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The Ultimate Shoulder Workout

The Ultimate Shoulder Workout

A well-built, defined pair of shoulders are the envy and goal of many gym goers, but too many never achieve their shoulders full size and strength potential.

Whether it’s because they are tagging a few sets of side and front raises to the end of a chest or back workout or because they are doing the same exercises week in and week out, sticking to the outdated formula of overhead press followed by a couple of isolation exercises and a set of shrugs.

Your shoulders may be one of the smaller muscle groups, but they are no less complex and they require just as much attention as any other muscle group if you want to see them grow.

The Muscles of the Shoulder

Before you start to broaden up your torso and need to walk through doors sideways, lets first have a  look at the different muscles you will be targeting.

Your shoulders comprise of many muscles but the main one is the deltoid, which gives your shoulders their rounded shape and is made up of three distinctive “heads”.

The anterior (front), lateral (middle) and posterior (rear).

In order to develop well rounded, and healthy, shoulders it’s important that all three are trained.

Your traps, although technically being a muscle of the back, also make up the shoulders and have an important role in performing shoulder exercises effectively.

In our ultimate shoulder workout, we have selected exercise that will target all three heads of the deltoid and the traps, using a mixture of dynamic, compound and isolation exercises to ensure you hit your shoulders from every possible angle, giving you an intense workout that builds muscle fast.

The Workout

The workout below has been designed for any level, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or an advanced lifter. The only variable that you will have to adjust is the weight used, in order to allow you to meet the rep and set schemes listed.

Warm Up

Kettle bell swing into Face pulls

Muscle(s) targeted – Traps, front and rear deltoid.

4 sets x 12 reps into 12 reps

45 seconds rest between sets

KB swing – With a slight bend in your knees, but mainly hinging at your hips, grab one kettlebell in both hands and pull it back in between your legs to create momentum. Driving your hips forward and straightening your back, swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height before returning in a controlled manner.

Face pull- Stand facing a pulley machine with rope attachment at eye level. Grab the rope with palms facing downwards and walk back until arms are fully straight. Retract your shoulder blades and pull the rope towards your head, pulling your hands apart to either side. Squeeze for 2 seconds. Return and repeat without letting the weight stack rest. 

Heavy Shoulder press into Push press

Muscle(s) targeted – Front , middle and rear deltoid

5 sets x 5 reps into 5 reps

180 seconds rest between sets

Start by performing a standard barbell shoulder press. With feet shoulder width apart and keeping your elbows tucked in, push the bar directly overhead. Immediately after completing 5 reps, move into completing 5 push presses without rest or dropping the bar. Keep your technique the same but utilise bending your knees to create momentum and drive the barbell upwards as fatigue start to set in.

Rear delt row

Muscles(s) targeted – Rear deltoid

3 sets x 12-15 reps

60 seconds rest between sets

Set up on a flat bench with one hand at the front, one knee placed behind and the other leg planted on the ground, creating a “tripod”. With your other hand grab a dumbbell, with your palm facing backwards in a supinated position. Brace your core and retract your shoulder blade. Pull the dumbbell up and out to the side, pointing your elbow outwards and with your arm perpendicular to your torso. Squeeze your rear delt at the top for 2 seconds and slowly lower to start position.

Arnold press

Muscle(s) targeted – Front, lateral and read deltoid

3 sets x 8 reps

120 seconds rest between sets

Sitting on an upright bench, grab a set of dumbbells and hold them with palms facing inwards, sitting at shoulder height. Start the movement by spreading your arms out laterally, then push upwards overhead, twisting your arms so your palms now face forward at the top of the movement. Reverse movement back to starting position, not letting the dumbbells rest at the bottom.

Plate raises with twist

Muscle(s) targeted – Front and lateral deltoid

3 sets x 12 reps (6 twists per side)

60 seconds rest between sets

Standing with feet shoulder width apart grab a weight plate at “3 and 9 o’clock” position. Raise the plate up to head height using your front delts. Twist the plate to the right, moving emphasis onto your lateral head. Twist the plate back to centre and lower back down. Repeat, but this time twisting to your left.


Muscle(s) targeted – Traps and rear deltoids

2 sets x 12 reps

90 seconds rest between sets

Set a bench at 30-450 and lay on it face down. Have your arms hanging straight down, holding a pair of dumbbells with palms facing inwards. Keeping arms straight retract your shoulder blades fully. From this position lift your arms up in front of you and twist your palms so they are now facing downwards, mimicking the flying position of superman. Hold at top for 3 seconds before reversing the movement back to starting position.

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