12 Amazing Barbell Shoulder Exercises To Build Strong Delts

Published by Roshan S Pillai on

Barbell exercises for shoulder

Building photo created by teksomolika – www.freepik.com

When it comes to shoulders, it’s one of the muscles which helps you to add extra width to your upper body. Also, it makes your body look more attractive and bigger from all the angles.

There are many shoulder exercises you can do but here, you are about to see some great barbell exercises which will help you to add some new exercises into your shoulder workout. We will start with some basic foundational exercises and then show you some different ways of using a barbell to hit every part of your deltoid muscle i.e. the anterior, medial, and posterior heads. So let’s begin!

1. Barbell Military Press

If you have been in a gym for while, then you might have already seen many people doing this exercise. This is one of the best compound exercises to build the size and strength of the shoulder. So don’t forget to include this in your workout program.

This will engage your core more and will be a great exercise to begin with. Do this as a compound exercise first to charge up the delts and then isolate it with the other exercises like front or lateral raises for maximizing growth.

How to do

  1. Grab the bar and bring it up towards your shoulders. Your hands should be slightly wider than the shoulders. Your elbow should be under the wrist and this will be your starting position.
  2. Start pushing the bar up while contracting your shoulders and fully extend your elbows at the top.
  3. The bar should be in line with your ears when you reach the top. Don’t stop when the bar is in front of the head.
  4. Return back to the starting position and the repeat the movement.

Your core should be engaged throughout the exercise to keep the lower back in a stable position. If you had any shoulder injury or impingement then consult the physical therapist before performing this exercise.

To gain more scientific knowledge on barbell overhead press you can click here.

2. Behind The Neck Shoulder Press

This is another best way to strengthen your delts. Behind the necks helps to get that external rotation which is a great way to activate your posterior deltoids.

Snatch grip makes it more difficult so it’s not recommended for beginners or people with less shoulder mobility. You can do standard military press instead.

How to do

  1. Grab the bar such that both hands are wider than the shoulders width. Keep the bar on your traps just like squats and step back from the rack.
  2. Both feet should be at shoulder width apart. Keep your back straight and shoulders back before moving the weights up.
  3. Start pushing the bar up while contracting your shoulders and fully extend your elbows at the top.
  4. Return back to the starting position and the repeat the movement

Here, you should choose a weight that you can handle without any pain or discomfort. If you feel pain, then you should avoid it because most people lack shoulder mobility which, it becomes difficult to perform this movement.

3. Barbell Front Raises

This is a great way to isolate your front deltoid muscles. You can build a great mind and muscle with this exercise. Make sure that you are concentrating on your front shoulder muscles and not any other muscle.

How to do

  1. Hold the barbell with both hands at about shoulder-width apart and stand straight.
  2. Start raising the bar with a slight bend in the elbow and bring it towards the eye level.
  3. Pause at the top and feel your front delts getting pumped up.
  4. Then slowly bring the bar down and then repeat the movement.

You can also perform this exercise with your palm facing up (supinated grip) but it requires good wrist and shoulder mobility.

4. Incline Barbell Row

This is another awesome exercise to build the thickness of your rear delts. It will help you to increase the strength of your posterior deltoids which is important for the overall health of your shoulders. You can also do this with dumbbells but here, we are only talking about barbell exercises!

How to do

  1. Lay down on an incline bench with your chest on the bench. Hold a barbell with both hands placed wider than the shoulder width.
  2. By keeping your back straight and neck neutral, start lifting the barbell towards your chest.
  3. Reach the top and squeeze your rear delts. Make sure to breathe out as you lift the barbell.
  4. Return to the starting position while breathing in and repeat the movement with proper form and technique.

Here, you should focus on quality reps instead of quantity. This means that each rep you perform should be done by actively engaging and feeling your rear delts rather than just trying to finish the exercise with so many reps without feeling those muscles.

5. Barbell Upright Row

Upright rows are one of the old school exercises to train your rear delts. You can find so many bodybuilders doing this exercise in the gym and the reason behind this is that it hits your rear delts in a very effective way.

You can also build the strength of your posterior deltoids by performing this exercise regularly with the proper form and technique mentioned below.

How to do

  1. Lift the barbell from the floor with your back flat and then stand straight. Both of your hands should be slightly under the shoulders.
  2. Now start lifting the barbell while keeping it closer to the body and reach the top where the bar reaches the chest level.
  3. Pause at the top and then gradually return to the starting position.

This exercise is very effective to strengthen your rear delts, however, if you have any shoulder injury or weak rotator cuffs or if you are a beginner, then avoid this exercise because you can injure your shoulder joints. Instead of a barbell, you can choose dumbbells which are a much safer alternative.

6. Bradford Press

Many of you might not be familiar with this exercise but it’s a very good way to target your shoulders. This exercise will put your shoulders in constant tension and will give you that round look.

You don’t need to add heavy plates on the bar, instead focus on contracting the muscle and feel that nice burn in your deltoids.

How to do

  1. Grab the barbell with both hands placed slightly wider than the shoulders.
  2. Keep the barbell close to your shoulders and hold that position.
  3. Now start pressing the barbell up and take it towards the back of your head. You don’t need completely extend your elbows as you move the barbell.
  4. Slowly move the barbell up and then take it back towards the front part of your shoulder and then repeat the movement.

Always remember to keep your elbows pointing down rather than facing backward. This will keep the tension on your shoulders the entire time and will prevent you from getting injured.

7. Landmine Shoulder Press

Another great pressing movement for your front delts. It’s a functional movement that engages your core more into the movement. It also requires balance, stability, and coordination.

How to do

  1. Place one end of the bar at the corner of the wall and sit down at the half-kneeling position.
  2. Hold the bar and pull it up towards the shoulder height and this will be your starting position.
  3. With your back straight and abs tight, start pushing the bar up and extend your elbows at the top. Your hips should be engaged during the movement.
  4. Bring the bar down towards the starting position and repeat the movement.

8. Wide-Grip Upright Row

This is a great exercise to give the width to your shoulders. This will hit your lateral and rear delt which will give you that fuller look from the sides.

How to do

  1. Grab each end of the straight bar and stand straight with both feet at shoulder-width apart.
  2. Slightly lean forward and then start lifting the bar ping the bar closer to the body. The elbow will face up and your shoulders should be internally rotated.
  3. Stop when the bar is just below your chest. You don’t have to move above that.
  4. Bring the bar back to the starting position and repeat the movement.

Don’t add too many weights for this exercise. Your shoulders are internally rotated and in an unstable position during this movement. So choose a weight which you can handle with the proper form.

9. Landmine Side Raise

You can use a barbell in many ways. Here we do the exercise in a landmine set up. This exercise is great for athletes who use their shoulders a lot in their sports.

How to do

  1. Place one end of the bar at the corner edge of the wall and stand close to the bar with your legs facing the bar.
  2. Bend down and hold the end of the bar and then stand straight with your hands down at one side.
  3. Now start moving the barbell towards the side while keeping a slight bend in the elbow.
  4. Pause at the top and then bring the bar back to the starting position.

Here, your arm will move slightly back rather than going straight to the sides which makes it a lot different than the regular lateral raises.

It will also engage your core more and is an athletic movement. It will be a unique way to train your side delts.

10. Behind the Back Barbell Raises

As the video suggests, it’s one of the most effective ways to train your rear delts. You will love this exercise because it directly brings rear delts into action. So if you are not able to effectively activate those rear delts, then this exercise is for you.

How to do

  1. Place one barbell on the ground and stand in front of it. Now slowly bend down and pick the barbell up from the ground.
  2. Now start bending forward while moving your hips back and keeping your back straight. This will be your starting position.
  3. Start moving the barbell up and stop when your hands are parallel to the ground.
  4. pause at the top and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the movement without bending your back.


You can do the same exercise with an underhand grip. You just have to follow the same steps mentioned above. The only difference would be that your grip is underhand (supinated).

This is another great variation to target your rear delts. So try the underhand version too.

11. Incline Underhand Front Raises (Chest on the Bench)

Another great exercise to hit those front delts. With the use of an incline bench, you can put complete tension on those anterior deltoids as you cannot use any momentum to raise the barbell.

How to do

  1. Set an incline bench at about 45° angle and lay on a bench with your back facing up.
  2. Hold the barbell with both hands at about shoulder-width apart. You can take the help of someone to hand the bar over to you.
  3. With an underhand grip, start raising the barbell and stop until it reaches the shoulder level.
  4. Then slowly return to the starting position and repeat the movement

Remember to keep your neck neutral. You don’t have to unnecessarily look up when you are moving the weights.

12. Incline Barbell Front Raises (Back On The Bench)

This is another different way to perform front raises. Here, your back will be on the bench and you will be in a half seated position. This is a great functional exercise that will involve your core in the movement which makes it more athletic.

How to do

  1. Set an incline bench at a 45° angle and hold the barbell in your hands.
  2. Now stand at a semi-standing position with your back on the bench and hips in the air. This will be your starting position.
  3. Raise the barbell with a slight bend in the elbow and take it up above the head level.
  4. Return to the starting position and then repeat the movement.

Here, you will use various other muscles like glutes, hamstrings, and abs to stabilize your body. That’s why it is more functional than the regular front raise.

Note: Remember not to bend your lower back while performing this exercise as it may lead to injuries. Always engage your abs and squeeze your glutes during the movement so that your lower back is in a safer position.

Final Thoughts

So these were some of the best shoulder exercises you can do with a barbell. You can include any of these in your workout program and start getting results. However, it’s always better to hire a personal trainer or a coach who can help you with designing and sequencing each workout program according to your individual goals and fitness levels.

If you found this article helpful then please share it with your friends and relatives. If you want me to cover any other topics then please do let me know in the comment section below.

Roshan S Pillai

Roshan Pillai is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with more than 6 years of experience in lifting weights and guiding people to get fit. He is the owner and editor of fitnessproworkout.com, and has worked as a fitness coach in gyms and is passionate about fitness and helping people to get in shape.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hey there! Some links on this page are affiliate links which means that, if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I greatly appreciate your support!