11 Best Exercises For Broad Shoulders

Who doesn’t want some broad shoulders? I’m telling you guys, shoulders and forearms are the secret muscles that will cause you to look big.

You can work your chest and biceps all you want, but shoulders and triceps really make your entire frame increase and make you look really big- even if you’re really small.

So, it’s no surprise that I suddenly have a list of the 11 Best Exercises for Broad Shoulders- I had to make myself look big somehow!

Jokes aside, shoulders really are one of the most important parts of any physique. So, here are the best exercises to make those shoulders grow.

P.S – The other articles on the web about this topic included dangerous workouts like Upright Rows and included exercises like Barbell Rows that don’t really workout your shoulders. I didn’t include any of that junk- this is the real deal.

The 11 Best Exercises for Broad Shoulders
The 11 Best Exercises for Broad Shoulders

Strict Barbell Overhead Press

The Strict Barbell Overhead Press is one of the best exercises for broad shoulders, if not the best exercise for them out there.

The strict barbell overhead press is different than a push press or normal overhead press. The entire goal of this is to have the strictest form possible- so no cheat reps! Lower the weight if you have to, the goal is to maximize shoulder muscle under tension with this movement.

Simply put, the best way to grow muscle is to maximize that muscle’s time under tension. And what better way than to maximize that tension under an Overhead Press?

TJ Mentus, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and USA Weightlifting Coach said:

“The most effective exercise to broaden one’s shoulders is the strict barbell overhead press. This is a compound exercise, meaning it engages many muscles together in order to perform and the main muscles used are the deltoids that make up the shoulder. Strict means only using the arms with no push from the legs which means the shoulders have that much more work placed on them for the duration of the exercise.

So during this exercise, you have the shoulders performing almost all of the work as well as moving through a full range of motion to finish overhead.

If you want to make it even more difficult and create more muscle tension to cause growth then focus on slowly lowering the barbell back to the shoulders taking at least 3-4 seconds on the way down.” 

Looking to build those broad shoulders? The Strict Barbell Overhead Press is the best way to do it.

How to Perform The Strict Overhead Press & Exercise List

  • I do 5 sets of 8 reps, and occasionally 5 sets of 5 reps.

Dumbbell Overhead Press

Similar to the barbell overhead press, this exercise directly targets the shoulder muscles.

But, sometimes dumbbells are a better choice than a barbell. This is primarily because dumbbells are better at isolating and fixing muscular imbalances in the shoulders.

Additionally, it is much easier to hold a barbell with both arms, than each shoulder supporting the dumbbell singlehandedly. This will put an additional form of stress into the shoulder further creating muscle growth.

I recommend always doing a dumbbell shoulder workout because simply put, shoulders are one of those muscles that really need to take a beating to grow. Isolating them with dumbbells on each side is a surefire way to turn those shoulders into boulders.

How to Perform The Dumbbell Overhead Press & Exercise List

  • I like to do 5 sets of 8 reps.

Push Press (Cheat Reps!)

Doing a push press is actually one of the best exercises for broad shoulders out there.

I have a secret methodology to shoulder training. Look, I’ve dislocated both of my shoulders multiple times through different biking accidents- so I have a very difficult time building my shoulders. I had to think of something new.

Push Press Cheat Reps are a great way to get size on your shoulders. By cheating the reps, you’re forcing your shoulders to have a higher stimulus they aren’t used to.

Your goal is to cheat the bar up there, then lower it as slowly as possible. This will cause an intense amount of muscle breakdown and force your shoulders to grow.

It’s a method bodybuilders have been using for years, and it’s even in Arnold’s Blueprint to Mass.

This is the best exercise to do if you’re plateauing on your current shoulder presses. Just be safe while you do this, use a rack with safety pins, and never extend your shoulders in a dangerous way.

How to Perform The Push Press & Exercise List

  • Personally I do 4 sets of 5 reps on the push press, as my main goal is to really make my shoulders get overworked to force some growth.

Side Lateral Shoulder Raises

Side Lateral Shoulder Raises are one of the best exercises for broad shoulders out there.

In fact, I’m very disappointed I don’t see more people doing them in the gym every workout. I mean, when you think of it, most people are seeing the side of your shoulder the most- so why not make this muscle the biggest?

According to Jake Harcoff, head coach and owner of AIM Athletic, “The deltoid muscle consists of three heads, an anterior head, posterior head, and lateral head.

For broad shoulders, all three heads will need to be targeted; however, in order to build the absolute most amount of width from shoulder to shoulder, the lateral head will need to be developed most.

Lateral shoulder raises, done correctly, can be done in a variety of different ways from seated, to standing, to leaning, and with either cables, dumbbells, or resistance bands.

Moving an implement directly from your sides, laterally to shoulder height, is the purest form of isolation to train the lateral head of the deltoid”.

So if you’re really looking to put some serious width and size onto your shoulder, do some side lateral shoulder raises.

How to Perform Side Shoulder Lateral Raises & Exercise List

  • I like to do 4 sets of 8-12 reps.

Arnold Presses

Arnold presses are a classic shoulder exercise featured in the best bodybuilding program ever made, The Arnold Blueprint to Mass.

The Arnold Press is named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, probably the most famous bodybuilder out there. He’s known for blowing up his shoulder with this exercise, and they’re incredibly powerful for the main reason that they hit ALL 3 SHOULDER HEADS.

That’s honestly crazy. Many people spend a ton of time trying to hit those shoulder heads individually, but you can save a ton of time by just Arnold Pressing instead.

According to Certified Personal Trainer Joey Thurman, “To grow your shoulders you actually need to feel them.

Some of the best exercises allow a lot of stress, tension, and damage. A great compound exercise such as the Arnold shoulder press to hit all 3 sections of the Delts and the medial head which will add that thickness.

Follow this up with a reverse fly to really shape the shoulders and you have 2 of the best delt exercises around.”

If you’re finding yourself lacking on those broad shoulders, Arnold Presses are a sure way to get them back in shape. When you target literally every single shoulder head at once, you are sure to see big muscle growth somewhere.

How to Perform Arnold Presses & Exercise List

  • I love doing 5 sets of 8 reps on Arnold Presses. I really try to focus on the Arnold Press as it’s one of the most valuable shoulder exercises out there.

Reverse Deltoids

Reverse Deltoids are such an underrated exercise that I’ve probably seen 1-2 people in my gym ever do over the past 4 years. And I don’t get it, reverse deltoids are one of the best exercises for broad shoulders out there.

People simply don’t understand how weak their reverse deltoids are, and don’t realize how much bigger their entire physique can get by doing just 4 sets of these on their normal arm day.

All I’m saying is that your back and shoulder muscles will start to looK 3D and pop when you get those big reverse deltoids. It’s one of those tiny things that can make your physique look completely different (in a good way).

How to Perform Reverse Deltoids & Exercise List

  • I like doing 4 sets of 8-10 reps on the reverse deltoids.

Front Deltoid Raises

Front Deltoid Raises are also one of the best exercises for broad shoulders out there.

People really ignore the front deltoids for no reason.

So many people start working out their front deltoids and see their bench press go up massively. It’s true that front deltoids often do a good chunk of the lifting when you’re bench pressing.

So if you’re looking for another way to get that bench press up while still working your shoulders, you have to do some front deltoid raises.

They work the front part of your shoulder, and they really give that ‘shape’ to your shoulders. It really completes the chest area in a bodybuilder and makes your chest also look 3D.

These are simple to complete, but are hard to do. Most people are surprised when they bench 225, but can only do a 10 lb front deltoid raise. It’s a muscle that does a lot, but it’s hardly worked.

How to Perform Front Deltoid Raises & Exercise List

  • I like doing 5 sets of 10-12 reps to really get that burn going.
    • But if you’re looking to increase strength in those muscles, try aiming for 5-8 reps instead.

Swim The Butterfly Stroke!

Most people don’t realize how great swimming is for bodybuilding. In fact, it is Charles Glass (The Godfather of Bodybuilding) who says that swimmers have some of the best back and chest muscles in the world due to the incredible stretch they do when they are swimming.

I think it’s time bodybuilders start heeding this advice more seriously.

Swimming the butterfly stroke is a great way to grow incredible shoulder muscle quickly.

According to M.D Robert Wolf, “If you are skilled enough to swim the butterfly stroke, by all means, please do!”.

According to TheRaceClub, “As you push through the water, the butterfly stroke requires a lot of power from the deltoid and trapezius muscles”.

Every time you do this stroke, your shoulders are being activated. Water-resistance is nothing to joke about, and this also ties into that whole ‘time under tension’ thing we discussed above. Swimming puts a ton of tension into those shoulder muscles and will get you some real good muscle growth.

How to Do The Butterfly Stroke & Exercise List

  • Swim until your arms become slightly exhausted, rest and do other strokes while they recover, then repeat doing the butterfly stroke until you are satisfied your arms got worked.

Face Pull

Face Pulls are a more well-known exercise typically for shoulder pain relief. But, did you know that they are also one of the best exercises for broad shoulders?

According to certified personal trainer, Rohan Arora, of GainingTactics,”

While the face pull exercise focuses on overall deltoid muscle development, it particularly puts extreme stress on the posterior and medial deltoid, both of which are necessary to develop broad shoulders. 

Apart from this, the exercise also targets your scapular muscles, which aid in stabilizing your shoulder joint and improve your shoulder’s overall health”.

So, not only are you reducing shoulder pain- but you’re also growing your shoulder muscles massively at the same time. Truly a win-win exercise!

How to Perform the Face Pull & Exercise List

  • 1) Attach the rope to the highest pulley of the cable weight machine.
  • 2) Grab a rope with an overhand grip and keep it a couple of inches away from your eyes. Take a step back so there’s tension in the rope.
  • 3) Slightly bend and begin pulling the rope. Let your elbows flare out so they can be parallel to the ground.
  • 4) Pull the rope towards your eyes, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the movement for 15-20 reps per set.


While shrugs are most notably known for growing your trap muscles, shrugs are also one of the best exercises for broad shoulders out there.

The whole movement involves moving your traps, forearms, but also shoulders. While this isn’t a movement that I would use primarily for shoulder growth, adding it in as an accessory exercise will further boost your shoulder growth.

How to Perform Shrugs & Exercise List

  • Do 4 sets of 8-12 reps

Shoulder Scapation

I actually was completely unfamiliar with the Shoulder Scapation exercise. That was until Shaun, voted Brooklyn, NY’s Best Personal Trainer of 2020 filled me in on something I was missing out on.

Here’s what he said:

“Scaption is an excellent movement that aesthetically will engage your anterior and medial shoulders, and the middle of your back giving you broad shoulders. Moreover, scaption engages your scapulae and rhomboids that will functionally strengthen your rotator cuff specifically the supraspinatus. Scaption also creates shoulder mobility that will fortify your joints and tendons.

By performing scaption, over time, you will become stronger in other pressing or lateral movements such as the bench press or front shoulder raise. Since scaption engages the scapulae and rhomboids, if you have imperfect posture, this exercise can help develop appropriate strength in your middle back, yielding postural improvements and creating scapulae retraction.

How to Perform Shoulder Scapation & Exercise List

To perform, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with optimal posture and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing you in a neutral grip position.

Next, raise both dumbbells up into a “Y” formation on a 45-degree angle.

Be cautious to not raise the dumbbells higher than your shoulders, since this would engage the upper trapezius (which is counter-productive to this particular exercise). Remember to engage your core and glutes to help build strength and maintain optimal posture when executing this exercise.

Perform three sets of eight-12 repetitions for a successful challenge.”

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