Compound shoulder exercises are the best way to strengthen and enhance your shoulders. They focus on working a group of muscles simultaneously, which helps build the entire area.
After researching various exercises that build shoulders while simultaneously training other muscle groups, I have selected the ten best compound shoulder exercises for bigger shoulders. These exercises work for shoulder building without being isolation exercises.
Isolation exercises focus on building one muscle or part of a muscle group without allowing for leniency or growth in other groups.
For this reason, compound exercises are better when just starting as they focus on multiple muscles and can even affect different muscle groups to give you a more well-rounded build.
Though these exercises are great for building muscle and can improve the look and strength of your shoulders over time, it is essential to note that they are not instantaneous. As with all workout routines and exercises, results take time, and though you can push yourself, be careful not to break.
As you use your shoulders daily, getting injured will make your life harder. While building your shoulders, ensure that you are using the correct technique so you don’t hurt yourself.
Injuries to your shoulder will mean you must stop working out your upper body, at least for a while, and then continue with caution.
These injuries also take longer to heal because we all use our shoulders daily throughout life, not giving them much time to rest.
Please be safe when doing these exercises and take them slow to avoid more significant injuries.
Also, see our posts Shoulder Workouts and Grow Your Shoulders Fast, for more tips.
See the table below for products we recommend to help you with these exercises.
The following are the ten best compound exercises found below:
- Arnold Press
- Overhead Press
- T-bar Rows
- Bench Press
- Handstand Push-up
- Barbell High-Pull
- Seated Dumbell Powerclean-And Half-Press
- Face Pulls
- Pike Push-Ups.
The exercises mentioned above do a great job working out multiple shoulder muscles and also help other parts of your body. However, executing these exercises can make or break your progress, and good technique is crucial.
I will list these exercises below, including how to do them and what muscle groups they help.
1. Arnold Press 😍
The Arnold Press, created by the well-known actor and bodybuilder Arnold Swacheneger focuses on two different shoulder muscles: the anterior and medial deltoids.
To do this exercise, you need to do the following:
- You do this exercise either by sitting on a bench or by standing. If you are on a bench, you should be sitting straight, and your back should not be arched or bent.
- Once in position, you should hold two dumbells, one in each hand, and use an underhand grip.
- You should have the dumbbells in front of your chest, shoulder height, with your palms facing you and your elbows bent.
- Brace your core and push the dumbbells upwards while twisting your wrists so your palms face outwards.
- Once the dumbbells have reached the top and your wrists are pointing outward, you must reverse this movement bringing the dumbbells back down and allowing them to rest in the state they were in initially.
This exercise is straightforward, though it might take some time to get used to the amount of power needed. You might consider starting with lighter weights to avoid strain and injuries if you are struggling. You can also see how to do it here.
This exercise should contain several reps, usually between 5-10, as a start, and the reps must repeat in sets.
See our top three recommended adjustable dumbells below.
2. Overhead Press 🙆♂️
The Overhead Press or Military Press is a popular shoulder exercise you can use to build your shoulders. This exercise works on the following muscle groups: Anterior Deltoids and Triceps.
To do this exercise, follow these steps:
- You can choose to do this exercise while standing or sitting. Be sure that you practice the correct posture to avoid injuring yourself.
- Using an overhand grip, hold onto the barbel with your hands slightly wider apart than shoulder-width.
- Lift the bar to your chest. It should rest a bit below your chin.
- Make sure that you are not holding the bar wrong. Your hands and palm should be in line with your elbows.
- Push the bar up to the full range of motion point. Full range of motion means you push as far as you can. While you lift the bar, you might have to move your head back a bit.
- Once the bar has reached the top, you can lower it slowly to where it was and repeat the process.
This exercise is another straightforward activity that can do wonders for building your shoulders.
If you want to see this demonstrated, click here.
You can also repeat this exercise and start by doing three sets of six reps each.
Need a barbell? Check out our top three products below.
3. T-Bar Rows 🙋♂️
T-Bar rows are exercises that build many different muscles and are great for building your shoulders.
If you do not have a T-bar machine at the gym or at home, you can make an improvised one with a couple of techniques such as this one.
This exercise works on muscles, including lats, posterior deltoid, rhomboids, teres major, and the teres minor; this is a brilliant activity for many different muscles.
Follow these steps to complete this exercise:
- Position yourself with the bar between your feet while facing the end with the weight on.
- Extend your arms fully, and grab hold onto the tight grip handles while keeping your core tight and spine neutral.
- Ensure that your weight rests on your heels to ensure a smaller chance of falling over or other injuries.
- Tuck your elbows to your sides while lifting the bar to your chest. This exercise requires you to bend over without straightening out.
- Once the weight reaches your chest, keep it there and squeeze your shoulder blades together for the best result.
- Lower the raised bar to the original position and repeat the process.
To understand how to do this exercise correctly, watch the video below.
I recommend doing this exercise with three sets of six reps each for beginners.
If you want to do this at home, you can get a T-Bar machine or T-Bar attachment to use with your existing equipment. Check out our favorite T-Bar options below.
4. Bench Press 😎
Though people mainly see the bench press exercise like a chest exercise, it can also help build your shoulders.
This activity targets your delts, triceps, and chest when done right.
To do this exercise, follow these steps:
- For this exercise to have more effect on your shoulders, I recommend setting the bench to a 45-degree incline.
- Take a seat, put your feet flat on the floor, and back straight and neutral against the bench.
- The barbel should be directly above your shoulders with palms facing forward and your thumb around the bar.
- Push the bar up as far as you can without locking your elbows.
- Once the bar reaches the top, slowly bring it down again while not allowing the weight to reach your chest.
- Repeat the process to complete a set.
The weight used on the bar will affect how many reps and sets you do of this exercise.
I recommend doing around three sets of six reps for beginners.
You can watch how this exercise gets done here, though this video is not on an incline bench.
See the table below for our top three multi-purpose workout benches you can buy.
5. Handstand Push-Ups 🤸♀️
This exercise is self-explanatory, though it isn’t the easiest one to do. This activity focuses mainly on your shoulders and pecs.
To do this exercise, follow these instructions:
- Ideally, doing this exercise with a mat or cushion on the floor would be better to avoid injuries.
- While facing a wall, put your hands on the floor at shoulder width. Make sure you are about 10 to 12 inches away from the wall to balance yourself.
- Kick yourself into a handstand position, allowing your feet to rest against the wall.
- Tighten and activate as many of your core back and leg muscles as possible to help you keep your balance.
- Bend your elbows to lower yourself slowly.
- Once you have gone as low as possible, push yourself back to the original position.
If you are a beginner, it is essential to break between reps.
Failing to push yourself back up or your arms giving way can result in serious injuries.
Here is a visual example of how to do this exercise.
See our top three safe mats to use for floor exercises.
6. Barbell High-Pull 🏋️♂️
The high-pull exercise has been compared to a straight standing row as it is a similar action. This activity focuses on your anterior and medial delts.
The following is how to do a high-pull:
- With slightly bent knees, hold the barbell at thigh height with an overhand grip slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees while allowing your back to remain straight while lowering the bar to knee height.
- In one motion, push your hips forward and pull the barbell towards your chest.
- There is no need to keep the weight there. Lower it back to the original position and repeat the previous step.
This exercise can take quite a bit of strength and is very “explosive.”
For beginners, you should do five reps and three sets. If you are unsure how to do this, watch the video below.
7. Seated Dumbell Powerclean-And Half-Press 🧎♀️
The part of this exercise we are most interested in for building shoulders is the last. This part focuses on building the deltoids, upper pecs, and triceps.
This is how to do this exercise:
- Put two dumbells on the floor, one on each side and in reach with your hands without arching your back.
- Take a seat on the bend and grab ahold of the dumbells, letting them hang from your sides.
- In one motion, lift your shoulders and use the momentum to carry the dumbbells while raising them to shoulder height as if doing a curl.
- Without stopping, push the dumbbells straight up like an overhead press.
- Once you have reached the top, reverse the motion and do it again.
This exercise is hard to explain but not hard to do. Any beginner can do three sets of six reps for a decent upper body workout.
For a visual explanation, look at this video.
8. Face Pulls 🤔
Face pulls are an exercise that focuses on the posterior deltoids and rear delts.
To do this exercise, follow these steps:
- Find a cable machine and set it around face height or below your chin.
- Attach a handle to the cable, usually a rope handle.
- Hold onto the handles using an overhand grip, and take a step back to gain some tension.
- Once in position, tuck your head between your arms and raise your shoulder blades.
- Pull the handle towards your face, lift your hands, and tuck your elbows under your wrists to create the traditional “flexing” look you see in many photos.
- Once done, return to the original position and repeat the process.
It might be hard to understand how to do this exercise, so check out this video.
For beginners, the best place to start is three sets of five or six reps.
Interested in a cable machine? See our top products below.
9. Pull-Ups 💪
Pull-ups are a well-known exercise that can help you build your shoulders. Pull-ups, when done right, contribute to a total upper body workout.
Here’s how to do a pull-up correctly:
- Grab ahold of the bar with your palms facing away and use your thumbs to curve around the bar.
- Flex your core and torso and keep your back and body straight.
- Pull your body off the ground until your chin is at the height of the bar.
- Slowly lower yourself without letting the weight pull you.
- Repeat this for a complete workout.
This exercise can be hard to do, so beginners might need some help to get going.
Though pull-ups are standard, you might still appreciate a video demonstration.
A doorway pull-up bar is a great way to save money and have access to do pull-ups at any time. See our recommended products below if you would like to get one.
10. Pike Push-Ups 🤸♂️
Pike push-ups exercise your core, rear deltoids, and triceps, making it a great upper body and shoulder workout.
The following is how to do a pike push-up:
- Place your hands on the floor just wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lift your hips and keep your arms, legs, and back straight. You’re aiming to make an upside-down V shape.
- Keep your elbows tucked while lowering yourself to the floor.
- Once you reach the bottom without letting your head touch the ground, push yourself back into the starting position.
This exercise is relatively easy to explain and do, and beginners can do as many sets and reps as they feel comfortable with.
Here’s a video to help you with your technique.
What’s Next 🤗
I hope you enjoyed our article on the best compound shoulder exercises for bigger shoulders.
You can do so many compound exercises to build your shoulders and other muscles that there should be no excuse to get busy.
It is essential to keep going even if things seem hard and remember to push yourself while not breaking yourself down.
Most gyms have professionals to help if you are unsure or start feeling worrying pain.
Last update on 2022-10-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API