Shoulder Exercises | Photos and Instructional Guides for Deltoids

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The shoulder is a very important area in the human body. It is made up of three bones which include the clavicle, scapula and the humerus. It also has several key muscles, tendons and ligaments. The place where the bones articulate make up the shoulder joints. We will discuss the different groups of shoulder muscles (also called the deltoids) which are very important when following a bodybuilding routine or a general fitness plan in order to achieve a symmetrical physique that is well-balanced.

Exercise Guides For Your Shoulders

 

Front Barbell Deltoid Raise

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Hold a barbell using an overhand grip and letting your arms hang straight down. Raise the barbell upward to where your arms become parallel to the ground. Pause for a one-count at the top of the movement and then slowly return to the start position and repeat.

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Front Deltoid Plate Raise

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your legs about shoulder width apart and hold a weight plate with both hands. Lift the plate from your waist up to where your arms become parallel to the floor. Hold the plate for a one-count at the top of the movement and return to the start position and repeat. Be sure to keep both arms fully extended throughout the entire exercise.

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Incline Two Arm Front Deltoid Dumbbell Raise

Exercise Instructions: Lie with your back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Rest the dumbbells on your thighs with your thumbs pointing in toward one another. Simultaneously raise the dumbbells up to where your arms are at a 45 degree angle. Return to the start position and repeat. Be sure to keep both arms fully extended throughout the entire exercise.

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Medicine Ball Front Deltoid Raise

Exercise Instructions: While standing, hold a medicine ball at about waist level. Slowly raise the medicine ball up to shoulder level while keeping your arms straight. Keep the tension on your deltoid muscles throughout the entire movement.

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One Arm Front Cable Raise

Exercise Instructions: With your back to the cable pulley machine, grab a cable pulley handle attachment with one hand. Simply raise your arm up to a point to where it is parallel to the floor, keeping your arm fully extended throughout the movement. Repeat this for 8 – 12 repetitions and then repeat on the opposite arm.

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One Arm Front Deltoid Dumbbell Raise

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand letting your arms hang straight down and your thumbs facing in toward one another. Simply raise one of the dumbbells upward to where your arm becomes parallel to the ground. Pause for a one-count at the top of the movement and then slowly return to the start position and repeat with the opposite arm.

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Smith Machine Deltoid Press

Exercise Instructions: Sit on a flat bench or chair under the barbell within the Smith Machine. Using an overhand grip about one foot wider than shoulder width apart, lower the barbell down to about chin level. Next, press the barbell from that position straight up toward the ceiling. Return to the start position and repeat. Be sure to keep your back straight and upright throughout the entire exercise.

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Two Arm Dumbbell Raises Over Head

Exercise Instructions: Grab a dumbbell in each hand and let them hang at your sides while standing with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Simultaneously raise each dumbbell up over your head with a slight bend in your elbows. Return to the start position and repeat.

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Two Arm Front Deltoid Dumbbell Raise

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand letting your arms hang straight down and your thumbs facing in toward one another. Simultaneously raise one the dumbbells upward to where your arms become parallel to the ground. Pause for a one-count at the top of the movement and then slowly return to the start position and repeat.

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Alternating Dumbbell Deltoid Press

Exercise Instructions: You can do this exercise standing or positioned on a bench with your back upright and straight. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and hold them just outside of each shoulder with your thumbs pointing in toward each other. Simply press one dumbbell up over your head and return to the start position just outside your shoulder. Repeat this movement with the opposite arm and continue alternating for the desired amount of repetitions.

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Arnold Dumbbell Press

Exercise Instructions: Sit on a bench or chair with your back upright and straight. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and hold them near the front of your shoulders, palms facing in toward your shoulders. Next, simultaneously lift or ‘press’ the dumbbells up over your head. While you are pressing the dumbbells, twist your wrists toward one another on the way up. Return to the start position and repeat.

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Dumbbell Deltoid Lateral Raise

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart and grasp a dumbbell in each hand allowing the dumbbells to hang down at your sides with your palm facing in toward your body. Next, simultaneously raise the dumbbells by bringing the backs of your hands to the ceiling, keeping your arms as straight as possible throughout the movement. Bring your arms to a point that is parallel to the floor, hold for a one-count and return to the start position and repeat for the desired repetitions.

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FreeMotion Overhead Cable Press

Exercise Instructions: Using the FreeMotion machine, grasp the handles and place your hands in a “military press” position with your arms in a 90 degree angle. Slowly raises the cables and press up while keeping the tension on your deltoid muscles. Keep a slight bend in your elbows at the top and lower the weight back down to the starting position.

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Incline One Arm Deltoid Lateral Raise

Exercise Instructions: Lie on your right side on an incline bench with your right hand resting on your head. Grasp a dumbbell with your left hand, palm down, letting it hang down across your body. Next, Lift the dumbbell by raising it to the ceiling, keeping your arm as straight as possible throughout the movement. When raising the weight, visualize that you are starting a lawnmower by pulling its recoil cord.

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Machine Deltoid Military Press

Exercise Instructions: Position yourself on a Military Press Machine with your back set firmly against the pad. Grasp the handles with each hand and press the weight up over your head. Return to the start position and repeat.

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One Arm Deltoid Side Laterals

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and grasp a dumbbell in your right hand. Allow the dumbbell to hang down at your side with your palm facing in toward your body. Next, simply raise the dumbbell by bringing the back of your hand to the ceiling, keeping your arm as straight as possible throughout the movement. Bring your arm to a point that is parallel to the floor, hold for a one-count and return to the start position and repeat for the desired repetitions. Once finished, repeat the routine with your opposite arm.

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Seated Barbell Deltoid Military Press

Exercise Instructions: Position yourself on a free weight Military Press Machine with your back set firmly against the pad. Grasp the barbell with your hands just beyond shoulder width apart. Press the barbell up over your head and return to the start position allowing the barbell to come down in front of you just below your chin. Repeat this movement for the desired amount of repetitions.

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Seated Dumbbell Deltoid Press

Exercise Instructions: Position yourself on a bench or chair with your back upright and straight. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and hold them just outside of each shoulder with your thumbs pointing in toward each other. Simply press the dumbbells up over your head and return to the start position just outside your shoulders. Repeat this movement for the desired amount of repetitions.

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Seated Side Lateral Deltoid Raise

Exercise Instructions: Straddle a flat bench and grasp a dumbbell in each hand allowing the dumbbells to hang down at your sides with your palm facing in toward your body. Next, simultaneously raise the dumbbells by bringing the backs of your hands to the ceiling, keeping your arms as straight as possible throughout the movement. Bring your arms to a point that is parallel to the floor, hold for a one-count and return to the start position and repeat for the desired repetitions.

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Barbell Military Press

Exercise Instructions: Stand within a squat rack area and grab a barbell with both hands and rest it on your upper chest across your collar bone. Your feet will be split, with one leg underneath you and the other dropped back behind you slightly for added support. Simply press the barbell up over your head for the desired amount of repetitions and then return to the start position and repeat.

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Standing Low Cable Deltoid Raise

Exercise Instructions: Stand next to a cable pulley machine and reach across your body to grab the handle of a low pulley cable attachment. Slowly raise the pulley by bringing the weight up and across your body as though you are trying to touch the ceiling with the back of you hand. Bring the weight to a point to where your arm becomes parallel to the floor and hold for a one-count. Return to the start position and repeat for the desired amount of repetitions. Once finished with that set, repeat on the opposite arm.

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Standing One Arm Dumbbell Press

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Grasp a dumbbell in one hand and hold it just outside of the same side shoulder with your thumb pointing in toward your head. Simply press the dumbbell up over your head and return to the start position just outside your shoulder. Continue this for the desired amount of repetitions and repeat with the opposite arm.

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Standing Dumbbell Deltoid Press

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and hold them just outside of each shoulder with your thumbs pointing in toward each other. Simply press the dumbbells up over your head and return to the start position just outside your shoulders. Repeat this movement for the desired amount of repetitions.

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Two Arm Dumbbell Deltoid Upright Row

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart and grasp a dumbbell in each hand allowing the dumbbells to hang down in front of your thighs with your palm facing in toward your body. Simultaneously raise the dumbbells up to just under your chin. You will do this by flaring your elbows up and out. Hold for a one-count at the top if the movement and then return to the start position and repeat.

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Upright Barbell Deltoid Row

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Using a narrow overhand grip, grasp an EZ Curl Bar with both hands and let the bar and your arms hang down in front of your body, fully extended. Next, raise the EZ Curl Bar up to just under your chin. You will do this by flaring your elbows up and out. Hold for a one-count at the top of the movement and then return to the start position and repeat.

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Bent Over Rear Deltoid Cable Raise

Exercise Instructions: Stand next to a cable pulley machine and reach across your body to grab the handle of a low pulley cable attachment. Bend down at your waist so that your back is parallel (or close to parallel) to the floor. Slowly raise the pulley by bringing the weight across your body as though you are trying to touch the ceiling with the back of you hand. Bring the weight to a point to where your arm becomes parallel to the floor and hold for a one-count. Return to the start position and repeat for the desired amount of repetitions. Once finished with that set, repeat on the opposite arm.

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Bent Over Rear Deltoid Raise

Exercise Instructions: Grab two dumbbells and sit on a bench. Slowly lean over and position the two dumbbells behind your ankles. While keeping your back flat, raise up the dumbbells until they are positioned at about eye level and then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Make sure to use very light weight when starting out and use strict form to make sure you place all of the tension on your rear deltoids.

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Lying External Rotations

Exercise Instructions: Lie on your left side on a flat bench and grasp a dumbbell with your right hand, palm down. Keep your right elbow tucked in tightly to your side at your waist with your forearm and the dumbbell draped down and across your waistline near your belly button. To execute this movement, simply raise the dumbbell up toward the ceiling to where your forearm becomes parallel to the floor at the top of the movement. Hold for a one-count at the top and then return to the start position and repeat for the desired amount of repetitions. Once finished with your right arm, repeat with the left arm. Be sure to keep your elbow tucked tightly to your side throughout the movement.

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Lying Rear Deltoid Raise

Exercise Instructions: Lie face down on a flat bench with your entire body flat on the bench. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and let the dumbbells hang down to both sides with your elbows bent. Simultaneously raise the dumbbells by imagining that you are trying to touch your elbows to the ceiling. Bring your elbows up to a point parallel to the floor and hold for a one-count. Return to the start position and repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.

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One Arm Lying Rear Deltoid Raise

Exercise Instructions: Lie on your left side on a flat bench and grasp a dumbbell with your right hand, palm down. Extend your right arm straight out across your body and slowly raise the dumbbell so as to try to touch the ceiling. Return to the start position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Once finished with your right arm, repeat with your left arm. Be sure to keep your arm straight throughout the movement.

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Reverse Incline Dumbbell Flyes

Exercise Instructions: Lie face down on an incline bench with your entire body flat on the bench. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and let the dumbbells hang down to both sides with your elbows bent. Simultaneously raise the dumbbells by imagining that you are trying to touch your elbows to the ceiling. Bring your elbows up to a point parallel to the floor and hold for a one-count. Return to the start position and repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.

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Seated Rear Lateral Cable Raise

Exercise Instructions: Place a flat bench in the middle of a dual cable pulley machine. Straddle the bench and grab the low cable pulley attachments on each side. You will reach under the bench with your left hand to grab the pulley attachment on the right side. Conversely, you will reach under the bench with your right hand to grab the pulley attachment on the left side. Once you have a good grip on both pulley handles, slightly bend forward so as to nearly touch your chest to the bench. Next, simultaneously raise the pulleys in each hand so as to try to touch the ceiling with the backs of your hands. Once your arms get to a point parallel to the floor, stop and hold for a one-count and then return to the start position and repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.

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Smith Machine Behind The Head Deltoid Press

Exercise Instructions: Sit on a flat bench or chair under the barbell within the Smith Machine. Using an overhand grip about one foot wider than shoulder width apart, lower the barbell down behind your head. Next, press the barbell from that position straight up toward the ceiling. Return to the start position and repeat. Be sure to keep your back straight and upright throughout the entire exercise.

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Standing Barbell Deltoid Press Behind Head

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Grasp a barbell with both hands with a grip just beyond shoulder width apart and place the barbell behind your head. Simply press the barbell up over your head and return to the start position. Repeat this movement for the desired amount of repetitions.

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Muscles of The Shoulders and Deltoids

The muscles of the shoulder are divided into three major groups. These include the extrinsic muscles, intrinsic muscles and the muscles that connect the shoulder to the arm. There are several key shoulder muscles along with secondary muscles in the shoulder region and we will discuss how these all interact with each other.

Extrinsic Muscles (Superficial) Consist of Four Different Muscles:

  • Deltoid Muscle. This is the main muscle of the shoulder. It is also what gives the shoulder its shape. The deltoid muscle has three parts: the anterior, medial and posterior (front, middle, rear). The anterior starts from the anterior and upper part of the body, the middle starts from the acromion process while the posterior is located in the lower part of the spine and the scapula. Together they insert to the humerus allowing the arm to flex medially and to rotate. It also contributes to lifting the arm when it’s away from the body.
  • Trapezius Muscle. It starts from the back of the skull and moves along the spinal vertebrae. It goes to the collar bone, spine of the scapula and acromion of the scapula. Its main function is to raise the shoulder and helps rotate the scapula when reaching upwards.
  • Pectoralis Major Muscle. It has two heads which includes the clavicular head and the sternocostal head. The clavicular head starts in the midline of the collar bone while the sternocostal starts from the chest plate area. The main function of this muscle is to support and provide movement of the front part of the shoulder. It inserts near the humerus which enables the arm to move inward, rotates the glenohumeral joint and also enables the arm to flex.
  • Latissimus Dorsi Muscle. This is the muscle that brings the arm closer to the body and helps to rotate the arm. It also helps to lower the shoulder and keeps the lower part of the scapula near the chest wall. It starts from the lower thoracic vertebrae and the iliac crest of the lower ribs and pelvic bone. It also inserts into the humerus at the intertubercular groove.

Intrinsic Muscles (Cannot Be Seen on The Surface)
Intrinsic muscles are also known as “deep muscles”. This group is composed of the front muscles, back muscles, side muscles and rotator cuff muscles:

  • Front Muscles. These muscles include the pectoralis minor muscle which helps in moving the scapula downward, forward and raising the ribs. The pectoralis minor is located deep in the pectoralis major muscle. It moves through the 3rd and 5th rib extending out to the coracoid process in the spatula. The front muscles also include the subclavius muscle also found in the pectoralis major muscle. It runs from the first rib to the collar bone. Its purpose is to help the shoulder to move downward and forward while stabilizing the collar bone.
  • Back Muscles. These muscles consist of the rhomboid major and minor muscles, levator muscle and teres major muscle. The rhomboid muscle runs from the vertebrae travelling to the middle part of the scapula. This helps the scapula move up. The teres major moves from lower part of the scapula and attaches to the anterior part of the humerus making it to rotate and extend the arm. The levator scapulae muscle starts from the neck vertebrae and attaches itself to the upper and medial part of the scapula allowing it to raise up.
  • Side Muscles. These include the serratus anterior muscles which starts from the first nine ribs and passes through the chest wall to the medial side of the scapula. It works to bring the scapula to the chest wall and rotates it.
  • Rotater Cuff Muscles. They consist of supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor and subscapularis muscles. Their main function is to stabilize the shoulder joint and rotate the arm medially.

Important Muscles Around The Shoulder:

  • Biceps Brachii Muscle. This muscle helps flex the shoulder and the forearm. It has a long head starting from the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula and short head from the coracoid process of the scapula and they both insert in the medial area of the forearm.
  • Coracobrachialis Muscle. It works to stabilize the humerus. It moves from the coracoid process and inserts to the humerus to help move the arm towards the body.
  • Triceps Brachii Muscle. Its main function is to extend the forearm at the elbow. It also helps to extend the arm and draw the humerus into the body. It has a head running from the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula, another head at the upper part of the humerus and one at the lower part of the humerus. They all connect at the olecranon process of the ulna.

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