The Best Shoulder Exercises

Carl Weathers in the Rocky series has probably one of the best bodies of the 80s, and if he wasn’t put opposite Stallone in the series he’d be pretty hard to beat. But there’s a secret to his impressive looking physique – and that’s that he trains his shoulders hard. The shoulders, or obliques, are a muscle group that are often overlooked in favour of more fashionable muscles like the triceps and the biceps, but as Weathers proves this is a big mistake. Actually your shoulders are one of the most useful muscle groups in the body for any pushing or over the head lifting movement, and they are furthermore one of the most important muscle groups aesthetically helping to add a lot of definition to the arms and also giving you a larger silhouette for your upper body.

Part of the reason that people often ignore the shoulders though is probably just that they don’t know how to train them. Here we will rectify that little oversight and show you how to get arms like Apollo Creed.

Shoulder Presses and Variations: The shoulder press is one of the most obvious ways to train your shoulders and is also very easy to do as long as you have pretty much anything heavy. Take two dumbbells and just press them over your head while sitting or standing and you’re doing it, but if you want to mix it up you can change the grip or add a twist to the movement (turn them inwards as you press for an ‘Arnold Press’). Another variation is simply to use a barbell rather than two dumbbells, to use just one dumbbell, or even to press something that’s not a weight over your head like a log or a slab of concrete.

Forward Raises: The forward raises are one of the best ways to work the front of your deltoids and are surprisingly useful in everyday life for lifting things in conjunction with your traps. To perform a repetition all you need to do is to hold the dumbbells with an overhand grip in front of you, and then raise your arm directly upwards without bending your arm so that the pivot is entirely at your shoulder. You will need to start with a light weight for this one to begin with (much lighter than you would curl or press) and you can make it more difficult by attempting to hold the dumbbell out in front of you for a period of time or even just bobbing it up and down there.

Lateral Raises: The lateral raises are just like the forward raises except that you lift them out sideways going from having your arms by your side into a crucifix position. The same variations apply.

Incline Bench Press: The ‘normal’ bench press will train your deltoids, traps, triceps and core as well as your pecs, but if you want to get your shoulders in there even more then, simply incline the bench press so you are sitting more upright (most are adjustable). This is very useful tool for those who find the normal shoulder press painful or difficult. Note as well that one of the things that often holds people back on the bench press is their shoulders – so even if you don’t care about them do it for the bench press.

Dumbbell Upper Cuts: Another good one for the front (anterior) deltoids is the dumbbell uppercut and it’s pretty good for your biceps too – just hold the weights in your hands and then mime punching someone in the chin with each arm in turn.

The Clean and Press: In the clean and press you perform a deadlift lifting the weights (normally a barbell but can be dumbbells) off of the floor, then curl and swing them up near your chest before pressing them up over you. This is a powerlifting move so the normal way to perform it is by using a very heavy weight and performing just a couple of repetitions. It also means as a bonus though that you will work multiple muscle groups in unison which ultimately results in more fat burning and more muscle building through increased production of growth hormone.

Handstand Press Ups: You aren’t limited to training your shoulders just at the gym though – you can also train them at home even if you don’t have any weights and one of the most powerful ways to do this is with handstand press ups which involve lifting your entire bodyweight with your shoulders while at the same time using every little supporting muscle and core muscle to stabilize yourself. Of course this is a very difficult move as it’s hard to balance but there are plenty of ways to build up to it such as by balancing your legs against a wall or getting someone to lightly hold them for you.

Decline Push Ups: But if you don’t want to go that far with it then just doing press ups will also train your shoulders, and you can target them even more directly by putting your feet up on something high behind you like a sofa and then doing press ups on the ground which will alter the angle of the weight.

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