The shoulder can be a notoriously tricky area when it comes to injury or strains. As such, with a little more muscle and the right shoulder workout for beginners, you can help strengthen and shore up that area!
If you’re just starting out with training, it’s important you ease in gently and go for a beginners workout that will challenge you, without leaving you unable to raise your arms the next day!
To help you get to grips with all the key movements and start to build strength and stability in the shoulder, we’ve identified 10 shoulder exercises you absolutely must know and written up handy step-by-step guides to help you achieve your goals safely.
With these movements, you can select a few and start to develop a workout as we suggest below.
Shoulder workout for beginners:
We suggest selecting four or five of the shoulder exercises we’ve highlighted below to for your workout.
As it’s a shoulder workout for beginners, we would recommend starting with four and progressing to five movements after you’ve developed a bit of strength.
From there, follow this pattern:
Select four or five movements and perform three sets of 8-12 reps depending on how it feels.
You only need to do one shoulder workout a week, as this is a relatively small area of muscles and overdoing can lead to fatigue and poor results.
Once you’ve progressed up to five movements, you can even opt to add more sets! And, when you’re feeling like you’ve got everything out of these shoulder workouts for beginners, check out our other shoulder workouts.
Shoulder Exercises for Beginners
Strict Press/ Military Press
A staple of any good shoulder workout for beginners and for experienced athletes too. The strict press pulls in muscle from all areas of the shoulder. Asd a beginner we’d recommend starting off with a light barbell, and taking it easy. You’ll find with the shoulders movements can quickly start to burn, so take it easy and see how you go with a lighter weight to start with.
You’ll find this movement specifically targets the traps, which are key to developing strong and shapely shoulders. While you might be just starting out with your shoulder workout for beginners, this isn’t a particularly complex movement, so you can go a little heavier than you might expect for this.
How to do weighted shrugs:
- Stand with a heavy dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your sides
- Keeping your core tight and your back straight, shrug your shoulders up as high as you can
- Slowly return your shoulders to a relaxed position
Bent Over Rear Delt Raises
The rear delts sit at the back and the side of your shoulders, so they play an important role in keeping your shoulder strong and stable. These bent over rear delt raises are great for targeting this area and building strength at the back of the shoulder.
How to do Rear Delt Raises:
- Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and bend forward until your back is just slightly above parallel to the ground. Your arms should be parallel with your chest with your arms slightly flexed
- From this hanging position, maintain that flex in the elbow without bending too much and raise the dumbbells up and out to the side until the dumbbell are level with your shoulders
- Keep your back flat and strong throughout the movement
- From here, slowly return the dumbbells back down to the start position with your back flat
Free weights press
While the strict press is a fantastic way to work the shoulders, using free weights such as dumbbells can add a little something extra for those small, stabilizing muscles in the shoulder that can be easily damaged. As each arm is moving independently, it forces the shoulder to work a little harder in ensuring it moves up in a controlled manner.
Free weights press guide:
- Take a dumbbell in each hand and hold each one at shoulder height with your elbows directly below the weights
- From here, push directly upwards until your arms are completely locked out at the elbow.
- Ensure your arms are next to your ears at this point and do not arch your back throughout the movement.
- From this top position, return the weights in a controlled motion back to your shoulder height and maintain that start position we highlighted in step 1
Without any weights, this movement might not look like a lot, but trust us, you’ll soon feel the burn with this! What’s more it’s an amazing movement for stretching and improving the mobility in your shoulders. Mobility and flexibility are absolutely essential to a health shoulder so don’t miss out.
How to do a wall slide:
- Stand with your back to a wall and raise your arms until your elbow is inline with your shoulder, you have a 90 degree bend at the elbow, your fingers are pointing up and you palms are facing forward, away from the wall.
- Keeping your back as flat as you can against the wall, slowly move your arms upward as far as you can without taking your back, shoulders or arms away from the wall
- When you’ve gone as far as you can, slowly return to the start position.
Note: Don’t sweat it if you’re not getting really far with this movement to start with. It’s something you can build up as you progress. Don’t forget, this is a shoulder workout for beginners, and great mobility comes with time, patience and consistency!
If you’ve spent any time in the gym, you’ll probably recognise this movement from there! It’s a super effective way of working a range of muscles in the shoulder, include the traps, lats and even the tricky rotary cuff, which is responsible for keeping your shoulder socket in place. Basically, it’s a must, check it out.
Similar to the lateral raise, the front raise is another movement that really focusses in on the muscles within the shoulder. However, as this reaches the back of your shoulder more, you’ll find you’ll feel the burn in your rear delts more than anything. Pair it with your lateral raises in a workout as a superset and you won’t regret it!
Cable Face Pull
We mentioned the rotary cuff and how important it is, well the motion if pulling towards you and slightly outwards is a fantastic way to work this key muscle. The cable face pull does just that and gives you a brilliantly effective shoulder workout for beginners.
How to do a cable face pull:
- Position your cable machine so it sit at about forehead height and use the rope attachment or two handles
- Holding the rope at either end, keep your elbows high and pull the cable towards your forehead
- When your hands are aligned with your temple, slowly return the cable to the start position with extended arms
Single Arm Dumbbell Row
Putting the emphasis on the upper back, including the rear delts and lats, the dumbbell row will also help to shore up the muscles around your shoulders. It’s a great movement to learn for a good back workout, as well as continuing to help you develop the shoulder too.
How to do a single arm dumbbell row:
- Place one knee and the same side hand on a bench, with the dumbbell in the other hand and the other foot planted firmly on the floor
- Let your arm hang down straight
- Pull your lats together and, leading with the elbow, pull the dumbbell up until it is aligned with your armpit
- From here, slowly return the dumbbell down to the hanging position
If you need some dumbbells for a home workout, we’d recommend these from Amazon.
Superman Arm Extension
This is another one of those movements that doesn’t look particularly challenging (despite the name!) but it can be a fantastic way to refocus the strict press movement we looked at earlier in this guide, and continue to build muscle and strength in the area. And, as you progress, you can add light weights to the movement too with light dumbbells in each hand.
How to do a superman arm extension:
- Lie in a prone position on the floor with your hands flat to the floor next to your shoulders
- Raise your shoulders off the floor slightly and push your hands up and forward until they’re straight out in front of you. Don’t touch the floor throughout this movement
- From this position, return back to the start position by bringing your hands back to the shoulders