Top Shoulder Exercises (Create A Strong And Powerful Looking Physique)

Wide and thick lats may give you that V-shape you desire, but if you want a strong and powerful looking physique, then a good set of shoulders and traps will give you just that. Check out the 4 top shoulder exercises you should be including in your training.

If trained correctly, shoulders will be one of the first muscles you will notice a big change in.

The 4 Top Shoulder Exercises

  1. Military Press (Seated Or Standing
  2. Dumbbell Press (Seated Or Standing
  3. Dumbbell Lateral Raises (Mid Delt Isolation)
  4. Rear flys (Rear Delt Isolation)

Military Press (Seated Or Standing)diagram of a man doing a military press

The big boy of all the shoulder exercises.  This movement will by far provide the most overload through the deltoids.

Primary muscles involved


Secondary muscles involved

Upper chest, triceps, traps and forearms

Most efficient technique 

Never ever perform this movement behind the neck.  The amount of extra stress it can put on the shoulder joints and ligaments is crazy and injury will eventually be a surefire thing.  Plus we are looking for maximum overload and doing this movement behind the neck will really reduce this.

Like a few other movements, you will need to play around with your hand position slightly at the beginning.  You will know you have it right when your upper arms are parallel to the floor you should have a 90-degree angle at your elbows.

Starting with the bar nearly touching your chest, squeeze your glutes, bring your belly button in towards your spine and chest pushed high.  Now from this point move the weight upwards with explosive force and then lower back to your chest at a moderate speed.

Keeping a slight bend at your elbows when the bar is at the top of the movement, will save your elbow joints, plus it keeps tension on the shoulders at all times.

Dumbbell Press (Seated Or Standing)diagram of a man doing seated dumbbell shoulder press

My personal preference for this movement will always be to do it seated.  The main reason being is it’s much easier to get the dumbbells into the initial starting position.

Like all dumbbell pressing movements, these are great for achieving a much greater stretch then you can get using barbells.  This stretch can really add to the overload created.

Primary muscles involved


Secondary muscles involved

Upper chest, triceps, traps and forearms

Most efficient technique 

If doing seated, make sure the backrest is in the most upright position possible.  This will make sure the deltoids are doing more work then the upper chest.  Alternatively, don’t use any backrest at all.

Deadlift the dumbbells up from the floor then sit down onto the seat.  Now explode with one leg up, pushing the dumbbell back and into the start position.  Quickly follow with the other leg flicking the second dumbbell into position.

From here drive the weight up to the top and slightly inwards at the same time.  This will generate a bit of extra squeeze through the deltoids.  Like the military press do not lock out your elbows at the top.

Now lower the weight at a moderate speed until the bottom of the dumbbells slightly touches your shoulders.

To get an even greater stretch and increased range of movement, start with your hands facing inwards at the bottom.  Then when you explode upstart rotating them forwards.

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Dumbbell Lateral Raises (Mid Delts Isolation)diagram of a man doing lat raises

My personal favourite shoulder exercise.  You will probably be saying to yourself that this is an isolation exercise, and by saying this you will be correct.  However, the way I will be showing you to perform this exercise does not reduce overload and is great for really targeting the traps

Primary muscles involved


Secondary muscles involved

traps, forearms

Most efficient technique 

What I am about to say next does not give you an excuse to rock your bodies back and forth in a horribly uncontrolled manner, but to create the maximum overload with this exercise your form should not be rigid.

You should have a slight lean back as you raise the dumbbells really opening up and pushing your chests up high.

Start with your hands facing inwards directly in front of your waist with a slight bend at your elbows.  This starting position will again allow you to create the maximum overload.  If you start with the dumbbells at your sides like I see so many people do, you will not be able to create that initial explosive force in order to move the heavyweight.  The knock-on effect from this is reduced overload.

From the start, position drive the dumbbells to the side making sure your elbows stay higher than your hands at the top of the movement.  Your wrists should rotate slightly meaning your thumbs should be pointing slightly down and your little fingers pointing slightly up.

Lower the weight at a moderate speed back to the starting position.

Rear Flys (Rear Delt Isolation)

This is an exercise I am not going to give a written explanation of the form.  It’s vital the technique is done correctly.  The reason being when most people try to target their rear delts, they end up hitting there smaller back muscles instead like the rhomboids.

The video below explains everything perfectly, and if you follow it properly you will quickly bring up your rear delts.

Top Shoulder Exercises – Final Words

You will notice I haven’t included any isolated front deltoid work or isolated trap work.  The reasons for this are because your front deltoids are used to a large degree in all overhead pushing movements, and I find when isolating the traps with things like shrugs, for example, they usually overtake and dominate the shoulders.  This can then make even the best set of deltoids look narrow.

If you are pressing correctly and do lateral raises you will find this will work the traps and keep the development between them and your deltoids nice and even.

If you have any questions, then please leave a comment below.

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top shoulder exercises for a strong and powerful physique.

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