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The 7 Best Shoulder Exercises For A Badass Physique

20 Comments | Training

best shoulder exercises

Big arms no longer impress me.

I mean they used to. But nowadays, a guy with overly huge arms who purposefully wears extremely tight clothing just makes me think, douche bag.

Having big arms is great and all but what really impresses me these days is someone with a set of super broad shoulders, V-shaped back, and a narrowly tapered waist. Now that’s impressive.

I would much rather have  a pair of decently sized arms and really broad shoulders than really big arms and small shoulders.

So if you’re struggling with your shoulders, here are the 10 best exercises for building bigger, harder, and more badass looking shoulder. Give these a shot, check out the sample workout below, and start growing your shoulders today.

And remember, perfect form is key when doing these exercises – not only to maximize contraction of the shoulder muscles but also to prevent a nasty shoulder injury (one of the most common gym injuries).

1) Shoulder press (done seated or standing)

The foundation of every pair of great shoulders is built on some kind of heavy vertical pressing. This could be done with either a dumbbell or a barbell and either seated or standing.

There are pros and cons to doing the shoulder press seated vs standing. When done seated, you can typically push more weight, but on the other hand, doing them standing helps train your core.

But no matter which variation you do, just make this a staple in your workout routine.

As a side note, doing behind the neck barbell presses have been shown to recruit more muscle fibers, but the exercise is still far too risky in my opinion especially when done with heavy weights. Use your own judgement here.

Best shoulder exercises for mass

Hugh Jackman: Great example of what some broad shoulders should look like.

2) Side/Front/Rear lateral raises

These exercises really need no introduction. These are best done in the higher rep range (10+ reps) since it’s very hard to do them with extremely heavy weights.

Also be sure to try the leaning side lateral raise for a greater stretch and range of motion.

3) Push press

The push press is very similar to the standard standing shoulder press with the slight difference that it’s an explosive movement where you use your feet to drive the weight up.

This provides 2 benefits:

  • You can use more weight than a static standing shoulder press.
  • You get added the benefit of explosive strength training which teaches you to use more force in less time.

4) Landmine press variations

These are definitely  more “under the radar” exercises. Don’t know why though, it’s a pretty fucking awesome exercise.

Landmine exercises are exercises done with a landmine, which is a rotational device on the ground with a barbell put in the device. This allows you to train in a multitude of directions, that can’t be done with a traditional gym equipment.

The downside is that you need a piece of equip (a landmine) which is unavailable in most commercial gyms.

An alternative to this would be to simply place one end of a barbell in the corner of a room but it’s ideal if you had the proper equipment.

Here is a video of Ben Bruno showing one variation of a landmine exercise.

 

5) Lumberjack press

Another awesome exercise that very few people do, the lumberjack press is done with a barbell placed on your shoulder (think bearded Canadian man trekking through a forest with a log on his shoulder).

Here’s a video of my buddy Chad Howse doing the lift:

The movement is done by basically pressing the weight over your head from left to right.

6) Shrugs

This is probably the best shoulder exercise on this list that’s not even a shoulder exercise.

Most people think that shrugs are mainly a trap exercise, and they’re right, they are.

But one of the best ways to build wider looking shoulders is by building bigger traps.

Your traps connect your neck with the top of your shoulders, so if you have bigger traps your shoulders will give off the illusion that they’e bigger.

However despite being a relatively simply movement, most people mess up the shrugging movement by shrugging straight up and down and not at a slight angle.

The video below offers a great explanation on how to properly do shrugs.

Also note that while having larger traps can help contribute to the overall broad-shoulder look, it can also take away from it if you overdo it.

An overdeveloped pair of traps is not a good look so don’t overboard.

7) Face pull

The face pull is great for your upper back, traps, and rear delts.

But its real magic for creating more badass looking shoulders lies in its ability to pull back the shoulders and fix the dreaded rounded shoulder look that a lot of guys get as a result from too much pressing.

And even if you don’t suffer from the rounded shoulder look, face pulls are still a great exercise to keep your shoulders healthy and offset the negative effects of too much pressing. You should be doing face pulls 2-3x per week.

Sample shoulder workout

Putting it all together, there are a million ways to structure these exercises into your workout plan.

A workout might look something like this:

  • Shoulder press or push press – 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Side lateral raise – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Lumberjack press – 3 sets x 10-12 reps
  • Shrugs – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
  • Face pull – 3 sets x 12-15 reps

Of course, the workout above is better suited towards a shoulder specialization type day. But of course, this is just a sample workout you can set your own routine however you wish.

To help grow my shoulders I used the Adonis Index workout since its primary focus is to build your shoulders and give you that sweet V-taper look.

What do you think is the best shoulder exercises? Let me know in the comments.

Brian - August 18, 2016

Wow. Thanks for the great video on shrugs. Always thought that arching your back was a “no-no”. Your illustration showing the biomechanics of the movement is indisputable.

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    Keith - August 18, 2016

    Not my video but yeah that’s how you should do shrugs.

    Reply
Dani Singer Personal Trainer - September 11, 2015

Overall a solid post but I have to bring up a pet peeve of mine.

All credibility I attribute to a health & fitness professional immediately goes out the window when they start making up muscles. Whoever that “trainer” was who talked about training “medial delts”; shame on him. How is anyone supposed to trust anything you say if you weren’t even thorough enough to realize you’re talking about a muscle that doesn’t exist?

Medial – close to the center of the body

Lateral – far from the center of the body

Not only does “Medial delt” not exist, the name is inherently the exact opposite of the muscle he’s referring to. If he’s not educated enough to know that, he should not be making videos and giving out fitness advice.

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    Mark - August 10, 2016

    I did some googling and you have the posterior, anterior and medial deltoids. Posterior is on the backside, anterior is on the frontside, medial is to the sides. And don’t medial and lateral mean the same thing? Lateral is to the side and medial is halfway. English isn’t my native language, but I do know this.

    Kind regards

    Reply
Gary - December 5, 2014

Great advice Keith.your demo video on shrugs was excellent.i was doing them all wrong till I seen your video..I’ve recently started using heavy kettlebells for shrugs as I think there easier to handle, and now thanks to you I’m seeing results.great website keep up the good work..

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Mark - November 25, 2014

can i do all of these workout altogether in every session?

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Manoj - November 23, 2014

Definately have a long way to go to reach broad shoulders, everywhere I go I’m being told the size of my shoulders are not proportional to the size of my body. I guess its time to change that. Thanks man!

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Jeff Strongman - August 19, 2014

Is doing the Face Pulls standing the only way? I get pulled myself because I am not heavy enough…a friend who does lower weight can do them because he weighs about +40 lbs over me…it’s almost funny.

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    Keith - August 19, 2014

    no doing them standing actually limits the max amount of weight you can use. You can do them sitting and actually use more weight.

    Reply
Taylor - July 23, 2014

My broad and striated shoulders are by far the highlight of my physique, but I did not know about the lumberjack press or the push press, nor have I ever seen anyone do them in the 6 years I’ve been lifting. Very innovative. I’m happy I saw this and excited to add these movements to my shoulder routine.

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Alan - June 18, 2014

Can pullups work similiar to facepulls?

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Sam- Look Like An Athlete - July 23, 2013

Great list and a cool workout!
I’ve personally traded all Seated Shoulder Presses for Standing Military Presses. It may be harder doing them standing but I feel like I’m working on my core muscles as well.
A personal favorite has always been Barbell Shrugs because it hits the traps but I’ve also learned to appreciate Farmer’s Walks as they also hit my traps rather well.

-Sam

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    Keith - July 24, 2013

    Thanks Sam, farmer walks are pretty brutal too.

    Reply
Casper - July 23, 2013

Yes! This was just what I was looking for.
Thanks Keith, and awesome site by the way.

Casper

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