Having broad, firm shoulders are an essential piece to a total body development workout. Shoulder work is often neglected in favor of more showy muscles such as the chest, arms, and abs. In some ways this is acceptable as shoulders receive a lot of indirect work from most compound exercises such as the bench press. However, I do believe exercises that target the shoulders directly are necessary to develop the shoulder muscles to its maximum potential. I will highlight the top 5 exercises to achieve this outcome.
Exercise 1: Lateral raises. Grab a pair of dumbbells and raise them to the side until your arms are at a 90 degree angle. I prefer to execute this exercise while sitting as your body will be more tempted to use momentum by heaving upwards on the balls of your feet when standing.
Exercise 2: Military Presses. This one can be done with your choice of dumbbells or a barbell. Simply press the weight upwards over your head until your arms are near lockout. Like the lateral raise, I also prefer to do this one sitting. Sometimes I will do military presses while sitting on the floor with my legs crossed. This forces nearly all the work to my shoulders and eliminates nearly all momentum.
Exercises 3: Jack Knife Push Ups. This is a body weight exercise and great if you don’t got access to a gym. Get in a push up position with your butt sticking as high in the air as possible. Your hands and feet should be much closer to each other. Start whipping out push ups from this position. This exercise simulates the same movement as the military press, except your body is providing the resistance. I find this exercise to be much better when using a pair of push up handles.
Exercise 4: Handstand Push Ups. This one is really advanced. Place your hands a couple inches from the wall. Kick your legs into the air until you are in a handstand position with your legs against the wall. Lower yourself until your head touches the ground, and then push yourself back into the starting position. Handstand push ups are extremely tough. Until you build enough strength to do at least 10 reps, stick with jack knife push ups.
Exercise 5: Simply perform the lateral raise or military press using resistance bands in place of weights. If you have ever used resistance bands, then you know it provides a different feel than weights. Giving your muscles various forms of resistance is the key to maximum muscle growth. This is also the reasons for the body weight exercises in the jack knife and handstand pushups.
Keep your shoulder muscles “guessing” by rotating between these five exercises. Doing so will have you developing those cannon ball delts in no time.