How to Optimize your Shoulder Workouts

Published:  09/16/2017

Did you know that to completely strengthen your shoulder muscles you have to include exercises in your workout that target each of the three shoulder muscles? There are three shoulder, or deltoid muscles: the front (anterior), middle and rear (posterior) deltoid.

The American Council on Exercise recently completed a study to determine which shoulder exercises were most effective for which deltoid muscle. This helps us in determining what exercises to include in our workouts to actively target all three deltoid muscles.

The results of the study? The DB Shoulder press won for best Anterior Deltoid, the 45-degree Incline Row, Bent-arm Lateral Raise and Cable Diagonal Raise were best in that order for targeting the middle deltoid and the Seated Rear Lateral Raise and the 45-degree Incline Row targeted the posterior deltoids the best.

If you are making the mistake of doing the DB shoulder Press as your sole exercise, you are not working the middle or rear deltoid because the DB Shoulder Press primarily hits the anterior shoulder muscle.

The 45-degree Incline Row elicited the biggest muscle activity for the middle deltoid and the second highest activity (behind the rear lateral raise) for the posterior (rear) deltoid. So, this exercise elicits great co-contraction and is therefore a great time-saver if you want to strengthen two areas with one exercise.

Another tip for optimizing your shoulder workouts: Begin your shoulder workout with an exercise that targets the generally weaker posterior deltoid muscle first (Seated Rear Lateral Raise or the 45-degree Incline Row), then follow that with an exercise for the anterior deltoid (DB Shoulder Press). So in a workout, do the seated rear lateral raise or 45-degree incline row and then DB shoulder press.

How to Perform the 45-degree Incline Row
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie face down on a 45-degree incline bench and let your arms hang straight. Raise your elbows towards the ceiling as high as you can by squeezing the shoulder blades together. The upper arms should remain perpendicular to the body the whole movement and the hands pointed toward the floor. After reaching the top of the movement, slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Demonstration video of the 45-degree Incline Row.

SOURCE: Dynamite Delts: ACE Research Identifies Top Shoulder Exercises August 22, 2014;


Active Nutrition is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a way for websites to earn advertising revenues by advertising and linking to Amazon. If you click on one of my recommended item links and then place an order through Amazon, I receive a small commission on that sale, at no extra expense to you of course. This is a way to support me and my work every time you shop at no cost to you.

Connect with Maria