Your shoulders are some of the strongest muscles in your body, and they can be hugely effective tools in your strength training. Whether it's your chest, arms, back or full-body movements, your deltoid muscles help in a range of exercises. We're going to look at the best delt exercises to make the most of your front (anterior) and side (lateral) delts.


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  1. Front raise
  2. Lateral raise
  3. Arnold press
  4. Shoulder press
  5. Upright dumbbell row

Front raise

person doing front delt raise exercise

The frontal raise is a great place to start when looking at delt exercises. It focuses on the anterior deltoids, as you are moving the weight forwards without bending your arms, allowing your chest or triceps to take much of the weight off. That's the winning factor.

We’re going to favour the cable front raise over any other equipment. This provides consistent resistance throughout the lift, rather than just resistance at the end of the movement. This boosts time under tension, making it more effective.

To perform a frontal raise with a cable, you need to stand with the cable in an overhand grip and facing away from the weight. Raise your arm in front of you until you get to just above shoulder height. Slowly release back down to the starting position and repeat with the other arm.

Lateral raise

Person doing side delt raise exercise

The lateral raise offers the benefits of a front raise, but for your side delts. This makes it a logical delt exercise to move onto next. The time under tension is just as effective when it comes to training for progressive overload.

Facing sideways to the cable, and with what is effectively a neutral grip, you need to raise your arm out to your side. This hits your lateral deltoids. Repeat the lift and then return to the starting position, ensuring that time under tension is constant.

Arnold press

person doing assisted Arnold press

The Arnold press is one of the most complex delt exercises on the list, hitting both your front and side delts. Dumbbells are the only choice for this one, and using a state position. That way, you can focus on a higher weight and perfecting your form.

To perform the Arnold press, you need to start with bent arms holding the dumbbells upright, with the dumbbells being at your mid to upper pectoral height. It's much like starting a bicep curl. From here, push upwards and rotate your arms as you do so, moving from your palms facing you to facing away from you. Hold for a proper contraction and gradually reverse the motion back to the starting point.

Shoulder press

man doing dumbbell shoulder press

The shoulder press is one of thoe most iconic delt exercises. It is a compound exercise that hits your front, side and even rear delts, as well as using a load of other muscles.

There are a lot of variations for the classic shoulder press, but the most common are the barbell and dumbbell shoulder presses. We’re going with the standing dumbbell shoulder press to make sure you’re stabilising properly and have the safest motion range.

With your arms raised slightly and to your sides, forming a right angle from the elbow as to not put your rotator cuffs in danger, push the weight directly upwards. Stop when fully extended, but just before your elbows lock to protect yourself. That's vital. From there, slowly bring back down again ensuring you stick to the 90-degree stopping point.

Upright dumbbell row

Person doing upright row exercise

Finally, we have the upright row. This is another exercise that hits your front and your side delts.

You need to really focus on your technique, taking a wide grip and ensuring your elbows are going directly outwards.

To complete this move, with the critical wide grip, lift the barbell upwards toward your chin whilst keeping everything else firmly in place. Stop when you reach the actual height of your shoulders to prevent any serious damage. You should be able to really overload your delts, especially after completing the other exercises on the list.

Remember

As with every exercise we recommend, your form is essential to your safety and wellbeing. If your form isn’t right, or you choose to use a weight that's too heavy, you can cause serious long term (if not permanent) damage. If you begin to feel discomfort or pain in any move, it’s wise to take a break from your shoulders for a while, or consult a medical or training professional.


Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.