Highly Effective Shoulder Presses for Big Deltoids

In terms of the best exercises for shoulder development, you really can’t go past the shoulder press. The shoulder press is about all that stands in your way of getting big deltoids. There are a number of other great movements for growing the delts, but none is as effective in building mass as the shoulder press.



One of the main reasons why the shoulder press is so effective for big deltoids is because it can be performed in a number of different ways to target the shoulder muscles from numerous angles. It’s from constantly hitting your shoulders at slightly alternate angles by using different exercises that cause your body to grow workout after workout and not get stuck on a plateau of no growth.


My personal favourite shoulder press exercise is the smith machine shoulder press where you press the bar in front of the face. With the smith machine, you can still push hard with heavy weights, but have the safety of multiple stopping points on the smith machine rack just in case you fail at any point.

Pressing in front with the bar almost scraping your nose on the way down and up again isolates the side deltoid with just a small amount of assistance from the front delts, but has the added advantage of minimising damage to the rotor cuff which sits underneath the front, side and rear deltoids on a diagonal angle.


A widespread and equally great mass building shoulder press movement is the behind the head shoulder press with a barbell. This is called a military press.

This has been a favourite exercise with weight trainers, bodybuilders and other athletes to build shoulder mass for many years quickly. But if you’re pushing heavy weight with this exercise and not using correct form, it’s very easy to aggravate or even tear the rotor cuff muscles underneath the deltoids. If a rotor cuff injury occurs, you can be out of action for weeks or even months.


Another super effective shoulder blasting exercise is the dumbbell shoulder press. This is ideally performed on a bench with the incline backrest at just below the ninety-degree point or just slightly leaning back from the upright position.

Holding two equally weighted dumbbells with your palms facing forward, lower the dumbbells to about your ear level and then press upward to the point just before your elbows lock out. Locking out the elbows is unnecessary as it puts too much strain on the elbow joint and keeps the resistance of the weights on your delts where it belongs.

You can also perform shoulder press exercises with a number of different style shoulder press machines available in most gyms. It’s also possible to perform the shoulder press movement with cables by bringing a freestanding bench alongside the cable and pulley system.

There are several excellent exercises targeting the shoulders, but the ideal compound movement for muscle and strength gain for the deltoids will always be some version of the shoulder press. So for the most effective and fastest gains possible, always make the shoulder press your number one priority when blasting the delts and keep mixing your workouts up each week to blast through any sticking points.


Anthony Hill

When you put together the sum total of my 30 years of bodybuilding training, the contests, the vast array of diets I have experimented (tortured) myself with as well as the experiences I have been through with various training partners in the gyms I have trained in all over the world, it’s been a great ride and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to do lots of personal training for private clients alongside my day job. For a few years during my 30’s, I moved to Asia and worked as the Fitness Manager and head personal trainer at one of Thailand’s leading gyms in Bangkok. Learn More

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