Strong and defined shoulder muscles are not just about looking good. The shoulder joint and the surrounding muscles are key to almost everything we do.

Here are three steps and three moves for impressive shoulders.


To get serious shoulders, you need to work all three parts of the deltoid muscle. These are:

  • The anterior deltoid, which is worked when your arms are raised forwards and overhead.
  •  The lateral deltoid, which raises your arms sideways. It is the muscle that gives ‘broad shoulders’ if you are made that way.
  • The posterior deltoid, which pulls your arms and shoulders back. This muscle gives defined rear shoulders.


The shoulder muscles and joint are vulnerable to injury from incorrect training. It is vital to balance out your muscle work and to warm up properly. Don’t even think of heading for the weights until your shoulders are warmed and flexed.

There are no medals for injury or pain. If a load is too heavy, don’t force it. Torn rotator cuff ligaments and muscles take a long time to recover – don’t go there!


Here is a workout that will keep muscles balanced. Begin with a proper warmup, including muscle mobilisation exercises. As you improve, increase weights and reps.

  • Anterior deltoids: the Arnold Press. Sit straight and tall. Hold a dumb-bell in each hand with palms facing you. Press the dumb-bells up and overhead while twisting your wrists. You should finish with straight arms and palms facing away from you. Lower under control.
  • Lateral deltoids: Kettlebell raises. Using kettlebells rather than dumb-bells means that you need to work harder at control. Start with the kettlebells hanging at your sides, then lift up and out until your arms are horizontal, pointing your thumbs down. Lower and repeat.
  • Posterior deltoids: Face pulls. Set up the cable machine with the rope at face height. Grab the handle and pull towards your nose, keeping elbows high. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull. Release under control.

Too easy? Expand the workout to a full shoulder routine. Take care with your form, do your warmup and watch those shoulders fill out.

The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.


Mike D.
28 October 2016

Mike D.

How often do people workout their shoulders? I do one shoulder workout a week , rotating with other muscle groups. which seems enough for me. But I sometimes wonder how many times other people do?

Phillip H.
25 October 2016

Phillip H.

I find that working the shoulders also reduces back troubles. As a bonus you can't slouch when you do these exercises, which also looks better.

Sarah L.
24 October 2016

Sarah L.

I thought men were far more prone to shoulder problems - until it happened to me! Since then I've been trying to add some shoulder exercises to some of my workouts. I don't want to become Arnie-shaped but I certainly want strong shoulders.

craig t.
24 October 2016

craig t.

definitely start slowly - and I would include variety too - I had bad shoulder strain from painting the ceiling once, which was caused by the repetitive movement.

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