The key for a complete set of shoulder exercises is that a good shoulder workout should always hit the three heads of your deltoids. Shoulder muscles are composed of:
- Anterior deltoid (front raises, shoulder presses)
- Lateral deltoid (lateral raises)
- Rear deltoid (bent over raises, pec deck)
We can safely say that the anterior deltoid is often involved in chest workouts, while the rear deltoid is often involved in back workouts.
This is a great advantage of doing compound exercises, because even though you don't work out your shoulders as primary muscle you can make big muscle gains anyway.
Which Compound Movements Help Me Work Out My Shoulders?
There is one basic tip I can give you.
Beside specific shoulder exercises...
Every Time You Push You Work Out Your Anterior Deltoid
If you have good memory, or if you have read what the best chest exercises to build muscle fast are, you remember that this is true also for triceps. Every push involves triceps...
Every Time You Pull You Work Out Your Rear Deltoid
Again, the same principle applies to biceps.
But let's see which compound exercises are as important as shoulder exercises for your anterior and posterior deltoids.
- Bench press (barbell and dumbbell bench press)
- Decline/incline bench press (barbell and dumbbell bench press)
- Close grip bench press
- Pectoral machinechest press machine
- Dumbbell chest flyes
- All rows (one arm dumbbell rows, bent over barbell rows, T bar rows, cable seated rows etc.)
- Pull ups/chin ups/lat machine
- Upright rows (tricep workout)
Generally speaking, you can assume that chest exercises are good for anterior deltoid workout, while back exercises are good for rear deltoid workout.
What about lateral deltoid?
Nope, the only way to work out lateral deltoids is doing isolation exercises like lateral raises.
Isolation Exercises for Shoulders
Although shoulder muscles aren't that big, my opinion is that you shouldn't ignore any of the three heads of deltoids.
Shoulders look good when they have a nice rounded shape, and you can't obtain that you don't work out all the three single head of the muscle.
There are some specific exercises like shoulder presses that are great for a global shoulder workout, and then there are some more isolation exercises that focus the work only on one specific head of the deltoid.
Full shoulder workout:
- Barbell military press (seated/standing)
- Behind the head barbell shoulder press (seated at multi power machine)
- Dumbbell shoulder press
- Barbell front raises
- Dumbbell front raises
- Cable front raises
I strongly suggest to work out the three heads of your deltoids if you want to have good looking shoulders and fill your t-shirts. If you are a beginner or if you want to make some important muscle gains you should really start with compound exercises and full shoulder exercises.
It's not a secret that big shoulders are a symbol of a strong man...
Best Shoulder Exercises