The Best Shoulder Exercises for Building Bigger, Wider Shoulders


 The Best Shoulder Exercises for Building Bigger, Wider Shoulders

Are you tired of wasting time on ineffective shoulder exercises? Do you dream of having bigger, wider shoulders? Look no further! In this article, we will reveal the best shoulder exercises that are proven to help you build the shoulders of your dreams. We have conducted a thorough experiment, testing 17 different shoulder exercises on three subjects, and the results are in. Get ready to transform your shoulder workouts and achieve the gains you've always wanted.


Shoulders play a crucial role in creating a balanced and aesthetic physique. Building strong and well-developed shoulders not only enhances your overall appearance but also improves your posture and upper body strength. However, with so many shoulder exercises out there, it can be overwhelming to determine which ones are the most effective.

To save you time and effort, we conducted an experiment using the help of Betty, a $12,000 science machine. We tested 17 shoulder exercises on three subjects and analyzed the data to identify the best exercises for building bigger, wider shoulders. The insights we obtained from this experiment, combined with existing research, will guide you in crafting an effective shoulder workout routine tailored to your goals.

So, without further ado, let's dive into the best shoulder exercises that will help you achieve the muscular and well-defined shoulders you've always desired.

Understanding the Shoulder Muscles

Before we delve into the best shoulder exercises, it's essential to have a basic understanding of the shoulder muscles. The shoulders, also known as the deltoids, consist of three main regions: the front (anterior) deltoid, the side (lateral) deltoid, and the rear (posterior) deltoid.

The front deltoid is often overdeveloped in many individuals due to its involvement in chest exercises. On the other hand, the side and rear deltoids are commonly underdeveloped, leading to an imbalanced shoulder appearance. To create a 3D look and achieve wider shoulders, it is crucial to focus on all three regions of the deltoids.

The Experiment: Testing the Shoulder Exercises

To determine the best shoulder exercises, we enlisted the help of three subjects: Alex, an experienced lifter; Raza, a beginner; and Tawny, who unfortunately couldn't participate due to a shoulder injury. We attached sensors to each subject's shoulders to measure the electrical activity in their muscles as they performed the exercises. This allowed us to estimate muscle activation and compare the effectiveness of each exercise.

We performed one set of five reps for each exercise, followed by a five-minute rest period before moving on to the next exercise. This protocol ensured that each exercise was adequately tested and fatigue was minimized.

Front Deltoid Exercises: Surprising Results

The front deltoids are often targeted during chest exercises, leading to their tendency to be overdeveloped. In our experiment, we tested various exercises to specifically target the front deltoids and determine their effectiveness.

Contrary to popular belief, the front raise exercise, which is commonly associated with targeting the front deltoids, did not perform well in terms of muscle activation. The main reasons for this are the limited weight used during front raises and the lack of tension on the front deltoids throughout the movement.

However, the overhead shoulder press exercises emerged as the winners for front deltoid activation. We tested seated dumbbell presses, standing dumbbell presses, seated barbell presses, and standard barbell presses. The seated variations allowed for slightly heavier weights due to increased stability, resulting in slightly higher activation. Nevertheless, all variations of overhead presses proved to be highly effective in activating the front deltoids.

Side Deltoid Exercises: An Unexpected Twist

The side deltoids play a crucial role in creating wider shoulders. Most people assume that lateral raises are the best exercise for targeting the side deltoids. However, our experiment revealed a surprising twist.

Standing shoulder presses, both with dumbbells and barbells, outperformed lateral raises in terms of side deltoid activation. This unexpected result can be attributed to the stability provided by the standing positions, allowing for greater activation of the side deltoids. Additionally, the standing shoulder presses engaged the core and the entire body, providing a more comprehensive workout.

Nevertheless, lateral raises, especially the standing double lateral raise and the incline lateral raise, still proved to be effective exercises for targeting the side deltoids. Cable lateral raises also demonstrated good results, making them a viable option for those without access to dumbbells or barbells.

Rear Deltoid Exercises: Maximizing Growth Potential

The rear deltoids are often overlooked and underdeveloped, leading to imbalanced shoulder development. To address this, we tested various exercises to target the rear deltoids and maximize their growth potential.

Although many people voted for the reverse pec deck exercise to be the best for rear deltoid activation, a different exercise emerged as the top performer. The double-arm reverse cable fly, with the cables positioned high and the arms pulled down and back at a 45-degree angle from the body, proved to be highly effective in engaging the rear deltoids.

Another winner for the rear deltoids was the single-arm reverse cable fly, with the body positioned sideways to the cable. This exercise targeted the rear deltoids in the beginning of the movement, which recent research suggests is crucial for growth.

While face pulls were expected to perform well, they did not yield optimal results due to the lack of proper tension alignment with the rear deltoids and the difficulty in using heavy weights with correct form. However, face pulls are still valuable for strengthening the rotator cuffs and improving shoulder health and posture.

Implementing the Best Shoulder Exercises in Your Workout Routine

Now that we have identified the best shoulder exercises for each deltoid region, it's time to incorporate them into a well-rounded shoulder workout routine. Here's a suggested approach:

  1. Begin with overhead shoulder presses to target the front deltoids. Choose a variation that suits your preferences and capabilities, such as seated or standing dumbbell presses or barbell presses. Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with appropriate weights.                                                                                                                                    

  2. Move on to side deltoid exercises, focusing on standing shoulder presses for maximum activation. Include lateral raises, such as standing double lateral raises or incline lateral raises, as secondary exercises. Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise.                                                                                                          

  3. Finish your shoulder workout with rear deltoid exercises. Start with the double-arm reverse cable fly, ensuring proper form and alignment. Include the single-arm reverse cable fly for additional rear deltoid activation. Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise.                                                                                      

Remember to prioritize proper form and gradually increase weights as you progress. Additionally, consider incorporating compound exercises, such as the barbell bench press and shoulder press, to further engage the shoulder muscles while working other muscle groups.


Building bigger, wider shoulders requires a targeted approach that focuses on all three deltoid regions. Through our experiment and analysis, we have identified the best shoulder exercises for each region: overhead shoulder presses for the front deltoids, standing shoulder presses for the side deltoids, and double-arm reverse cable flies for the rear deltoids.

By incorporating these exercises into your shoulder workout routine, you can effectively target and develop your shoulder muscles for a more balanced and aesthetic physique. Remember to prioritize proper form, gradually increase weights, and listen to your body to avoid injury.

Now that you have the knowledge and tools, it's time to put them into action. Get ready to transform your shoulders and achieve the muscular, well-defined look you've always desired. Happy lifting!


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