It only takes five exercises to build bigger shoulders with some weight

Build upper body muscle and carve out definition in your shoulders using just five resistance moves

Man stretches his shoulder muscle
(Image credit: Getty)

Building in the time to your workout schedule for growing and toning your shoulder muscles can pay off both physically and aesthetically. Having upper body muscle can create a very athletic appearance and it can improve posture, all the while making everyday tasks easier.

Not all of the best workouts for arms engage your shoulders, so don't just rely on your usual bicep curls to improve the strength and muscle in your shoulders.

Instead, fitness trainer Lisa Lanceford (opens in new tab) demonstrates five resistance exercises specially designed to grow your shoulders and create a more defined upper body. The routine uses a mix of gym equipment including dumbbells and machines.

But fear not if you prefer to train at home or still want to use these moves when you are without your usual equipment, such as when on holiday. Lanceford has handily provided alternative versions of each move using one of the best resistance bands. More specifically, a tube style of band with two handles.

Watch Lisa Lanceford's Five-Move Shoulder Workout

A post shared by Lisa Lanceford (@lisafiitt) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

Neither versions of the exercises, weighted or banded, are too advanced for beginners to pick up. You will just want to ensure that you adopt the correct form by watching Lanceford's demonstrations. Poor form is inefficient for reaching your goals and it can lead to injury.

If these shoulder-based moves are new to you, then start light with whatever form of resistance you choose to train with. If you are completing the banded version of this routine, begin with a light resistance band.

If you are working with dumbbells and machines, start with a lighter load. Once you feel more confident and like your muscles can handle more, then you can adopt progressive overload into your regime. This is an effective way to achieve muscle hypertrophy.

Below we have listed all the exercises you will need to complete Lanceford's shoulder building workout:

  • Alternate shoulders press ⁣⁣⁣⁣4 sets x 12 reps ⁣⁣⁣⁣
  • Single arm incline lateral raise ⁣⁣⁣⁣4 sets x 12 reps
  • Alternating front raise with hold ⁣⁣⁣⁣4 sets x 15 reps⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣
  • Front raise variation ⁣⁣⁣⁣4 sets x 12 reps⁣⁣⁣⁣
  • Incline dumbbell front raise ⁣⁣⁣⁣4 sets x 12 reps⁣⁣⁣⁣

Lanceford's choice of exercises is even backed by science for enhancing your shoulder muscle gains. A study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics (opens in new tab) found that shoulder press and lateral raise exercises resulted in a greater level of muscle activation in the deltoids when compared to other exercises like the bench press and dumbbell fly.

Your upper body gains don't need to end here. Practicing the same old routine over and over again can become unmotivating and you might find you reach a plateau in progress. When this happens you can try this alternative shoulder dumbbell workout. Alternatively, if you fancy a day off the weights you can give these shoulder bodyweight exercises a go.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 


When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.