Best Shoulder Exercises For Mass – You Need To Know

Summary: Want to have that three-dimensional, boulder-looking delts? These 7 best shoulder exercises for mass are all you need to achieve that. Check it out!



Shoulder Muscle

Six years ago, I had a car accident that almost took my life. Fortunately, I only had a fractured bone on my right clavicle, but this caused a lot of muscle atrophy in my shoulder area. This scared me to death because this was the time that I just got obsessed with fitness and I feared that I might not be able to train the same way again.

Fast forward to 18 months, and I was back at the weight room. The fear of not being able to get back those big, rounded shoulders were already gone. I've added almost 20 pounds to my frame after only a couple of months and was very happy to see that my delts are twice as big before the accident. I've built my shoulders--my strongest body part--using the exercises I will outline in this article.

Well, obviously, I really love big shoulders--this is my favorite body part of all. When it comes to building a great physique, having a big and broad shoulders is crucial. A well-developed set of shoulders is the very foundation for that V-Taper look that every person in the gym desires.

Nice Delt Muscles

Come on, who doesn't want shoulders that look like that?

The V-taper can only be achieved with broad shoulders, wide lats, and a small waistline.

Now, after seeing that photo, I know you're already sold in building a bigger and stronger shoulders.

Just keep on reading the article and I'll show you the best shoulder exercises for mass that you can use immediately on your next shoulder session.

No matter how big your biceps, triceps, chest, and back are, your physique won't have that crisp look without a well-developed shoulders.

And to have a three-dimensional delts that pop, you need to work the 3 sections of your delts. The 7 exercises in this list will cover all those.

Shoulder Exercises

List Of Best Shoulder Exercises For Mass

1. Military Press

To build the overall shoulder mass, we need an exercise that allows us to overload the muscle with heavy weights.

Military press is the classic, most effective exercise that accomplishes that. It hits the anterior(front), and medial(middle) heads of the deltoids.

Since this is a multijoint, compound exercise, we always want to start our shoulder routine with exercises like this--exercises that demand the most muscles from our body, then later on finish with single-join moves that really exhaust each head of the shoulders.

There are different ways to do this exercise: standing, seated, barbells, or dumbbells.

The standing, barbell variation:

This variation allows you to push the most amount of weight because there are many stabilizer muscles involved, hence, more muscle overload.

The seated, barbell variation:

You can lift less weight using this variation as your lower body and other stabilizer muscles are not involved in this exercise.

The good thing is, reps are more strict and will really target your shoulders.

The standing, dumbbell variation:

Just like the standing, barbell variation, this movement allows you to push more weight.

But since you're using dumbbells, your range of motion in this exercise is much greater and will result in more muscle fiber recruitment.

The seated, dumbbell variation:

This is the strictest of all variations. This movement won't allow you to cheat and push with your legs, and at the same time, the longer range of movement will truly exhaust the shoulder muscles.

Rep range:

If you want to increase those boulders' sizes, you need to focus on the 6-8 rep range. This is the ideal rep-range to increase both strength and mass on multi-joint movements.

Personally, I like the standing, barbell variation as I'm obsessed with pushing tons of weight. Having said that, I always switch things up. I alternate these 4 variations to give me a different stimulus each time I plateau on 1 exercise.

2. Arnold Press

Named after the Mr. Olympia himself - Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This is Arnold's favorite shoulder exercise back in his bodybuilding days because it hits all 3 heads of the deltoids, but the anterior(front) head really gets the beating.

Please view video guide for this exercise:

This exercise will only allow you to use less weight due to its lengthy range of motion in exchange with a solid pump and burn on your shoulders.

Rep range: Ideally, same with Military press. Shoot for 6-8 reps.

3. Upright Rows

This exercise is great for hitting the medial and posterior heads of the shoulders.

There are also different variations in doing this exercise. You can do it with barbells, dumbbells, or with cables.

The barbell variation:

As with barbells, you can always achieve the maximum muscle overload because you're allowed to put on more weight.

The dumbbell variation:

Same with Military press using dumbbells--stricter form, but less weight.

The cable variation:

I love this variation as this puts your shoulder muscles in a constant time-under-tension. You will feel the burn after a few reps with this.

To get the most from these exercises, you have to pull using your elbows. Imagine your hands are just hooks that connect your forearm with the barbell/dumbbell/cable and just pull your elbows upward. This way, you will get shoulders stimulation instead of forearms or biceps stimulation.

Rep range: Aim for 6-8 reps.

4. Front Raises

This exercise isolates the anterior head of the delts. When the front head of the delt is fully developed, your shoulders will look really big. It is responsible for that round look of the overall delts.

This is a video guide to do it:

There are also variations for this exercise using barbells and cables.

Barbell front raises:

Cable front raises:

They all hit the same muscle group--the anterior head of the shoulders. I suggest switching things up for variety and different muscle stimulation.

Rep range:

Aim for 10-12 reps for this exercise and shorten your rest periods between sets.

5. Side Lateral Raises

This exercise has a couple of variations too, but the most used one based on the people I see in the gym is the dumbbell side lateral raises.

Pressing movements like bench press and military press work the anterior head too much, leaving the two heads of the shoulders behind.

This is the most effective exercise to keep up with the front head by isolating the medial head of the delts. A full-developed medial head will create wideness in the physique.

Video guide to do it:

Cable variation:

By using cables, constant muscle stimulation and time-under-tension is guaranteed for a muscle burning experience.

Rep range: Aim for 10-12 reps and short rest periods between sets.

6. Bent Over Rear Lateral Raises

This is the most effective exercise in isolating the posterior(rear) head of the deltoids. This head is the smallest and weakest of the three, but it shouldn't be neglected.

When fully-developed, the posterior head of the delts will form the full, round shape of the shoulders when viewed from the side. It is the missing piece in the achievement of the three-dimensional shoulders.

Here’s how to do it:

​Cable Variation

There is also a cable variation that further isolate the rear head and giving them the burn it needs.

Rep range: Aim for 10-15 reps and keep the rest period between sets short.

7. Face Pulls

This is a great exercise for strengthening the rotator cuff muscles and for targeting the posterior head of the deltoids.

This is how to do it:

To get the most out of this exercise, you should use a rope for a full range of movement.

Rep range: Aim for 10-15 reps and keep the rest period between sets short.

Important Notes

  • No matter how strict you are to your workout or how hard your sets are, if you do not apply the principle of progressive overload, you will not grow. Always strive to progress on each of your lifts.
  • Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition! Need I say more? Your muscles won't grow if you lack the resources for them to grow. The basic foundation of nutrition is a multivitamin supplement. This ensures that all of your organs are working optimally to assist you in recovery and faster neuro-muscular adaptation. For the best multivitamins for bodybuilding, you can check the list in below article.

And also, don't forget that heavy training demands more protein from the body. You should be getting at least 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. This seems a lot to get from food so getting a protein powder is a very convenient way to meet your protein needs. For the best and cheapest protein powders, you can check the list in the below article.

  • Last but not the least, you should be getting quality rest. Always aim for at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night.


That’s it on the best shoulder exercises for mass. Out of the hundreds of different shoulder exercises, these 7 are all you need to stimulate those 3 heads.

The key is not just doing them, but getting strong on them.

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