Hey there, I’m Darnell Jackson and let me tell you, working out your shoulders is a blast!
Whether you’re using light weights as a warm-up or going heavy for some serious gains, it’s a crucial part of any fitness routine. Not only will it make you look like a powerhouse, but it also reduces your risk of injury when lifting weights regularly.
I’m all about being smart with my exercises, so I choose a mix of lightweight and heavyweight shoulder exercises.
The lightweight ones get my blood flowing and stabilize my shoulder joints, while the heavyweights help me build some serious muscle and strength.
Now, if you’re looking to pump up those shoulder muscles, I’ve got you covered. Check out my top 10 best shoulder exercises for men! These exercises are perfect for both training and building muscle mass.
So, what are you waiting for? Give them a try today and get those shoulders popping!
Table of Contents
Top 10 Best Shoulder Exercises for Men
IMPORTANT: Always warm up your shoulder muscles and rotator cuff before picking up any heavy weights. It is vital that you do not push yourself while working out your shoulders with higher reps or sets.
Push-ups are the ultimate shoulder workout and the most fundamental exercise for muscle and strength building. And the best part? You can do them anytime, anywhere, and don’t need any fancy equipment!
Now, I know there are plenty of push-up variations out there, but let’s start with the classic version.
- Get down on all fours, extend those legs, and lower your upper body.
- Hold for a couple of seconds and then push yourself up with those arms fully extended. Boom, that’s how it’s done!
But wait, there’s more! Let’s mix things up with some push-up variations to target different muscle groups in our upper body and shoulders.
- We’ve got the incline push-up using a chair or bench to elevate our legs
- The advanced pike push-up where we adopt an inverted V-shape position
- The push-back or frog push-up where we fold our knees and move our body into a frog-like position
- And the cross-body push-up where we lift and cross our leg over the other while lowering our body to the ground.
I like to start with 1-2 warm-up sets and aim for 10-12 repetitions (or as needed). And with just 30 seconds of rest between sets, it’s a quick and effective way to build those shoulder muscles.
Incline Bench Press
The incline dumbbell bench press is my go-to exercise to target those upper pectoral muscles.
And the best part? All I need is a set of lightweight dumbbells and an incline bench to get started!
- To perform this exercise, I’ll adjust my bench to a 45-degree angle, lean back, and gently lift up each dumbbell off the floor.
- Then, I’ll bring my arms above my head parallel to each other and slowly lower them to my chest level, just like in a standard shoulder press.
- And with each rep, I’m strengthening my upper chest and the muscles connected between my chest and shoulders.
Let’s aim for 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps each, with just 50 seconds of rest between sets. It’s a simple exercise to perform, but the results speak for themselves!
The lateral raise is a versatile exercise that I can do with either dumbbells, resistance bands, or a cable machine. Plus, it helps me develop those lateral deltoid muscles and greatly improves my shoulder mobility.
- To get started, I’ll stand up straight with my arms by my side.
- Then, I’ll gently raise my arms so that they’re parallel to the ground and at a 90-degree angle with my body.
- I’ll maintain my balance and slowly lower my arms to the side of my body. I’ll repeat this movement until my set is complete.
And if I’m feeling adventurous, I can try the front lateral raise variation, which requires me to raise my arms toward the front of my body.
It engages my anterior deltoids and can be done with dumbbells, resistance bands, or a cable machine.
Let’s aim for 3 sets of 12 reps each, with just 50 seconds of rest between sets. It’s a great way to challenge myself and build those shoulder muscles
This exercise is an excellent way to pump up your shoulder muscles and make them stronger. Whether you prefer using a barbell or dumbbells, this exercise is perfect for you!
- To perform the Overhead Press, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grab your weight of choice and bring it up to shoulder level.
- Next, lift it straight up over your head and hold it there for a few seconds before slowly lowering it back down.
As you progress, you can switch things up with the Military Press variation. This one targets different muscles like your back, shoulders, and core.
To perform it, stand with your feet close together and repeat the same motion as the standard Overhead Press.
With sets of three and twelve reps, and just fifty seconds of rest in between, you’ll be feeling the burn in no time! Let’s get pumping!
Standing Cable Pulley Fly
Now here’s a shoulder exercise that’s going to make you feel like a champ – the standing cable pulley fly!
Whether you have a resistance machine or a cable set, this exercise is perfect for working your deltoids, chest muscles, and anterior shoulders.
To get started, stand naturally with the cables at waist height, then raise your arms and grip the cables firmly. With one foot forward, gently extend your arms to the front to open up those shoulders.
Hold that pose for a few seconds and then slowly lower the cables towards the machine, keeping your feet apart and knees bent to protect your back.
Here’s a representation of the exercise to help you get a better idea of how to do it:
But wait, there’s more! For a variation, try the reverse cable fly. To do this, stand facing the cable machine and hold the opposite cables in a crossover your chest, then pull the cables with your arms by extending them to the sides. Repeat until your set is complete.
And now for the details:
Sets: 4 Sets Repetition: 12 Reps Rest: 50 Seconds between sets
Want to learn a new exercise that’s not only fun but works multiple muscle groups at once? Then you gotta try the crab walk!
- First things first, get down on a flat surface and lower your body to make a bridge.
- Then, use your hands to support your upper body and keep it parallel to the ground.
- Now it’s time to start moving like a crab, using your hands and feet to crawl along the ground.
But wait, there’s a catch! You’ve got to move one hand and the opposite foot at the same time, then repeat the pattern with your other hand and foot. It might take a bit of practice to get the hang of it, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Not only does the crab walk engage your shoulders, but it also works your core, arms, and legs. And the best part? You don’t need any equipment to do it – just yourself and some open space.
So, how many sets and reps should you do? That’s up to you! Do as many as you want, take breaks for 10-20 seconds in between, and have fun with it!
If you’re looking for a simple yet effective shoulder exercise that can be done anywhere, then you gotta try the Prone T!
- To get started, just lie down on your stomach (preferably on a bench) with your spine and head in a straight line.
- Let your arms hang loose by your sides, and then raise them up parallel to the ground at a 90-degree angle from your body.
- Hold them there for a few seconds before lowering them back down and loosening your muscles.
Not only does this exercise help build shoulder stability, but it’s also a great warm-up before hitting those big weights.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try the Prone Y variation, where you raise your arms laterally above your head to form a V or Y shape.
So how many sets and reps should you do? That’s up to you, my friend! I recommend starting with 1-2 sets of 8-12 reps, with a 20-second break in between. But feel free to adjust and make it your own!
Dumbbell Shoulder Push Press
Let me introduce you to the Dumbbell Shoulder Push Press!
This exercise is perfect for newbies to weight training, as it engages multiple muscle groups such as your deltoids, trapezius, quads, glutes, and even your core. Plus, you can do it either sitting or standing – whatever floats your boat!
- To get started, grab a set of dumbbells and hold them at shoulder level. As you exhale, gently bend your knees and lower your torso.
- Then, stand up and raise the dumbbells over your head. Keep going until you feel the burn in your shoulders and calves.
But don’t worry if you’re not a weightlifting pro yet – it’s best to start with lighter weights and gradually work your way up as you advance.
And trust me, the more you do this exercise, the stronger and more confident you’ll feel.
So how many sets and reps should you aim for? I recommend 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps, with a 50-second break in between. And if you want to make it even more fun, try adding some upbeat music to get your body moving!
Cable Face Pull
As the name suggests, this exercise involves pulling the cable towards your face from your chest, in an upward motion.
And let me tell you, it’s an amazing way to target and engage your posterior and lateral deltoids, trapezius, and teres minor muscle groups.
- To get started, stand in front of your trusty cable machine with your legs slightly apart and grab that cable at shoulder height.
- Then, slowly bring in your elbows so the cable reaches your face.
- And here’s the fun part – with each repetition, bend your elbows and move the cable in an upward motion like a true cable-pulling champion!
You can make this exercise even more exciting by cranking up some of your favorite upbeat tunes to get your body moving and grooving. Trust me, it’s a total game-changer.
So how many sets and reps should you aim for? I recommend 3-4 sets of 12 reps, with a 20-50 second break in between. And don’t forget to celebrate your progress along the way – each repetition brings you one step closer to becoming a cable-pulling superstar!
Straight Arm Circles
Hey there, let me show you a cool shoulder exercise that is perfect for stretching your muscles and winding down after an intense workout.
You can perform this exercise either with just your body weight or using lightweight dumbbells for added resistance.
- To do straight arm circles, I stand up straight with my arms out to the sides so that my body forms a T shape.
- Then, I clench my fists and start rotating my arms in a circular motion, gradually increasing the size of the circles.
- It’s important to switch the direction of the circles after each set to work all parts of your shoulders.
This exercise not only helps improve mobility, but it’s also a great way to cool down after a strenuous workout. So, if you want to build those shoulder muscles, don’t forget to warm up and cool down properly.
Sets: 2-4 sets (one direction of motion per set); Repetitions: 10-12; Rest: 10 seconds between sets
Muscles of the Shoulder and Chest
Shoulder muscles are some of the most important groups to develop on your body, and with the right exercises these muscles grow in size and mass rather easily.
While working out your shoulders, it’s important to apply a varied routine so all the muscles in the shoulders are targeted and engaged.
The most fundamental muscles in your shoulders that you will target with the exercises listed above are:
- Trapezium – This muscle is located at the back and helps connect your shoulders with your neck. It tends to span all the way till your lower back.
- Pectoralis Major – More commonly known as Pecs, it’s a large muscle that covers your chest and is connected to your shoulders.
- Deltoid Muscles – Deltoids consist of a set of 3 muscles that connect your chest and shoulder. They’re situated on top of your shoulder (lateral deltoid), between your upper arms and shoulder blades (posterior deltoid) and the one that runs between your shoulders and chest (anterior deltoid).
- Serratus Anterior – This muscle is located at the side of your chest running under your armpit.
- Rhomboid Major – This is a major muscle that connects your shoulder blades with your spine or center of your back.
- Rotator Cuff – The rotator cuff is a collection of 4 different muscles that support your arms and shoulders. It helps with articulation and the rotation of your arms in circular motion.
How to get the most out of your shoulder workout?
If you’re looking for stronger shoulder muscles, you will have to follow three important rules.
- Move through a full range – When you allow your muscles to move through their full range of motion, more muscle fibers are getting engaged and the more fibers you engage, the faster and better your muscles grow.
- Maintain your tempo – Make sure you maintain the speed of each rep you perform. Make sure that the time spent lowering the weight, pausing at the bottom, lifting it again and pausing at the top are the same.
- Keep your rest period short – It’s ideal for your muscles to grow because they’re already engaged and a longer cool off period will do more harm than good. A decent rest period would be around 10 seconds for your first and second sets and around 50-60 seconds for your third or fourth set.
How to warm up and cool down before and after a workout session
Warming up before working out your shoulder and chest muscles is essential to avoid injury and maximize your workout performance.
Here are a few detailed tips on how to warm up and cool down properly:
- Start with light cardio: Begin your warm-up with some light cardio exercises like jogging, jumping jacks, or stationary cycling. This will increase your heart rate and blood flow to the muscles.
- Shoulder and chest stretches: Perform some stretches to loosen up the muscles in your shoulders and chest. Some good stretches to include are arm circles, chest openers, and shoulder rotations.
- Gradually increase intensity: After stretching, start to increase the intensity of your warm-up. You can do this by performing some light weight lifting exercises like push-ups or using resistance bands.
- Increase range of motion: Finally, perform some exercises that target the range of motion in your shoulders and chest. This can include exercises like wall angels, shoulder dislocations, or chest flies with light weights.
- Stretch: After your workout, take some time to stretch out your shoulders and chest muscles. This will help to prevent muscle stiffness and soreness.
- Light cardio: Finish your cool down with some light cardio exercises like walking or slow jogging. This will help to gradually decrease your heart rate and bring your body back to a resting state.
- Foam rolling: Use a foam roller to massage your chest and shoulder muscles. This will help to increase blood flow to the muscles and aid in recovery.
- Ice: If you experience any pain or inflammation in your shoulders or chest, apply ice to the affected area for 10-15 minutes. This will help to reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort.
Remember to always listen to your body and adjust your warm-up and cool down routine accordingly.
By incorporating these tips into your workout routine, you can help prevent injury and achieve better results.
Now that you know what the best shoulder exercises for men are and the muscle groups they target, make sure you’re always safe when lifting heavy weights and always have a spotter present.
Do Not push yourself beyond the limit you can take, there’s always tomorrow and the day after. Break down your workout schedule into sections and always warm up first before working out.
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Darnell Jackson is a grooming enthusiast. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and has always been passionate about men’s fashion and grooming. Darbell started his career as a freelance writer, contributing to various men’s lifestyle magazines and blogs. He has since become a published author, with his book “The Art of Man Grooming” receiving critical acclaim.