Our Top 5 Compound Shoulder Exercises for Bigger Shoulders

Our Top 5 Compound Shoulder Exercises for Strength, Size, and Power

In this blog, we'll focus on compound exercises that target the shoulders, one of the most critical areas for overall upper body strength and performance. Here are the top five compound shoulder exercises.

What are compound exercises?

Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups simultaneously. An example of a compound exercise is the bench press. The bench press works your chest, shoulders, and triceps all at the same time.

The beauty of compound exercises lies in their efficiency. They allow you to engage more muscles, burn more calories, and build more strength than isolation exercises.

Our Top 5 Compound Shoulder Exercises

1. Barbell Overhead Press

This exercise targets the entire deltoid muscle group, along with your triceps and upper chest. It also looks the most impressive depending on how many plates you can hoist overhead.


  • Stand upright and hold a barbell at shoulder height with palms facing forward.
  • Press the barbell upwards until your arms are fully extended overhead.
  • Lower the barbell slowly back to shoulder height.

2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

This exercise is similar to the barbell overhead press, but allows a greater range of motion and tends to be better for biggers. 


  • Sit or stand holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height.
  • Press the dumbbells upward until your arms are fully extended.
  • Lower the dumbbells slowly back to shoulder height.

3. Push Press

The push press is an explosive movement that incorporates lower body movement and power, making it a full-body exercise that heavily involves the shoulders. This variation is more for advanced lifters and is typically performed for those looking to improve their power for sports like football. 


  • Stand holding a barbell at shoulder height.
  • Slightly bend your knees and use your legs to help push the barbell overhead.
  • Lower the barbell slowly back to shoulder height.

4. Arnold Press

Named after the legend Arnold Schwarzenegger, this exercise provides a full range of motion for the shoulder muscles. 

If you belong to a globo-gym, this is likely the most common variation performed by most people. Like the standard dumbbell press, it is easy to perform and scale for any lifter. 


  • Sit holding a dumbbell in each hand at chest height with palms facing towards you.
  • As you press the dumbbells overhead, rotate your hands so your palms face forward at the top of the movement.
  • Reverse the motion as you lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

5. Kettlebell Clean and Press

This is another explosive exercise, most often performed by power athletes and olympic lifters. This great compound exercise emphasizes the shoulders in the pressing phase.

This exercise can have a higher risk of injury, so if you are older or just a general fitness enthusiast, the hammer curl to overhead press or dumbbell thrusters can be a better alternative. 

That said, this is on our top 5 list because it really is pound for pound one of the most effective shoulder exercises.  


  • Stand holding a kettlebell in one hand.
  • Clean the kettlebell to your shoulder, then press it overhead.
  • Lower the kettlebell slowly back to the ground, repeating the movement.

Pro Tips: Always warm up before starting any workout to prevent injury. Start with lighter weights to perfect your form and technique, especially before moving onto heavier loads or complex movements. Remember, consistency is key in seeing progress, so make these exercises part of your regular fitness routine.

Remember, everyone's body responds differently to exercise, so what works for one person may not work for another. Refer to our body type blogs to learn about the various body types and how programs should be modified to address individual needs. 

Always consult your physician prior to starting any new workout routine. 

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