It goes without saying: a muscular physique is not complete without a set of round, well developed shoulder muscles.

Thick, muscular shoulders will give your upper body a strong and powerful look by adding overall width and creating the illusion of a smaller waistline.

The good news is that a workout designed to build shoulder muscles is actually quite simple and straightforward.

The shoulder performs the function of lifting and rotating your arm and is composed of 3 heads: the anterior head (front), medial head (middle) and posterior head (rear).

Let me go over the 3 exercises you’ll need to fully develop all of these heads…

Recommended Shoulder Exercise #1

seated overhead dumbbell press

Any workout designed to build shoulder muscles should be based around a basic overhead pressing movement. This is the bread and butter of shoulder training and can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells.

I recommend that you stick with a seated overhead dumbbell press as your primary movement.

Dumbbells let each arm move through a natural range of motion and also provide greater stimulation to the entire shoulder complex when compared to the barbell version.

The overhead dumbbell press will work your anterior head with some involvement from the medial head.

Recommended Shoulder Exercise #2

cable side lateral raise

Next up is a side lateral raise to isolate the medial head. You can perform this exercise using either dumbbells or a cable.

My recommendation is to use a standing cable side lateral. The cable will keep the tension on your medial head throughout the entire exercise, whereas with dumbbells the tension leaves the shoulder toward the bottom of the range of motion.

Recommended Shoulder Exercise #3

rear lateral raise

To finish off your workout to build shoulder muscles, you’ll perform a bent over rear lateral raise. This movement isolates the posterior head.

Most bodybuilders have over-developed anterior heads due to too much bench pressing movements, so rear lateral raises are a great movement to help balance this out.

You can perform this with dumbbells or a cable as well, but I would recommend going with the cable version.

Another popular exercise you’ll see in the gym that people use to build shoulder muscles are front raises. These exercises isolate the anterior head.

In reality, this movement is a total waste of time and might actually be counterproductive. The anterior head is hit very hard during all bench pressing and overhead pressing and therefore does not need to be isolated. If this head gets over-developed it can pull your shoulder girdle forward and set you up for an injury.

So, that’s really all you need:

– Overhead dumbbell press
– Standing cable side lateral
– Bent over rear lateral cable raise

This will hit your entire should complex for overall mass and help you build shoulder muscles as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Perform 3-4 sets of each exercise once every 4-7 days. For the overhead press, perform 5-7 reps, and for the raising exercises, stick with 8-12 reps.

Happy shoulder training.

– Sean

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