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The 16 Best Shoulder Exercises To Destroy Your Delts And Carve Out Major Definition

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Salivating over a pair of defined, striated, cannonball shoulders? Stay hungry. We’ve got an arsenal of powerful tools to destroy your delts and carve out stunning definition — a whopping 16 exercises deep.

Whether it’s reverberating battle ropes, explosive dumbbells snatches, or an old-school staple like the military press, shoulder training boasts a plethora of KILLER options to burn out the deltoids and keep the intensity soaring.

Like, HIIT-level intense.

Because most shoulder exercises tend to be multi-jointed and rely on explosive movement, they’re prime candidates to tear through ripe muscle flesh, manufacture sweat, and ignite body fat. And given that the weight is almost always loaded overhead, your abs are automatically compressed from the start and constantly under pressure.

Translated: You’ll blast your shoulders, core, AND body fat all at once.

And that’s why shoulder training is my #1. Done right, it has the power to efficiently reconstruct an entire physique from top-to-bottom. The rewards are lavish.

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Half of the reason why the shoulders pack so much aesthetic potential is based on the complexity of the musculature.

They’re technically split into 3 separate muscles—the front (anterior), middle (lateral), and rear (posterior) deltoid—with the upper part of the traps anchoring either side of the neck. Each head has individual insertion points across the arms, pecs, and back, which makes them pop with sharp separation and delineation whenever the shoulders gain a little bit of mass (more on shoulder anatomy, here).

The second half is perception.

Well-developed delts accentuate just about every other part of the body, including the abs, arms, back, and chest. Ripped front & lateral deltoids are a prerequisite for undulating, exquisite arms. Broad shoulders add a V-taper to the back, augment proportions, and create the illusion of a tiny waist. Strong rear deltoids create definition across the back-side, add roundness to the back of your arms, and lengthen the triceps. High traps make the chest look bigger.

So yeah, shoulders are kind of important. Plus, when your BFF asks for help moving, you’ll actually be able to lift miscellaneous objects overhead

Let’s roll. We’ve compiled a stacked list of the 16 best shoulder exercises to absolute destroy your delts (all three heads), carve out definition, and slap on a little mass above the chest.

And if you need a full-blown workout routine, we’ve got that loaded up, too.


Shoulder Exercise 1 — Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

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How To:

Protocol: 12 reps

Primary Muscle(s): Shoulders (All), Front Deltoids, Lateral Deltoids

  • (1) Sit upright on a bench with your back firmly against the pad. Keep your core tight and feet anchored to the floor.
  • (2) Bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height, raise them out to the side, and powerfully press overhead. Keep the dumbbells separate at the top of the movement.
  • (3) Slowly lower until your triceps are slightly below parallel. Hold for .5s at the bottom and repeat. Make sure to keep your shoulders back at all times.

Pro Tip: Do it standing to jack up the difficulty and increase core engagement.

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Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
  • DrSmart

    Obviously the guy is running a heavy cycle of roids on top of all these exercises. You won’t look like him or else you stack 3 compounds for 12 weeks.

  • Liam

    Really? Steriods? You have no idea.

  • Jacob Emerson

    what are you talking about “DrSmart”? His physique is entirely possible with hard work and dedication, no steroids necessary, the trick if you want to build muscle is you have to start by watching your diet, you can’t just expect to lift a bunch of weights and build muscle if your diet sucks. Lifting weights is easy, but cutting out junk food can be tough. When you get your diet in check, then focus on lifting heavy and hard. The most important thing is being consistent and keeping a log and a good routine going. You won’t get very far if you’re inconsistent in this game. Start off by doing big compound movements, such as squats, pull ups, dead lifts and such. I know it’s tough for a lot of folks to find a good routine to keep them going but it’s vital that you do this, I’ve made some amazing gains in just a few months thanks to the advice I got over at this guy really helped me get a great program going that allows me to keep track of my weight and gains using a really neat tool, as well as an awesome routine. Anyways good luck and never give up on your journey to making big gains!

  • Marc

    DrSmart is not very smart…all the muscular physiques of every fitness model featured here is possible without any sort of supplements, steroid cycling, or stacking. Eating REAL food in correct amounts and putting in REAL work in the gym yields fantastic results…

  • Most people vary their shoulder training only when it comes to lateral raises – they’ll do front-, middle- and rear-delt raises with dumbbells and cables, from different angles – but when it comes to presses, they mainly stick to barbells and dumbbells.

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