The Best Shoulder Workout

If you want to know what is the best workout to build boulder shoulders, then you want to read this article. 

Pushing, pulling, curling, pressing, throwing. They all revolve around your shoulders. Sure, your chest, back, and arms are involved in those motions, but the shoulders are the link holding everything together and provide the foundation that enables you to perform any and every upper body motion in exercise, sport, and everyday life.

Yet despite the vital importance the shoulder serves, many lifters treat it as an afterthought, tacking a few sets of laterals to the end of a bench press-heavy Push workout, or focusing solely on training the front delts.

This leaves a rather pathetic looking set of deltoids, not to mention the slew of shoulder problems you’re setting yourself up for by not training all areas of the shoulder complex.

The shoulder is the most mobile and unstable joint in the body. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential to strengthening all aspects of the shoulder, ensuring you have a strong, healthy, and stable joint -- especially if you’re an athlete!








Pushing another lineman, swinging a bat, throwing a ball, and many other athletic actions involve the shoulder. If the muscles of the shoulder are not prioritized in your training, lackluster performance and injury are almost a certainty!

Whether your goal is to look aesthetic, be more athletic, or wanting to have fewer aches and pains when doing everyday chores, shoulder training must be a priority.

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That’s why we’ve created the best shoulder workout to enhance form, function, aesthetics, and performance!

Shoulder Anatomy 101

The shoulder complex is composed of several independent working muscles, but for training and hypertrophy purposes, we’ll focus on the three major ones -- the anterior, lateral and posterior deltoids. You can lump the four muscles of the rotator cuff in with the shoulders, but those will be addressed in the warm-up / prehab portion of your training (more on that later!).

When you’re looking to grow those boulder shoulders while still maintaining performance, it’s important to train these muscles utilizing a mixture of compound movements as well as some specific isolation exercises for the lateral and, more importantly, posterior (rear) delts to avoid any muscle imbalances which could set you up for serious injury.

As you’re probably well aware, most guys are over-developed in the front deltoids from too much benching and not enough back training, which can contribute to horrific posture, but also result in future shoulder problems like rotator cuff tears, impingements, etc.

So to avoid this, and develop well-rounded shoulders that contribute to a stellar V-tape, we’re going to pay extra attention to the lateral and rear delts for one comprehensive shoulder beatdown!

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Common Shoulder Training Mistakes

As with any other muscle group, there are several things to be on the lookout for when training shoulders to make sure you’re not “cheating” by using momentum, improper form, etc. Here are the most common ways people screw up their shoulder workouts:


When performing any type of overhead press, people tend to over arch their back, which results from improperly using their core muscles when lifting. This dumps a lot of load onto your lower back, setting you up for some serious lower back pain.

Avoid this altogether by not going too heavy on your overhead press (which compromises form), properly engaging your core, performing the lift in a controlled manner on the way up and way down.

Not Training Rear Delts

We’ve touched on this already, but the importance of rear delt training can’t be stressed enough, especially for athletes!

Aside from its benefits for your posture, the rear delts serve a vital role as a stabilizer for your shoulder. You want healthy, strong shoulders? Prioritize rear delt training!

Swinging the Weight Up and Down

When training any muscle, especially shoulders, it’s commonplace to see bros at the gym kipping (swinging) the weight up with a lot of body English. Nowhere is this more obvious than on lateral raises.

You’ll see guys jerking and convulsing their bodies around to swing the weight up and down. This really doesn’t do a whole lot of good for your shoulders in terms of health or muscle growth.

Pick a weight that you can control on the way up and down. That way you’re maximally engaging the muscle and hitting your intended target. Going too heavy means that other muscles come into play shifting the brunt of the work away from your shoulders and onto other muscles like the arms, back, and traps.

Limited Range of Motion

Building off the previous point, when going to heavy, lifters and athletes alike have a tendency to use a short and choppy range of motion. Don’t do this!

Performing the exercise through the full range of motion makes the movement harder, which means you can’t lift as heavy as your ego wants, but the extra range of motion and time under tension your muscles experience will pay bigger dividends, than doing a bunch of partial reps with a weight that’s too heavy.

Programming the Best Shoulder Workout

All effective shoulder workouts should begin with a thorough warm up of the entire shoulder complex, rotator cuff included! That means, your warm up should start with getting some blood to the shoulder muscles and encouraging your shoulder joints and rotator cuffs to start generating synovial fluid. This way you’ll be certain they’re primed for the beatdown you’re about to give them.

The key concept of any great shoulder workout, whether your goals are for performance or aesthetics, is built upon a compound movement. In the case of building a set of impressive shoulders, the main lift is the overhead press.

Now, you can choose to do a strict military press, push press, Arnold press or standing dumbbell press, but since we’re athletes and interested in form, function, and looks, we’re going to select the push press, as it allows us to train a bit of power, strength, explosiveness, and hypertrophy all in one!

After completing the compound lifting portion of the workout, it’s time to target each head of the deltoid to promote equal growth and strength for the entire shoulder complex. That means you’ll be doing a variety of lateral, medial and scapula raises to build out those boulder shoulders for the ultimate V-tape.

The Best Shoulder Warm Up

We’ve got a three move warm-up routine that primes the shoulders for the grueling workout that’s just ahead. All you’ll need is a resistance band and a place to attach the band (door hinge, rack, tree trunk, etc.).

Exercises will be done consecutively with minimal rest between.

Perform 10 reps of each exercise going from one to the next until all three are completed, then rest for one minute. Repeat the trio of exercises two more times for a total of 3 rounds.

One key point here is to focus on maintaining constant tension in the stabilizing musculature of the shoulder joint during the concentric and eccentric phase of each exercise, including the rotator cuff and muscles of the upper back.

Warm Up

  • Banded Over and Back - 10 reps
  • Banded Face Pull - 10 reps
  • Banded Pull Apart - 10 reps

Note: Rest one minute after each circuit is complete and perform a total of 3 rounds

Not only does this warm up thoroughly prepare your body for the upcoming workout, but it will improve your posture, enhance your performance, and even build some muscle in your neglected upper back!

Now that the warm-up is, it’s time to train!

The Best Shoulder Workout for Size and Strength

The Best Workout for Shoulders





Push Press



2-3 min

Seated Arnold Press



90 sec

Dumbbell Lateral Raise



60-90 sec

Cable (Banded) Face Pulls




Dumbbell Scap Raises




Build that V-Taper

Shoulders are the critical link for all of your upper body workouts. Strong, healthy, and stable shoulders make for a long and successful lifting life for athletes and bodybuilders alike. Plus, having well-developed shoulders also gives your physique better shape too!

Stop placing shoulder workouts at the end of the week. Address them early on when you’re fresh mentally and physically, and watch those shoulders grow into boulders!

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