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3 Must-Do Deltoid Exercises for Boulder Shoulders


Are you tired of feeling like your shoulders just aren’t as good as that bodybuilder’s? You’re tired of seeing these hunks walk into the gym while you feel ‘small’ in your stringer. Well, it’s time for you to train your shoulders in isolation – and in comes the exercises for deltoids.

It’s easy to skip working out your delts in isolation with so much on your gym to-do list. So, the best approach is to target each of your delts with one exercise. This will help you achieve those defined deltoids you dream of.

Ready to build those shoulder boulders? Let’s dive into the best deltoid exercises, the muscles worked and how to really target them.

Arnold Press | Dumbbell Side Raises | Bent Over Raises | What Are Delts | Anatomy | Shoulder Workout Routine | Importance of Shoulder Training | Key Takeaways | FAQs

3 Best Workout for Deltoids

It’s important to isolate your deltoids to really build them into those rounded boulders. These 3 exercises target each of the muscle, helping you gain mass and build definition.

1. Arnold Press for Your Anterior (Front) Delts

3 Must-Do Deltoid Exercises for Your Shoulder Day

  • Targets: Anterior delts (front shoulders), lateral delts (side shoulders), posterior delts (rear shoulders), traps, shoulder blades and triceps
  • Reps: 8-15
  • Sets: 3-4
  • Rest: 1-2 minutes

How To Do Arnold Press?

  • You can do this movement while sitting or standing – it’s up to you.
  • If you’re standing, make sure your feet are close together and if you’re seated, make sure your back is flat against the bench.
  • Grab your dumbbells with your arms extended by your sides.
  • Take a seat for efficiency, preferably on the workout bench.
  • If you’re sitting, place the dumbbells on your thighs to lift them. And if you’re standing, you can push your dumbbells up with your knee.
  • With your back neutral and your shoulders retracted, push the dumbbells upward with your hands in front of your chest.
  • Turn your arms to the side, then slowly raise your arms above your head, into a shoulder press.
  • Bring back the arms slowly towards against the resistance, back to the initial position.
  • Make sure your movement is fluid – don’t divide your movement into two as this will keep the tension in your muscles.
  • Repeat for 8-15 reps or until failure.

You can also swap dumbbells for shoulder band exercises.

2. Dumbbell Side Raises for Your Lateral (Side) Delts

3 Must-Do Deltoid Exercises for Your Shoulder Day

  • Targets: Lateral delts (side shoulders), anterior delts (front shoulders), shoulder rotator cuffs, traps and chest stabilizers
  • Reps: 8-15
  • Sets: 3-4
  • Rest: 1-2 minutes

How To Do Dumbbell Side Raises?

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Make sure your shoulders are rolled backwards and retracted.
  • Keep your arms fully extended by your sides and grab the dumbbells.
  • Your back should be neutral and flat with your core braced.
  • Puff your chest out and lift the dumbbells by your sides.
  • Lift the weights all the way up, against the gravity and stop when your arms are aligned with your shoulders.
  • During the lift, your elbows should have a slight bent.
  • As you grab the weight, you can also let your pinky out – this keeps the tension in your side delts.
  • After a 1-2 second pause, bring the weights back by your sides.
  • Repeat for 8-15 reps or until failure

You can also incorporate a barbell upright row into your shoulder routine.

3. Bent Over Lateral Raises for Your Posterior (Rear) Delts

3 Must-Do Deltoid Exercises for Your Shoulder Day

  • Targets: Posterior delts (rear shoulders), rhomboid (shoulder blades), traps, rotator cuffs and lats
  • Reps: 8-15
  • Sets: 3-4
  • Rest: 1-2 minutes

How To Do Bent Over Lateral Raises?

  • You can perform this while standing or seated both.
  • If you’re standing, make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart with a slight arch in your back.
  • If you’re seated, your back should be neutral and your upper body should be bent so its parallel to the floor.
  • With a slight bent in your elbows, lift the weights up until your arms are in-line with your shoulders.
  • Contract your shoulders once your lift them up, engaging your rear delts.
  • Slowly lower your weights back to your sides.
  • Repeat for 8-15 reps or until failure.

Learn how to do bent over flies or raises properly.

What Are The Deltoids?

“Your deltoids help to lift your arm in front of you, out to the side, overhead, and extend your arms behind you,” explains Cody Braun, Beachbody fitness expert.

The term Deltoids comes from the Greek letter, Delta. Refers to the triangle shape. Deltoid is triangular shaped, broad area comprising of three shoulder muscles right at the top of your arm.

It is the widest at the top and narrows down to its apex at the bottom.

The deltoid muscle contraction happens when the weight is pulled upwards or away from the shoulder around the rotator cuffs.

Deltoid Muscles Anatomy

3 Must-Do Deltoid Exercises for Your Shoulder Day


Anterior Deltoids are located at the front of the shoulder. Also called front deltoids, these muscles get engaged when the shoulder movement is pushing up and forward.

These anterior deltoids can also be activated when pressing, pulling, or doing an arc motion.


Lateral Deltoids are located at the middle of the shoulder, also known as side deltoids.

Lateral deltoids are the biggest of the muscles among all three and get activated even from the shortest shoulder movement.


Posterior Deltoids are located at the back of the shoulder, also known as rear deltoids.

Any backward shoulder movement gets the posterior deltoids activated. It is better done when the person is bent over and uses the gravity against the posterior muscle.

With a proper deltoid exercises routine, you’ll be able to target each of these deltoid muscles and get that 3-D shape on the shoulder.

Shoulder Workout Routine – Isolated Exercises

Deltoid Muscle Exercise Reps Sets Rest
Anterior Delt (Front Shoulders) Front Dumbbell Raises 8-12 3-4 30-60 sec
Barbell Front Raises 8-12 3-4 30-60 sec
Cable Front Raises 8-12 3-4 30-60 sec
Lateral Delt (Side Shoulders) Dumbbell Lateral Raises 8-12 3-4 30-60 sec
Cable Lateral Raises 8-12 3-4 30-60 sec
Machine Lateral Raises 8-12 3-4 30-60 sec
Posterior Delt (Rear Shoulders) Bent-Over Dumbbell Reverse Flyes 8-12 3-4 30-60 sec
Cable Face Pulls 8-12 3-4 30-60 sec
Single-Arm Bent-Over Cable Reverse Flyes 8-12 3-4 30-60 sec

Importance Of Training Your Shoulders

Here’s why you should be training your delts:

They Play a Vital Role in Upper Body Workouts

Your shoulders are involved in nearly every upper body motion, connecting the arms to the torso. To make sure your upper body is stable, strong and upright, you should train your delts.

Strengthen your upper body with upper body workouts at home.

They Enhance Everyday Activities

Training your delts help you in everyday activities like lifting objects (e.g., suitcases) and other daily tasks. With strong shoulders, carrying groceries or pushing heavy doors won’t even feel like anything!

Switch up your training regimen with Martial Arts training to build strength.

They Prevent Injuries

With strong shoulders, you’re able to lift heavy weights easily, especially during chest and back workouts. This is because your delts are the secondary muscles during chest and back exercises. If you have strong shoulders, doing other upper body workouts will be much easier for you.

Get a sculpted chest with these 6 chest exercises!

They Support Rotator Cuffs

If you train your shoulder regularly, you’ll be creating mobility in your rotator cuffs. This will help you build overall flexibility, reducing the risk of injury during activities like throwing a ball.

Improve your rotator cuff mobility with these 4 shoulder cable workouts.

They Improve Overall Physique

To achieve that aesthetic physique and that V-lower back look, you need to make sure your back & shoulder to waist ratio is on point. You need a big back and broad shoulders to truly achieve that look. By working your delts, you’ll be able to achieve it!

Incorporate these 9 powerful exercises to build a strong back into your upper body routine!

They Boost Athletic Performance

If you really want to outshine as an athlete (whether you’re a newbie or a pro), you need to make sure your shoulder muscles are sculpted and strong. This is because when it comes to playing sports, strong shoulders aid several movements such as throwing a ball, swinging a bat and etc.

If you’re a high-performance athlete, then learn more about the Vertical Diet.

With strong shoulders, you won’t just look like you’re walking out of a Marvel movie. Rather, you’ll also be building your overall strength, agility and ease of movement. The stronger you are, the easier it will be for you to move around. And lastly, you’ll stay injury-free as well!

Key Takeaways

To really sum it up, if there’s one surefire way of building those rounded shoulders that grab everyone’s attention, it is to train right and train consistently. With the right training routine, a combination of isolated and compound movements, proper nutrition and adequate rest, you’ll be successful in sculpting your shoulders into big, beefy boulders!


What exercise works the deltoids?

Your delts are the main muscles in your shoulders. To really sculpt your delts and build shoulder boulders, you must incorporate the 5 staple exercises into your routine such as the shoulder press, which targets the front and side shoulders. You should also incorporate lateral raises to isolate your side delts. More exercises to include are front raises, bent over flies and Arnold presses to work your side, front and rear delts along with your rotator cuffs.

How do I strengthen my deltoid?

To really strengthen your deltoids, you need to train all three sides of your delts. You also need a balanced approach to shoulder workouts as well as your nutrition to make sure you’re getting the most out of your workouts. To really gain strength in your delts, you need to:

  • Train lateral, anterior and posterior delts so make sure you do lateral raises, front raises and bent over flies type of exercises
  • Keep tension in your shoulders so make sure your shoulder blades are retracted and contracted during workouts
  • Progressively overload your weights or reps to keep yourself challenged
  • Train your shoulders 1-2 times a week
  • Incorporate high-protein diet into your daily eating habits
  • Balance your shoulder workouts with other upper as well as lower body workouts
  • Make sure you give your body the rest it needs for muscle recovery
How can I increase my deltoid size?

To increase your deltoid size, make sure you are training all three parts of your delts i.e., anterior, posterior and lateral. You need to incorporate compound as well as isolated shoulder exercises that really get your muscles working and push them to grow. You also need to make sure that you’re progressively overloading by increasing the weights, increasing the reps, incorporating pauses and pulses, incorporating drop sets and supersets. In addition, you need to make sure you’re eating right, are in a caloric surplus to gain mass and are also incorporating rest for recovery.

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