Shoulder Workouts – Exercises To Sculpt and Define Deltoids


It’s time to sculpt those shoulders so all you guys out there can get ready for tank tops and sleeveless shirts while all the girls can get excited about wearing sexy spaghetti straps, halter-tops and strapless dresses. If you want to build up your deltoids and achieve impressive looking shoulders then it’s important to add a strength training routine once a week with the right exercises!

The shoulder joint permits a wide range of motion while the joint’s stability is sacrificed to allow the movement to take place. The strength of the shoulders depends on the specific muscles responsible for producing rotational movement. When the shoulders are moved away from the body, the triceps supports the humerus (bone in the upper arm). Targeting all 3 heads of the deltoids and hitting the shoulders from multiple angles is the key to building great shoulders.

Benefits of Training Shoulders
There are various benefits that come with training shoulders. Other than giving the shoulders a more defined contour, a well-designed and properly executed resistance training program can strengthen the muscles involved in all shoulder movements. With strong shoulders, posture is also enhanced as the trunk, arms and shoulders develop stability. This makes it easier for the person to reach overhead or perform swinging movements.


Strengthening the shoulders also targets secondary muscles such as the triceps, trapezius and the pectorals. These muscles assist in lifting objects. Impingement that restricts these movements is often the result of poor flexibility of the shoulders. Performing different exercises for the shoulders increases flexibility and prevents stress overload across the joints.

Below are some strength exercises you can use to build size and strength in your shoulders. Pick 3 of the exercises per training session and do 3 rotations of each exercise, consisting of 12-15 repetitions per exercise. The shoulder is a common place for injury, so challenge yourself with the weight, but don’t go too heavy. If you can easily perform 12 reps of each exercise, you need to increase the weight by small increments. If the weight becomes too heavy to complete each repetition with strict form, make sure to drop down to a lighter weight and complete the reps with proper technique.

Shoulder Exercise #1 – Side Lateral Dumbbell Raises
The side lateral dumbbell raise is an exercise performed through a shoulder abduction movement. An abduction movement means that the arms will be moving away from the body. This is a great exercise to target the medial head of the deltoids which is the key area that gives a rounded contour to the shoulders.

  • Position of the body: Stand in an upright position. Make sure that your torso is straight with your feet about 4-6 inches apart for proper balance. Your arms should be fully extended and resting on the sides of your body.
  • Exercise instructions: While holding a dumbbell in each hand, slowly raise the dumbbells up and away from your sides. Exhale while lifting your arms up until they are parallel to the floor. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement and then slowly bring your arms back down to the starting position.
  • Number of repetitions: 12-15 reps or as recommended.

Shoulder Exercise #2 – Front Dumbbell Raises
The front dumbbell raise is a great exercise to use to target the anterior deltoid muscle (front of the shoulders). This exercise moves the shoulders in a 90-degree position throughout the range of motion.

  • Position of the body: Stand in an athletic position and make sure that the torso straight with your feet about 4-6 inches apart to achieve proper balance. Your arms will be extended out in front of your thighs with your palms facing toward your body.
  • Exercise instructions: While holding a dumbbell securely in each hand firmly and positioned in front of your thighs, slowly raise the dumbbells up and away from your body until your arms are parallel to the floor. Your arms should be fully extended with a slight flex in your elbows while lifting the dumbbells and your palms should be facing downward. Exhale while lifting the arms up and inhale as you move the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  • Number of repetitions: 12-15 reps or as recommended.

Shoulder Exercise #3 – Cable Overhead Press
The cable overhead press is excellent for targeting the medial deltoids (middle of the shoulders) and is usually performed using a FreeMotion machine or similar cable machine. The muscles of the triceps act as the secondary muscle group which supports this movement.

  • Position of the body: Stand in an upright and athletic position with a slight bend in your knees. Your back, shoulders and torso should be straight and avoid hunching over or rounding the shoulders during this exercise. Your feet should be about 4-6 inches apart to achieve proper balance and stability.
  • Exercise instructions: Grab the handles of both cables and carefully bring them up to about shoulder level with your arms at a 90 degree angle and your palms facing forward. Exhale as you extend your arms up and over your head until your arms are fully extended. Pause at the top for 1-2 seconds and then slowly lower the cables back down to the starting position to complete one full repetition.
  • Number of repetitions: 12-15 reps or as recommended.

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About Author

Tiffany Pittman

Tiffany works as a certified group fitness instructor and personal trainer so she can share her passion for fitness and healthy living with others and help them reach their goals! See my profile page for more information!


    • shapefit

      Dale – Yes, the 3 featured exercises are great for adding definition and shape to your shoulders. If you’re looking to pack on mass and size, focus on barbell and dumbbell shoulder press, Military press and the Hammer Strength shoulder press machine.

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    More weight can be used if you perform lateral raises seated on a low bench with your chest close to your thighs.

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