Your shoulders are up there with some of the strongest muscles in your body. They can be hugely effective tools in your strength training when it comes to all kinds of exercises. No matter if it's your chest and arm training through to your back or full body movements; your delts help in a huge range of exercises. Finding the best exercises to make the most of them however, especially with your front and side delts, is not an easy thing to do.

Until now at least.

We've put together 5 of the best deltoid exercises you could ever want to hit both your front (anterior) and your side (lateral) delts, and help you make that all-important shoulder progress you've been looking for. Better still, make your own shoulder workout using these and some rear delt exercises too, and your shoulder game can change forever.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's see which shoulder exercises made the cut.

Front raise

person doing front delt raise exercise

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

For this list, we’re going to pick the cable front raise over any other equipment. That's because of the consistent resistance it puts on the muscle throughout the lift rather than just as you approach the end of the movement. That usually makes it the most effective way to do it and boosts time under tension too.

To actually perform the exercise, you need to stand with the cable in an overhand grip and facing away from the weight, as you 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 for the set style of your choice.

Lateral Raise

Person doing side delt raise exercise

The lateral raise exercise has the exact same benefits that the front raise does, but for your side delts. This makes it the next logical choice to go to and proves its place in the list, sticking with cables again for the same beneficial reasons.

The time under tension that it provides is just unbelievably useful when it come sot training for progressive overload.

Facing sideways to the cable this time and with what is effectively a neutral grip, you need to raise your arm out to your side. That's where the difference from the front raise is, and what makes it hit your lateral deltoids. Do this lift before again slowly return to the starting position to make sure that the tension is constant.

Arnold Press

person doing assisted Arnold press

This is probably the most complex exercise in the list, but it definitely earned its place. Dumbbells are the only choice for this one, and sitting is the best way to do it too. That way, you can focus on a higher weight and perfect your form, although standing is still better for core activation.

The motion that this involves is what allows the whole deltoid group to be hit but especially the frontal and side delt muscles. It's effectively two exercises in one.

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

Shoulder Press

Person doing shoulder press

The shoulder press is the most iconic shoulder exercise in the group and you’ve likely seen it before, if not done it. It's a compound exercise that hits your front, side and even rear delts at some point, as well as using a load of other muscles too. (That's what makes compound exercises so effective).

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 here 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 exercise. This is another exercise that does actually hit your front and your side delts, but be warned; it's a dangerous exercise. It's such a controversial shoulder exercise, in fact, that we have been through a whole article talking about it.

Never the less, it has potential. It’s important to know that if you really focus on your technique and what it is you need to be doing properly, it still has a wide range of benefits that it can offer you. Just as long as you take on a wide grip and your elbows are going directly outwards. Make sure you are perfect every single lift.

To do it, with the critically important 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 the serious damage that it can inflict on you. You should be able to really overload your delts, especially after all for the other exercises on the list as a perfect finisher. It's still worth starting light, however.

 

 

Remember

As with everything we recommend, your form when you do perform these exercises is essential to your wellbeing. If your form isn’t right or you choose to use a weight that you’re not actually suited to, you can cause serious, long-term if not permanent damage. If you begin to feel discomfort or pain in any form, it’s wise to take a break from your shoulders for a while or consult a medical or training professional.

 

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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.