Compound Shoulder Exercises for Mass and Strength

You may think you work your shoulders regularly, but if you don’t incorporate compound shoulder exercises into your routine, you won’t get the strength and size you need.

A great way to build shoulder muscle mass and strength is by doing compound shoulder exercises.

Compound exercises are those that involve movement around more than one joint at the same time. It means compound exercises work more than one muscle group.

It is highly recommended to start performing the compound shoulder exercises for those of you trying to achieve bigger and stronger.

Know About Shoulder Muscles

In fitness, “shoulder exercises” refers to resistance exercises that target the deltoid muscle.

The deltoid is the superficial muscle that forms the rounded contour of your shoulder. While the deltoid is technically a single muscle, anatomically speaking it has three distinct sets of muscles fibers and muscle bellies, which are referred to as “heads.

The deltoid muscle of the shoulder consists of three separate sections or heads.

Shoulder Anatomy

How To Target The Shoulder

The two types of shoulder exercises are compound movements and isolation movements.

Compound shoulder exercises

Recruit multiple muscle groups and contribute towards more functional movements. With more muscle groups being recruited, you will also be able to take more load, resulting in faster and more consistent movement patterns, utilizing heavier weights.

These include overhead presses, upright row and push-ups.

Isolation shoulder exercises

Focusing all the load on one muscle group, no secondary muscles are taking over and making that target muscle group’s life any easier.

It involves just extension at the elbow with no other joint movement, such as front raise, lateral raise and side raise.

Benefits Of Compound Shoulder Exercises and Strong Delts

Big, strong, rounded shoulders have many benefits besides looking good. The deltoids are among the most important muscles in the body as we use them in everyday life activities to push, pull and lift objects over our heads. In this post, we’ll focus on the benefits of having strong shoulders.

The benefit of having a strong, well-built shoulder is simple.

  • Reduced Risk of Injury: Many people experience shoulder pain or injuries at some point in their lives because the shoulders move through a large range of motion. Strengthening the delts helps to stabilize the shoulders, which can help prevent future injuries.
  • Improve Range of Motion: They help protect your shoulder joint, keeping it stable during arm movements. Strong delts will make arm movements that involve shoulder flexion, internal rotation, and abduction more powerful and productive. It’ll improve the overall aesthetics and definition of your shoulders.
  • Improve Lifts: The deltoids play a part in stabilizing the weight when performing bench press or overhead press. By working directly on the deltoids, there will be a transfer of strength to your other lifts.
  • Give aesthetics Look: One hallmark of someone who’s in shape is having wide-toned shoulders. It improves the overall aesthetics and definition of your shoulders. The delts are on the outside of the shoulder, so if you work on building them up, so can change the look of your overall body.

The Best Compound Shoulder Exercises

Here are 12 of the best compound shoulder exercises to build muscle mass and strength.

You’ll get more benefits if you introduce some compound exercises into your routine that also work your shoulder

1. Pike Push Up

Pike Push-ups aka shoulder push-up is a variation of the push-up that increases strength and stability in the shoulders and triceps. Performing the exercise in a more upright position will target the shoulders more than the chest.

The pike push-up looks like a mash-up of Downward-Facing Dog and Dolphin Pose, and this move can build major strength.

Pike Push Up

Muscles Worked

Primary: Deltoid.

Secondary: Triceps Brachii, Bicep brachii and upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique

  1. Start in a standard push-up position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and elbows completely locked out.
  2. Lift the hips up and back until your body forms an inverted V shape. Keep arms and legs as straight as possible.
  3. Slowly lower the top of your head towards the ground. Once your head is about to contact the ground, pause for a second.
  4. Then slowly push back until your arms are straight, and you’re in the inverted V position.


  • Make sure you maintain control throughout the movement.
  • Keep your back neutral and knees straight throughout the exercise.
  • To make the pike push-up easier, you can place your hands on a block or a higher surface than your feet, as this reduces resistance.

2. Shoulder Tap Push Up

The shoulder tap push-up is a variation of the push-up that challenges the core to a greater extent than its traditional counterpart.

Shoulder Tap Push-Up is a full-body strength move that focuses on your arms, shoulder, and chest while also strengthening your core.

Shoulder Tap Push Ups

Muscles Involved

Primary: Lower pectoralis, Upper pectoralis.

Secondary: Shoulders, triceps.

Execution Technique

  1. Start in a high plank position with your palms flat on the floor, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above your wrists, legs extended behind you
  2. Lower yourself by flexing your elbows so that your chest comes within a few inches of the floor, making sure your body is in a straight line from your head to your knees.
  3. Raise your body to the starting position by pushing up with your arms. Tap your left hand to your right shoulder while engaging your core and glutes to keep your hips as still as possible.
  4. Place it back on the floor and repeat your next push up and shoulder tap with another hand.


  • Tighten your core, engage your glutes, and keep your spine, head and neck aligned.
  • Do not let your lower back sag or your butt rise. Ensure your body is straight and rigid.
  • Your arms should resemble an arrow in the bottom position, not a “T”

3. Parallel Bar Dip

Bar Dip is an excellent exercise to build Chest muscles. It also works on Triceps and anterior deltoid. This exercise is done on a pair of Parallel bars.

Parallel Bar Dips (Chest Dip)

Muscles Involved

Primary: Pectoralis major.

Secondary: Triceps, anterior deltoid.

Execution Technique

  1. Hold on to the parallel bars and raise yourself at arm’s length.
  2. Using your arms, lower yourself as low as possible, feeling a good stretch in your chest muscles.
  3. Press back up and feel a good chest contraction in addition to your triceps, which are obviously contracting hard now.
  4. Repeat for desired reps.


  • Hold a dumbbell between your legs if you need additional resistance.
  • A little forward body bend will hit the chest muscles harder.

4. Barbell Overhead Press

The shoulder Press remains the grand-daddy of all shoulder exercises to build big, round shoulder muscles.

Seated shoulder press has been the favorite shoulder exercise with bodybuilders as it builds muscle fast and is a power move. Must add this exercise to your compound Shoulder Exercises arsenal.

Barbell Shoulder Press

Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: lateral deltoid, triceps, and upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique

  1. Sit on an exercise bench and grab a bar with an overhand grip.
  2. Bring the bar over and in front of your head, under your chin, and just above your upper chest.
  3. Now Press the bar straight up overhead until your arms are fully extended but not locked out.
  4. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.


  • Perform a warm-up with 50% weight for 1-2 sets.
  • Always perform the Shoulder Exercises before you perform triceps.

5. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The Dumbbell Shoulder Press is a good alternative to the compound barbell shoulder press.

Dumbbells allow a full range of motion and also helps your shoulders move freely. This exercise helps to build muscle mass in the front and side of the deltoids.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, triceps, traps, upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique

  1. Sit at the end of a flat bench holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward.
  2. Lift the dumbbells overhead until they nearly touch at the top, and then lower them as low as possible.
  3. Feel a good stretch at the bottom, and then continue with the next rep.


  • Exhale during effort, inhale during rest.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements

6. Arnold Shoulder Press

Arnold Shoulder Press is an excellent shoulder exercise for muscle building. When it comes to the best compound shoulder exercises with the best range of motion for shoulder muscles, Arnold’s press stands out from the crowd.

It gives a wide range of motion as you lower the dumbbells well down in front, giving that maximum stretch that other shoulder exercises lack.

Arnold Press

Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, triceps, traps.

Execution Technique

  1. Stand straight by holding a dumbbell in each hand. Raise the dumbbells to shoulder position with palms facing you.
  2. Now press the dumbbells overhead just like dumbbell presses, but twisting them so that palms face forwards at the top of the movement.
  3. Now lower the dumbbells in a reverse movement.


  • Inhale when you lower the weight and exhale when you lift.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Keep a strict form.
  • Do not lock your arms overhead.

7. Landmine Shoulder Press

The Landmine Press is not a popular exercise yet provides many benefits in regard to progressing your upper body.

It can be performed in a standing position, which increases core involvement and can improve core stability and strength of the abdominal muscles. Must add this exercise to your compound Shoulder Exercises arsenal.

The Landmine Chest Press

Muscle Involved

Primary: Inner and upper Pectoralis major.

Secondary: Arms, Core, and shoulders

Execution Technique

  1. Stand holding the weighted end of the barbell with one hand. Clean that bar up to shoulder height and tuck your elbow into your side.
  2. Make sure the barbell is wedged securely in a landmine device or corner.
  3. Your feet should be level and shoulder-width apart.
  4. Keeping your core braced and knees soft, press the bar up and away from you, fully extending your arm at the top.
  5. Press the weight up with both hands until your arms are extended, then bring it back down slowly.
  6. With control, lower the bar back down to the starting position.


  • Hold a neutral spine throughout the movement to prevent injury.
  • Exhale on pushing movement, inhale when returning to starting position.
  • Lean your body forwards slightly and engage your core muscles to help with stabilization.

8. Face Pull

Face pull is a cable machine exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoid and to a lesser degree also targets the biceps, triceps, and traps.

This exercise prevents muscular imbalance and builds overall shoulder strength. However, there are many different faces pull variations that you can try out that may require different types of equipment and setup. Must try this compound shoulder face pull exercises.

Face Pull

Muscles Involved

Primary: Posterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus, teres minor, teres major.

Execution Technique

  1. Grab the ends of the rope attachment using a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and slightly lean back.
  2. Pull the rope toward your face as you spread the ends of the rope, so they end up on the sides of your ears just above your shoulders in the finish position.
  3. Hold this position for a second as you squeeze your shoulder blades together, contracting rear delts and middle traps as hard as possible.
  4. Then slowly return the rope to the start position and repeat for reps.


  • Stand straight with feet in a comfortable balanced stance.
  • Be sure to exhale when pulling weight toward your face.
  • Think about trying to pinch your shoulder blades as tight as possible when pulling weight toward your face.
  • Your upper arms should be straight out to your sides with elbows bent.

9. Barbell Upright Row

The upright Row is an excellent exercise to build huge Trapezius muscles and create that deltopectoral separation.

Upright rows can be done with both narrow grips and wider ones. The narrow grip focuses on the trapezius and the wider focuses on the entire shoulder girdle. Also, the wider grip allows some cheating movement thereby allowing you to lift more weight.

Barbell Upright Row

Muscles Involved

Primary: Trapezius, deltoid.

Secondary: Levator scapulae, erector spinae, forearms.

Execution Technique

  1. Hold a bar with a narrow overhand grip and let it hang in front of you.
  2. Lift the bar and get it as close as possible to the chin using your arms and elevating your shoulders to squeeze your trapezius muscles.
  3. Now, lower the bar under controlled motion until it comes back to its starting position.
  4. Repeat for desired reps.


  • Focus on keeping your elbows higher than your forearms.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Keep your back straight.

10. Standing Barbell Rear Delt Row

Standing barbell rear delt row is a free weight exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoid and middle back, and to a lesser degree, it also targets the biceps, shoulders, and traps.

If you haven’t tried this exercise before, load the barbell with a reasonable amount of weight, prioritizing an amount that allows you to stick to proper form rather than trying to lift heavy.

Standing Barbell Rear Delt Row

Muscles Involved

Primary : Posterior deltoid, Trapezius

Secondary : Traps, Biceps, Rhomboids, and Forearms.

Execution Technique

  1. Stand up straight while holding a barbell using a wide (higher than shoulder width) and overhand (palms facing your body) grip.
  2. With slightly bent knees, bend over at the waist so that your chest is parallel with the floor.
  3. While keeping the upper arms perpendicular to the torso, pull the barbell up towards your upper chest as you squeeze the rear delt.
  4. Slowly go back to the initial position as you breathe in. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.


  • Refrain from using your biceps to do the work. Focus on targeting the rear delts, the arms should only act as hooks.
  • Focus on the form before you go for a heavyweight.
  • Maintaining the right posture while working out is extremely important.

11. Seated Neutral-Grip Overhead Dumbbell Press

The seated neutral-grip dumbbell overhead press is a very effective exercise that targets the deltoids’ anterior (Front) head.

Now, the benefit of using dumbbells over a barbell for this movement is that you develop more stabilizer muscles and have a freer range of movement.

But, using a neutral grip is also more challenging and makes for a great variation since it still works the same muscle.

Seated Neutral-Grip Overhead Dumbbell Press

Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid.

Secondary: Lateral deltoid, triceps, trapezius, upper pectoralis.

Execution Technique

  1. Sit on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height.
  2. Begin with your palms facing toward each other and your elbows just below shoulder level.
  3. Push the weights straight up, stopping just short of locking out your elbows.
  4. Then control the dumbbells all the way down until your upper arms are parallel with the floor or slightly lower.


  • Keep your back and neck neutral.
  • Do not lock out your elbows.
  • Always warm up before training heavily to prevent shoulder discomfort.

12. Behind-the-Neck Press

A behind-the-neck press is an exercise that targets your shoulders. The standard military press and the overhead dumbbell presses hit more of the anterior head of the deltoid, which is often stimulated a lot even during the bench press.

Behind the neck press, on the other hand, stimulates all the three heads of the shoulder, It also recruits the triceps, lateral delts, traps, and rhomboids.

If you do not have a fair amount of shoulder mobility, it is not recommended to perform this compound shoulder exercises.

Behind-the-Neck Press

Muscles Involved

Primary: Anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid, rear deltoid

Secondary: Triceps, and upper pectoralis, trapezius

Execution Technique

  1. Sit on an exercise bench and place the barbell to just below shoulder height.
  2. Elevate the barbell overhead by fully extending your arms while breathing out.
  3. Hold the contraction for a second and lower the barbell back down to the starting position by inhaling.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


  • Don’t bounce the bar off your neck. Perform the exercise in a slow and controlled manner.
  • Perform a warm-up with 50% weight for 1-2 sets.
  • Keep your elbows flared out, in line with the shoulders or slightly behind.


These shoulder compound Exercises are highly recommended for anyone interested in building a wider shoulder and who wants to gain strength.

It not only allows for targeted muscle development, but also provides an overall 3D look to the shoulder. It is easy to do and requires no more scientific details and fancy equipment. Incorporate some exercise from these 12 compound shoulder exercises into your workout regimen.

If you do these shoulder compound exercises consistently, the results will speak by themselves.

Thanks for reading.


10 Best Shoulder Exercises To Build Muscle Mass and Strength

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