Shoulder Routine: 6 Exercises to Work the Deltoids

The deltoids aren't very easy muscles to tone, but it's very important to do so. We'll tell you which exercises to include in your shoulder routine here.
Shoulder Routine: 6 Exercises to Work the Deltoids
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 03 July, 2023

If you want to strengthen and improve the definition of your deltoids, then don’t hesitate to follow this shoulder routine. Composed of six exercises, it will help you strengthen this muscle group, prevent injuries and improve your posture.

After all, don’t forget that these muscles play a very important role in the mobility of your arms and the stability of your shoulders. Read on and find out how to squeeze your deltoids and achieve great results.

What is the importance of the deltoid muscles?

Many people focus on training certain muscles, according to the results they want to achieve. However, without neglecting those goals, we must make sure to dedicate time to all of our muscles in order to achieve an optimal, total body condition.

One of those muscle groups to pay attention to and strengthen are the deltoids. These are divided into three sections or heads when it comes to training them:

  • The anterior or front deltoid, located at the front of the shoulder;
  • The medial or lateral deltoid, located in the larger area of the shoulder;
  • The posterior or rear deltoid, located at the back of the joint.

But why are these muscles important? Because, as experts confirm, it’s the most complex joint of the body, due to the fact that, together with other muscles of the area, it intervenes in vital movements. Some of them are shoulder elevation, horizontal flexion, and internal rotation, among others.

Given this scenario, it’s a good idea to perform exercises to keep the area strong and able to perform their work.

The exercises you should include in your shoulder routine

Now that you know the importance of the deltoid muscles, it’s time to take full advantage of them. Not only to improve their tone and avoid injuries, but to have a harmonious body, if muscle hypertrophy is your thing. Without further ado, here are the six exercises you should include in your shoulder routine.

1. Lateral raises

Lateral raises are performed to strengthen the medial head of the shoulder or lateral deltoid and are usually done with dumbbells, but also with pulley or resistance bands. This exercise can be done standing or seated, whichever you prefer.

To do the standing lateral raises, perform the following movements:

  • Keep your posture straight and hold a dumbbell, with each hand in a neutral grip, that is, palms facing each other.
  • The arms should be at the sides of the body, the back straight, the gaze straight ahead, and the knees slightly bent with your core contracted.
  • Raise your arms out to the sides of your body until they are parallel to the floor, and slightly bend your elbows.
  • When you’re in the high movement, make sure the dumbbells are in line with the shoulders at the sides of the body. Your palms should be facing down.
  • Hold the position for a second or two before taking the starting position.

2. The Arnold Dumbbell Press

The Arnold press, as its name suggests, was invented by Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, one of the most famous and muscular bodybuilders in history. This exercise is very complete, as it not only impacts the deltoids, but also the triceps and other muscles of the upper body.

Its execution consists of several steps, which you must follow well to avoid injury:

  • Sit on a bench with your back straight and hold a dumbbell in each hand in semiprone grip – i.e., palms facing each other.
  • Place the dumbbells vertically on your legs, above your knees.
  • Pull the dumbbells down and leave them at shoulder height, to the side of the chin, palms facing the body, moving the elbows forward.
  • Breathe and raise the dumbbells, vertically, until your arms are straight; while making a 90-degree wrist twist. The palms will be facing forward.
  • In this position, make a small flexion to lower your arms and stay in the starting position.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: The 8 Best Exercises to Train Your Shoulders at the Gym

3. The trasnuca press

The trasnuca press stimulates the anterior deltoid, so it can’t be missing in a good shoulder routine. This strength exercise is considered complex and poor execution can lead to injury. Precisely to avoid this, it’s necessary not to overdo it with the weight to use and not to abuse the exercise itself, which is best to be guided by a professional.

  • Sitting on the bench, and with your back straight, you are going to take a barbell with a weight according to your current training level.
  • Make a prone grip and bring the bar up over your head, and exhale.
  • Remember not to anchor the elbows, leave them slightly bent.
  • Breathe and bring the bar behind your head, not too far back.
  • Hold the position for a second or two, exhale and in a controlled movement, take the position where the bar is above the head.
  • Finally, place the bar in front of your body and then let it rest on your muscles.

4. Dumbbell Lateral Raises

For strong, outstanding shoulders, include dumbbell lateral raises in your routine. In particular, this exercise will help you gain volume in the sides of your shoulders. Here’s how to perform it:

  • Adopt a standing posture with your body completely straight and your legs apart.
  • Grab the dumbbells in pronation and keep a slight separation in the muscles.
  • With your torso still, slightly bend your elbows.
  • After separating your arms from your thighs, raise the dumbbells to a 90-degree angle, without lifting beyond your elbows or hands.
  • Hold the position for one to two seconds.
  • Exhale as you lower your arms back to the starting position.

5. Straight-bar shoulder rows

For much bigger and stronger shoulders, perform the straight-bar shoulder row. This is also known as chin-up barbell rowing or barbell neck rowing because it also positively impacts the back and tones the upper arms. It should be performed as follows:

  • Stand upright and in a straight position, to take the bar with the palms of your hands facing you.
  • Make sure your grip is slightly narrower than shoulderwidth apart, and contract your core and glutes.
  • Lift the bar slowly and in a controlled manner to bend your elbows outward so they are level with your shoulders.
  • Avoid swinging and secure the bar as close to you as possible.
  • Before lowering the bar, pause at the top.
  • Then lower the bar slowly, and repeat.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Tendonitis in the Shoulder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

6. Barbell Military Press

The barbell military press is a must for your shoulder routine. It can be done seated or standing. When executed correctly, in addition to the deltoids, you will also be able to work other muscles such as the rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius, triceps, and upper pectoral.

If you prefer to do it seated, perform it as follows:

  • Grab the bar in pronation, with your hands positioned a few inches wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Take the bar out and place it on your upper chest, at the level of your clavicles.
  • With your back straight and leaning on the bench, breathe in and lift the bar vertically above your head as you exhale.
  • Avoid locking your elbows at the end of this movement.
  • Hold for one or two seconds, with your arms fully stretched.
  • To lower the bar, make a reverse vertical movement, very controlled, until the bar is at chin level.
  • When the bar is at the bottom, take a breath and repeat.

What do you think about this shoulder routine?

Among the many exercises that can be included in your shoulder routine, we recommend these six, because they target the different heads of the deltoid. However, if you want to strengthen this muscle group and grow, it’s always best to discuss it with your trainer to avoid injuries in the process.

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.

  • Oliveira, C.; Navarro García, R.; Navarro Navarro, R.; Ruiz Caballero, J.; Jiménez Díaz, J. & Brito Ojeda, M. (2007) Biomecánica del hombro y sus lesiones. Canarias médica y quirúrgica. ISSN 1696-6864, n. 12, p. 8.

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