Today's shoulder workout is going to be a lot of fun. We're going to start with some heavy, compound lifts to build overall strength and mass, and then get our pump on with lighter isolation lifts. This approach lets us build massive boulders and then chisel them into pure sculpture.

There are only seven exercises in this workout, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. It's your responsibility to keep the intensity high. Nobody is going to build your dream physique for you.

During this workout, clear your mind of everything but the iron. Focus just on your lifts and building your best self. That's how you find success.

Boulder Shoulders Workout
Treadmill walking
1 set, 5-10 minutes on incline
+ 8 more exercises


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Ballenger's Bouldering Tips

Warm-up 1: Incline Treadmill Walk

  • 5-10 minutes

Warm-up 2: Internal and External Shoulder Rotation with Band

  • 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps per arm

Rotation With Band

Warm-up 3: Arm circles

  • 2 sets of 10 reps forward and backward

Arm Circles

It's really important to warm up before you begin this workout. Aside from spending some time on the treadmill, I like to warm up my rotator cuff by doing internal and external shoulder rotations and arm circles.

I do this because I want to avoid injuries. Your shoulders are involved in pretty much every exercise you do, so it's imperative to keep them healthy.

Exercise 1: Seated military press

  • Warm-up set: 2 sets of 6 reps
  • Working sets: 3 sets of 6 reps
  • Rest: 1-2 minutes between sets

Seated military press

When I don't have a spotter, I like to do seated military presses inside a power rack. Use the warm-up sets to set up the correct movement pattern and work up to your heavy weight. You've only got six reps per set, so that means you get to pile on the plates!

Exercise 2: Arnold press

  • Warm-up set: 1 sets of 6 reps
  • Working sets: 3 sets of 6 reps
  • Rest: 1-2 minutes between sets

Arnold press

I set the incline bench pretty high when I do this exercise. If you like to use less incline, that's totally fine. The Arnold press can help you add a lot of power and size to the front delt, which is perfect because that muscle seems to be a place where many people are lacking. Round shoulders are great because they show off the width of your body and make your arms look fully developed.

Exercise 3: Single-arm incline lateral raise

  • Working sets: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Rest: 30-45 seconds between sets

Single-arm incline lateral raise

The focus of lateral raises is the squeeze and control. Don't just throw the weight up; control the movement through the entire range of motion. Squeeze the shoulder on the way up. On the way down, keep tension on the delts by stopping before your arm rests against your body.

Because you can't use any momentum and you keep tension on the muscles for so long, you may have to use lighter weight. That's fine. Don't worry about how big the dumbbell is. Worry about keeping your shoulder contracted throughout the whole exercise.

Exercise 4: Cable lateral raise

  • Working sets: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Rest: 30-45 seconds between sets

Cable lateral raise

Again, focus on the squeeze. As you go through the sets, you'll notice that your range of motion might decrease. Sometimes, the delt gets so full of blood it might be hard to contract the muscle fully. Bang these reps out and keep moving.

Exercise 5: Alternating front incline raise

  • Working sets: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Rest: 30-45 seconds between sets

Alternating front incline raise

By alternating the working muscles, you can isolate each front delt. The best part about doing this on an incline is that it really stretches the target area. The more muscle fibers you can stretch and contract, the bigger your delts can become!

Exercise 6: Reverse machine fly

  • Working sets: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Rest: 30-45 seconds between sets

Reverse machine fly

A lot of people think they hit their rear delts enough on their back days, but I think it's important to do a little more work because the rear delts are a highly neglected area. Your shoulders look rounder and thicker when you have big rear delts.

For this exercise, keep your elbows fairly straight and parallel to the ground. Squeeze the heck out of your delts.

Exercise 7: Barbell shrug

  • Working sets: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Rest: 30-45 seconds between sets

Barbell Shrug

Pile up the weight and start shrugging! Shrugs are usually a strong movement for most people. I like to use straps because my grip fatigues by the end of the workout. Use a slight pause at the top for peak contraction.

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About the Author

Lawrence Ballenger's authors include many of the top coaches, nutritionists, and physique athletes in the world today.

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