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What would you say if I told you that there were only two shoulder exercises you need to do? In this video, I am going to show you the two shoulder exercises that should make up the bare minimum of your shoulder workouts. Not only are these two exercises great for building big shoulders, but they are the two exercises that hit cover all 3 heads of the shoulders.

Some might tell you that you only need two exercises total in order to build a muscle group. I disagree. I don’t think anyone should be limited to picking just two exercises for a muscle group because each one often has multiple muscle head as well as multiple functions that can be targeted individually through exercise selection.

The chest is a great example of this; it has three heads as well as two separate functions. Some might tell you that all you need is a flat bench press and incline bench press. You are only hitting two of the three heads of the chest with this election and while you are pressing, you are not getting any adduction – another major function of the chest.

In the case of the shoulders, you have the ability to hit all three heads of the delts given the proper exercise selection. Pressing and lateral raises are the basis of your shoulder training and being able to choose one of each is a great way to build big shoulders. This means that one exercise should be a pressing movement and the other should be a lateral raise movement.

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However, when trying to build big shoulders, this is simply the foundation of your what your shoulder training should include. Not every shoulder workout needs to include both of these exercises, but a complete training plan will at least build off or include them at some point.

The first exercise up is the overhead press. Now, this doesn’t have to be a barbell overhead press, but it needs to be some variation of the press. This can come in multiple options such as the barbell press, a modified Bradford press, the z-press, or a dumbbell overhead press (standing or seated without pressing your back into the bench).

The thing is that dumbbell press is limited by the weight you can clean up to your shoulders to press overhead. I like to perform this exercise with a single dumbbell as it allows you to clean the weight up with two hands and it allows for stacking of the wrist over elbow over shoulder to help with orthopedic issues.

The next exercise is some form of a lateral raise; this can be cheat lateral or a strict lateral performed normally or with an intensity technique such as 1.5 reps. However, my choice is the cable lateral raise because it allows you to hit the middle and rear delts in the same movement. Not only are you raising the weight to hit the middle delts, you are getting the elbow behind your body top get a contraction on the rear delt.

This exercise is also interesting because it allows you to put the middle and rear delts on stretch, which is normally ignored on traditional lateral raise exercises. In order to build bigger shoulders, you need an exercise selection that not only gets a good contraction, but a good stretch as well.

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If you don't have access to a cable machine to perform this cable side lateral raise for your shoulders you can always grab a pair of dumbbells. One of the most powerful dumbbell shoulder exercises you can do is something called the cheat lateral raise. This is used with heavier weights than you would normally use on a strict lateral raise.

You lean forward at the torso a bit which will not only help you generate some of the momentum used to bring the weight up and position it for the slow eccentric lowering, but it will put the rear delts into position to drive the arm back behind the body into extension as you raise into abduction. It's a powerful variation of the lateral raise that will hit both the rear and middle delts without needing to have access to a cable machine.

Now, if you want to take your shoulder training to the next level that hits every head of the shoulders from different angle, there are many exercises to choose from. I don’t think we should ever be limited to just two exercises for a muscle group, the delts included. But you should at least start with these two exercises to build the foundation of your shoulder growth.

If you are looking for a complete step-by-step training program that will take your workout to the next level, be sure to head over to and find the workout program that matches your goals.

For more videos on hot to get big shoulders and the best exercises to do just that, make sure that you subscribe to this channel here on YouTube and remember to turn on your notifications so that you never miss a video when it’s published.


43 thoughts on “The ONLY 2 Shoulder Exercises You Need (NO, SERIOUSLY!)”
  1. Don’t have words to say how impressed I am with your work ethic! Your tips have been a total game-changer for me and have helped take my workouts to the next level. I’ve always dreamed of helping people just like you do, bro, and now I’m doing my best to make my dream come true.Never thought that filming workout videos can be so hard.
    Thanks for being such a huge motivation for me, and sending best wishes from Ukraine!

  2. Thank you for this video. You are the most comprehensive fitness guide online, and I watch all your advice religiously.

  3. Great video! I have arthritis in my left shoulder, and these workouts are becoming quite painful, but there’s no way I’m going to stop, so I’m looking for alternative approaches I am definitely going to try these

    1. ​@The Post Tension is tension, your joint ain’t gonna know which equipment you use

    2. @Nom Nom Because resistance bands are not using gravity and only your strength and body weight, and they have a variable resistance and not constant, bands are far more gentle on your joints. You may not be able to build as much muscle with them, but any sort of strength is a good thing with arthritis. Many physical therapists would suggest switching between the two. This way you can build strength, but also have more active rest days for the joints.

    3. @AlisaishereThe strength curve is different but tension is tension, you talk like your body somehow knows and prefers resistance from elasticity over gravity.

      Your last sentence is so silly, you can’t have “active rest days” if you use free weight then?

  4. I have 66 year old shoulders, so I really like that adjustment of doing the overhead press with only one dumbbell, I also take a bit of a side step to support that slight body lean.

    1. I’m 73 and still lifting heavy (for me). Although I do some BB overhead presses, I also use DBs and KBs. But I really love the single arm DB press. My form is similar to Jeff’s, especially with the heavier DBs. Pavel T in his Kettlebell material explains it the same way, stacking or lining up the joints. I also feel it in my lats, I guess due to the support given. Great move. Especially with a clean for each press or every other press.

    2. I’m 34 and this is the only type of shoulder press I’ve done. One shoulder at a time.

  5. Jeff, I have been workout out for 25 years now. But the most amount of knowledge came, when I started watching your videos like 5 years ago. Just wanted to say thank you

  6. Understood. You need only 3 exercises for shoulder.
    2. Lateral raises
    3. Rear delt fly

    1. Rear delt fly are external rotation movement ,this movement are typically ignored and has 2 muscles (teres minor, and infraspinatus ) that do that movement

    2. Rear delt flies do not get the full contraction in your rear delt: do rear delt rows along with the first and second shoulder exercises

  7. I like eye pulls from low to high, moving up a notch each set. That can end up with anywhere from7-22 sets, depending upon equipment, but I’d still place those 3rd or 4th behind what Jeff recommends.

  8. Ive always struggled with shoulders exercises for some reason. It always feels like my body is using joints/bone to lift the weight and could never trigger my actual shoulder muscle to lift the load, no matter what angles I used, hopefully the barbell workout will be easier to use since I do like to use barbel/bench workouts more than others like dumbells, cables. Thanks for your uploads, you’re my main source of exercises!

    1. What I did for that is a single arm sitting dumbbell ohp. I’d spot with the other hand so my muscle could focus on moving the weight rather than having to stabilize. Cuz if my arm had to focus on stabilization it’d just put the tension of the weight everywhere but my shoulder. Obviously don’t push with the spotting hand, but simply having it on the dumbbell enabled me to focus on mind muscle connection.

    2. @Godwarrior Hey bud, thanks for the advice, I really appreciate that. Do you do it sitting or standing?

  9. Really I think the better option is, how long can I maintain beyond failure? I found that if you burn out your shoulders with lighter weight, you see better results. Go to failure with perfect form and after your last perfect rep, do as many partials as your body can possibly handle. I train shoulders similarly to calves in that the only way for them to grow is to put them through abuse (in a safe way)

    1. @Nom Nom Not really because you’re still using a weight that’s heavy enough to at least get 10 reps with. The rest of the reps are partials. It’s more of a TUT set

    2. @Nom Nom I mean yeah? I said at least 10 reps because any lower, you would be using really heavy weight which doesn’t feel too good on the shoulders. Personally, I can only get 10 perfect reps with only 10 lb dumbells and like I said, after failure burn as many partial reps as you can to increase time under tension

    3. @Liberationpocket What kind of exercise are we talking about?
      And you know that’s just dropset right? Instead of reducing resistance, you reduce ROM, Which is one way to train metabolically

    4. @Nom Nom John Meadows used to do these sets on any laterals but I hesitate to call them a dropset because he doesn’t change the weight. (Although sometimes he would). He would just keep the weight moving until he’s literally only moving them within a 5 inch ROM.

  10. Overhead press and side laterals is all I’ve been hitting and been having some insane progress. I started overhead pressing 95 lbs for like 4 and I hit 155 for 3 and that was over the span of 12 weeks

  11. I find placing my hand over my shoulder during the exercise helps my form, it’s like I can feel it before it starts to get out of the groove and fix it before it becomes a problem

  12. Used these two exercises, they are exceptional! I really felt the pump on my shoulders (which I previously struggled with).

  13. I like videos like this because some days I have an hour to exercise and some days I only have half an hour so I have to leave out some exercises so figuring out what’s most beneficial makes it easier to choose what to do with the available time

  14. This was a timely video for me! I started just alloting 2 workouts for shoulders last week and I was thinking of how to efficiently do it without sacrificing one of the rear/middle delts for this week. This was a really helpful video. Thanks Jeff!

  15. Love doing shoulders/traps after leg day. The body is coursing with elevated levels of testosterone and hgh, and the shoulder/trap combo gets all of the benefits. Makes for a nice boost!

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