The 8 Best Exercises to Train Your Shoulders at the Gym

Exercises to train the shoulders guarantee a balanced development of your body. This is because they're essential for arm mobility. Learn more here!
The 8 Best Exercises to Train Your Shoulders at the Gym
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 10 May, 2023

The part that connects your body to your arms is the shoulder. Many people want to focus on the development of their arms, abdomen, or legs, but don’t pay much attention to the exercises to train the shoulders.

These shoulder exercises bring many benefits. From an aesthetic point of view, they give proportionality to the upper trunk so that you notice balanced progress between arms and back.

On a physical level, they increase strength that allows you to lift more weight with your arms, as well as help prevent injuries when executing very demanding movements. They also favor the correct position of your shoulders for proper posture.

Anatomically, the shoulder muscle is called the deltoid, and it’s important to know that it’s made up of three areas: front, side, and back. The exercises you will discover below are designed to strengthen all areas.

The importance of shoulder training exercises

For your athletic body to be complete, it’s necessary to train your shoulders. Shaping the muscle group in your upper body that you use the most requires personalized attention.

For this reason, three benefits of shoulder training exercises stand out:

  • Easier transfers: strengthening the shoulders promotes in your arms the ability to hold and bear more load. In the gym, it helps you lift more weight as you progress in your training. When at home, it facilitates the daily tasks of lifting objects, moving appliances, and even carrying more shopping bags.
  • Correct your posture: shoulder exercises can help you to correct bad posture practices you may be adopting in front of your computer, for example. It helps improve the posture of your back, neck, and shoulders.
  • Prevent injuries: resistance movements add strength, which is ideal for preventing shoulder injuries when performing any movement.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: Don’t Have Time to Go to the Gym? You Can Exercise at Home

The best exercises to train your shoulders at the gym

Ideally, you should work with the appropriate weight for you. If you’re just starting out in this type of training, start with more repetitions and less load. Opt for basic movements and respect the technique.

For each exercise in which you use the machines or weights, you can establish and combine the types of grip, such as neutral, supine, and prone.

1. The military press

The military press is key in this type of training. You can perform it standing or sitting. Using the bar, you put your feet shoulder-width apart and squat down slowly while concentrating your weight on your legs, and then hold it with the prone grip.

You raise the bar above your head until your elbows are straight. It can also be done with dumbbells. In this case, the distance between the hands changes as they’re not fixed on the bar.

Press militar.
The military press is a classic workout routine. It can be done with barbells or dumbbells.

2. The Arnold Press

This exercise is ideal for working all three zones of the deltoid muscle. Its name became popular because it was a favorite of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger during his bodybuilding days.

Sitting on a bench, with your back straight, grab the dumbbells with your hands facing you and with your elbows bent raise your arms, changing the direction of your hands outward. It’s a simple up-and-down movement with the dumbbells.

3. Battle ropes

This name refers to the battle ropes or heavy ropes that test the movements of your arms and shoulders. Because of their weight, you work your strength and can take turns with each limb to tone them with greater precision. Thanks to the boom they have had in CrossFit, this tool is common in gyms.

4. The Z Press

This type of press is performed while sitting on the floor and without resting your back on any surface. It’s advisable to work it on a machine where you can rest the bar.

The idea of not resting your back is to gain stability and strength while lifting the bar with a weight you can handle. As you perform the repetitions, you’ll notice how your body acquires skills to take a correct posture to ensure the execution.

5. Lifts

These are part of a basic group of exercises to train the shoulders in the gym in which you use a barbell or dumbbell. You perform them standing or sitting and the movement consists of raising the arm, this time not above the head, but up to shoulder level.

In addition to the front raises, there are also lateral raises, which can be practiced on a pulley, machine, or rubber ropes available in the store. It’s worth mentioning that they’re characterized by promoting a greater number of repetitions since they’re simple to perform.

6. The bird

The bird consists of an arm lift with a dumbbell in each hand. However, in this case, you can practice it in several ways:

  • Standing, but bent downward at an angle approaching 90 degrees.
  • Sitting on a surface that supports your body and then raising your arms sideways.

7. Inverted push-ups

In this case, you are in a headstand position, resting your lower limbs on the wall. With your hands resting on the floor, you bend your arms. Here, you will also develop the potential energy of your muscles.

Ejercicios para hombros en el gimnasio en una mujer.
Strengthening the shoulders is often neglected in routines, but it’s very important.

Like this article? You may also like to read: 5 Exercises to Tone Your Arms Without Going to the Gym

8. A slam ball

The work is intense in the slam ball, as each repetition involves several body movements, using a heavy ball that you hold with both hands, make sure to keep your feet shoulder-width apart. The starting point is to raise the ball above your head. Then, you bend your knees and, lowering down, throw the ball to the ground a short distance to allow you to hold it again, and repeat.

When it comes to shoulder training exercises, the key is to prevent injuries

As with any exercise routine, there’s a risk of compromising your body. Your shoulders face the possibility of being injured.

Given this, it’s best to prevent practices that increase the risk of injuries. An example might be routines in which a barbell is raised behind your head. These types of exercises are called behind the back of the neck and considerably increase the probability of injury.

Finally, make sure to enjoy and mix each of the 8 variations we’ve explained here as much as you want. However, always be careful, know your limits, and get the help of a personal trainer, if necessary.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bompa T. Entrenamiento para jóvenes deportistas. España: Hispano Europea S.A; 2005.
  • Bermeo N. Ejercicios de fortalecimiento en prevención de lesiones de hombros en el adulto joven de 20 a 30 años. Ecuador: Universidad de Guayaquil; 2018.
  • Suárez N, Osorio A. Biomecánica del hombro y bases fisiológicas de los ejercicios de Codman. CES medicina. 2013; 27 (2): 205-217.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.