Five Exercises For Building Shoulder Strength

You might not think it but the deltoids play a crucial role in everyday balance but without the use of the deltoids you would struggle with even the most basic skills such as walking. Don’t believe me? Think about it – when you lose your balance, what do you instinctively do? Often you stick your arms out to the side and start flailing in order to stop yourself falling over. The muscles that control arm movement and help to maintain your balance? The delts.

To learn more about the anatomy of the deltoids, click here.

This week I plan to run through a few common resistance exercises for the shoulders and explain which head is driving the movement.

1) Overhead Press


The king of shoulder exercises. This is a big compound lift which has a great impact on not just the shoulders but also the back, chest and core too.  The anterior and medial are the heads which drive the bar upwards above the head.

Top Training Tip: Squeeze the glutes and core throughout to give you a solid bases from which you can press from and to avoid the hips coming forward.


2) Front and Lateral Raise

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I have grouped these two together. These are two individual exercises by there own right, however the movements and form are almost identical with the only difference being the direction in which the arm lifts. The name of the exercises may give you a clue to which heads are being worked – Front Raise = Anterior , Lateral Raise = Medial.

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Top Training Tip: Give the “L-Raise” a try – which is a simultaneous lift combining both the front and lateral raise (one arm completes a front raise, the other completes a lateral raise). It requires a little bit more coordination but and will stress both the anterior and medial deltoid at the same time, killing two birds with one stone.


3) Face Pull

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The face pull is an exercise which is not only good for maintaining healthy shoulder but it also works the rhomboids (which help you squeeze your shoulder blades) and rotator cuff muscles. The posterior head drives all pulling movements and therefore it is the head responsible for generating movement during this exercise.

Top Training Tip: Use a staggered stance and lean back in order to improve balance and control as the tendency is for the weight to pull you forward and out of position.


4) Upright Row

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Predominantly an exercise for the medial head of the delt. The anterior head will also assist in the control of this movement. Outwith the shoulder, much work is done by the trapezius (of the back) and the biceps in order to drive this movement.

Top Training Tip: Ensure the bar really stays close to the body as it rises all the way up the body. If the bar is too far from the body it can potentially place the shoulders in an unsafe position. Also, remember to keep the elbows high at the top of the lift.

5) Rear Delt Fly

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Again, the name gives the game away. The rear delt fly is targeting the posterior head. As mentioned previously, the rear delt is the head which is responsible for all pulling actions.

Top Training Tip: There are many variations of this exercise. One of my favourites is performing the exercise in a lunge position. You’ll really feel that you have to engage your core throughout to keep you steady.


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