Shoulder exercises work the deltoid muscle, the large muscle forming the rounded contour of the shoulder. The deltoid muscle is made up of three primary areas: the anterior (front) deltoid, the lateral deltoid, and the posterior (rear) deltoid.[1]

Shoulder exercises either work all three areas collectively via large compound motions like the military press or push press or they work one specific area like the dumbbell front raise, which works the front deltoid. It is important to work all three primary areas of the deltoid muscles. This goal can be accomplished by utilizing large compound motions or by combining area specific exercises together.

Certain shoulder exercises known as often known as trapezius or trap exercises work the trapezius mucle, the large triangular muscle on the upper back that connects the neck to the shoulders.[2] All trap-specific exercises involve a simple upward rowing or shrugging motion.

Below is a list of shoulder exercises by motion and area of focus.[3]

Shoulder ExercisesEdit

The following shoulder exercises are broken down by type of equipment. The area of focus (front, lateral, rear, or combination) is included in parenthesis.

Barbell Shoulder Exercises

  • Standing Military Press (Combination - Primarily Front)
  • Seated Military Press (Combination - Primarily Front)
  • Seated Behind the Neck Press (Combination - Primarily Lateral)
  • Push Press (Combination - Primary Front)

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Combination - Primarily Front)
  • Arnold Press (Front and Lateral)
  • Dumbbell Front Raise (Front)
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise (Lateral)
  • Bent Over Lateral Raise (Rear)

Smith Machine Shoulder Exercises

  • Smith Machine Shoulder Press (Front)
  • Smith Machine Behind the Neck Press (Lateral)

Cable-Based Shoulder Exercises

  • One Arm Cross Cable Lateral (Lateral)
  • One Arm Side Cable Lateral (Lateral)

Machine Shoulder Exercises

  • Machine Shoulder Press (Front)
  • Machine Lateral Raise (Lateral)
  • Deltoid Fly aka Reverse Fly (Rear)

Trap ExercisesEdit

All trap-specific exercises involve a simple upward rowing or shrugging motion. The major difference between exercises is the type of equipment (barbell, dumbbell, smith machine) used to perform the upward rowing or shrugging motion.

Row-Based Trap Exercises

  • Upright Row
  • Smith Maching Upright Row

Shrug-Based Trap Exercises

  • Barbell Shrug
  • Dumbbell Shrug
  • Smith Machine Shrug