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The best 3 exercises you can do to get bigger shoulders


We asked Liam Jones, Personal Trainer at PureGym Leeds City Centre North to share his top 3 shoulder exercises.

Liam Jones Personal trainer at PureGym Leeds City Centre North

No matter what your goal is, training shoulders is something I recommend for both my male and female clients. Most people might train shoulders with the aesthetic goal for bigger and broader shoulders but you'll be pleased to know that they also bring many other benefits including:

  • Better posture
  • Increasing stability in other lifts e.g. Deadlifts
  • Strengthening muscles around the shoulder joint
  • Reducing risk of injury

With the above said, training shoulders can help not only for your training but also in your every day life.

When it comes to training your shoulders, it's good to understand what muscle groups you are working. There are 3 parts to the shoulder: the anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid and posterior deltoid. It is important to hit all 3 “heads” of your shoulders to build stronger and bigger shoulders.

Most people tend to focus on the anterior deltoid (front of your shoulder) when training shoulders. However, I would suggest putting an emphasis on working the posterior deltoid (the rear of your shoulder) as this is the muscle which helps with better posture and better stability in your compound lifts.

Here are the best 3 exercises you can do to grow your shoulders and how to perform them properly


Military press

Military press starting position

The first exercise I would recommend adding to your shoulder routing is the military press. I would perform this first as it will be the most exhausting since it requires working several muscle groups at once. This exercise is primarily going to work your anterior deltoid along with your triceps and your core as the stabiliser.

1. Start by placing the barbell to chest height on a squat rack or Olympic lifting platform.

2. Rack the bar on top of your shoulders with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width

Military press finish position

3. Tilt your head slightly back and drive the bar up. Once the bar is past your forehead push your head back through to neutral position.

4. Repeat the process on the way down making sure your control the bar down to your shoulders safely.

Lateral raises

Lateral raise starting position

The next exercise is lateral raises. Lateral raises work the sides of the shoulders.

1. Grab two light dumbbells (4kg-10kg should be fine) and hold them by your sides, with your palms facing your hips.

Lateral raise finish position

2. Drive the dumbbells out to the side, keeping a slight bend in the elbow. Once the dumbbells are in line with your shoulders slowly lower the dumbbells and repeat the process.

Face pulls

Face pulls starting position

Our final exercise is face pulls. These will work the posterior deltoids. You will need the cable machine and a rope attachment for this exercise.

1. Firstly, make sure the cable is set to chest height and the rope is attached. Set the resistance to a suitable weight for you.

2. Grab both ends of the rope and pull towards your forehead driving the elbows out and squeezing the shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.

3. Slowly return to the start position and repeat.

Face pulls finish position

If your aim is to improve strength, perform 4-5 sets of 3 to 6 reps for the military press exercise then complete 3-4 sets between 8-15 repetitions for all other exercises.

If your aim to to build muscle, perform 3-4 sets within the 8-15 rep range for all exercises.

If you're not sure how to perform any of the exercises above, feel free to ask me if you see me on the gym floor or ask a personal trainer at the gym - we'd be more than happy to help you!

See more arm and shoulder exercises in our Exercises section.

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