You heard it here first: Capped delts are the new washboard abs. Abs are great, sure, but well-rounded shoulders will help sculpt your arms, fill out your favorite tee and give your entire physique a superhero-esque upgrade.
But endless upright rows won't give you Thor's boulder shoulders (circa Chris Hemsworth, that is). Ditch the row and try these five shoulder exercises to fire up all parts of the shoulder muscle — yes, there's more than one — and build legend-level shoulder caps.
The Key to Capped Shoulders
Your shoulders are made up of three different portions called heads: your anterior (front) deltoid, middle deltoid and posterior (rear) deltoid, according to the American Council on Exercise. Ideally, your shoulder routine should include exercises that target all three shoulder heads.
In reality, though, most people have overactive anterior deltoids and practically non-existent rear delts, says Mathew Forzaglia, certified personal trainer and founder of Forzag Fitness on the NEOU App. This imbalance is due to people sitting with poor posture and neglecting the back of the shoulder during their workouts.
The rear delts are the secret to well-rounded, proportioned shoulder caps, Forzaglia says. But if you prioritize front-of-shoulder exercises like the upright row, a popular but mostly ineffective move, you won't develop much roundness or strength in the muscle.
Luckily, Forzaglia has a few exercises that will target your entire shoulder to help bring out the shoulder caps you're looking for. During your next upper-body workout, incorporate these five moves:
1. Seated Shoulder Raises
- Sit on the edge of a bench with two lighter dumbbells in each hand, resting at your sides but slightly in front of your torso.
- With a slight bend in your elbows, raise the dumbbells up until your elbows reach shoulder height.
- With control, lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
Avoid swinging your arms during this exercise and contract your core to keep the weights stabilized. This will help isolate your shoulders.
2. High Pull to External Rotation
- Recline an exercise bench to a 45-degree angle.
- Face the back of the exercise bench, leaning your chest and midsection against the chair. Root your feet into the ground on the sides of the seat.
- Hold two small weight plates (try 2.5 to 5 pounds), hanging straight down toward the ground on the sides of the bench.
- Raise your upper arms up, elbows bent, bringing the plates up to chest height.
- Keeping your elbows in place, raise the your forearms until they're extended up like a goalpost position.
- Without moving the elbow, bring the weights back down to chest height.
- Finally, lower the weights back down until your arms are fully extended.
3. Arnold Press
- Sit at the edge of an exercise bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keeping your elbows close to your sides, bring the weights up to about chin level in front of your body, palms facing toward you.
- Rotate the the weights so that your palms face away from your body. Simultaneously, press the weights up and over your shoulders.
- Bring your elbows back down, rotating your palms back to face you, returning to the starting position.
4. Banded Pull Apart
- Stand holding one end of a long resistance band in each hand. Bring your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height.
- On an exhale, open your arms out to a T, pulling the two sides of the band away from one another.
- Pause for a moment, then bring your arms back to the starting position with control.
- Adjust an exercise bench to a 45-degree angle. Face the back of the bench, leaning your chest and torso against it. Plant your feet on the ground on the sides of the seat.
- Hold a pair of light weight plates (try 2.5 to 5 pounds) extended toward the ground in line with your shoulders.
- Keeping your elbows straight, raise the weights until they're above your head and slightly out to your sides, forming a Y shape.
- Then, with straight arms, bring the plates up to shoulder height, forming a T.
- From there, bring the weights down toward your side, but stop them when they reach a 45-degree angle from your body, keeping straight arms. You'll resemble the letter M.