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5 great shoulder exercises for better muscle gains

Tired of doing the same old shoulder workouts? Here are five powerful alternatives to take your training to the next level

Check out the best shoulder workouts.(Istockphoto)

By Shrenik Avlani

LAST PUBLISHED 08.01.2024  |  08:00 AM IST

Changing up a routine is great, especially when it comes to workouts. Do the same exercises for weeks on end, and they can become boring and tedious. Adding some new movements from time to time not only challenges you, but it also helps in building muscle, and registering more gains. So, let’s talk about some interesting shoulder exercises today.

The staple exercises for shoulders are military press with either dumbbells or barbells, followed by push-press, front raises, side lateral raises, upright rows, and shrugs. But despite these being effective moves, there are many more exercises out there for your shoulders, that will take your training to the next level. Here are five great out-of-the-box exercises that will leave you with stronger shoulders.


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Viking Press: It is a compound movement that requires one very specific equipment: a barbell with a Viking Press handle attachment. One end of the barbell is hinged against a corner of the floor and wall, while the weights go onto the other end which is free. The Viking Press handle slips onto this end of the barbell. Whether using an internal or a neutral grip, the complete range of motion involves moving the load from the collar-bone all the way up overhead, till your elbows lock out. This exercise primarily engages your shoulders and triceps.

The secondary muscles engaged in this exercise are your core and back. Legs come into play the minute the load gets too heavy, or when your shoulders start getting fatigued. Getting a fully loaded barbell off the floor and putting it back down for the Viking Press can be tricky, so try the exercise with lighter weights before adding more load.

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Z Press: If you want strong shoulders, you need to take your legs out of the exercise, so that your shoulders end up doing all the work. The Z Press makes sure this is the case. The movement was created by a Lithuanian Strongman athlete and is named after him. For this, you need to sit on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you forming a V.

Spread your legs to a point where you are well balanced while sitting with a straight, upright spine. Now, grab a set of dumbbells, and, while keeping your spine straight and chest up, perform the overhead press. Start with a light weight before progressing to heavier dumbbells.

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If you want to make this more challenging, use a barbell instead of dumbbells. The Z Press is especially challenging because it makes your core work harder to ensure you maintain an upright posture without any support. If you do add this exercise to your training, you will walk away with stronger deltoids and core.

Sots Press: This exercise is named after a champion Russian weightlifter from the 1980s. This is a great movement that not only works your shoulders, but also improves your balance and stability, while strengthening your core and upper back. This, in turn, improves your overall mobility.


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It also is the perfect movement for anyone who is looking to improve their snatch, the ultimate Olympic lifting exercise. The exercise is challenging because you perform it with a barbell, while sitting in the lowest position of a squat. From here you perform a behind-the-neck press using a snatch grip (wider grip), and then bring the bar down to the back of your neck in a controlled manner. This one is a difficult exercise, so start at about 40% of your best snatch or overhead press load.

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Half Kneeling Landmine Press: The name sounds exciting enough to give this movement a try. Get down on one knee, hinge a barbell in a corner of a room, load it and lift it overhead with one arm from your shoulder all the way till your elbow locks. It is a great alternative to the traditional overhead press, and is safer too, as it puts less train on your shoulders. The main muscles worked in this movement are the shoulders and the triceps, while the secondary muscles that are engaged are glutes and core.

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Alternating Arnold Press: One of the best shoulder exercises ever. While most trainers would suggest performing the Arnold Press with one arm at a time or both sides together, performing it with alternating arms makes it a lot more challenging. The benefit of this approach is that it engages your core and puts your shoulder under static load.

The Arnold Press is effective because it requires a larger range of motion (thanks to the rotating motion it requires), leading to greater gains, and engaging all parts of your shoulder. This exercise can be performed standing or sitting down, so take your pick.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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