<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://ct.pinterest.com/v3/?tid=f4de1632775725aa6fdc3fb6c132e778&amp;event=init&amp;noscript=1">
Muscle Growth, Resistance Training

Best Exercises to Grow Your Shoulders

By Shannon Cole on Jun 19, 2023 10:00:00 AM
4 Minutes Reading Time


Growing your shoulders has some amazing aesthetic value–it makes guys look bigger, and gives women a more toned look.


Aesthetics aside, having muscular shoulders comes with additional benefits. When trained appropriately, stronger shoulders can help improve posture, and therefore reducing your chances of developing muscular or postural dysfunctions. Practically, having strong deltoids means it is easier to lift and carry things, and these smaller muscles assist prime movers (like the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi) during compound exercises.

The deltoid muscle is made up of three heads: anterior, lateral, and posterior. You can probably guess (based on the names of each head) the direction the arm moves in when a specific head of the deltoid is activated. There are times when more than one will be activated at the same time, but there are certain exercises when you can focus on part of the deltoid at a time. To grow your shoulders, being able to emphasize each head throughout your workouts will help get you results at a much faster rate.

Isolation movements for each of the three heads of the deltoid is your main goal when wanting to grow your shoulders. Performing compound exercises, which is when you are utilizing more than one muscle group at a time, is great for overall aesthetics and for larger muscle groups, but they initiate the same muscle-building response for the smaller muscles like isolation exercises do.

To help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of shoulder exercises you should be doing, broken up into anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoid movements. A majority of these exercises can be used with different pieces of equipment, like barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, bumper plates, and resistance bands. As I mentioned, some exercises recruit muscle fibers from more than one head of the deltoid, so don’t be surprised if you see some exercises repeated.

Keep in mind, if you want your shoulders to grow, you need to increase the volume of your shoulder exercises–hitting your deltoid muscles once a week is not going to cut it.

Aim to dedicate at least 9 total sets of deltoid exercises, three times a week, during your workouts. Many people have found success adding in trigger sessions throughout the day, including recovery days. Trigger sessions are just 1–3 sets of one exercise at a high rep range, which is enough to get a little bit of a pump without over-exerting yourself.

Anterior Head

Overhead Presses

Straight-Arm Raises


Arnold Dumbbell Press

Military Press


Incline Dumbbell Raises

Half-Kneeling Landmine Press

Weighted Steering Wheel 

Lateral Head 

Upright Row

Lateral Raises

Lateral Raise Hold

Single-Arm Cable Raise

Military Press

Overhead Presses

Dumbbell Standing Around the World

Arnold Dumbbell Press



Incline Lateral Raise

Posterior Head

Bentover Posterior Raises

Cable Reverse Fly

Face Pulls

Seated Dumbbell Posterior Raises

Single Arm Bentover Row

Rear Deltoid Machine

Dumbbell Incline Y-Raise

Dumbbell Incline T-Raise

Dumbbell Rear Delt Pulls

I encourage you to check out this video from the Mind Pump’s Youtube channel for more information on how to build bigger shoulders.

Guide to Growing Big Shoulders | Mind Pump

FREE Flat Tummy Guide


Free Resources

Everything You Need to Know to Reach Your Fitness Goals

Learn More

Shannon Cole

Shannon Cole is an ISSA certified personal trainer and lives in the Dallas area. She is a certified nutrition coach through NASM and NCI, and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Sports Science and Rehabilitation. After obtaining her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication she eventually gravitated to personal training, and hasn't turned back since. Her passion for athletics and fitness initially stemmed from her high school years playing golf, and her love for the sport still hasn't faded; her career goal is to obtain her Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certification and develop strength and conditioning programs for golfers. You can usually find her working out in her garage gym, or training for the next Spartan Race with her husband.

Read more from the Mind Pump Blog

Have a question for us?

Feel free to send us an inquiry and allow up to 24 hours for a response.

Contact Us