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Best Shoulder Exercises

Build Boulder Shoulders by Adding the Best Deltoid Exercises and Trapezius Exercises to your Weight Training Routines

Welcome to our Best Shoulder Exercises page!

Everyone wants broader shoulders, bigger delts, and no-neck traps, but what are the most effective shoulder exercises to make it happen? Fortunately for you, we've raised, pressed, shrugged, and pushed our way through all our shoulder exercises to answer that question and narrow it down to these five.


These deltoid and trapezius exercises aren't only the best shoulder exercises for building muscle.  Most of them are also among the most effective shoulder exercises in fat loss workouts.  They're the lifts that all shoulder workouts should be built around.

The Best Shoulder Exercises Countdown

5. Cable Front Raise

The Cable Front Raise is definitely the most controversial of all the weight training exercises on our list. The front raise, and most cable exercises for that matter, goes against our generally steadfast "go heavy or go home" with compound exercises approach to weightlifting. 

cable front raise

However, sometimes exercises just "feel" like you get more out of them, and that's what the cable front raise does for us. 

Tips: For best results, add this and other "finesse" exercises to the end of your weight training routines after you've hit all the heavier lifts.

Variations: Dumbbell Front Raise, Barbell Front Raise, also see Cable Lateral Raises and Dumbbell Lateral Raise.

Need More Info? For a more complete description with pictures, exercise instructions, and more tips please view our Cable Front Raise Exercise Instruction Guide.


4. Standing Overhead Press

Many argue that the Standing Overhead Press is the real test of how strong a person is: how much weight can you stand and lift up over your head? It's a bit lower on this list because we're strictly talking about the best shoulder exercises.  When standing, you're forced to use less weight without the assistance of the seat or bench, so you put less stress on your shoulder muscles.  That being said, the Standing Overhead Press is a better overall lift than seated variations. 

Variations: Seated Military Press (see below), Dumbbell Shoulder Press, and Arnold Press.

Need More Info? For a more complete description with pictures, exercise instructions, and tips please view our Standing Overhead Press Exercise Instruction Guide. 

3. Clean and Press

Like the Standing Overhead Press, the Clean and Press Exercise is one of the best fat burning exercises and strength training exercises, but took a bit of a hit on the best shoudler exercises list because it's more of a full body exercise.  With that being said, you'll definitely blast your deltoid and trapezius muscles during this lift - first at the beginning of the clean, then when you press it over your head. 

clean and press exercise

You could build a complete workout day just on this exercise but it's also a great addition to a shoulder workout routine.

Tips: Master your form before upping the weight.

Variations: These variations lack the "press" portion of the lift, but should still be a staple in your muscle building workouts and fat loss workouts. Hang Cleans, Power Clean, and Dumbbell Power Cleans (better in fat loss workouts than muscle building workouts).

2. Barbell Shrugs

Barbell Shrugs are one of the only isolation exercises that made any of our "best exercises" pages (see below for links to all "best exercises" pages), but I don't think we'll get much of an argument here from anyone on the benefits of shrugs. 

The shrug movement is really the only movement that allows you to isolate the top of your trapezius muscles or traps, the shoulder muscles to the left and right of your neck and across your upper back.  With some practice, you'll be able to pile a ton of weight on the barbell and blast your trapezius muscles like no other lift. 

Tips: To add variation, hit your traps from a different angle and hold the barbell behind your back or do so on a smith machine.  Also, consider getting wrist wraps as your weight total grows.  

Variations: Dumbbell Shrug, Cable Shrugs, Smith Machine Shrug.

Need More Info? Check out our Barbell Shrugs Exercise Instruction Guide for a more complete description with pictures, exercise instructions, and more tips.

1. Seated Military Press

Last is the king of shoulder exercises, the Seated Military Press.  Like the Standing Overhead Press, you're seeing how much weight you can press up over your head.  The difference here is that this version of the press is done from a seated position and the seat allows you to pile more weight on the barbell putting more stress on your delts and traps. 

This lift is a total upper body exercise and also builds your chest and triceps.  

seated military press

Tips: Not a good exercise to do without a spotter, especially for low reps. Consider doing the exercise on a Smith Machine.

Variations: Standing Overhead Press, Dumbbell Shoulder Press, using smith machine.

Need more info? Check out our Seated Military Press for a more complete description with pictures, exercise instructions, and more tips.


Well there you have it! Each of the absolute best shoulder exercises to add to your shoulder workout routine and other weight training routines.

Now that you've learned the best shoulder exercises, check out our other "Best Exercises" pages, our most popular shoulder exercises, and other related pages below.  

Other "Best Exercises" pages:

Most Popular Deltoid and Trapezius Exercises:

Check out some of our other popular Shoulder Exercises and Variations:

Final Related Pages


You've seen the Best Shoulder Exercises.  Learn the Workout Routines!
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