Shoulder Exercises Ranked (BEST TO WORST!)November 1, 2021
There are so many shoulder exercises, but which ones should you be focusing your efforts on if you want to build bigger shoulders and increase your strength? In this video, I’m going to give you the most popular shoulder exercises ranked from worst to best and help you to determine which you should be doing and which you can probably ditch.
With that said, we have to lay out the criteria for the shoulder exercise selections. The first thing is that it has to be a multi-dimensional exercise if possible. This means, if it is only good at hypertrophy but provides no opportunity for overload and for building progressive strength, then it is not going to rank up there with the exercises for shoulders that do a good job at both.
Furthermore, if the exercise is harmful to the shoulder joint or can cause shoulder injury over time, it is simply not going to rank high no matter what type of short term benefits it can provide the person that does it.
With that being said, we start laying out the list and work our way up the rankings from the worst to the best shoulder exercise.
1. Upright Rows
2. Cuban Press
3. Behind the Neck Press
4. Pour the Pitcher Side Lateral Raises
The upright row is simply a terrible exercise biomechanically for the shoulders and should not be part of a shoulder workout routine long term. It places the glenohumeral joint in a position of impingement and increases the likelihood of developing symptoms if they don’t already exist.
The cuban press is just a step away from joining the upright row as the worst of the worst but it’s still pretty bad. Even though it includes an element of external rotation, it does so from an elevated and internally rotated position.
The behind the neck press takes the shoulders out of the scapular plane and forces motion from an awkward position of the elbows. Again, overhead presses are a great exercise for building boulder shoulders but it shouldn’t be done from this position when we know there are better ones without the risk.
Stop pouring the pitchers on a side lateral raise and instead turn the thumbs up and you’ll take a bad shoulder exercise and make it a great one, just like that.
5. DB Pressouts – Front Delts
6. DB Cheat Laterals – Middle Delts
7. DB Reverse Flys – Rear Delts
DB or plate press outs are a good exercise for building up the front delts but they lack the range of motion possible with other exercises for the front head of the delts.
The cheat lateral raise is a good middle delt builder as it gives you an opportunity to load the exercise heavier than you might be used to. This gives you a chance to place a good eccentric overload on this head of the delts to drive growth. Muscle substitution however limits your ability to target the middle delt specifically.
The db reverse fly may be the most popular rear delt exercise but it has its limitations. Not enough of an ability to extend the arm behind the body makes this an inferior choice to the ones coming later.
8. Arnold Presses – Front Delts
9. Abduction Rows – Middle Delts
10. Facepulls – Rear Delts
The Arnold Press is a good multi-head shoulder building exercise. It keeps the elbows out in front of the body which is safer for the joint but as with all presses, is limited in its ability to target the front head more specifically.
The face pull is normally my favorite exercise for everything – that said – it involves too many other muscles like the rotator cuff and mid scapular muscles that tends to limit it’s position on this list of the shoulder exercises ranked.
11. DB Scoop Press – Front Delts
12. Side Lateral Raises – Middle Delts
13. Hip Huggers – Rear delts
These three shoulder exercises are near the top of the heap when it comes to the best exercises for building big shoulders. Watch the video to see why they stand alone.
14. DB Front Raise – Front Delts
15. Cable Lateral Raises – Middle Delts
16. Rear Delt Rows – Rear Delts
There simply are no better shoulder exercises for building big delts than these for the front, middle and rear delts. They combine the ability to load up the best, target the head in question and do so in the safest way possible.
If you want just overall shoulder mass and growth, then be sure to watch the bonus segment on the variations of shoulder presses and overhead presses.
For a complete step by step workout program that was created with the same level of science behind the selection of every exercise in the plans, be sure to head to athleanx.com via the link below and check out the program selector tool.
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