8 Best Compound Shoulder Exercises

8 Best Compound Shoulder Exercises

Feb 10, 2024

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Build Bigger Shoulders with 8 Best Compound Exercises

Having well-developed, strong shoulders is important not just for aesthetics but for overall strength and joint health. The shoulders play a crucial role in many athletic activities and daily tasks that require pushing, pulling and overhead mobility.

Compound exercises that train multiple muscles together are very effective for building bigger, stronger shoulders compared to isolation moves. They allow you to lift heavier weights, activate more muscle fibers and mimic real-world movement patterns.

This article will cover the anatomy of the shoulders, benefits of compound exercises and detail the 8 best compound shoulder moves for maximum muscle and strength gains.

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Table of Contents for "Build Bigger Shoulders with 8 Best Compound Exercises":

Part 1: Building Strong, Functional Shoulders

  • Importance of Well-Developed Shoulders
  • Compound Exercises vs. Isolation Exercises for Shoulders
  • Benefits of Compound Shoulder Exercises

Part 2: Top 8 Compound Shoulder Exercises

  • Overhead Press
  • Arnold Press
  • Upright Row
  • Push Press
  • Seated Dumbbell Press
  • Rear Delt Fly
  • Barbell Row
  • Handstand Push-Up

Part 3: Frequently Asked Questions on Compound Shoulder Exercises

  • What is a compound shoulder exercise?
  • Best Compound Exercises for Shoulders
  • Compound vs. Isolation Exercises
  • Muscles Worked by Shoulder Presses
  • Building Shoulder Strength
  • Rear Delt Exercises
  • Building a Good Shoulder Workout
  • Training Shoulders with Chest
  • Number of Shoulder Exercises Needed
  • Preventing Shoulder Injuries

Part 4: A Personal Journey to Stronger Shoulders

  • Discovering Compound Exercises
  • Magic of Combining Compound and Isolation Exercises
  • Building Strength and Sculpting Shoulders
  • Journey Through 8 Compound Shoulder Exercises
  • Shoulder Exercises for Building: A Testament to Strength

man doing shoulder exercises in gym ripl fitness

Shoulder Anatomy 101

The shoulders, commonly called the deltoids, consist of three sets of muscle heads:

  • Anterior (Front) Deltoid - Lifts the arm forward and up
  • Lateral (Side) Deltoid - Lifts the arm out to the side
  • Posterior (Rear) Deltoid - Extends the arm backward

The rotator cuff is a group of smaller stabilizer muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, enabling a wide range of motions.

Having strong, balanced deltoids and rotator cuffs is key for injury prevention, sports performance and looking great with sleeves-rolled-up.

woman in gym training shoulders ripl fitness

Why Train Shoulders with Compounds?

  • Full Range of Motion - Compounds like presses and rows train the shoulders through complete movement patterns.
  • More Muscle Activation - Heavy compounds recruit fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers.
  • Increased Strength - Lifting bigger weights triggers strength and size gains.
  • Functional Movements - Real-world motions are multi-joint.
  • Efficiency - Train multiple muscle groups at once.
  • Core Training - Compounds require core bracing to stabilize.

Okay, now that you know why compound exercises are so effective, let’s cover the top shoulder moves.

1. Overhead Press

The overhead press is arguably the best exercise for building the deltoids. It trains all three heads - anterior, lateral and posterior delts.

For maximum recruitment, perform overhead presses while standing.

Muscles Worked:

  • Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Upper Trapezius
  • Serratus Anterior

How To:

  1. Stand holding a barbell or dumbbells at shoulder level. Hands slightly wider than shoulders. Keep core braced.
  2. Press weight straight overhead until arms lockout. Focus on moving weight using shoulders, not momentum.
  3. Slowly lower back to start position.

Perform 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps.

2. Arnold Press

The Arnold Press adds a shoulder-blasting twist by combining overhead pressing with external rotation to target all deltoid heads.

It was popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger back in his bodybuilding heyday.

Muscles Worked:

  • Deltoids
  • Upper Trapezius
  • Triceps
  • Serratus Anterior

How To:

  1. Hold dumbbells at shoulder level with palms facing body.
  2. As you press weights overhead, rotate wrists so palms face forward in top position.
  3. Slowly lower weights back down to start position.

Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

3. Upright Row

Upright rows directly target the side deltoids and traps for that boulder shoulder look. Use lighter weight and higher reps - 15-20 to really burn out the delts.

Muscles Worked:

  • Lateral Deltoid
  • Trapezius
  • Biceps
  • Brachialis

How To:

  1. Grasp barbell with narrow overhand grip.
  2. Initiate lift by raising elbows out to sides, leading with forearms.
  3. Continue bar path until upper arm near parallel to floor.
  4. Pause, then slowly lower bar back to thighs.

Perform 3-4 sets of at least 15 reps.

4. Push Press

This explosive variation of the overhead press utilizes leg drive and momentum to push heavier loads than you could with strict form. It builds brute power and strength through the entire shoulder girdle.

Muscles Worked:

  • Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Trapezius
  • Quadriceps

How To:

  1. Dip body by bending knees and hips.
  2. Explosively extend hips and knees to drive bar overhead.
  3. Receive weight with straight arms directly over shoulders.
  4. Lower back to start position.

Perform 5 sets of 3-5 reps.

5. Seated Dumbbell Press

This shoulder builder allows you to press heavy loads while reducing involvement of the lower body for strict upper body focus. Dumbbells enable each arm to work independently too.

Muscles Worked:

  • Anterior Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Trapezius

How To:

  1. Sit tall holding dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing out.
  2. Maintaining upright posture, press dumbbells directly overhead.
  3. Slowly lower weights back to shoulder height.

Do 3-4 sets of 10-12 controlled reps.

6. Rear Delt Fly

The rear delt fly directly targets the posterior deltoid head. Building this area creates the illusion of broader, rounder shoulder width.

Muscles Worked:

  • Posterior Deltoids
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius

How To:

  1. Hold dumbbells with palms facing each other. Hinge at hips until torso near parallel to floor.
  2. Initiate movement by raising arms out to sides until squeezing shoulder blades.
  3. Pause, then slowly return to start position.

Perform 3 sets of 15-20 reps.

7. Barbell Row

Rows are commonly considered back exercises but they heavily involve the shoulders too, especially when done with an overhand, shoulder-width grip.

Focus on squeezing the back muscles and driving elbows high to fully engage posterior delts.

Muscles Worked:

  • Posterior Deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Rear Shoulder Capsule

How To:

  1. Hinge at hips with flat back, holding barbell with shoulder-width grip.
  2. Explosively row barbell toward upper abdomen by driving elbows up and back.
  3. Squeeze back muscles at top, then slowly lower barbell back to full arm extension.

Perform heavier rows of 6-10 reps for low reps or 12-15 reps for higher reps.

8. Handstand Push-Up

This intense bodyweight move builds incredible shoulder strength and stability through a full range of overhead motion. Work up to them slowly using incline push-ups.

Muscles Worked:

  • Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Trapezius
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Core

How To:

  1. In inverted position, place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keeping body in straight line, lower head towards floor by bending elbows.
  3. Press back up until arms are fully extended.

Perform 3-5 sets to failure, resting 60-90 seconds between sets.

Wrap Up

There you have it - the 8 best compound exercises for bigger, stronger shoulder gains. By incorporating these movements into your routine 2-3 times per week, you'll transform those delts in no time!

Be sure to train through a full range of overhead motions and practice external rotation moves too for shoulder longevity and injury resilience. Mix up rep ranges from heavy low reps to higher rep "pump" training.

Building bold shoulder caps should be a priority for every serious lifter. Let's get after it!

Young attractive woman doing exercises in gym shoulders ripl fitness

Frequently Asked Questions on Compound Shoulder Exercises

What is a compound shoulder exercise?

A compound shoulder exercise works multiple muscle groups at once, including the shoulder muscle and surrounding areas like the chest, upper back, and arms. Examples include the shoulder press, bench press, overhead press, and rows.

What are some of the best compound exercises for shoulders?

Some of the best compound exercises for shoulders include:

  • Overhead press
  • Arnold press
  • Upright row
  • Push press
  • Dumbbell shoulder press
  • Rear delt fly
  • Barbell row
  • Handstand push-up

These exercises train the entire shoulder girdle including the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids.

How are compound exercises different from isolation exercises?

Isolation exercises target just one muscle group at a time, such as lateral raises for the side shoulder muscles. Compound exercises recruit multiple muscle groups, enabling you to lift heavier weights and build overall strength.

Should I do compound or isolation shoulder exercises?

For best results, incorporate both compound and isolation moves. Start your workout with heavy compound shoulder exercises like overhead presses to activate multiple muscle groups. Finish with targeted isolation exercises like lateral raises to fatigue specific areas.

What muscles do shoulder presses work?

Shoulder presses strongly activate the front and side deltoid heads, as well as the supporting triceps, traps, and serratus muscles. Presses build rounded, boulder shoulders.

How can I build more shoulder strength?

The best ways to build strength in your shoulders are to perform challenging upper body compound exercises like overhead pressing, push-ups and rows for low reps per set (5-8) using heavier weights around 80%+ of your one rep max.

What are effective exercises for building the rear delts?

Some of the most effective exercises for shoulder posterior chain development include:

  • Rear delt fly
  • Seated cable rows
  • Face pulls
  • Band pull aparts
  • Bent over lateral raises

These exercises target the often-neglected back side of the shoulders.

How do I put together a good shoulder workout?

A good shoulder workout consists of 5-6 challenging multi-joint pressing and pulling exercises done for 3-4 sets each. Mix up rep ranges from heavy strength rep schemes to higher reps for muscular endurance. Target all three heads of the shoulder (front, side and rear delts).

Should I train shoulders alone or with chest?

You can train shoulders alone or combine them with chest or arms. Just make sure to include overhead pressing, lateral raises, rows, rear delt work and external rotations for complete shoulder muscle stimulation. Warm up properly and build foundational strength.

How many shoulder exercises are needed?

Aim for 5-6 total shoulder exercises focusing on the three deltoid heads. Presses for front delts, lateral raises for side delts, and reverse flyes or rows for rear delts. Adding 1-2 rotator cuff moves ensures shoulder health and function.

How can I prevent shoulder injuries?

Warm up thoroughly, stretch the shoulder joint, strengthen rotator cuffs and posterior chain, avoid overstraining, and ensure proper form on all lifts. Building balanced shoulder strength from multiple angles is key for effective shoulder injury prevention.

Fit woman works out with light dumbbells in the modern gym ripl fitness

Best Compound Shoulder Exercises: A Personal Journey

Embarking on a journey to enhance my shoulder strength and appearance, I discovered the undeniable power of compound exercises.

With a dumbbell in each hand, I ventured into routines that not only targeted my deltoid muscle but also engaged my upper chest, making every movement a compound achievement.

The best shoulder exercises, I found, were not just about lifting; they were about orchestrating a symphony of muscle and motion.

The Magic of Compound and Isolation Exercises

My training odyssey wasn't complete without blending compound movements with isolation exercises. This combination proved to be a game-changer.

While the barbell overhead press became my go-to for a comprehensive shoulder and upper body workout, isolation moves like chest exercises filled the gaps, ensuring no muscle fiber was left behind.

Together, they sculpted my shoulders, building strength and definition with precision.

Sporty woman exercises with dumbbells for shoulders on a bench in gym. ripl fitness

Building Strength and Sculpting Shoulders with the Best Shoulder Compound Exercises

The best shoulder compound exercises are akin to a master key unlocking the full potential of my physique. From the barbell shoulder press to exercises that demanded I raise the dumbbell until my shoulder blades kissed, each compound movement contributed to my broader, more powerful silhouette.

The secret sauce?

A mix of press exercises and dynamic lifts that encourage the shoulders and elbows to work in harmony, all while keeping my feet shoulder-width apart for that stable foundation.

Journey Through 8 Compound Shoulder Exercises

Among the myriad of workouts, the 8 compound shoulder exercises stood out as pillars of my routine. They were not just exercises; they were milestones on my path to build shoulder robustness.

Each rep brought me closer to my goals, whether it was through the disciplined execution of compound exercises for building muscle or the strategic integration of shoulder training to alleviate shoulder pain.

This journey was not just about getting stronger; it was about becoming more attuned to the needs and capabilities of my body.

pretty  fitness woman pumping up muscles workout shoulders ripl fitness

Shoulder Exercises for Building: A Testament to Strength

As I dove deeper into shoulder exercises for building strength, I realized the importance of variety.

Mixing in dumbbell shoulder presses with exercises to build a formidable upper body, I saw my shoulders transform. It was a testament to the effectiveness of compound exercise for building not just muscle, but also confidence and resilience. With each session, I felt my shoulders broaden, a tangible sign of progress and a beacon of what dedicated shoulder training could achieve.

In weaving through these experiences, I've learned that the journey to build shoulder strength and aesthetics is as much about the exercises chosen as it is about the commitment to persevere.

The blend of compound and isolation exercises, the dedication to mastering the best shoulder compound exercises, and the resolve to push through every challenge have not only sculpted my shoulders but also fortified my resolve.

Here's to the journey, the transformations, and the relentless pursuit of strength.

For More Training Advice + Diet and Lifestyle visit us RIPL Fitness

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our Shoulders Training Guides:

Supraspinatus Stretch: Your Supraspinatus Muscle & Rotator Cuff

Around the World Shoulder Exercises + Workout

5 Frozen Shoulder Exercises For Pain Relief

10 Best trx shoulder exercises | TRX Suspension Training

Shoulder Calisthenics Workout | Bodyweight Shoulder Workout

10 Best Shoulder Dislocation Rehab Exercises

16 Best Cable Shoulder Exercises To Build Muscle & Shape Delts

8 Best Shoulder Bursitis Exercises

Shoulder Impingement Exercises For Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

The 10 Best Cable Shoulder Workouts & Cable Shoulder Exercises