To build big shoulder muscles we need to hit all 3 deltoid heads, the front, the side and the rear deltoids. A complete shoulder workout will do that and today we’ll take a look at the best exercises that target all shoulder muscles completely.

Delts Workout

Let’s look at the top 5 exercises for each deltoid muscle head and see how you can get done a complete shoulder workout.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Overhead Shoulder Press

We start with the shoulder press, the exercise that works all delts but really hits the front delts especially if you keep your elbows a little bit forward. If you raise the dumbbells diagonally to form sort of a triangle with your arms and shoulders, you will hit the side delts too.

Barbell shoulder press vs dumbbell shoulder press

You can do this exercise with a barbell and it allows you to press a bigger weight, but here’s where the main difference is. Dumbbells allow more free joint movement, especially if you do standing press and give you more range of motion. That way you can hit more muscles in the same exercise. And for that reason I favor the dumbbell press over the barbell, especially if you have some problems with your shoulder joints.

Dumbbell Front Raise

Dumbbell front raise

This exercise allows you to focus on the front delts. A pretty straightforward exercise as you raise dumbbells with your arms straight, but you can add a little variation by bringing the dumbbells up and across your body to the front. This makes the front dels to contract more in a more natural way.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Dumbbell lateral raise

The exercise to target your side (lateral) delts. When doing dumbbell lateral raises focus on the eccentric movement by lowering the weights down slowly, don’t swing to generate momentum. Your arms should be slightly bent at the elbow for a natural movement and less stress on the joints.

As a body weight alternative you can do bodyweight side laterals found in this shoulder workout.

Dumbbell High Pull

Dumbbell high pull

This great compound exercise hits not only the shoulder but upper back and chest muscles too. However, because it allows you a free range of movement you can choose to target specific muscles more by the way you move your arms during the exercise. You can focus on the front, side and even rear delts depending on the angle at which you pull the dumbbells. If you bring your elbows up while pulling, you’ll target the front delts. Move the dumbbells slightly to the sides and you’ll hit the front┬ádelts. And if you move your elbows slightly back as you pull, you’ll hit the rear delts too.

Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

Reverse Flye

Finally, to really focus on the rear delts, perform reverse dumbbell flyes. You can do this exercise using the incline bench or do bent over flyes. The key here is also focusing on the eccentric movement in slow motions lowering down the dumbbells.

So there you have it, the best 5 exercises that will hit your 3 delts for those big defined shoulders. In fact, doing all these exercises in a row makes a great workout for your shoulders.


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