Best Deltoid Exercises for Women

Make your shoulders grow bigger and stronger with these safe and effective deltoid exercises, so you can achieve a sculpted upper body in no time!

Best Deltoid Exercises for Women
Photo by Scott Webb / Unsplash
María Rubio María Rubio
7 min read

Your shoulders are a crucial body part when it comes to having an effective fitness routine because they’re the ones that connect your arms to the rest of your body, assisting in the majority of upper body exercises. Because of this, having strong shoulders should be on your to-do list if you want to get a well-toned body!

More specifically, having strong deltoid muscles is what’s going to help you achieve your fitness goals since they’re the main muscles in your shoulders. They’re composed of three main heads: the anterior, lateral, and posterior heads, also known as the front, side, and rear delts in the fitness world – and all of them are equally important to train!

In this article, we’ll show you how to effectively train all three heads of the deltoid muscles in your shoulders by breaking it down into the best front delts, side delts, and rear delts exercises, so you can add them to your strength training routine and get closer to your muscle-building goals!

Best front delts exercises

Your front delts are the primary muscles that allow you to rotate your shoulders forward so you can move your arms up, which is a key movement in many upper body exercises. Here are some of the best strengthening exercises for your front delts:

Barbell overhead press

Starting off this list, we have what’s probably the most popular shoulder exercise – the barbell overhead press. The reason why this movement is so popular is that it not only challenges your front delts, but also a bunch of other upper-body muscles, including your pecs, triceps, trapezius, and even your core.

How to do it:

  1. Place a loaded barbell on a rack and stand in front of it, then grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with an overhand grip.
  2. Unrack the bar and step out of the rack, holding it over your chest with your elbows pointing down and slightly forward, and your feet shoulder-feet apart firmly on the floor.
  3. Engage your core and begin the movement by pressing the weight up and overhead until your arms are completely extended and perpendicular to the floor.
  4. Keeping the bar under control, squeeze your muscles in this position, then slowly bring the bar back down and repeat.

Dumbbell front raises

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Dumbbell raises are an excellent shoulder exercise, and there are many variations that you can try depending on what you want to prioritize. Dumbbell front raises, in particular, work your front delts along with your pecs and core, making it an excellent shoulder-strengthening movement.

How to do it:

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells, one in each hand, and stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place both dumbbells in front of your thighs, with your arms extended downward and your knuckles pointing down.
  3. Engage your core and begin the movement by raising the dumbbells upward without flexing your elbows until they’re around shoulder level, making sure both weights go up at the same time. You can also try this movement one arm at a time.
  4. Squeeze your working muscles in this top position, then bring the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat.

Pike push-up

Push-ups are a popular compound exercise that works your upper body, but this pike variation shifts how your weight is distributed, primarily working your front deltoids as well as your triceps, traps, and pecs.

How to do it:

  1. Get in a standard push-up position with your hands and feet on the floor and your arms extended, then walk your hands and feet closer together to form a “pike” with your body with your glutes up in the air.
  2. Keeping a neutral spine position, engage your core, and begin the movement by performing a push-up, flexing your elbows, and lowering your upper body until your head almost touches the floor.
  3. Pause for a moment, squeeze your muscles in this position, then push your weight back up and repeat.

Best side delts exercises

As the name suggests, your side delts help move your arms laterally by abducting your shoulders, as well as help you carry heavy weights while keeping them in place. These are some of the most effective exercises for your side deltoids:

Upright rows

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When it comes to training your side delts, upright rows are among the most effective. They also hit your front delts along with your biceps and upper back, and you can either do them with dumbbells to improve unilateral strength or a barbell for a greater challenge.

How to do it:

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells, one in each hand, and stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place both dumbbells in front of your thighs, with your arms extended downward and your knuckles pointing down.
  3. Begin the movement by rowing the weights upward by flexing your elbows to the sides, keeping the weights in front of your body at all times until they’re at shoulder level. Make sure your hands end up in front of each shoulder instead of the middle of your chest.
  4. Squeeze your muscles in this position, then slowly bring the dumbbells down and repeat.

Dumbbell lateral raises

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The second dumbbell raise variation to make the list primarily targets your side delts by lifting the weights laterally, isolating them for a better and more effective workout. Your front delts and serratus anterior also play a secondary role in helping lift the dumbbells.

How to do it:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip and rest the weights on each side of your outer thighs.
  2. With your feet shoulder-width apart and a straight back, begin the movement by raising the weights to the sides until they’re at shoulder level and your arms are completely extended and parallel to the floor.
  3. Pause for a second, squeeze your shoulder muscles, then slowly bring the weights back down without letting them drop and repeat.

Seated Arnold press

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This is another exercise that excels at isolating your shoulder area, mainly targeting your side delts as well as your front delts, serratus anterior, and triceps. It features a twisting motion as you go up, helping hit your muscles from different angles.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on a bench, preferably with a backrest so you can keep a straight back while lifting, and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Hold the dumbbells in front of each shoulder with an underhand grip so that your palms are facing your body and your elbows are pointing down.
  3. Begin the movement by pressing the dumbbells up while you rotate them. At the top of the movement, your arms should be completely extended upward and your palms facing forward.
  4. Squeeze your muscles in this position, then revert the movement to the starting position and repeat.

Best rear delts exercises

Your rear delts are opposite to your front delts, meaning that they help rotate your shoulders backward, like when you try to sit on a high chair or perform a pulling movement. Here are our favorite rear delts exercises for stronger shoulders:

T-bar row

Also known as landmine row, this shoulder and back exercise is great to tone your upper body. It’s particularly effective on the upper back area where the rear delts are located, along with your traps and lats – plus, it lets you work with more weight!

How to do it:

  1. Load one end of a bar and secure the other end against a rack or a corner so that it doesn’t slip.
  2. Turn your back to the rack or corner and stand with the bar between your legs, then grab the loaded end with both hands in a neutral grip.
  3. Hinge at the hips and knees until your upper body is near parallel to the floor and begin the movement by pulling the bar toward your body until it almost touches you.
  4. Hold this position for a moment while squeezing the working muscles, then lower the bar to the starting position and repeat.

Face pulls

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While free weights are great for making your muscles grow, cable exercises can also be an incredible addition to your workouts because of the constant resistance that they offer. This movement in particular targets your rear delts along with your traps for a stronger upper back.

How to do it:

  1. Attach a rope handle to a high pulley on a cable machine and grab the other end with both hands while you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. You can also try this with a resistance band attached to a secure high place!
  2. Take a couple of steps back until your arms are extended holding the rope attachment around shoulder level.
  3. Begin the movement by pulling from the handle toward your face, driving your elbows to the sides and back until the handle almost touches your face.
  4. Pause for a moment in this position while you squeeze your shoulder blades together, then slowly release and repeat.

Seated rear dumbbell lateral raises

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The third and last dumbbell raise variation on this list is an isolation exercise for your rear delts, so you can grow bigger shoulders and a more sculpted back. It’s performed seated on a bench so you can focus solely on your shoulders.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the end of a bench with a dumbbell in each hand and your feet shoulder-width apart, leaning forward slightly so that your torso is around 45 degrees from the floor.
  2. With the weights on each side of the bench, begin the movement by raising them upward, flaring your arms until they’re parallel to the floor, and pointing straight to each side. Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the full range of motion for better muscle engagement.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder muscles in this position, then lower the weights and repeat.

Prioritize variety for better strength-training results

Hitting your muscles from different angles and with different movements will make your fitness journey more effective – and your shoulders aren’t an exception! By training your front, side, and rear delts both together and separately you’ll help them grow bigger and stronger in no time.

And if you need some help adding these exercises to your routine, the Fit With Iulia app can help you! Each week, Iulia creates goal-focused workouts with a variety of different exercises to help you get closer to your fitness goals. Try your first workout for free by downloading the Fit With Iulia app, choosing a goal, and trying the first workout of any goal – no subscription required!