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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

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 Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
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