raise Tips

  • Make sure your torso remains as still as possible.
  • Ensure your palms face downwards, and your elbows are slightly bent when lifting the dumbbell.

3. Overhead Shoulder Press

The overhead press is a basic foundational movement that can help you establish baseline strength and build a balanced body.

A dumbbell is a better option than a barbell for muscle strengthening.

This exercise can be part of shoulder exercises, push workouts, and full-body workouts.

How to do it

  • Grab the dumbbells off the ground using a neutral grip (palms facing out). Place the dumbbells at your knees and sit down on the bench.
  • After the dumbbells have been installed, turn your palms to face forward.
  • Take a deep, slow breath, and then push the dumbbells upward by extending your elbows and contracting your deltoids.
  • Slowly lower dumbbells to the starting position. Arms should be approximately 90 degrees or slightly lower, depending on limb lengths.
  • Continue repeating until you reach the desired number of reps.

Tips for Seated Dumbbell Press

  • Throughout the exercise, keep your back flat against the seat pad.
  • Do not allow your head to protrude too far.
  • Press the bicep towards the ear, and exhale when you press.
  • You should seek treatment if you feel pressure in your neck, traps, or shoulders during the movement.
  • Keep your elbows slightly bent at the top but not locked out completely. This will help keep tension off the shoulders.

4. Push Press

The push press is an excellent way to build more muscle mass. It builds strength in your shoulders and chest and builds stimulus in the quadriceps and glutes. Here is how you can perform them safely:

How to Do it

  • Stand with your feet opened shoulder-width apart. Grip the barbell with your fingertips. A regional barbell by DMoose is the most stable choice to perform this exercise. 
  • Place the bar on your shoulders.
  • Drop your body into a shallow squat, drive through your heels, and extend your arms to lift the bar above your head.
  • Then lower the bar back to the chest height. 

Push Press Tips

  • Make sure to keep a neutral arch in the spine.
  • Keep a thumbless grip on the bar to place your wrists in a favorable position.
  • Keep your forearms underneath the bar.
  • Do not squat too low. Bend your knees very slightly, then drive yourself up with as much power as possible.  

5. Smith Machine Shoulder Press

This is a great shoulder exercise. It uses a barbell to overload the shoulders so that dumbbells cannot. It strengthens the group of shoulder muscles and adds a broader upper body.

How to do it

  • To set up the shoulder press for the Smith machine, place a bench in the smith machine and adjust the back so that it is at a 90-degree angle.
  • Now, sit down on the bench. Adjust the bar's position so that it falls just in front of your face.
  • Next, add the desired weight. You can un-rack the weights by bending your elbows. This is the starting position.
  • Slowly lower the weight until it is below your chin. Pause and then lift the bar back up to its starting position.
  • Repeat for desired reps.

Exercise Tips

  • The smith machine shoulder press is an option for heavy lifting without using a spotter. 
  • Do not lock your elbows at the top of the movement.
  • To reduce your chance of sustaining a shoulder injury, always warm up first.
  • Always lower the bar under your chin to complete a full range of motion.

6. Single Arm Reverse Cable Fly

This is another strengthening exercise that focuses on your shoulders in an isolated manner. You need a cable as gym gear to perform this exercise. This exercise would be a spectacular way to enhance your shoulder performance. 

How to do it 

  • Adjust the tension on a dual cable machine's pulley to lower down and choose the weight you want to use.
  • Keep your face away from the machine and grab the right handle using your left hand.
  • Stand straight up and cross your arms. The weight should be off the rack.
  • Your knees should be slightly bent. Now, bend at the waist and move your torso forward. Keep your head straight up with your eyes forward. This is your starting position.
  • Move only towards the shoulder and cross your arms. Lift your left arm outwards in a semicircle motion until your arm touches the floor. Throughout the movement, keep a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Begin by squeezing your shoulder blades to the height of the movement. Next, slowly lower the handle back into the starting position. Cross your right arm again.
  • Continue doing this until you reach the desired reps. Next, grip the left handle using your right hand. Then, repeat for the other arm.

Exercise Tips

  • Keep your weights light and practice good form.
  • Take a deep breath and squeeze your shoulder blades.
  • Only move your shoulders. Your body should remain as still as possible, and your arms should maintain the same form throughout your movement.
  • It is a good idea to start with your weakest arm. Many people will find that it is their left arm.

7. Pike Pushup

Pike pushup is ideal for targeting your shoulders, upper back, triceps, and serratus anterior. It helps you build strength in your shoulders and get your upper body in a desirable shape.

How to do it

  • Get yourself in a modified plank position. 
  • Keep your wrists below your shoulders, feet together, and hips above in the air.
  • Lower your head towards the floor and keep your elbows inwards towards the body.
  • Keeping your hands together, lower yourself towards the floor. 
  • Then push yourself from the floor back to the starting position. 
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Pike Push-Ups Tips

  • Make sure to keep your back straight. 
  • Do not let your hips sag.
  • Keep your wrists directly under the shoulders.

8. Single Arm Behind Back Cable Lateral

The cable one arm behind the back lateral raise is an isolation workout for the outer or lateral head of the shoulders. This exercise is very effective in enhancing roundness and width in the deltoids. It's an excellent move to include in your shoulder routine.

How to do it 

  • Attach one grip handle to the bottom of the cable pulley.
  • Standing with your left side towards the single-grip cable attached, bend over to grab the handle with the right arm from behind your back.
  • Now, stand straight up and place your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your arms bent. Now, lift the pulley across your body so that your right hand is straight up and parallel to your shoulders. During the movement, exhale.
  • Inhale and slowly lower the cable pulley to its original position.
  • Next, turn your body so that your right side faces the cable pulley. Then, perform the exercise using your left arm.
  • For each set, alternate your arms.

Exercise Tips

  • You can also perform this exercise with dumbbells.
  • To activate the lateral deltoid, do the movement slowly.
  • To avoid straining the shoulder joints, keep your elbows slightly bent.
  • Start with a lighter weight to feel your shoulder muscles working. People often cheat and go too heavy, which can cause tension in the lateral shoulder heads.

9. Incline Barbell Bench Press

The incline barbell bench press is a version of a regular bench press. The only difference is the use of barbells in this version. Adding a barbell here makes the exercise extraordinarily challenging and involves the muscles of the shoulders, chest, and triceps.

How to do it

  • Lie flat on the incline bench, and your hands should be outside the shoulder-width.
  • You should pinch your shoulder blades together.
  • Take a breath and hold the weight while maintaining tightness in the upper back.
  • You can also take help from your instructor.
  • Your upper back should be tight while lifting weight.
  • Inhale, move the bar towards your chest and unlock your elbows.
  • Touch the bar with the chest and lower it gradually in a straight line.
  • Push it back up in a straight line while extending the elbows and pressing your back into the bench.
  • Your feet should be flat on the ground. Press them to the floor.

Incline Barbell Bench Press Tips

  • It is better to start slow with the bench press. Learn the technique first and then proceed with the exercises.
  • Keep the bar straight in line with your wrists, ensure that it is straight while you lower it.
  • Do not arch your lower back, or you might be at risk of developing injuries.
  • Make sure that the bar is touching your chest in every rep.
  • The glutes and shoulder blades should be in contact with the bench throughout the exercise. Push your feet to the ground and avoid lifting them.
  • Do not rush. Aim for controlled movements.
  • Maintain the tightness in your back throughout the movement.

10. Machine Reverse Fly

You can perform the machine reverse fly to isolate the rear deltoids and stabilize the core. Rear deltoids are often an underactive and lagging muscle group. Therefore, it is crucial to train them in your workout program.

How to do it

  • While seated, face the fly machine with your chest against it and your torso in front of the handles.
  • Reach forward and grab each handle with a neutral or pronated grip.
  • Contract your rear delts while keeping your elbows bent. Then open your arms in a reverse fly motion.
  • Slowly lower your handles to their original position. Repeat until you reach the desired number of reps.

Machine Reverse Fly Tips

  • You should ensure that the movement is entirely by the upper arm, moving in the shoulder socket, and not scapular retract.
  • The shoulder blades should not move drastically- there might be some retraction, but nothing too dramatic.
  • Do not allow your head to protrude forward while you wide open your arms.

Final Thoughts

Muscular and defined shoulders can play a massive role in making your everyday movements easier. Working on your shoulders can prevent you from injuries, help correct your posture, and increase your metabolic rate. Exercises like lateral raise, push press, pike pushups, etc., can help you get a more muscular upper body that aligns with the perfect bodybuilder’s physique. 

Reading List

Top 10 Essential Barbell Exercises for Building Muscle and Strength

Post-Workout Recovery: Let Your Sore Muscles Heal

How Can You Switch From Weightlifting to Resistance Bands

How To Fix The Issue Of Losing Your Grip During lifting

Article Sources

  • PAOLI, Antonio, and Antonino BIANCO. “What Is Fitness Training? Definitions and Implications: A Systematic Review Article.” Iranian Journal of Public Health, vol. 44, no. 5, May 2015, pp. 602–14. PubMed Central,
  • Niederbracht, Yvonne, et al. “Effects of a Shoulder Injury Prevention Strength Training Program on Eccentric External Rotator Muscle Strength and Glenohumeral Joint Imbalance in Female Overhead Activity Athletes.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 22, no. 1, Jan. 2008, pp. 140–45. PubMed,
  • Kim, DeokJu, et al. “Effect of an Exercise Program for Posture Correction on Musculoskeletal.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science, vol. 27, no. 6, June 2015, pp. 1791–94. PubMed Central,
  • Ihalainen, Johanna K., et al. “Strength Training Improves Metabolic Health Markers in Older Individual Regardless of Training Frequency.” Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 10, Feb. 2019, p. 32. PubMed Central,

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Mark Robertson

Mr. Robertson is a competent writer, and speaker who specializes in helping families transition to plant-based lifestyles. He believes awareness, evidence-based information, and humor are three key ingredients for leading a healthy life.

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