You have arrived here to take your shoulder training to the next level, right?
Good! as the shoulders are an often overlooked body part in the fitness world, neglecting them can lead to imbalanced strength and posture issues. Despite their importance, many people struggle to find practical exercises to target their delts.
If you’re tired of having weak, underdeveloped shoulders, it’s time to make a change. You need to add compound shoulder exercises into your workout routine to see significant gains in size and strength.
That’s where I come in.
In this blog post, I’ll show you the 11 best compound shoulder exercises to take your delts to the next level. By targeting multiple muscle groups and utilizing heavy weights, these exercises will help you build huge and strong shoulders in no time.
So, are you ready to get started?
You may be wondering what exactly are compound shoulder exercises.
Simply put, these are exercises that work multiple muscle groups in your shoulders at the same time. It’s like getting a two-for-one deal on your workout.
Rather than just focusing on one muscle, like in isolation exercises, these target your deltoids, rotator cuff, and upper back muscles all at once.
And the best part?
This type of shoulder workout leads to much more significant results and more functional fitness overall.
So whether you’re an experienced athlete or just starting, adding compound shoulder exercises to your routine is a total game-changer for your strength and athletic abilities.
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Knowing your rear deltoids from your rotator cuff will sensify the reasons for performing exercises in the gym.
Explanation: An excellent compound shoulder exercise that targets the entire shoulder and the upper arms. It is an excellent exercise for building strength and mass in the shoulders and upper body.
Form and Technique: Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell at chest height. Grab the barbell with both hands, palms facing forward, and extend your arms to push the barbell above your head. Use your shoulders, back and triceps to push the weight up and then lower the barbell back to chest height and repeat for ten reps.
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Explanation: An excellent exercise for building strength and definition in the shoulders whilst minimizing the possibility of cheating the weight up
Form and Technique: Sit on a bench with dumbbells in each hand. Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing forward or facing each other. Push the dumbbells up and above your head, then lower them back down to shoulder height. Repeat for ten reps. There is no need to touch the dumbbells together at the top; keep the tension in the muscles and continue till you hit ten reps or failure.
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Explanation: Similar to the seated dumbbell shoulder press, it requires more stability and balance. It is an excellent exercise for building overall shoulder strength and definition and does offer the possibility of using momentum to get the weight up.
Form and Technique: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Push the dumbbells above your head, then lower them back to shoulder height. Repeat for ten reps.
Explanation: This is an excellent exercise for targeting the shoulder’s lateral (side) head. It is an excellent exercise for building size, definition and width in the shoulders. Warm up the shoulders before performing this exercise, and always start with a lighter weight.
Form and Technique: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your side. Raise the dumbbells to shoulder height and imagine you are pouring water from a pitcher, then lower them back down to your side. Repeat for ten reps. The side deltoids don’t need heavy weights to stimulate growth, so slow the reps down to make them more challenging.
Explanation: The Seated Dumbbell Side Laterals are a variation of the Standing Dumbbell Side Laterals that allows for more focused and somewhat isolated movements. It is an excellent exercise for building definition, size and width in the shoulders.
Form and Technique: Start by sitting on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand at your side. Raise the dumbbells to shoulder height, then lower them to your side. Repeat for ten reps.
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Explanation: These are great exercises for targeting the front head of the shoulder. It is an excellent exercise for building definition and width in the shoulders. Being cable pulley based, this exercise creates constant tension in the muscles throughout the movement, so it increases time under tension.
Form and Technique: Stand facing a cable machine with a handle attachment. Hold the handle with both hands in front of your waist, then raise it to shoulder height. Lower the handle back down to your waist and repeat for ten reps.
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Explanation: An excellent exercise for targeting the posterior (rear) head of the shoulder. It is an excellent exercise for building definition, size and width in the rear shoulders. Being bent over also limits cheating in the movement, forcing the deltoids to work much harder.
Form and Technique: Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend over at the waist with arms extended in front of you. Raise the dumbbells out to the side, then lower them back down. Repeat for ten reps.
Explanation: This is a variation of the shoulder press, named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, known for his impressive physique and strength. This exercise targets the deltoids and triceps, working to strengthen the shoulders and arms.
Form and Technique: Start sitting on a bench with your feet planted on the floor to perform the Arnold Press. Grasp a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height with your palms facing each other. Slowly raise the weights above your head while rotating your palms, so they face forward. Lower the weights back down to shoulder height, rotating your palms to face each other again. Repeat this movement for ten reps.
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Explanation: This is an excellent exercise for strengthening and defining the front deltoids. This exercise is also great for improving posture and balance. There is scope for cheating in this exercise, so performing them slowly would benefit you.
Form and Technique: To perform the Dumbbell Front Raise, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides. Slowly raise the weights in front of you until your arms are fully extended. Lower the weights back to your sides, keeping your arms straight. Repeat this movement for your ten reps.
Explanation: This is an excellent exercise for working the rear deltoids and upper back. This exercise helps to improve posture, balance, and stability. The cable pulley ensures that the muscle has constant tension throughout the movement, so it works the muscles more.
Form and Technique: To perform the Cable Face Pull, stand in front of a cable machine, grasping the rope attachment with both hands. Pull the rope towards your face, keeping your elbows high and your hands in line with your temples. Slowly return the rope to its starting position. Repeat this movement for your ten reps. It would be best if you slowed the reps down so that it’s 4 seconds pull and 4 seconds release.
Explanation: The seated shoulder press machine offers a fixed plane and range of motion. You will find that you can lift more weight on machines and target the deltoids and upper arm with a more significant effect.
Proper Form and Technique: Sit facing the machine, grip the bar with a shoulder-width grip, keep your back straight, and push the weight up. Then, slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Repeat for ten reps
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There are several advantages to adding these exercises to your workout routine, and I want to list some of the more key ones:
Increased strength and shoulder muscle mass: By working for multiple muscle groups, compound exercises will stimulate more muscle growth
Improved posture: They will correct imbalances and improve posture, reducing the risk of injury.
Enhanced athletic performance: Compound shoulder exercises can enhance athletic performance in activities requiring upper body strength and power by improving the strength and stability of the shoulder muscles.
Better coordination: Compound shoulder exercises can improve overall coordination and stability by requiring multiple muscle groups and joints.
Increased calorie burn: Compound exercises will be more intense and require more energy, leading to an increased calorie burn during and after the workout.
Improved functional movements: Compound shoulder exercises are designed to replicate everyday movements, such as reaching, lifting, and pushing, which can improve overall functional fitness and quality of life.
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Here are some ways in which to adopt these exercises in your shoulder workouts:
Determine your goals: Consider what you want to achieve with your shoulder workout, whether it’s increased strength, improved athletic performance, or rehabilitation from an injury. This will help you choose the right exercises and determine how many sets and reps you should do. Never underestimate this step. You risk never meeting your goals if you don’t have a plan or understand what you want to achieve.
Start with basic exercises: Begin with compound exercises that target the shoulder muscles, such as the overhead press, dumbbell press and machine press. Start with lighter weights and focus on proper form before adding weight and reps.
Incorporate isolation exercises: If you want to target specific shoulder areas, you can add isolation exercises, such as lateral raises or front raises. However, be sure to prioritize compound exercises for optimal results still.
Plan your workouts: Decide which days you’ll do shoulder exercises and how often you’ll train your shoulders. It’s generally recommended to train shoulders 1-2 times per week, depending on your fitness goals and overall workout routine. Always aim for the ten rep range and limit total sets weekly to no more than 18 sets total.
Start light: Begin with lighter weights and focus on proper form. This will help you build a solid foundation and prevent injury. I don’t want you injured; trust me, a shoulder injury is significantly limiting when it comes to getting about during recovery.
Increase gradually: As you get stronger, gradually increase the weight you’re lifting. This can be done by adding 2.5-5 pounds to the bar each week, depending on how you feel. If you set a target rep range of 10, then each time you get to this on two sets, you increase the next time around.
Track your progress: Keep a log of your weights and reps for each exercise. This will help you see your progress and determine when it’s time to increase weight or reps. Again, I can’t stress this point enough. Keeping a log of your progress will inform you of what is working (and is not).
Listen to your body: If you’re feeling fatigued or experiencing discomfort while lifting, it’s essential to take a step back and reduce the weight or reps until you’re ready to progress again.
Focus on form: Proper form is more important than lifting heavy weights, so maintain good technique and control. I don’t want you injured, and I am sure you don’t either, so always focus on the right weight and super strict form.
Use resistance bands: If you cannot lift heavy weights, resistance bands can be a great alternative to challenge the muscles and build strength. They will provide constant tension during the rep, which provides another way to stress the muscles and increase the time under tension.
Reduce range of motion: If you have joint pain or mobility issues, reducing the range of motion of an exercise can help you still get a good workout while protecting your joints.
Work with a trainer: If you’re unsure how to modify exercises to suit your needs, working with a personal trainer can be a great way to get personalized advice and guidance.
I want you to know about these five common mistakes so that you can avoid them:
Don’t round your back: When lifting heavy weights, it’s crucial to maintain a neutral spine and avoid rounding the back. Doing so increases the risk of injury.
Lifting too much weight: Poor form and too heavier weight are two reasons why injuries occur in the gym. Your shoulder joint and shoulder blades are delicate, so please be careful.
Neglecting warm-up: Warm-ups are mandatory. A prepped and warmed-up muscle has blood flow and oxygen running through the fibres.
Not varying your exercises: Doing the same repeatedly can lead to muscle imbalances and an increased risk of injury. Make sure to vary your exercises and target different muscle groups in the shoulder to ensure balanced development.
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You can easily pair shoulder and leg workouts to make your training sessions more efficient. Check out our blog on leg and shoulder workouts for a detailed guide.
Absolutely, shoulder workout supersets can be very effective for muscle growth and endurance by increasing the intensity of your workout.
Certainly! There are several exercises and techniques that can help you get broader shoulders. For more information, you can visit our post on how to get broader shoulders.
Yes, one highly effective exercise to target your rear delts is the rear delt cable fly.
Definitely! A back and shoulders workout can be a great way to efficiently train these muscle groups together.
A shoulder circuit is a type of workout where you perform a series of shoulder exercises one after the other with minimal rest in between.
Our “The Ultimate Guide to Shoulder Training” provides an in-depth look at shoulder anatomy, training techniques, and best practices to enhance your shoulder workouts.
The 30-degree angle dumbbell shoulder press works all three deltoids of the shoulder. Performing these in a rep range of ten reps for a maximum of five sets will stimulate your delts for muscle growth and strength.
Shoulders can be trained with the chest, back or arms, and your current fitness level and goals should determine your training plan.
It would be best if you considered doing a seated dumbbell press, dumbell side laterals and rear dumbbell flys. These will target and stimulate all critical parts of your shoulders.
Three exercises following four sets of 10 reps will be more than enough to train the shoulders weekly. Make sure you pick two compound exercises and one isolation exercise that will work for the muscle group.
To hit every part of your shoulder muscles, focus on a shoulder press, lateral movement and rear delt exercise. This will ensure that your entire shoulder will get trained.
The shoulder joints are delicate and need to be trained with care. Isolation exercises can provide a less intensive way to hit them, so adding lighter exercises to isolate the three delts will help.
They are both excellent exercises for your shoulders; the type you choose will depend on your experience level and goals.
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Are you now ready and informed?
Have you told your shoulders that they will be getting on the gain train?
I hope this article has articulated the benefits of compound movements in shoulder training.
When followed and executed correctly, these exercises will help you build enormous size, strength and flexibility in your upper body and delts.
However, it’s essential to approach these exercises with caution, starting with lighter weights and focusing on proper form before gradually increasing weight and reps. I can’t stress this enough, as I want you to be injury free!
By avoiding silly mistakes, such as neglecting warm-ups and lifting too much weight, you can maximize the benefits of compound shoulder exercises and minimize the risk of injury. Remember to mix up your routine and progress gradually over time, listen to your body and adjust as needed.
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