The deltoid muscle of the shoulder consists of three heads: the anterior or front, the medial or side and the posterior or rear deltoids. Women should aim to strengthen these muscles by performing deltoid exercises, which will improve their shoulder range of motion and shoulder function.
Video of the Day
Research Reveals Best Deltoid Exercises
According to a September 2014 study from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the shoulders, also known as the deltoids, are among the most important muscles we use every day. We need our deltoids to do the necessary work of pushing, pulling and lifting. In addition, for vanity purposes, muscular deltoids can make women look strong and provide the illusion of a smaller waist.
In this ACE shoulder study, researchers said most people pay attention to the anterior deltoids (which are the shoulder muscles you see in the mirror) when they work out. But not doing medial and posterior deltoid workouts can create an unbalanced look and lead to injuries that affect up to 69 percent of people at some point in their lives.
Researchers in the ACE study looked at the top exercises for deltoids and found the following results for a full shoulder workout:
- Anterior deltoid — the dumbbell shoulder press offered higher muscle activation than any other strengthening exercise they tested.
- Medial deltoid — 45-degree incline row and the bent-arm lateral raise elicited high muscle engagement.
- Posterior deltoid — seated rear lateral raise and the 45-degree incline row both provided the best muscle activation for the back of participants' shoulders.
Researchers suggested avoiding the upright row, because even though this exercise is one of the most popular for deltoids, the gains fall at the lower end of the spectrum. They also recommended starting your shoulder workout with movements targeting the posterior deltoid, as this deltoid is usually the weakest. You should then follow up with a strengthening exercise for the stronger anterior deltoid.
How to Do Deltoid Exercises
If you're new to shoulder workouts or working out in general, these movements can help you build up shoulder strength for sports performance, injury prevention and improving your overall aesthetic appearance:
Move 1: Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Set the incline on a bench to 90 degrees.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit back on the bench with feet on the floor.
- Move the dumbbells to shoulder level with your palms facing forward.
- Push both dumbbells up above your head keeping them parallel. Keep elbows slightly bent.
- Return to the starting position with your dumbbells at shoulder level.
- Complete 10 to 15 reps.
If you find using both arms at the same time too challenging, you can switch to using one at a time instead.
Move 2: 45-Degree Incline Row
- Move the weight bench to a 45-degree angle.
- Grab dumbbells for each hand.
- Lie face down on the inclined bench and let your arms hang straight at your sides.
- Raise your elbows to the ceiling by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep your hands pointed to the ground.
- Hold the top of the movement for 1 second.
- Lower back down to the starting position.
- Complete 12 to 15 reps.
Move 3: Seated Bent-Arm Lateral Raise
- Sit on the edge of a bench with one dumbbell in each hand.
- Hang your arms at your sides.
- Bend your elbows so that your forearms are parallel with the floor.
- Raise both arms sideways until they are slightly above shoulder level.
- Be sure to keep your palms facing down at the top of the movement and you maintain the angle of your elbow. Hold this top position for one second.
- Lower your arms back down to starting position.
- Complete 12 to 15 reps.
Move 4: Seated Rear Lateral Raise
- Sit on the edge of a bench.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging at your sides.
- Lean forward until your chest is near to or touches your thighs.
- Bend your elbows slightly and swing both dumbbells beneath your thighs. Keep your elbows bent, and raise both dumbbells sideways until your elbows are pointing at the ceiling.
- Return to your starting position.
- Complete 10 to 15 repetitions.
Move 5: Front Raises
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Move your hands in front of your thighs.
- Raise the left-hand dumbbell in a forward motion until it is slightly above shoulder-level.
- Lower your arm to its starting position.
- Switch arms.
- Alternate arms for a total 2 sets of 30 reps.
You might have a tendency to jerk your body forward on this move when you lift the weight. Focus on a slow, steady movement instead.
Safety Tips for Resistance Training
According to the National Institute of Health, you need proper form when resistance training to best prevent injury. You should also speak with a medical professional if you've had back surgery to determine what deltoid exercises are most appropriate for you.
Safety tips for proper form include the following:
- Don't forget to breathe. You need to breathe out as you lift and breathe in as you lower the weight.
- Use a smooth motion when you lift weights into position. Don't jerk the weights up and down.
- Always keep a slight bend in your arms and legs to avoid locking your joints. Locking joints can lead to a lack of support your body needs.
- Hold the end position for one second before lowering the weights back down.
- Don't do too much too soon. You should follow a steady rate of progress to avoid injury.
- Always listen to your body and use common sense. If you feel tired or dizzy, stop immediately.
- Deltoid exercises shouldn't cause pain. If you feel that the movements make you ache, you're overdoing the exercise. Lower the weight.
Harvard Health Publishing also recommends warming up and cooling down for five to 10 minutes. You can walk to warm up and stretch to cool down.