The Ultimate Superset Shoulder Workout

Woman in gym holding barbell above her head
(Image credit: Johnny Greig / Getty Images)

You may have noticed that elite swimmers have shoulders that are broader than Broadway, but most of us aren’t able to devote our lives to the pool and do 2,500 lengths a week. Try this shoulder workout instead, which requires just 45 minutes, some standard gym kit and a bit of determination. Just be sure to keep the intensity high and the form correct, and you can get the physique of an aquatic powerhouse—and the only water you’ll have to deal with is the shower afterwards.

How To Do This Workout

This is a six-move session with two straight-set moves followed by two supersets. Do move 1, sticking to the sets, reps and rest shown, then do move 2. Then do moves 3A and 3B as a superset, and the same again for moves 4A and 4B, to work your shoulders hard.

How To Warm Up For This Workout

This workout starts with the push press, a challenging compound exercise that you don’t want to do cold, so a full warm-up is essential. That goes for every workout really, but it’s espeically the case when tackling shoulder exercises, because the shoulder is a joint you really don’t want to injure. Shoulder injuries can take many months to heal, making everyday movement uncomfortable until you’ve recovered and disrupting your sleep if you roll on your side. That’s on top of limiting your ability to exercise.

To reduce the risk of that happening to you, try this eight-move shoulder warm-up. It works the shoulder from all angles and engages all the muscles in that part of the body. It takes a while to complete, but some reward is immediately reaped when you thrust the bar above your head for a flawless first set of the push press, and you’ll also feel the benefits in the long term through reduced injury risk.


Push press

Man demonstrating two positions of the push press barbell exercise

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Sets 4 Reps 10 Rest 30sec

Why Using your legs in this overhead press variation lets you lift heavier.

How Stand tall holding a bar across the front of your shoulders. Lower into a quarter squat, then stand up powerfully to press the bar directly overhead. Slowly lower it back to the start.

High pull

Man in gym demonstrates two positions of the high pull using a barbell

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Sets 4 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Why It’s a great move for hitting your traps and making your upper back bigger.

How Lean forwards from the hips holding a barbell with an overhand grip. Keeping your chest up, brace your core then pull the bar up – extending your ankle, knee and hip joints – to your upper chest. Lower it back to the start under control.

Superset 1

Superset 1

These two moves will work wonders for all three parts of your shoulder muscles: the first move works the anterior (or front) delts, while the second works your lateral (side) and posterior (rear delts). You’ll need to reduce the weight of the dumbbells for this second move, because those two muscles must do most of the work themselves, unlike in the first move where the triceps help out.

3A Seated dumbbell overhead press

Man performs seated dumbbell shoulder press in gym

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 30sec

Why It works your shoulders through a good range of motion.

How Sit on an upright bench holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Plant your feet on the floor and keep your chest up. Press the weights directly overhead until your arms are straight, then lower back down.

3B Prone reverse dumbbell flye

Man performs reverse flye with dumbbells lying chest down on an incline bench

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 60sec

Why It hits your side and rear delts.

How Lie chest-down on an incline bench, holding a light dumbbell in each hand. Keeping you chest on the bench and a slight bend in your elbows, raise the weights to shoulder height, then lower them back to the start.

Superset 2

The final superset of this workout focuses first on your side delts, and then on your rear delts to help you build size, strength and stability across your entire shoulder region. Start with a light weight and prioritise perfect form for every rep to make your muscle fibres work as hard as possible.

4A Standing dumbbell lateral raise

Man in gym demonstrates two positions of the lateral raise using dumbbells

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Sets 4 Reps 15 Rest 30sec

Why This works your side delts to create wider shoulders.

How Stand tall, holding a light dumbbell in each hand. With a slight bend in your elbows, raise the weights out to the sides to shoulder height. Pause briefly, then lower the weights under full control.

4B Cable face pull

Man demonstrating two positions of the cable face pull

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Sets 4 Reps 15 Rest 60sec

Why It’s a rarely seen yet highly effective rear delts builder.

How Stand tall in front of a cable rack holding a double chain or rope attachment in both hands. Keeping your chest up, use your rear delts to pull your hands back and over your head. Pause briefly, then slowly return to the start under full control.

Joe Warner
Former editor of Men’s Fitness UK

Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.