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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 onset and constantly under pressure.

Translated: You’ll blast your shoulders, abs, and body fat all at once. The triceps benefit, too. Ain’t bad?

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 and lengthen the triceps. High traps make the chest look bigger.

So yeah, shoulders are very important. Plus, 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 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, too.




 

Shoulder Exercise 1: Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press


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How to:

Video Demo — Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

 

Primary Muscle(s): Shoulders (All)

  • (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.

 

 

Shoulder Exercise 2: Dumbbell Snatch


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How to:

Video Demo — Dumbbell Snatch

 

Primary Muscle(s): Shoulders (All)

  • (1) Place a dumbbell in between your feet and stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder width. This is starting position.
  • (2) Tighten your core, explode upwards, and powerfully pull the weight up and overhead. Keep your back flat and maintain strong posture.
  • (3) Hold 1s at the top and slowly return down to start. Immediately repeat.

Pro Tip: Pause at the bottom for 1s to avoid using momentum.

 

 

Shoulder Exercise 3: Dumbbell Push Press


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How to:

Video Demo — Dumbbell Push Press

 

Primary Muscle(s): Shoulders (All)

  • (1) Stand tall with two dumbbells over your shoulders. Hold them with a neutral grip (palms facing in).
  • (2) Dip down slightly, explode up, and powerfully press the dumbbells directly overhead.
  • (3) Hold for 1s at the top and lower the weights back down to your shoulders. Keep your core tight throughout.

Pro Tip: Do it on one leg or a BOSU ball to increase core stability.

 

 

Shoulder Exercise 4: Battle Ropes


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How to:

Video Demo — Battle Ropes

 

Primary Muscle(s): Front Deltoids

  • (1) Grab two ropes with a firm grip and squat down slightly. Sit back into your hips and keep your abs tight.
  • (2) Vigorously pull the rope up with either arm and then throw it down. Continue to alternate up-and-down and build up speed as your arms get into a rhythm — the ropes should look like two waves.
  • (3) Repeat for 30 seconds or until your arms give out.

Pro Tip: You can also do battle ropes in sync and raise/lower both arms at the same time. It sort of looks like a Hulk-smash.

 

 

Shoulder Exercise 5: Barbell Clean & Press


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How to:

Video Demo — Barbell Clean & Press

 

Primary Muscle(s): Shoulders (All)

  • (1) Stand tall with a loaded barbell on your thighs. Tighten your core, dip down slightly, and powerfully pull the barbell up on top of your collarbone.
  • (2) Explosively press the barbell overhead.
  • (3) Hold for 1s, slowly lower the bar back to your collarbone, and then drop it down to your thighs. Complete each clean & press in one fluid motion. Repeat for a full set.

Pro Tip: Do a calf raise when the bar is at the top of the movement.





Pages: Exercises 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-16


Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Owner & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
Bryan DiSanto is the Owner & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a culinary student at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, an ACE-CPT & CSN, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness/nutrition nutjob.

He also contributes to Men's Health Magazine.

When he’s not working on his (or somebody else’s) abs, whipping up Eggocados, or running a Tough Mudder, he’s probably off yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.
Bryan DiSanto

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  • 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 aestheticreview.com 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…

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