7 Shoulder Workouts – Best Exercises for Beginners at the Gym

Shoulder Workouts

Shoulders are what build the foundations for every we do. Here are 7 shoulder workouts for beginners to do at the gym:

No extra introductions, no b.s., let’s just dive into it!

Lateral Raises

lateral raises shoulder workout

Grab a pair of dumbbells, not too heavy, but just enough so that you feel a burn after 12-15 reps.

Stand shoulder width apart and squeeze your glutes. Holding one dumbbell in each hand by your side, begin to raise both arms so your body makes a “T” shape.

Bringing both arms back down to your side with control (don’t slam them down or sway your body).

Note, your arms shouldn’t be perfectly by your side when you lift them. They should be very very slightly in front of you because this is naturally how our arms are built to move.

(5 Sets) (12 Reps) (30 Sec Rest)

Front Raises

front raises shoulder exercise

This is one of the best shoulder workouts for targeting your front deltoids. Grab a dumbbell with similar weight as the lateral raises.

Instead of holding the dumbbells by your side, hold them in front of you. Now swing your arms one by one so the dumbbell is at eye level.

Again, stand shoulder width apart and squeeze your glutes. This will help you control the weights better and avoid injury.

(5 Sets) (12 Reps Each Hand) (30 Sec Rest)

Related Post: 6 Back Workouts to do at the Gym

Cable Raises

cable raises

Similar to the lateral and front raises, you will be performing the same motion, but with cables. This adds more tension, but also more control to the shoulder training.

Find a cable machine, add the single handle attachment to one side of the machine and bring it all the way down to the floor.

From there, choose a weight similar to the dumbbells you used earlier (or lighter). Lift the cable and stand facing away from the machine. Bring the cable up from behind you and squeeze your shoulders at the top of the rep.

You can do a mix of lateral and front shoulder workouts or just one if you’d prefer. Really focus on that tension at the top of your lift to get the most out of your workout.

(3-5 Sets) (12 Reps) (30 Sec Rest)

Reverse Machine Flys

reverse machine fly

If you have a chest fly machine at your gym, it most likely has a feature that turns it backwards for shoulder exercise. This is especially good for training your rear deltoids, which some people do on back day (optional of course).

Adjust the seat so that your shoulders align straight with the machine’s handles. Set a decent weight since you won’t be lifting directly above your head. With a straight posture, bring the machine back slightly further than by your side (bringing your arms behind your back).

When you come back, make sure you’re not just letting the weight go. Focus on controlling the weight because the way back is usually better than the actual lift itself. This is called eccentric contraction if you are interested in learning more about it!

Related Post: 6 Chest Workouts to do at the Gym

Overhead Presses

Contrary to popular belief, lifting weights doesn’t stunt your growth. However, lifting heavy weights above your head can lead to the long term compression of your spine. So keep that in mind when choosing a weight that’s right for you.

Overhead presses are a good shoulder exercise for anyone trying to grow their deltoids. There are a few variations of these presses that will be discussed below. I’m including all of them because I have found that each one feels like a completely different workout.

With that being said, here are 3 overhead presses to do at the gym:

Overhead Dumbbell Press

overhead dumbbell press shoulders

Grab a pair of dumbbells, not too heavy, but enough to feel the burn. This can be done standing up or sitting down. I’ll leave that choice up to you, but either way, the motion is done in the same manner.


Lift your dumbbells in the air so that your elbows are forming a 90 degree angle. From there, lift your arms all the way up so that there’s essentially no bend. Bring them back down to a 90 degree angle and that’s it!

Keep in mind, your posture should be straight up at all times. It can be hard to remember that and we tend to relax our back after a little while. Remind yourself to stay straight during this shoulder exercise to avoid this.

(5 Sets) (12 Reps) (1 Min Rest)

Overhead Machine Press

overhead machine press shoulder workout

If your gym doesn’t have this machine , then skip this section, but most gyms do.

Adjust the seat so that the bars are at the height of your ears. The weight should be heavy enough to feel failure at 12 reps.

From this point on, just lift and control your way back down. Again, your back should be very upright and straight. If you don’t do that, you could be at risk of injury and no one wants that.

If you’re struggling to get the weight up, try pressing into the floor with your feet (it helps the press feel a bit lighter) or just reduce the weight.

(5 Sets) (12 Reps) (45 Sec Rest)

Related Post: 7 Bicep Workouts to do at the Gym

Smith Machine Press

overhead smith machine press shoulders

This is one of my favorite shoulder workouts for overall muscle growth. You will need access to a smith machine and a chair that has a straight posture.

Place the chair under the bar of the smith machine. It may take a few attempts to get the seat in the right spot (when you sit your shoulders should be right under the bar). If the lift feels weird, you’re most likely sitting too far from the bar or your shoulders aren’t aligned with the straightness of the bar.

Once you have the proper positioning, add weights that you can control. Lift up the bar as high as you can and bring it down to a 90 degree arm angle. The good thing about the smith machine is that your motion will always be consistent since it follows the path of the bar.

(3-5 Sets) (15 Reps) (45 Sec Rest)


There you have it! 7 Shoulder Workouts for you to start doing at the gym. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully to avoid injury! It’s not worth lifting super heavy just because it might make you stronger. Take your time, focus on the form, and you’ll be healthier in the long run.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions leave them down below. Thanks for reading!

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