What Are the Most Effective Exercises to Define Shoulders?

Resistance training develops well-defined shoulders.
i Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

Highly-defined shoulders are eye-catching and athletic appearing. Your shoulders comprise three individual muscles: front, side and rear deltoids. Unless each muscle is defined, this can be difficult to notice. Toning and sculpting your shoulder muscles makes them more defined. If you want to tone and sculpt your shoulders, resistance training with three simple exercises is your best option.

Front Raises

Raising your arms in front of you while extended, engages your front deltoid. To do this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. With a dumbbell in each hand, fully extend your arms and rest your hands on the thighs. Keeping your palms facing down, lift both arms until they are parallel with the ground. Pause briefly and reverse the movement to complete one repetition.

Side Raises

Raising your fully-extended arm at your side engages the lateral muscle in your shoulder. The exercise is similar to that of the shoulder muscle in front. Start with your hands at your sides and your palms facing inward. Raise your arms straight up from your sides. Make sure to keep your palms facing down and stop when your arm is parallel with the floor.

Rear-Lateral Raises

Begin this exercise with your feet shoulder-width apart. With your elbows slightly bent and dumbbells in each hand, bend at your waist through your hips. Bring your hands together with your palms facing inward to get into the starting position. To perform the exercise, lift your arms straight up until your elbows are as high as your shoulders.


You should use weight amounts where three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions are possible. For best results, it is very important that you maintain proper form. When doing these movements, focus on using just the individual shoulder muscle you are exercising. Front and side raises may be done one arm at a time, if you wish. Rear-lateral raises stretch your outer chest muscles. Thus, to prevent pulling these muscles, make sure not to lift your arms too high.

the nest