Skill Level: Intermediate
Workout Length: 45 minutes

Getting those deltoids to pop out is not easy. It requires repeatedly focused movements to get them to show. Maybe you’ve already been hammering your deltoids, but they just aren’t showing like you had hoped for all of the work that you’re putting in.

The deltoids are comprised of three different muscles: The Lateral, Posterior and Anterior deltoids. The Anterior muscles reside on the front of the shoulders, and they largely get worked during chest day. It is the other two parts of the shoulders that likely need more work.

So, how many reps and what exercises do you perform to work those muscles for the biggest gains? For some of the exercises below, your repetitions should be around 4-7 to build big, strong shoulders. This means that you’re likely going to be lifting heavier than you are now for some of the movements.

The best exercise is the standing or seated military press with barbells or dumbbells. Both barbells and dumbbells offer their own advantages however dumbbells will ultimately limit the maximum amount of weight you can lift overhead. Standing is the more difficult of the two, given that you have to incorporate your entire body to complete this lift properly and to avoid injury. Seated allows you to focus more on the shoulder press itself and lift more. If you are not working out the whole body that day, stick with seated.

Seated Military Press (Barbell) - 4 sets x 5-8 repetitions
Sit at a bench that has a straight back. With a barbell, grip it with wrists straight and palms facing ahead of you and hold it in front of your upper chest. Hands should be just outside of shoulder-width apart. Press the weight straight up with your back against the bench, keeping the weight in front of you, fully extending your arms. Bring the weight back slowly. Repeat. Some arching of the back is expected, but it should be minimal. If you arch too much, lower your weight.


Seated Military Press (Dumbbell) - 4 sets x 5-8 repetitions
Sit at a bench with a straight back. Hold the dumbbells at your shoulders, slightly in front and not parallel to your shoulders. This is important to prevent from putting too much pressure on your shoulder joints. Wrists are straight and palms facing ahead of you. Press the weight up but do not fully extend as that will also put too much strain on the joints. Return the weight slowly. Again, a slight arch in your back is okay. Too much and you’re lifting too heavy.

Lying Pronated Rear Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 4 sets x 4-6 or 5-7 repetitions
Lie face down on a slightly inclined bench. Let your arms hand towards the ground with relatively light dumbbells in each hand.  Keeping your shoulders retracted and depressed (pulled back and down towards your hips), raise the dumbbells until your arms are parallel to the ground.  Hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds and slowly lower to the starting position. Be sure not to tense your neck, arch your back, or use momentum to lift the weight. 

Bent Over Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 repetitions
Bend your knees and bend over with your torso at slightly higher than parallel to the floor. Tighten your core as there will be pressure on the lower back. Your repetitions will be higher with a lower weight because increased weight will put too much pressure on the back. Lift the weight in same manner as the above exercise.

Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 repetitions
Stand straight with weights hanging at your sides, palms are facing in. Pinch your shoulder blades and, with both arms at once, lift the weights out to your sides. Your wrists must remain straight and knees are slightly bent. Raise to chin height. Lower slowly.

Remember that form and knowing the proper weight to lift are very important with your shoulders. Avoid generating momentum through swinging. Focus on the deltoid muscles in use and feel the burn, especially while lowering the weight.