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Shoulder Exercises for a Deltoid Workout

Whether it’s summer, winter, fall, or spring that’s just around the corner, there’s always a rush to be tank top ready — even if it’s for the next season.

Love it or hate it, working on your deltoids is a necessity for that overall sleek, sculpted look. You can do all the chest and bicep work possible, but sculpted shoulders are a year-round must-have.

Shoulder Anatomy

The deltoid is a three-part muscle that caps the shoulder: Anterior, medial, and posterior.

  • Anterior deltoid: The anterior deltoid contributes to many pectoral-related movements, like the actions of the bench press. It rounds out the shoulder and gives the impression of width from the front.
  • Medial deltoid: The medial deltoid is most active during lateral movements, like lateral raises. Located on the outside part of the shoulder, it is responsible for moving the arms directly out to the sides. Visually, it adds more width to the shoulder.
  • Posterior deltoid: The posterior deltoid is used in conjunction with the muscles that engage the back and rhomboid muscles, like when you do upright rows. It improves the appearance of the back of your shoulder and helps with overall posture.

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, with the ball being the humerus and the socket being the glenoid. Shoulders can abduct 150 degrees, flex forward 180 degrees, extend 45 degrees, and rotate internally 90 degrees.

Get Ready to Work

The following exercises can be added to your existing routine or done together as a complete deltoid workout. You will need a weighted bar and free weights for this workout. Three sets of 8-12 repetitions are recommended for each exercise.

Military Press

You will be using a weighted bar for this exercise:

  1. Stand  (or sit) gripping the bar in an overhand position with your feet shoulder distance apart and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Bring the bar up and rest it at chest-level, then press it straight up above your face, extending your arms until your elbows are just about locked.
  3. Return the weight to your chest and repeat.

It’s important to note that military presses should always be done to the front. Lowering the bar behind your neck puts your shoulders in an unnatural position and leaves them prone to injury.

Arnold Press

You will be using free weights for this exercise:

  1. This move can be done in either a seated or standing position. Holding a free weight in each hand, start with the weights in front of you with your palms facing in and your elbows directly under your wrists.
  2. Begin the Arnold Press by bringing your elbows out to the side while turning your palms to face forward as you continue to lift into an overhead press until your arms are straight
  3. As you lower your arms, rotate your palms back inward and return to your starting position to complete one repetition.

Upright Rows

You will be using a weighted bar for this exercise:

  1. Grab the bar and place your hands shoulder-width apart, using an overhand grip.
  2. Pull the bar straight up to your neck, bending your elbows to the sides.
  3. Lower and repeat.

Rear Deltoid Row

You will be using a weighted bar for this exercise:

  1. Using a wide handgrip on your bar, bend your knees and lean forward at the waist, keeping your back straight and abs tight. Your arms should be relaxed.
  2. Slowly pull the bar up to your chest, bending your elbows to the sides, until your upper arms are horizontal and then lower it back down and repeat.

Lateral Side Dumbbell Raises

You will be using free weights for this exercise:

  1. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart and bending your knees, begin with the free weights in your hands and your arms relaxed to your sides.
  2. Raise the weights out to the side until your arms are parallel to the floor, then lower back to starting position and repeat.

Dumbbell Half Lateral Raise

You will be using free weights for this exercise:

  1. This move is executed very similar to the lateral side raise. You will start standing you’re your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees bent with your arms to your sides.
  2. Raise the weights out to the side until your arms are parallel to the floor and at shoulder-height and palms facing the floor.
  3. Turn your thumbs down and lower the weights halfway, pausing for a count of four. Then lift your arms back to shoulder-height.
  4. Turn your thumbs back up with your palms facing the floor and lower your arms back down to your starting position to complete one repetition.

Rear Lateral Raise

You will be using free weights for this exercise:

  1. With your knees bent and your lower body in a squat position with your tailbone pointing back, lean forward and pull your abdominals in as tight as you can.
  2. Rest your arms in front of you, a weight in each hand, with your palms facing each other. Then lift both arms to the side until they are parallel to the floor. While executing this move, keep your elbows above your wrists.
  3. Slowly lower back to your starting position to complete one repetition.

Single-arm Front Lateral Raise

You will be using free weights for this exercise:

  1. Standing with knees bent and abdominals tight, lift one arm straight up in front of your until it’s at shoulder-height.
  2. Slowly lower that arm back to its starting position and repeat with the other arm. It’s important that throughout this movement you maintain a straight wrist; do not allow the hand or wrist to droop.

Side-lying Lateral Raise

You will be using free weights for this exercise:

  1. Lie on your left side with hips and legs stacked one on top of the other. Bend your knees slightly.
  2. Holding a weight in your right hand. Raise your arm from the floor, bringing it into a vertical position with your palm facing forward. Keep a slight bend in the elbow.
  3. Slowly lower your arm, facing your palm downward, and repeat.
Hot Tip: Increase the Difficulty

For increased intensity during the side-lying lateral raise, try it from a side plank position. With your legs extended out to the side, cross your top leg over your bottom. Place your elbow under the same-side shoulder and lift your hips off the floor into a side plank. Your hips should remain stacked throughout the exercise.

Continue to execute the side-lying lateral raise from this position, squeezing the abdominals in tight to secure your position. You can try fewer repetitions in this position.

Show It Off

Whether it’s for bulking up or toning up, these deltoid exercises will give you the results you’re looking for. Use them as additions to your current shoulder routine or as a routine in its entirety. Your hard work will pay off and you’ll reap the benefits of having sculpted shoulders in no time!

This fitness guide provides a complete deltoid workout using both free weights and a weighted bar. Use these exercises to gain that coveted shoulder definition!
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