Lifts or Exercises to Strengthen the Deltoids

Shoulder press primarily targets your deltoids.

Shoulder press primarily targets your deltoids.

All you need to strengthen the deltoids, the major muscles at your shoulders, are a pair of weighted dumbbells and consistency. The deltoids are responsible for lifting your arms up in front of you and out to your sides. If they’re stronger, that means you’ll have an easier time picking things up off the floor and lifting them over your head.


A shoulder program designed to strengthen your deltoids includes working out two to three days per week, on nonconsecutive days. Strength is a measure of how much force your muscles can produce, so a program for strengthening your deltoids involves performing each shoulder exercise for at least three sets of six or fewer repetitions and while using a heavy weight. Use a pair of dumbbells that make it challenging to complete six repetitions.

Lateral Raise

The lateral raise exercise isolates your deltoids. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells down by your sides. Your palms should be facing your thighs. Keep your arms straight and lift them up and out to your sides. Lift them up until your arms are parallel with the floor and then lower them back down to your sides. Use a weight that challenges your deltoids, but doesn’t cause you to jerk or sway.

Upright Row

Upright row is also performed while standing up, but you start with holding the weights down at the front of your thighs. Bend your elbows and allow them to flare out to your sides to pull the dumbbells up towards your chin. The weights should stay close to your torso throughout the entire movement. Once they reach your clavicle, control the dumbbells back down to starting position. Upright row primarily targets your deltoids, but also requires contribution from your biceps.

Shoulder Press

The shoulder press can be done while standing or sitting. Hold the dumbbells up at your shoulders with your palms facing forward and your elbows right directly in line under the weights. Simultaneously push the dumbbells up towards the ceiling until your arms are completely straight. Your deltoids contract to lift up your arms and your triceps extend your elbows. For variety, regularly incorporate alternative shoulder press by lifting up the weights one arm at a time. This adds an element of instability because your center of gravity shifts back and forth as alternative between lifting dumbbells.

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About the Author

Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.

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