Doing effective shoulder workouts is key to building an aesthetic upper body.

That’s because the shoulders are central to the symmetry and balance of your entire upper half.

Here’s the good news: by following the full shoulder workout for men outlined below, you’re setting yourself up for building shoulders that are bigger, stronger, and more proportional than ever.

That said, patience is paramount. Even with the best shoulder workouts for mass, you have to give your shoulders time to grow—they’re small, stubborn muscles that take their sweet time to change.

However, follow the guidelines in this article and commit to the process, and you will build the broad, masculine shoulders you want, guaranteed. 

Full Shoulder Workout for Men: Guidelines

1. Train your shoulders with 10-to-20 weekly sets.

To optimize their development, train your deltoids (shoulders muscles) with 10-to-20 weekly sets.

Guys who’ve followed a strength training program for under 2 years should target 10-to-15 weekly sets of shoulder exercises, and those with over 2 years of training experience should strive for 15-to-20 weekly sets.

Completing 10-to-15 sets of shoulder exercises in one session should be challenging but doable.

However, if you’re aiming for more than 15 weekly sets, trying to do them in one workout is impractical. Instead, spread your sets across 2-to-3 weekly workouts.

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2. Train each head of the deltoids.

To ensure proportional development, train each head of your deltoid muscles with equal volume (sets).

In other words, allocate a third of your shoulder training to your anterior deltoids (“front delts”), another third to your lateral deltoids (“side delts”), and the remainder to your posterior deltoids (“rear delts”).

3. End every set 1-to-2 reps shy of muscle failure.

To maximize muscle and strength gains, you need to take most of your shoulder exercises to within a rep or two of muscle failure—the point at which you can’t complete a rep despite giving maximum effort.

Ask yourself at the end of each set, “If I absolutely had to, how many more reps could I have gotten with good form?” If the answer is more than two, increase the weight or reps to make your next set more challenging.

4. Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, increase the weight.

For example, let’s say your shoulder workout calls for 4-to-6 reps of the overhead press. If you get 6 reps for a set, add 10 pounds (total) for your next set and work with that weight until you can (eventually) press it for 6 reps, and so forth.

If you get 3 or fewer reps with your new (higher) weight on your next sets, reduce the weight by 5 pounds to ensure you can stay within your target rep range (4-to-6) for all sets.

Follow this pattern of trying to add reps or weight to every exercise in every workout.

5. Take the right supplements. 

The best supplements for maximizing shoulder development are:

  • Protein powder: Taking protein powder is a convenient way to give your body the nutrients needed to build muscle tissue and recover from workouts. If you want a clean and delicious protein powder, try Whey+ or Casein+.
  • Creatine: Creatine boosts muscle and strength gain, improves anaerobic endurance, and reduces muscle damage and soreness from your workouts. If you want a natural source of creatine that also includes two other ingredients to enhance muscle growth and improve recovery, try Recharge.
  • Pre-workout: A quality pre-workout helps you train harder by enhancing energy, mood, and focus, increasing strength and endurance, and reducing fatigue. If you want a natural pre-workout containing clinically effective doses of 6 science-backed ingredients, try Pulse with caffeine or without.

(If you’d like even more specific advice about which supplements you should take to reach your health and fitness goals, take the Legion Supplement Finder Quiz, and in less than a minute, you’ll know exactly what supplements are right for you. Click here to check it out.)

The Best Shoulder Workout for Mass

Building strong, broad shoulders isn’t complicated.

It mostly comes down to getting stronger at overhead pressing and using targeted shoulder exercises like side and rear lateral raises to round out your shoulder development.

1. Overhead Press

Standing Barbell Overhead Press before/after

Sets: 3 | Reps: 4-to-6 | Rest: 2-to-3 minutes

Set a barbell in a rack at the same height as your upper chest. Grip the bar with a shoulder-width grip and your palms facing away from you. Unrack the barbell and take a small step backward with each foot, keeping your wrists stacked over your elbows and your elbows tucked close to your sides.

Plant your feet shoulder-width, arch your upper back enough so the bar is directly over your midfoot and your head is slightly behind the bar. Take a deep breath into your stomach and tighten your core muscles, squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, and push the bar off your chest toward the ceiling. 

Once your arms are fully extended and your elbows are locked out, reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Press before after

Sets: 3 | Reps: 4-to-6 | Rest: 2-to-3 minutes

While sitting on an upright bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest them on your thighs. Hoist the dumbbells up so you’re holding them just above your shoulder joints with your palms facing away from you.

Press the dumbbells toward the ceiling until your elbows are almost locked, allowing the dumbbells to drift toward each other as your elbows straighten, then reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

3. Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise before after

Sets: 3 | Reps: 6-to-8 | Rest: 2-to-3 minutes

Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your back straight and your core tight, lift the weights out to the side until your upper arm is parallel to the floor. You don’t have to keep your arms perfectly straight—having a slight bend in your elbows is usually more comfortable.

Reverse the movement to return to the starting position. 

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4. Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise

Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise before/after

Sets: 3 | Reps: 6-to-8 | Rest: 2-to-3 minutes

Whether standing or seated, bend at the hips so that your upper body is as close to parallel to the ground as possible. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and while keeping your back flat, lift the dumbbells out to the side until your upper arm is parallel to the ground. You don’t have to keep your arms perfectly straight—having a small bend in your elbows is normally more comfortable.

Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

More Shoulder Workouts for Men

The Best Dumbbell Shoulder Workout

Do this workout on your next shoulder day to add size to your shoulders when you only have dumbbells at your disposal:

  • Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Arnold Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

The Best Barbell Shoulder Workout

Generally speaking, barbells allow you to lift heavier weights than dumbbells, making barbell shoulder day workouts particularly effective for gaining shoulder strength:

  • Standing Overhead Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Push Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Barbell Upright Row: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Barbell Rear Delt Row: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

The Best Resistance Band Shoulder Workout

If you’re new to training, work out at home or while traveling, or just prefer resistance bands to free weights, this workout is ideal for developing your shoulders:

  • Banded Overhead Press: 4 sets of 10-to-20 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Banded Side Lateral Raise: 4 sets of 10-to-20 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Banded Face Pull: 4 sets of 10-to-20 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

The Best Shoulder Workout for Shoulder Mobility and Health

Research shows that strengthening your shoulders is one of the best ways to keep them healthy, mobile, and pain-free. Here’s a workout that allows you to strengthen all the muscle groups around your shoulder joints and maximize their mobility:

  • Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Face Pull: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Band Pull-Apart: 3 sets of 10-to-20 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

The Best Shoulder Workout for Emphasizing the Side Deltoids

If your side delts are lagging, you’ll never have a broad set of shoulders. Here’s a shoulder day workout to help bring them up to snuff:

  • Arnold Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Barbell Upright Row: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

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The Best Shoulder Workout for Emphasizing the Rear Deltoids

Many weightlifters train their rear delts less than their front and side delts. Over time, this can lead to strength and size imbalances between your shoulder muscles, which may blight your upper-body aesthetics and increase your risk of injury.

Use the following workout to prioritize your rear delts so they don’t fall behind your front and side delts:

  • Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Barbell Rear Delt Row: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

+ Scientific References