Want to Get an Actually Effective At-Home Shoulder Workout In? These 13 Exercises Will Do the Trick

Upper body workouts can often go heavy on the biceps and triceps, but you don't want to shrug off shoulder exercises. Trainers say that a good deltoid muscle workout does more than help you (literally) shoulder a load.

"When you focus on the deltoids, it allows you to focus on stabilizing the shoulder joint, improving your posture and preventing injury," says Heather Perren, an LA-based fitness and Lagree master trainer.

While these muscles do a ton for your body, the good news is that you don't need much to get a stellar delts workout in. Several exercises for deltoids are bodyweight only. Others call for equipment that's easy to stash even in the smallest of home gyms—even if that home gym is a corner of your bedroom. And none of the below 13 exercises for deltoids require a gym membership. Add one or all of these moves to your routine for a deltoid muscle workout that'll have your shoulders screaming now and loving you later.

Related: This Simple Trick Could Improve Your Shoulder Mobility in 2 Minutes or Less

What Are the Deltoid Muscles?

"The deltoids are a three-part muscle group located at the top of the shoulder, giving the shoulder its rounded cap look," says Dr. Kyle Krupa, DPT, CSCS, the founder of KRU PT + Performance Lab.

Mike Julom, ACE CPT, of This Is Why I'm Fit, says the three parts can be broken down into the:

  • Anterior (front) deltoid. It helps you lift the arm forward (shoulder flexion) and rotate it inward (internal rotation).

  • Lateral (side) deltoid. Located on the outer side of the shoulder, the lateral deltoids are responsible for shoulder abduction. That's a fancy name for the ability to lift the arm out to the side.

  • Posterior (rear) deltoid. Thank your rear delts next time you move your arm backward (shoulder extension). It also helps with rotating the arm outward (external rotation).

"They work together to provide a wide range of motion and strength in the shoulder joint," Julom says.

Related: Abs of Steel! Here Are 8 of the Best Core-Defining Workouts You Can Do at Home

The 13 Best At-Home Exercises For Deltoids

1. Lateral raises

A quality delts workout will target all three parts of the muscle group. However, you don't have to do all of them at once. As the name implies, lateral raises target the lateral delt, according to Perren.

How to do it:

  • Start with feet shoulder-width apart and hands at the sides. In each hand, hold a dumbbell or water bottle.

  • Lift your arms to the sides until they align with the shoulders.

  • Slowly lower them down, stopping before they fully return to start (resting position).

  • Repeat.

2. Dumbbell front raises

Next, work the anterior deltoid muscles with an exercise recommended by Gina Newton, CPT, a certified personal trainer and holistic body coach. She notes that dumbbell front raises can be modified based on your skill level or how you feel on a given day.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width distance width apart and knees slightly bent.

  • Raise both arms to shoulder level.

  • Return to start.

  • Repeat (Newton recommends doing two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps).

Beginner modification: "Raise one arm at a time to shoulder level," Newton says. "Return to start. Lift the opposite arm to shoulder level and return to start."

3. Shoulder hurdle

Dr. Krupa is a fan of shoulder hurdles because they target posterior delts and require a person to maintain posture without compensating through the lower back.

How to do it:

  • Set up three cones (or low hurdles) on each side of you. The goal is to have your arm clear each as you move.

  • Lie face down with your forehead pressed against a towel.

  • Lift the weights up and over each hurdle.

  • Repeat up and down the hurdles without resting in between each one.

4. Overhead press

This classic deltoid muscle workout builds functional shoulder strength, which Julom says will pay dividends when you don't need to think twice about reaching for something overhead.

How to do it:

  • Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulder height with your palms facing forward.

  • Engage the core.

  • Press the weights overhead.

  • Stop when your arms reach full extension.

  • Gradually lower the weight back to shoulder height.

  • Repeat.

5. Planks

The humble—OK, sometimes dreaded—plank is one of the top exercises for deltoids, not only for its effectiveness but also for its convenience. Since it's bodyweight only, the pushup travels well and can be done anywhere, anytime.

"Holding a plank can be boring but also effective," says Carrie Rose, CPT, the founder of SunUp Coaching. "Planks help strengthen your shoulders, core, and quads—when holding a proper high plank, and you don't need any equipment."

OK, but how do you hold a proper plank?

How to do it:

  • Start by lying on your stomach with your forearms on the mat and feet together.

  • Engage the core by drawing the naval in toward the spine and glutes by squeezing the butt.

  • Lift the body off the floor. Stop when it forms a straight line from head to toe.

  • Hold for the desired time.

Progression: "Want to spice it up? Hold plank, then occasionally do a full or half pushup, then go right back to plank," Rose says. "This dynamic plank exercise is great for muscle growth."

6. Arnold press

The Arnold press is a 3-for-1 special with a bonus.

"It engages all three parts of the deltoids and increases shoulder mobility," says Dr. Michael Masi, CPT, a personal trainer and physical therapist at Garage Gym Reviews.

How to do it:

  • Start with dumbbells at shoulder height and palms facing you.

  • Press the weights overhead while rotating your palms outward.

  • Reverse the motion.

  • Repeat.

7. Reverse fly

You were born to fly. It may not feel like it in the thick of a reverse fly set but expect delayed gratification (and a more natural posture). "This exercise is excellent for targeting the posterior deltoids and improving upper back posture," says Ronny Garcia, NASM-CPTthe area personal training manager at Blink Fitness.

How to do it:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend at your waist. Keep a slight bend in your knees.

  • Lift the weights to your sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together.

  • Lower the weights back down.

  • Repeat.

8. Side-lying external rotation

You can use dumbbells or wrist weights to give your delts a (doable) challenge during a side-lying external rotation. "It’s a wonderful exercise to engage the posterior deltoids and back muscles without having to put any strain on the lower back," says Jonathan Tylicki, NASM-CPT, the director of training & experience for AKT.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your side on a mat or bench with a dumbbell in the hand of your top arm.

  • Prop yourself onto the forearm of the bottom arm (like a side plank, except your hips and legs are on the floor).

  • Bring your top arm to the side of your body with your elbow bent at a right angle and palm facing front.

  • With the elbow glued to the side, slowly lower the weight to the front.

  • Squeeze into the back to open the arm to return to the start.

  • 'Repeat.

  • Switch sides.

Tylicki says you can also anchor a resistance band under the torso instead of using a dumbbell or wrist

9. Prone swimmers

Despite the name, this deltoid muscle workout is done on land. Dr. Krupa says you'll feel it most in the posterior delts. "It trains the rotator cuff to stabilize the shoulder," Dr. Krupa says.

How to do it:

  • Lie face down with your forehead pressed against a towel.

  • Lift your weights into a diamond position overhead with your palms down.

  • Bring your arms back like you are tucking in a shirt, and have your palms facing the ceiling.

  • Repeat.

10. Single-arm dumbbell press

This accessible exercise for the deltoids does more than tone the shoulders.

"This exercise helps identify and correct strength imbalances between shoulders, improving overall functional strength," Julom says.

How to do it:

  • Stand or sit with one dumbbell at shoulder height and your palm facing forward.

  • Press the weight overhead until your arm is fully extended.

  • Lower the weight back to shoulder height.

  • Repeat.

11. Shoulder T's with resistance band

Dr. Krupa says shoulder T-stretches build strength in hard-to-target posterior delts and mid-trapezius muscles, which stabilize the shoulder when you put your upper body in overhead positions each day.

How to do it:

  • Hold a resistance band about shoulder-width apart in front of you.

  • Pull the bands apart at shoulder height.

  • Repeat, pinching the shoulder blades together in the back during every rep.

12. Shoulder W's with band

This exercise can also be done with body weight or a dumbbell. Like the shoulder T's, Dr. Krupa says W's target stabilizing shoulder muscles.

How to do it:

  • Stand with the resistance band in front of you. Hold your hands about shoulder-width apart.

  • Bend at the elbow and position your palm to face your face.

  • Pull the bands back as if you are trying to show off your biceps.

  • Repeat, pinching the shoulder blades like you're squeezing a walnut on your upper back together with every rep.

13. Shoulder Y's with band

Dr. Krupa says that shoulder Y's "Target posterior delts and lower traps to maintain posture of the thoracic spine." You'll use this strength when reaching overhead.

How to do it:

  • Stand with the resistance band in front of you

  • Hold the elbow in a straight with your palm facing toward the face.

  • Pull the bands back while keeping your ribcage down, and reach for the ceiling.

  • Repeat.

Up next, keep moving with these 16 best, trainer-recommended lower back exercises.