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The Best Full Shoulder Workout Routine

Shelve your stagnant shoulder workouts for this full-blast routine that rotates emphasis on the three deltoid heads.

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  • 3 days

  • 18

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Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Ian Spanier / M+F Magazine
Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Ian Spanier / M+F Magazine

Just about every Muscle & Fitness reader knows that to build cannonball delts, you need to start with heavy presses followed by an isolation exercise for each of the three deltoid heads. Astute readers even cycle the order in which they train each deltoid head from one workout to the next, knowing that the move that comes first will be trained harder as energy levels and focus are higher earlier in the workout.

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This workout takes that training philosophy one step further for hardcore gains. After a pair of compound moves, you’’ll do two shoulder exercises back-to-back for the targeted deltoid head (Shoulder Workout No. 1 focuses on the front head, Workout No. 2 the middle and Workout No. 3 the rear delt head). The first of the “focused delt” moves is done just slightly heavier than what you may be accustomed to for three sets of eight reps, followed by a machine move where you just have to push a weight, not balance it,— for that same delt head. You’’ll also be doing drop sets on each set of the machine move.

Finish off with exercises for each of the remaining delt heads done for straight sets, and don’’t forget to rotate workouts next time you train shoulders. Pretty soon, we’’ll have to start writing even more advanced programs for you. Trust us, we will!

For each workout: Choose your weights to approach muscle failure by the rep range listed.

* Perform 1-2 warm-up sets, but do as many as you need.
** Train the second move for the targeted delt head with drop sets. After reaching muscle failure, quickly reduce the weight.

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Routine

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Workout 1

Front Delt

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Equipment
Bench, Smith Machine
Sets
3
Reps
15, 10, 6
Rest
--
Includes 1-2 warm-up sets, but do as many as you need.
Exercise 2 of 18

Dumbbell Upright Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 3 of 18

Dumbbell Front Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 4 of 18

One-Arm Machine Front Raise

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
10/8
Rest
--
Train the second move for the targeted delt head with drop sets. After reaching muscle failure, quickly reduce the weight.
Exercise 5 of 18

Seated Lateral Raise

Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--
Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, D-Handle Attachment
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--

Workout 2

Middle Delt

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
15, 10, 6
Rest
--
Includes 1-2 warm-up sets, but do as many as you need.
Equipment
Bench, Smith Machine
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 9 of 18

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 10 of 18

Machine Lateral Raise

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
10/8
Rest
--
Train the second move for the targeted delt head with drop sets. After reaching muscle failure, quickly reduce the weight.
Exercise 11 of 18

Bent-Over Cable Lateral Raise

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 12 of 18

Dumbbell Front Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
10
Rest
--

Workout 3

Rear Delt

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 13 of 18

Dumbbell Front Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
15, 10, 6
Rest
--
Includes 1-2 warm-up sets, but do as many as you need.
Exercise 14 of 18

Arnold Press

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 15 of 18

Bent-Over Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 16 of 18

Reverse Pec Deck Flye

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
10/8
Rest
--
How to
Train the second move for the targeted delt head with drop sets. After reaching muscle failure, quickly reduce the weight.
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