7 Exercises for a Strong Shoulder

It is vital to keep the shoulder muscle group strong and active. After all, the shoulder is the anchor for the arms. Take it from me, a guy that just got his rotator cuff repaired, not being able to lift things (without pain) is very annoying. With that said, the following are 7 important shoulder exercises to strengthen and build visually impressive shoulders.

1. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

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This is an important shoulder isolation exercise to incorporate into a workout routine. Pick up a pair of dumbbells with the appropriate weight, go find a seat with back support and situate yourself as shown in the picture. As you progressively start moving onto higher weights and have trouble loading the dumbbells to the starting position, it is recommended to rest your dumbbells onto your thigh and then use the momentum of your leg’s upward bucking motion to situate these dumbbells accordingly.

Get the Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells

2. Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press

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Once you have become comfortable with doing shoulder presses sitting down, try this exercise to challenge yourself. Doing dumbbell shoulder presses while standing requires you to integrate other muscle groups. In addition to the stabilizer muscles in your upper body, this workout will engage your core muscles as you keep your body balance and still throughout the shoulder press routine.  Instead of pushing both dumbbells upwards at the same time, you can also alternate pushing the dumbbells one arm at a time.

3. Standing Military Press

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While dumbbell shoulder presses help you work out any imbalance of strength in your shoulders, completing shoulder press with the bar will increase your overall shoulder strength tremendously. Be mindful of your posture during this exercise because it can put unnecessary pressure on your spine if done wrong. As you become increasingly daring with the weight you are lifting, try this exercise inside a power rack. You can position bars inside the power rack to catch the barbell at chest height, so that you do not let the weight drop to the ground or accidentally injure yourself.

4. Lateral Raise

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Lateral raises are a great exercise to finish off your shoulder day workout.  After all the heavy lifting is done, use this to target and tone up your shoulder’s lateral region. With both feet placed shoulder width apart, position yourself so that your arm is relaxed and fully extended. Slightly squat down with a straight back and raise the dumbbell to shoulder height before returning it to the starting position.

5. Front Raise

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This workout is commonly paired with the lateral raise exercise as they complement well with the other heavy lifting shoulder exercises. Simply position your body as demonstrated in the picture above. Front raises require lifting the dumbbells up to shoulder height with your arms fully extended.  Afterward, bring the dumbbells back down in a controlled manner to complete your repetition. You can adjust this exercise to lift the dumbbell one arm at a time.

6. Two-Handed Kettlebell Swing

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Kettlebells are a great alternative when you get tired of lifting dumbbells and barbells. This exercise is great for conditioning  and increasing shoulder mobility. It also engages your core and leg muscles. The two-handed kettlebell swing calls for you to swing the kettlebell from between your legs to shoulder height before its descent back down. Once you are satisfy with your ability to consistently complete this exercise, try doing this exercise with a kettlebell in each hand to challenge yourself further.

7. Clean and Jerk


Clean and jerk is a weightlifting exercise featured in the Olympics. This workout is only recommended to advance weightlifters since it demands great timing and explosive movements. Successfully incorporating the clean and jerk will not only enhance your shoulders, but will also develop fantastic overall body strength. The images above exhibit the step by step process of this exercise. The end position is moving from the last image to holding the barbell above your head with both feet squared up and placed shoulder width apart. Remember to do the clean and jerk exercise on a padded ground and with bumper plates instead of your standard metal plates.


If you do not have the equipment needed for these exercises (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells), here are my recommendations for which ones to get:

  • Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells: These are adjustable dumbbells that ranges anywhere from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds (2.25 kg to 23.8 kg). These adjustable dumbbells allow you to start low and work your way up as you progress with your shoulder exercises. These are much cheaper than just buying dumbbells of differing weights.
  • CAP Barbell 110 pound weight set: This barbell set is adjustable up to 110 pounds (50 kg). For a clean and jerk, this weight limit should be enough for you to progress up to.
  • CAP Barbell Kettlebell: CAP Barbell also makes kettlebells with different weights. If you have weak shoulders, it might be smart to start off low, like the 10 or 15 pound kettlebells and then progress up.
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