The shoulders are an important muscle group if you want to build a powerful physique (and a healthy body, for that matter)—but there’s more to training than just throwing as many pressing variations as you can imagine into your workout split.
“There are hundreds of shoulder exercises out there,” says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “You don’t need them all.”
The reason you should limit your repertoire of shoulder moves isn’t because the muscle group needs to be avoided, or because only a few exercises are worth your time. According to MH Advisory Board member and celebrity trainer Don Saladino, it’s because your workout is probably very shoulder-heavy in the first place. “Throughout the week, if we’re training our chest, we’re getting shoulders in, if we’re training our triceps we’re getting shoulders in,” he says. “When we’re squatting, we’re creating tension in our shoulders, if we’re doing farmer’s walks or any form of carries—which you know I like to do—sled pushing, our shoulders are involved.”
With that in mind, Samuel and Saladino selected four movements that they use to train the shoulder completely, with that weekly volume in mind. Check out the video above for the full guidance, and keep reading for the highlights of these shoulder training Muscle Musts.
4 Must-Do Shoulder Training Exercises
Head-Supported Rear Delt Fly
Work around your shoulder and train your rear delts with this light-weight dumbbell exercise. The key: using an incline bench to help to keep yourself in perfect posture and movement. Focus on raising the weights, not swinging them. “I’m just focusing on doing a reverse fly and contracting those posterior delts,” says Saladino.
Try high reps with lighter weights for this one.
High Incline Lateral Raise
You’ll stay on the incline bench for this move, but you’ll sit with your chest forward to support yourself (again, to keep your posture on point). By assuming this position, you’ll help to eliminate opportunities to use momentum to swing the weights up. “I love the high incline—it just keeps me from cheating, so I get a really really good squeeze,” says Samuel.
Again, work with light weights and higher rep ranges for this exercise.
Seated Dumbbell Press
Before you get going, Saladino notes that the straight-backed bench position might not be the best for everyone. If you have a tough time getting into the right spot for the vertical press (if you don’t have a great range of motion for external rotation or you have a rounded back posture), you can move the bench back to its highest incline.
For this exercise, you can train with heavy or light weights, depending on your goals.
Half-Kneeling Single-Arm Kettlebell Press
Switch up your workout with this surprise top pick. The move is even more versatile than you might think, too—Saladino says you can press on the same side of your kneeling leg or on the opposite side for different effect. Samuel loves the move because the position prevents you from flaring your ribs or overextending your lower back, two common form flubs in traditional standing overhead presses.
“This becomes a great way to exhibit power, and building that power is going to translate into the shoulder muscle you want,” he says.
Load up the weight and do sets of low reps for this movement.
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