Our Preferred Shoulder Exercises – Overhead Press is a 3!

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Last updated on February 8, 2023

Massive, fully developed deltoid muscles are among the most noticeable, and impressive, parts of the male physique. They create width and accentuate a guy’s V-taper. In their efforts to get them, however, most guys are doing exercises that are completely wrong. In fact that is worse than wrong, because they are wrecking the shoulder joint. It’s time to stop this madness!


I’m about to break down some of the most cherished supposed shoulder developers and tell you why you should stop doing them immediately. Then I’ll detail the three best shoulder exercises to maximally develop all three heads of the shoulder muscle. Should you be doing the Arnold press? Let’s find out !

Overhead Press: Rating – 3

The shoulder press can be done on a machine with dumbbells or a barbell and either standing, seated or push press. The information to follow relates to all of these versions of the exercise.


The ideal anatomical range of motion of the lateral head of the deltoid is from the side of the body straight out to a position just short of perpendicular to the body. Going higher than that would be over extending the muscle. Overhead presses, however, see you starting the exercise from above that position and then press to full extension overhead. This is not the anatomical movement of any three of the deltoid heads. It is not moving any of them from origin to insertion, which is the key determiner of a good exercise.


The shoulder joint was never designed to accommodate the movement that it is forced to go through when you shoulder press. When you move your arms directly overhead, you will end up with pinching, or impingement, of the supraspinatus tendon, in addition to the subacromial bursa. This movement requires a dangerous degree of shoulder joint rotation simply to assume the starting position.


Because many people are unable to assume the 90 degree rotation of the upper arm to get into the start position of the overhead press, they angle their forearm forward slightly. This places additional strain on the external rotator cuff, especially when you start using a heavy weight.


The bottom line on the overhead press is that it is not an effective shoulder builder but it is a very dangerous movement for the health of your shoulder joint. If you are in your 30 and 40s and have gotten away with doing it up until now without any serious shoulder injury, count yourself lucky – and stop doing it. If you’re 40 or over, don’t even go near this exercise!

Front Raises: Rating – 5

Many people do the front raise because they think that they are effectively working their front deltoids. They are wrong. This exercise is not early phase loaded, which is the ideal state for an exercise (early phase loading is when the hardest part of the exercise occurs at the start of the movement). Instead it is late phase loaded.


The front raise actually loads the lateral head of the delts more than the front head. But, because it does not move through the anatomical range of motion for the side lats, it is not an efficient exercise for that muscle group. With this exercise, there is also no opposite position loading. In other words, the target muscle is not positioned opposite to the resistance.


The ideal starting point for an exercise that works the front (anterior) delts is with the arm angled back about 30 degrees behind the body, not down at the sides of the body.

Side Lateral Cable Raise: Rating – 10

The side lateral cable raise is the best exercise for you lateral (side) delts. The side deltoid’s only job is to move the arm from the side of the body out to a position just short of perpendicular. Doing the side lateral raise on a cable machine provides early phase loading because you get the most resistance at the beginning phase of the exercise.


When you do the lateral raise with a cable, you still have resistance at the top of the movement. In fact, at the top of the exercise, you still get 40 percent of the original resistance. For the ideal range of motion, set the pulley at hip height.

Seated Anterior Deltoid Cable Press: Rating – 10

The seated anterior deltoid cable press is the best exercise that exists to target the anterior (front) deltoids. It involves placing a seat with a 90 degree upright a few feet in front on a double cable pulley machine, facing away from it. Set the pulley at shoulder height (when seated on the bench). Grab the handles and sit on the bench. Start with your hands by your sides with your elbows slightly behind your torso, palms up. Now push your arms forward to full extension in front of your body.


This movement perfectly simulates the anatomical movement of the front delts. It allows for early phase loading and opposite position loading, where the front delt is directly opposite to the direction of resistance. Finally the exercise is moving from the origin to the insertion of the front deltoids.

Cable Rear Delt Fly: Rating – 10


The cable rear delt fly is the best exercise to replicate the anatomical direction of movement of the posterior delts. To perform this movement, set the pulleys at shoulder height and remove the handles from the cable ends. Stand in front of the machine and grab the opposite arms to each cable so that your hands are crossed over at the wrists. From this position, move your elbows out to the side at a 30 degree angle to full extension. You will, in effect, be performing a cross over ‘X’ movement with your arms.

Wrap Up

The three ‘10’ shoulder training exercises described above allow you to ideally simulate and follow the anatomical direction of movement of each of the three heads of the deltoids. Do your shoulder workout routine with these three exercises with a range of reps, from a high of 30 to a low of 6, and you will be able to build complete delts, including shoulder size and stronger shoulders, without compromising the health of your shoulder joint.


We have given you the best shoulder exercises and workout for maximum gains. These are shoulder exercises for women and men for strengthening your shoulders, with the only difference being the amount of weight used in the exercises. You can do these exercises to build strong shoulders in the gym or as a home workout should you have the equipment at home.


We hope you enjoyed reading our SmartFitnessResults.com has many articles and videos, for the lower and upper body, to help you achieve your fitness objectives in a smarter way. This includes how to workouts (for example how to do dumbbell raises, reverse cable crossovers, the dumbbell lateral raise, how to use resistance bands, the upright row); recommended workouts (for example best chest exercises, best leg workout, best arms workout); and expert nutrition tips. We provide expert tips for womens and mens fitness. Enjoy !

Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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