Shoulders are a miracle of bio-engineering. They boast a ridiculous range of motion, and depending on your flexibility, are the only joints you can use to scratch or scrub nearly every part of your anatomy. (Except maybe that one elusive spot in the middle of your back. A little help over here?)

But shoulders are much more than just joints. The musculature of the shoulders can be seen from 360 degrees around your person, which means they define your athletic physique like almost nothing else can. You may have the arms, but the shoulders truly announce "I Lift, Ergo I Am." You may be strong, but if your shoulders are slumping and narrow, nobody will notice the rest!

Not surprisingly, the Bodybuilding.com forums are a treasure trove of shoulder-training wisdom. Our members share their secrets without asking for anything other than a little rep power in return. Plug one of these five routines into your split, and let us know how you like it in the comments—if you can lift your arms to the keyboard!

Hooray for Pre-exhaustion! by Jaries12

Not everyone can come out of the gates at a gallop when it comes to shoulders. For those of you with persnickety shoulder joints comes this routine to help ready them for action.

The workout starts with a lengthy warm-up: a slow and steady superset of presses and upright rows using dumbbells to heat up your joints. One more warmer-upper in the form of a seated side lateral raise done for 3 straight sets of 10, and you're ready to get into the working sets.

Not only does this formula mean happy, shiny rotator cuffs and blood rushing to needy parts, it also works to pre-exhaust your delts. Translation: You lift less weight for the subsequent five-move workout, adding size while saving your shoulders from wear and tear.

5 Shoulder Routines For 3-D Definition

Not only does this formula mean happy, shiny rotator cuffs and blood rushing to needy parts, it also works to pre-exhaust your delts.

Jaries12's Shoulder Workout
1
Standing Dumbbell Press
3 sets, 10 reps
2
Standing Dumbbell Upright Row
3 sets, 10 reps
3
Standing Military Press
3 sets, 10 reps
4
Seated Side Lateral Raise
3 sets, 8 reps
5
Front Plate Raise
3 sets, 8 reps
6
Upright Barbell Row
3 sets, 10 reps
7
Cable Rear Delt Fly
3 sets, 10 reps
8
Arnold Dumbbell Press
3 sets, 10 reps

Take It Sitting Down by Slu12

Momentum can be your worst enemy when it comes to hypertrophy, so forum member Slu12 solved his own momentous issue by doing all his shoulder work while seated.

This program begins with heavy seated military presses to build mass in the shoulders as a unit, then moves into sustained hypertrophy mode with dumbbell and cable work to shape and detail all three heads of the deltoids. And because you'll do all this work while seated, your legs, glutes and back can't assist to generate power and momentum to help you lift. Every bit of stimulation that they don't get goes instead to—you guessed it!—your shoulders.

Slu12's Shoulder Workout
1
Seated Barbell Military Press
3 sets, 6-8 reps
2
Standing Dumbbell Press
3 sets, 8-10 reps
3
Side Lateral Raise
3 sets, 10 reps
4
Front Dumbbell Raise
3 sets, 10 reps
5
Cable Rear Delt Fly
3 sets, 10 reps

The traps are like the red-headed stepchildren of the shoulder world. They assist with many functions of the shoulders themselves, as well as the upper back, but they don't typically get a lot of love in most peoples' shoulder programming.

This program delivers plenty of adoration to the traps with a triple-whammy of shrugs at the end of the workout. You'll slay them with 10 building sets done in a rep range of 8-15. You can mix and match your other shoulder moves pre-trap annihilation, using both dumbbells and barbells in straight or building sets to get 'er done.

Shoulders and All the Trappings by The-truth86

The-truth86's Shoulder Workout
1
Side Leg Raises
4 sets, 12 reps
2
Standing Military Press
5 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6, 8
3
One-Arm Incline Lateral Raise
3 sets, 12 reps
4
Upright Barbell Row
3 sets, 10, 8, 8 reps
5
Front Incline Dumbbell Raise
3 sets, 8 reps
6
Reverse Flyes
3 sets, 12 reps
7
Barbell Shrug
4 sets, 15, 12, 10, 10 reps
8
Middle Back Shrug
3 sets, 12, 10, 8 reps
9
Smith Machine Behind the Back Shrug
3 sets, 12, 10, 8 reps

High-Volume Shoulder Gauntlet by GM54

Though they're not for everyone, high-volume 28-set workouts like this one by GM54 can give stubborn shoulders a shock treatment. This workout incorporates heavy mass-building sets, supersets, and high-rep sets, subjecting your delts to an onslaught of intensities and techniques. The result: burnout, exhaustion, and growth.

To get the most out of this routine, use slow, controlled contractions, holding a full second at the peak exertion. Then pause 1-2 seconds at the bottom for a miniscule window of recovery before going into the next rep.

5 Shoulder Routines For 3-D Definition

This workout incorporates heavy mass-building sets, supersets, and high-rep sets, subjecting your delts to an onslaught of intensities and techniques. The result: burnout, exhaustion, and growth.

High-Volume Shoulder Gauntlet by GM54
1
Standing Dumbbell Press
3 sets, 10 reps
2
Standing Barbell Press Behind Neck
3 sets, 10-12 reps
3
Front Plate Raise
3 sets, 10-12 reps
4
Side Lateral Raise
3 sets, 10-12 reps
5
Cable Seated Lateral Raise
3 sets, 10-12 reps
6
Machine Lateral Raise
3 sets, 10-12 reps
7
Seated Cable Rows
3 sets, 10-12 reps
8
Reverse Machine Flyes
3 sets, 10-12 reps
9
Upright Barbell Row
3 sets, 10-12 reps
10
Barbell Shrug
3 sets, 10-12 reps
11
Dumbbell Shrug
3 sets, 12 reps

Pre- and Post-exhaust Madness by SeriousDon

Forum reader SeriousDon lives up to his name with a shoulder workout that is not for the weak of heart or rotator cuff. It begins with a dedicated 8-set pre-exhaust to waste all three heads of the muscle group, using both straight sets and supersets to jump-start his delt engine.

Next up: a triple dose of overhead presses using barbells, dumbbells, and machines, followed by yet another 8 sets of the pre-exhaust program. Then your traps get whaled with a 9-set pyramid of behind-the-back Smith machine shrugs in reps ranging from 10-50, followed immediately by 4 sets of dumbbell shrugs, in which the fourth set should end with absolute failure.

But you're not done. For your final hurrah, perform a farmer's carry using kettlebells, plates, or dumbbells—pick your poison—shuffling ahead until you can no longer physically hold the weights. Masochistic? Absolutely, and we love it.

5 Shoulder Routines For 3-D Definition

Next up: a triple dose of overhead presses using barbells, dumbbells, and machines, followed by yet another 8 sets of the pre-exhaust program.

Pre-exhaust routine
1
Front Dumbbell Raise
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 10 reps
2
Superset
Side Lateral Raise
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 15 reps
Dumbbell Flyes
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 15 reps
3
Standing Military Press
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 10 reps
4
Standing Dumbbell Press
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 10 reps
5
Machine Shoulder (Military) Press
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 10 reps
6
Front Dumbbell Raise
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 10 reps
7
Superset
Side Lateral Raise
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 10 reps
Dumbbell Flyes
4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 10 reps
8
Smith Machine Behind the Back Shrug
9 sets, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 reps
9
Dumbbell Shrug
4 sets, 20, 15, 10, to failure reps
10
Farmer's Walk
1 set, to failure

About the Author

Lara McGlashan

Lara McGlashan

Lara McGlashan is currently the Fitness Editor for Oxygen Magazine. She also has an extensive sports background and is an ACE certified trainer.

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