If you're trying to figure out what the best shoulder exercises for mass are, then you've come to the right place.
We've put together a list of what we think are some of the essentials to kick off your mass-building workouts in the best way possible.
You can not only improve your appearance by training your shoulders, but you can also improve your performance during other exercises such as bench press with your additional strength, especially if you focus on your anterior delts.
So, without further delay, let's get into it...
Barbell Overhead Press
The barbell overhead press is, arguably, a must-have for building mass in your shoulders as it targets all three heads of your deltoids.
Not only that, but this particular variation can allow you to load up heavy to improve your strength.
If you're looking for a way to perform this exercise at home, then check out our guide on the best barbells right here.
Benefits Of The Barbell Overhead Press
- The anterior, lateral, and posterior heads of your delts are hit in one movement.
- Can load up the weight to improve strength, more so than using dumbells.
- A strong overhead press can greatly improve your bench as the same combination of triceps, deltoids, and chest are used for both, just at different angles.
- When performed standing, it can also help improve core strength as you should be engaging these muscles to help stabilisation.
How To Do The Barbell Overhead Press
As demonstrated in this clip from ScottHermanFitness, the key to getting the form right with the overhead press is to keep your shoulders back and core tight.
Your hands then need to be placed in a vertical position just over a shoulders width apart in front of you. It's important to make sure your wrists remain in front of your elbows in order to avoid injury.
Then, when you're ready, press straight up until lockout before slowly lowering the bar to the starting position ready for the next rep.
Named after the bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Arnold press offers a slight variation to the overhead press which, if done correctly, increases time under tension whilst still hitting the three deltoid heads.
The key difference is this press adds an additional rotation to the movement, bringing your arms out in front of you on the return rather than to your sides.
For a quick and easy way of altering the weight whilst performing this exercise, check out our list of the best adjustable dumbbells right here.
Benefits Of The Arnold Press
- Due to the rotation, the Arnold press calls upon the anterior delts to, arguably, a greater degree as your elbows drop in front of your body.
- The move is longer to perform than a standard press, thus increasing time under tension which, in turn, can improve your muscle fibres endurance.
How To Do The Arnold Press
To start the Arnold Press, take a seat on a bench and bring a set of dumbbells up to the normal press position.
Then, rotate your hands until your palms are facing towards you.
At this point, press up and rotate in unison until you end up in a similar locked-out position to the standard overhead press, pause at the top, and then slowly bring the dumbbells back down whilst rotating until your palms are facing towards you once more.
If you're still unsure, then check out this expert demonstration by Colossus Fitness.
Leaning Cable Lateral Raise
While the dumbbell lateral raise is a popular choice for many, we believe performing the movement with cables can be slightly more beneficial as it increases the tension in both the eccentric and concentric phases.
The leaning element is there to increase the range of motion and the subsequent time under tension to take the exercise one step further, thus helping you add mass.
Benefits Of The Leaning Cable Lateral Raise
- The cable helps to provide tension at both the top end and the bottom of the rep, especially whilst leaning.
- The additional lean also helps to extend the range of motion, thus increasing the time under tension.
- As you're holding onto something, you should be more stable which can help you concentrate on contracting your shoulders throughout the entirety of the lift.
How To Do The Leaning Cable Lateral Raise
To begin, start by grabbing hold of the cable machine and moving your feet towards the hand not holding the cable.
Then, with your elbow slightly bent, grab raise the cable out away from your side until your arm is parallel with the ground.
Slowly lower the cable back down until your arm is vertical, as shown in this video from Ryan Treadaway, as this will help keep the tension on your lateral delt throughout the set.
Wide-Grip Cable Row
You're probably wondering how a cable row can help build muscle in your shoulders rather than your back.
Well, the trick is to take a wide-grip approach which, if performed right, will hit your posterior delts as well as your upper back.
Benefits Of The Wide-Grip Cable Row
- While the anterior and lateral delts are easy to hit, the posterior delts are harder to target, but the wide-grip cable row can help equal out any imbalances.
- You also benefit by training your upper back at the same time as working your shoulders.
How To Do The Wide-Grip Cable Row
As showcased by Jeff Cavaliere of ATHLEAN-X, to perform the wide-grip cable row, grab hold of a long bar and bring it towards your chest with your elbows up high and away from your sides.
The key is to try and get the top of your arms as far back as possible before controlling the bar back to the starting position so you're ready for the next rep.
Dumbbell Front Raise
The dumbbell front raise offers a great way of targetting your front delts, whilst also being a great exercise to perform as part of a lateral raise superset.
It is also one which you can easily perform at home. All you need is a set of dumbbells and you're good to go.
Benefits Of The Dumbbell Front Raise
- Can help increase the size of your anterior delts.
- By focusing the training on the anterior delts with this exercise, it should help improve your overhead press performance and stabilisation.
How To Do The Dumbbell Front Raise
The key to this movement is to stand straight, look straight ahead, and bring the dumbbell up as if you're trying to touch the wall in front of you.
The benefit of trying to reach the wall is that it should help you engage your front delts during this exercise.
When the dumbbell is essentially in line with your chin, you've reached the top of the movement, so you can slowly bring the dumbbell back down to go again.
You can either do this alternating or using both arms at the same time, but we'd recommend alternating to fully focus on engaging your muscles.
Check out the above tutorial from ScottHermanFitness if you're still unsure.
Frequently Asked Questions About Shoulder Exercises
Should You Train Your Shoulders Every Day?
While it may be ok to work out your shoulders every day if you're only performing a small number of sets, we'd recommend incorporating some rest and upping the number of shoulder exercises on specific days.
Giving your shoulders a rest will give them time to recover and rebuild which, in turn, will help you build muscle.
It should also lower your risk of injury as your shoulders won't be so fatigued, and can help improve your overall performance.
How Many Reps Do You Need To Build Muscle?
The key to building muscle, beyond just your shoulders, is to maximise the time under tension.
For muscle growth, this can be anywhere between 40-120 seconds, which should equal around 8-12 reps per set.
Should You Warm Up Your Shoulders Before Exercising?
Like with all exercise, it's important to warm up first to ensure your body is ready to work.
Your shoulders especially are a particularly sensitive area that you can easily injure if not adequately prepared prior to lifting.
The key to warming up is low-intensity movements focusing on rotating, abducting, and raising your shoulders.
We'd recommend warming up your rotator cuffs, in particular, as they are one of the most common areas to injure and tear.