There are many options for the best chest and shoulder exercises. Looking at the exact results that you want helps narrow down where to start. Some exercises isolate each particular muscle. Other exercises challenge the main muscle group while engaging other muscles, your end result being more comprehensive. You might find that combining the two works best. Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.
Combined Muscle Groups
Chest and shoulder exercises that also engage many other muscle groups are desirable because they promote overall musculature along with building the focus muscle groups. In his book "Anatomy of Strength Training," Pat Manocchia suggests the pushup and roll out, which starts with you in a pushup position, but with hands on a barbell with weights secured to the ends. Lower your chest down to the bar, roll the barbell forward while your body remains straight, roll the bar back in to your chest and push backup to starting position. This exercise solicits 15 muscles, including the chest and shoulders, and uses 10 other muscles for stabilization. Other effective exercises from Manocchia's book include the drop and pull, lateral rope pull, and pushup on dumbbells with rotation. These exercises require equipment like a rope, a barbell and dumbbells.
You can use weight machines to isolate a specific muscle group. Machines like the chest press, pec deck, incline press, overhead press and rowing machine build strength in the chest and shoulder muscles while allowing the rest of the body to be at ease. Machines help you have correct form and move the muscle safely through a range of motion. You can also add challenging weight increments without the need for a spotter. Weight machines are good for beginners and for the exerciser with time constraints.
Barbells and Dumbbells
Lifting with barbells and dumbbells are very effective for muscle strengthening and body sculpting. It is best to lift with a partner who is close to the same strength as you are. Your partner can spot you while you lift to muscle failure and protect you from injuring yourself. The barbell bench press, incline bench press and dumbbell fly are very effective exercises for the chest and front shoulder muscle. The dumbbell lateral raise, performed with bent or straight arms, is effective for sculpting the middle shoulder muscle. Try the dumbbell overhead shoulder press to strengthen the upper trapezius, triceps and middle and front shoulder muscles. The bent row dumbbell exercise strengthens, among others, the back shoulder muscle.
Body Weight Exercises
Body weight exercises allow you to use your own body weight to build muscle — no equipment needed. The classic pushup, clap pushup, "V" pushup and the shoulder walk-out all work the chest and multiple shoulder muscle groups. The "V" pushup, for example, is done on hands and feet with your buttocks raised in the air. The shoulder walk-out starts in the upside-down "V" position. You walk your hands out away from your feet, do a pushup and walk back in again. The advantage of these chest and shoulder exercises is that they can be done anywhere, and they also solicit other muscle groups, helping promote overall musculature.
- Anatomy of Strength Training; Pat Manocchia
- YMCA Personal Training Manual; YMCA of the USA
- The Pilates Body; Brooke Siler