Gym shoulders exercises | Deltoid training

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Louise Hay

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Shoulders are often overlooked by people who train to get a nice physique, perhaps having muscular arms and sculpted abs as priorities. Be that as it may, building and maintaining a nice pair of delts can really make or break your physical appearance.

You need to focus specifically on the deltoid muscles: it is important to know that they are made up of three different parts (three muscle heads). You need to train these muscles in order to stimulate all three of these muscle sections. This principle obviously must also be applied to the training of any other muscle group in order to obtain a well-proportioned body.


Muscles of the Shoulders

First of all, it is an advantage to know well the three different muscle divisions of the deltoid, so as to understand which one we are going to stimulate with specific exercises: it is important to be able to train all three sections of the muscle to be able to fully develop your shoulders.

1. Anterior deltoid, located in the front of the shoulders (clavicular part).

2. Middle deltoid, the largest section, which makes the shoulders appear wider (acromial part).

3. Posterior deltoid, located behind the shoulder joint (spinal part).


This training plan is based on deltoid isolation, with the intervention of the triceps reduced to a minimum. The reason is simply my preference for training shoulders and triceps on the same day. So I don't want to stress the triceps, since, after the shoulders, I'm going to start the training dedicated to them.


A good warm-up of the delts is strongly recommended. Try doing a series of each exercise with little weight to increase flexibility during the movement.


 1. Arnold Press with Dumbbells

This exercise was created by him: Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger!

It is a variation of the classic dumbbell lifts. This exercise has in addition a rotation during the traditional descent phase, stressing all the muscular sections of the deltoid and also making a partial lateral lift.

  1.  Start by placing a bench at a 90 ° angle, perpendicular to the ground, so that you have support for your back. Then, place the dumbbells on the sides of the bench.
  2. Slowly pull up the dumbbells and, with your palms facing your body, bring them to the level of your chin.
  3. Start slowly pushing the dumbbells up, always keeping them close to your torso.
  4. Conclude the movement by rotating your hands outward, continuing to move the weight in an "arc movement" over your head (similar to performing the classic dumbbell lifts).

Series and Reps: 3 10 x-12


  • Concentrate on the negative phase of the lift, maintaining muscle contraction.
  • Don't think about carrying the weight up and down as fast as possible.


2. Slow Back

This exercise is often used by more traditional body builders and is probably classified as one of the least popular exercises. However, there is no denying that it is a great exercise for increasing your shoulder width!

When you start getting down on it, my recommendation is to do it at the beginning of your routine and with someone to assist you. Going to stimulate the middle section of the deltoid, it turns out to be a better exercise than the Shoulder Press, because your elbows move to the sides, past the hips of your body, rather than in front, and they involve the Middle Deltoid much more.

I never lock my arms in the final phase of any type of push exercise, unless I am training the triceps.

Starting position:

  • Use the structure of the squat (Squat Rack) for convenience, setting it at the level of your height.
  • Load the bar with the chosen weight and position yourself under it, resting it on the back of your shoulders, just behind your neck.
  1. Grasp the bar with a firm grip on both sides, so as to be able to lift it from the structure on which it rests: be sure to use the push of the legs in doing this movement and to keep the body aligned.
  2. Slowly move away from the squat structure and spread your legs to shoulder width. Be careful to keep your back aligned.
  3. Exhale and raise the bar above your head, fully extending your arms.
  4. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds, inhale and return the bar to the starting position.


Series and Repetitions: 4 x 10-12

When you increase the loads, my advice is to do it at the beginning of the session and with someone to assist you.

 3. Front Raises With Dumbbells (in Super Series) and Side Raises

The next exercises will most likely be the hardest to do as they are to be performed in supersets. However, I found the combination of these exercises to be very important in overall shoulder development. My opinion is that this is also the best method for isolating the mid and posterior deltoid sections. Both exercises can be done sitting or standing.

Part One (in Super Series)

Raise Frontal with Dumbbells

Front lifts are one of the best exercises to isolate the front of the deltoid. The grip can be prone or neutral and does not significantly affect the performance.

  1.  To begin with, hold the dumbbells to the sides of your body and be sure to stay straight when you lift them in front of you.
  2. While lifting the dumbbells, relax your elbows slightly and try to avoid contraction of the triceps.
  3. You can rotate your arms a little bit inward or outward until you feel your muscles working well and being tense.
  4. When your arms are parallel to the ground, hold the position and contraction for a moment before lowering the dumbbells again. Alternate arms.

Repetitions: 10 per arm (20 in total)


Try to have weight control even in the descent phase for optimal hypertrophy. Use a weight that you can handle and avoid giving yourself momentum.

Second Part (in Super Series)

Lateral Raises

Unlike front lifts, side lifts are more difficult for most people to master. Using dumbbells allows you to have more freedom of movement than using an execution assist machine which can actually cause joint damage when the pivot point is not set correctly in relation to your height.

Here I have proposed a one-sided variant, in which you push with the elbow slightly bent to minimize triceps intervention and make you focus on one side only.

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them to the sides of your body (palms facing in).
  2. Keeping your torso still to avoid jerking, bend your elbow a little and exhale as you lift the weight sideways to shoulder height (this should be a smooth motion).
  3. When your arms are parallel to the ground, hold the position for 1-2 seconds and stay in contraction.
  4. Inhale and slowly bring your arms back to the starting position.

Super Series

  • Recovery:
  1.  Maintain a 10-30 second rest interval between sets
  2.  45-60 second recovery after completing a set of both the first and second exercises (depending on your stamina)
  • Series and Repetitions: 3 x 10 + 3 x 10


4. Lateral raises to 90 °

Now that we have mainly stimulated the anterior deltoid e medium, it's time to train the section back.

I chose this exercise in particular because underdevelopment of the posterior deltoid is detrimental to your posture and will cause your shoulders to arch forward by virtue of the greater development of the other two muscle heads.

Variations: It doesn't matter if you put your head on a bench, use cables, do it standing or sitting, but it is important that you do it right! Lean forward as if touching your knees to your chest.

Starting position:

Choose the variant of the exercise you want to perform: for example, grab the dumbbells or set the weight and attach the pulley to the cables at the bottom of the Cable Machine. If you use cables, you will perform the exercise one arm at a time.

  1. With a slight flexion of the legs, begin to bend forward at the level of the pelvis to allow the torso to be parallel with the ground.
  2. Once you are in the correct position, begin to exhale and slowly extend your arms outward, until they are parallel to the floor.
  3. Keep the contraction at its maximum, for at least 1-2 seconds, in the final part of the movement.
  4. Inhale as you begin to slowly bring the weight (or weights, depending on the variant chosen) back to the starting position.

Series and Repetitions: X 3 10


 Programming Example for Training the Deltoids

Slow Behind 3 10 x-12
Arnold Press 4 10 x-12
Front Raises with Dumbbells (Superseries) 3 x 10
Lateral Raises 3 x 10
Lateral raises at 90 ° 3 x 10



  • Concentrate on contracting your muscles to make sure you are stimulating them as best you can. The philosophy of training to pain isn't always true.
  • Listen to your body and make changes if you feel it is necessary
  • Don't neglect your diet. Make sure you are eating enough nutrients to allow your body to recover optimally.


Do you want to know other ways to train the Shoulders? 

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