man woman shoulder raises

Deltoids are the outermost muscle on your shoulder. It’s the muscle that give your shoulder its definition and shape. When people exercise or workout their shoulder they’re really trying to maximize the size or shape of the deltoid.

Deltoids are one of, if not the most important muscle in arm and upper body development for a number of reasons. For arm development, it’s actually the muscle that’s going to make your arm look big or toned. Most people that are trying to train their arms focus on doing hundreds or thousands of biceps curls when in reality it’s the shoulder that makes your arm look big or cut. Getting that separation line between the two muscles are what really show definition or loss of body fat.

For training in general, your deltoids are so important because they’re involved in almost any movement. Whether you’re doing chest, back, abs, triceps or lifting weights to get into a leg or lower body movement you’re using your shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries are very common and it’s often because people are neglect to train their deltoids, the muscle surrounding and protecting the rotator cuff.

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With that being said, we’ve put together a few great exercises to help train your deltoids to their maximum potential.

Shoulder Press

You can do this exercise standing or sitting up, it’s totally up to you. If you’re a beginner, opt for lighter weight or use light objects around your house like water bottles or laundry detergent bottles. Here’s how to do the exercise:

  1. Start by picking two dumbbells or a light object that will allow you to complete the desired number of reps. Sit on a utility or military press bench that will give you back support and place both dumbbells on your thoughts. Grip the dumbbells or objects with your palms facing each other.
  2. Use your thighs to kick the weights up to shoulder height on either side. Your wrists should be rotated so that the palm of your hands are facing forward.
  3. Exhale while pushing (“pressing”) the dumbbells up until your arms are almost fully extended and the two flat sides of the dumbbell touch.
  4. Pause, then inhale while moving the weights back down to shoulder height.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  6. Once you’re done with your set, rotate and lower the dumbbells back onto your thighs to prevent injury.

Upright Rows

There many ways and objects that you can do upright rows with. The key is to keep your elbows flared out and your back straight.

  1. Start by picking an EZ bar with your desired amount of weight, by adding an EZ bar to a low pulley, or by grabbing an object around your house like a box of laundry detergent.
  2. With your feet shoulder width apart and your legs slightly bent. Hold the EZ bar or weighted object in your hands with your palms facing down and towards each other following the natural curve of the bar. You should be holding the bar close to your body with your arms extended downward.
  3. Exhale while pulling the bar vertically up. Your elbows should kick out to your sides.
  4. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement then inhale while slowly letting the bar back down.
  5. Repeat for the desired amount reps.

Rear Delt Flyes

  1. Stand with your legs about hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Pick a weight that enables you to execute the reps that are suggested.
  2. This is the starting position. Bend your torso forward and bend your legs slightly so that your arms extend below your body with your hand facing each other as you hold the dumbbells.
  3. Exhale and lift your arms out to your sides with your hands facing down, squeezing your shoulder blades together during this movement. Don’t round your spine or move your head.
  4. Inhale and gently lower your arms to the starting position. This completes one repetition.

Lateral Raises

Lateral raises are great for stretching out and conditioning your deltoids. For this exercise try to take each set to failure (until you can’t do anymore) for optimal results. You can also save these for the end of your workout as you’ll find that doing lighter weights and more reps will give you great results.

  1. Start by picking a pair of dumbbells or a light object like water bottles or laundry detergent that will allow you to complete the recommended number of reps. Stand straight with your feet about shoulder width apart with a slight bend in your knees.
  2. Keep your torso upright and your back straight while holding both dumbbells or objects on to your sides. The inside of your hands should be facing each other and your fist should be facing downwards almost as if you’re going to punch the ground.
  3. Lift the both objects up directly up towards your sides until your arms are slightly above your shoulders. Your elbow should be slightly bent but the rest of your arm should.


While these workouts are great, remember that proper nutrition is still very important in deltoid development. If you’re looking to grow your deltoids be sure to go on a caloric surplus with plenty of protein and good fats. If you’re looking to trim your deltoids and arm fat in general, be sure to go on a caloric deficit full of good proteins and very little carbs. High volume sets are also great for burning extra fat because of the extra calories burned during the workout.

Bottom Line

Deltoids are not only important vanity muscles, but they’re vital to our everyday lives and most, if not all exercises. Regardless of size or shape, having strong deltoids can help in your every day life and prevent a good amount of future injuries especially if you train regularly. We recommend trying to hit an isolated deltoid workout at least once a week, or incorporate 2 – 3 of the above exercises in your chest or push day for optimal results.

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