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Growing bigger shoulders is a common training aim in the gym. Broad shoulders are an aesthetic that lots of people want to achieve. Whether it’s to look more confident, stronger, or to help make the waist appear slimmer, the shoulder muscles are targeted in a lot of exercises in a bid to make them bigger. But achieving this can feel like it takes a lot of work.

The deltoids are the major muscle group in your shoulders. They cover a lot of space and are responsible for a huge proportion of our everyday movement. These muscles attach at the front, the side, and the back of your shoulder. That’s important to know because it means the deltoids are split into three different parts. The anterior deltoid. The medial deltoid. And the posterior deltoid.

It’s important to understand that no one exercise will result in bigger looking shoulders. Because of the many different ways the shoulder can move and the number of different muscle fibres involved in each job, it’s important to perform a range of different exercises to achieve balanced growth of the deltoids. It’s a high maintenance muscle. That’s why shoulder day often gets a dedicated gym session just for itself.

So, if you’re looking for the 5 best exercises to do to help grow bigger, stronger, well-rounded muscles – here’s the list.

 
 
 

Standing overhead press

 

The overhead press is one of the most well-known shoulder exercises. It involves pressing a barbell or some dumbbells overhead from standing.

The reason this lift is so popular is because of the number of muscles it requires to perform the movement. To lift the weight overhead, you don’t just recruit your deltoids. You also recruit several other muscles from around the body to help you stabilise yourself. In particular, your core gets very involved. This means it’s a good exercise for working on overall conditioning of the body.

How to do a standing overhead press:

1. Start by standing feet shoulder-width apart, with your core muscles engaged

2. Grasp the barbell or the dumbbells at shoulder height, making sure your wrists are directly above your elbows in a straight line

3. Push the weight overhead, making sure not to overarch the back

4. Return to the starting position under control and repeat

 
 

 
 
 

Seated dumbbell press

 

The seated dumbbell press is a variation of the overhead press but is performed, you guessed it, seated.

This exercise is better for targeting the deltoids more specifically. Because you are sat down, your core doesn’t need to work as hard to stabilise you. Your shoulders will take more of the load. This means, you won’t be able to lift as heavy in a seated dumbbell press compared to a standing one, but it does help to achieve muscle mass growth in the deltoids more specifically.

How to do the seated dumbbell shoulder press:

1. Start by sitting with your feet flat on the floor, with your core braced

2. Grasp the dumbbells at shoulder height, making sure your wrists are directly above your elbows in a straight line

3. Push the weight overhead, making sure not to overarch the back

4. Return to the starting position under control and repeat

 
 

 
 
 

Rear deltoid fly

 

As the name suggests, the rear deltoid fly specifically targets the part of your deltoids at the back of the shoulders. Some people prefer to perform this movement when they’re looking to work the back, as it also recruits other major muscle groups in this body part.

The rear delt fly can be done with one arm at a time, or both. The latter being much harder.
You can expect to lift a lower weight in this exercise compared to the presses.

How to do the rear deltoid fly:

1. Start in a seated position, with the upper body bent over so that the chest is almost parallel to the floor

2. Grasp the dumbbells, starting with your arms extended down towards the floor

3. With a slight bend in the elbow, retract your shoulder blades and lift to dumbbells so that they come in-line with the body and form a T-shape

4. Return to the starting position under control and repeat

 
 

 
 
 

Frontal raise

 

The frontal raise targets the front of the shoulder muscles called the anterior deltoids.

Because it is performed from standing, it also recruits the core. You’ll use your core to stabilise yourself and help create the momentum needed to raise the dumbbells to shoulder height.

How to do the dumbbell frontal raise:

1. Start by standing feet shoulder-width apart, with a slight bend in your knees, and your core muscles engaged

2. Pull your shoulder blades back and down

3. Keeping a slight bend in the elbow, raise both of the dumbbells straight up in front of the body

4. Return to the starting position under control and repeat

 
 

 
 
 

Lateral raise

 

The lateral raise is a similar exercise to the frontal raise, but as we’re sure you can guess, involves raising the dumbbells to the side of the body rather than out in front.

It targets a different part of the deltoid than the frontal raise. The medial deltoids are the side part of the shoulder muscle and are specifically worked during the lateral raise.

How to do the dumbbell lateral raise:

1. Start by standing feet shoulder-width apart, with a slight bend in your knees, and your core muscles engaged

2. Pull your shoulder blades back and down

3. Keeping a slight bend in the elbow, raise both of the dumbbells out to the sides of the body to shoulder height, forming a T shape

4. Return to the starting position under control and repeat

 
 

 
 
 

Upright row

 

The upright row involves pulling a dumbbell or a barbell straight upwards to the chest.

It is a shoulder exercise, but it also recruits the trapezius muscles. This is a muscle group that runs between the shoulders at the back of the body. However, when grown, the traps are very visible from the front of the body at the sides of the neck. They can help to give the appearance of larger shoulders.

The upright row can be used to target both of these muscle groups to different extents depending on how you grip the bar. When you have a wider grip, the deltoids work more. When you have a narrower grip, the trapezius muscles work more.

How to do the upright row:

1. Start by standing feet shoulder-width apart, with a slight bend in your knees, and your core muscles engaged

2. Pull your shoulder blades back and down

3. Pull the dumbbells or the bar up in a straight line towards your chest, keeping your elbows at or below shoulder height

4. Return to the starting position under control and repeat

 
 

 
 
 

These 6 exercises are the perfect building blocks for a routine that will help you develop well-rounded deltoid muscle growth and improved strength. Make sure to be mindful of working the three different parts of the shoulders and keep the correct form at all times to avoid injury.

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