How to Build Bigger Shoulders – Top 5 Exercises

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When trying to figure out how to build bigger shoulders, keep in mind that there are three main muscles to the shoulder:

  1. Front Delt (Anterior)
  2. Side Delt (Medial)
  3. Rear Delt (Posterior)

This three-headed muscle group cap the shoulder and can be harder than other muscle groups to develop, but with the right combination of exercises and nutrition you can surely improve them with the information in this article.

In this article, I will be recommending some of the TOP shoulder exercises that will help to build bigger and stronger shoulder muscles. This is a combination of free weight shoulder exercises along with the use of machines and bands can be utilized for great results as well.

Most Effective Shoulder Exercises

1. Shoulder Press

First, you should start with a heavy compound movement like the shoulder press. This exercise will allow you to recruit the most amount of muscle fibers. Use a moderate to heavy weight that you can control for sets and reps.

Here are some of the best exercises for primarily the front delt, but may also help to build the other heads secondarily.

  • Barbell Shoulder Press
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press/ Arnold Press
  • High Incline Shoulder Press
  • Bradford Press
  • Behind the Neck Press

Keep in mind that all of these exercises are not necessary; this is just a selection of some of the most effective shoulder exercises known to build bigger and stronger delts. This selection will give you options and variety in your training. What’s most important is to find the right combination of exercises that don’t cause pain and allow you to lift the most weight.

2. Dips

When you think of dips, triceps and chest come to mind, but the front delts get plenty of action too. This is another compound exercise that works several muscles and can help to build some big and strong front delts when a part of a well planned routine.

  • Parallel Bar Dips
  • Ring Dips

Dips have been considered the squat of the upper-body because of the amount of muscle activation they provide. After you do your pressing, dips would be an excellent option to follow-up with to help build bigger delts.

3. Rows & Pulls

Barbell upright rows have gotten bad-talked over the years by some. Although, they may cause some people discomfort does not mean they are bad for everyone. So, in this case maybe try an upright row with a dumbbell, kettlebell, cable machine, or bands instead.

Both are considered compound exercises with a focus on the shoulders. Grip and technique can be adjusted to work the side and rear delt also; this is done with a wider grip, while a more narrow grip will work the front delts and traps.

  • Barbell Upright Rows
  • Dumbbell Upright Rows
  • Pull-ups
  • Pulldowns
  • Face Pulls

Most pull exercises are going to primarily work the rear delts; face pulls will also work the side delts. These pull exercises are a great way to get in extra volume contributing to building bigger delts. All of these exercises can work, it’s beneficial to be able to rotate exercises to allow for a different stimulus throughout workouts.

4. Shoulder Raises

These are great exercises to isolate the specific area of the delt that needs to be worked. After doing the heavier compound lifts, focusing on the individual heads of the delt can help to define and create separation giving the shoulder its capped look.

  • Front Raises
  • Lateral Raises
  • Rear Delt Raises

Typically, these exercises do not need to be done with that heavy of a weight; the delt muscles individually are not that big. Instead, try to focus on the muscle intended to be worked without recruiting other muscles to move the weight. This is called the ‘mind-muscle connection’; a term that bodybuilders use to help keep concentration during the exercise on a specific muscle to improve stimulation.

5. Cleans & Snatches

Typically an Olympic movement, these can also be done in a variety of ways to contribute to building bigger delts. These are compound movements that will carryover to many muscle groups, but without a doubt will help to improve the shoulders.

  • Barbell Clean & Snatches
  • Dumbbell Clean & Snatches
  • Kettlebell Clean & Snatches

For many, these exercises are easier done with dumbbells or kettlebells and require less technical proficiency than the barbell version. Any way you do these, they will help to contribute to bigger and stronger shoulders.

“Respect is From the Shoulders!”


Having broad, well-built shoulders, whether male or female, gives a confident look and feel that automatically gains respect and admiration from others within your circle.

Building bigger capped looking shoulders for a natural lifter is possible; it just might take a little longer and require a more shoulder focused training plan. Genetics play a big factor in your ability to achieve fully capped looking shoulders, but don’t let that be an excuse to not work hard and achieve your goals.

A good place to start would be to train the shoulders 2-3 times a week and use a combination of heavy compound lifts and isolation exercises to promote the most growth in the deltoid muscle. If you want bigger delts, this should be your main focus. Make sure to have your nutrition in line with your goals to build the most muscle fastest.

Above I have covered the Top 5 Best Shoulder Exercises with variations that I feel will help to build bigger and stronger, more developed looking shoulders. There are many different other exercises that can contribute to bigger delts, but it does not need to be complicated… lift heavy, isolate, eat, sleep and repeat! It is up to you to apply it to a training plan and get to work.

If you have any questions or comments leave them below. If you need a hand with putting together a training plan, send me an email to discuss.

The single biggest mistake that most beginners make is putting 100% of their effort into the positive (concentric) part of the rep, while paying no attention to the negative (eccentric) segment. – Dorian Yates





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Marcus is a man of God, married to a wonderful women and has 4 children. He is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and aspiring Powerlifter. He has a passion for helping others achieve personal growth through a healthy fitness and nutrition based lifestyle. With hard work and dedication anything is possible. God bless

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