Multijoint Exercises for the Shoulders

The standing shoulder press builds balance and coordination.
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Multijoint exercises, also called compound exercises, engage more than one muscle group, as opposed to isolation exercises that target a specific muscle. These exercises simulate how your muscles work naturally in the real world, helping to build muscular coordination. Multijoint exercises are a more economical use of your time allowing you to training more than one muscle group in one training session.

Military Shoulder Press

    Variations of the military shoulder press include using a barbell, dumbbells or an exercise machine. In addition, they can be performed either standing or sitting on a bench. The benefits of a standing shoulder press is that all of the muscles interact to keep your body stabilized. The basic movement is the same for all of the exercises. For the dumbbell shoulder press, sit with the dumbbells lifted to the sides of your shoulders. Your elbows should be below your wrists. Press upward until your arms are overhead. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position. For muscle activation and growth, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing three sets of eight to 12 repetitions with one to two-minute breaks between sets.

Behind-Neck Press

    The behind-the-neck press targets the back of the shoulders, the upper back muscles and the muscles at the back of your neck. This exercise is more challenging than the traditional military shoulder press and should be performed using proper form. If you are just beginning to weight train, try using a Smith machine for this exercise. The starting position is holding the weight behind your head and pressing the weight over your head. This is done from either a standing or sitting position. Return to the starting position and repeat for three sets of 12 reps.

Upright Rows

    Upright rows work the top of the shoulder muscles, the biceps, the upper back and various small muscles, such as the brachialis, which helps flex the forearm. Perform this exercise standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Use a barbell that is a comfortable weight to lift. Place your hands shoulder width apart on the bar using an overhand grip. Raise the bar up to your neck, leading with your elbows and flexing your wrists. Lower and repeat for three sets of 12 repetitions.

Rear Delt Rows

    This is a good exercise to work the core as well as the back of the shoulders. The upper- and mid-back muscles are engaged, as well as the biceps. Rear delt rows are versatile and are done using either dumbbells, barbells or with a machine. The dumbbell rear delt row is done keeling over the side of a bench. One arm and leg should be on the bench. Keeping your back straight, raise the dumbbell up and out to the side with the upper part your arm perpendicular to your body. Raise the dumbbell till your upper arm is just a little past horizontal and then lower and repeat. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.


    Warm up and stretch before exercising, wear comfortable clothing and stay hydrated. For best results and to prevent injury, focus on performing each exercise using the proper form. Use slow and controlled movements and choose a weight that is comfortable and allows you to perform at least eight repetitions. Before starting any exercise program, consult with your doctor or health care provider, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions.

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