Big broad shoulders are the unanimous physical symbol for power and strength. Not only do they give you the appearance of being bigger than you are, but they also accentuate your v-taper that much more—cue in your medial delts. The medial delt is one of the body parts that adds the most oomph to your physique. It’s found in the middle of the deltoid group and is the main factor in making your shoulders pop. Simply going through the motions with your usual shoulder workout won’t give you significant results. Your medial delts need at least two days of 60 reps of focused training to really shine through. With that, we will be sharing with you some of the best medial delt exercises for boulder shoulders.
Guidelines in performing medial delt exercises
To see significant growth in your medial delts, you will want to allocate at least two training days, staying careful not to overwork them. When doing other push exercises (e.g., chest, triceps), you will likely also be exerting your deltoids. Putting too much strain on your muscles in a limited amount of time can cause injury, which can be a real pain in the ass in any training program.
Constructing your workout split will be a bit trickier, as you want to allow a target muscle group at least 48 hours of rest before going at them again. What we recommend is spending one day going through your regular shoulder workout with another day specializing mainly on your medial delts. While there is some argument to be had whether compound or isolation workouts work the best, a combination of the two is usually the best way to go.
Lateral movements are key.
While shoulder presses of all sorts will activate your medial delts in one way or another, some do it to a far greater degree. You should take note of the position of your elbows in relation to your torso. Having your elbows straight out to your sides ensures that that exercise will heavily recruit your medial delts.
Avoid Shoulder Injury
The shoulders are among the most easily injured muscle groups in the body. They are prone to overuse, and many weightlifters have experienced a shoulder injury at one point or another. Keep these tips in mind when working your shoulders out:
- Make it a point to warm up amply.
- Don’t train delts (or any body part for that matter) on back-to-back days.
- If a movement is causing you pain, don’t force it.
- Strengthen the rotator cuffs with a pre-workout warmup and post-workout rotator cuff exercises.
Drop sets can be extremely useful.
One of the best ways to whip your medial delts into shape is by not stopping at failure. Once you reach failure using one weight, drop a few pounds, and keep going. These drop sets should be employed at the end of your workout when you want to pump out what remains of your “fuel.”
But now that we’ve gone over these guidelines let’s move on to the main event.
The 7 Best Medial Delt Exercises
Exercise #1: Behind-The-Neck Barbell Press
Compared to its more typical counterpart, the military press, the behind-the-neck barbell press recruits more of the medial delts. Here are the steps to correctly do this exercise:
- Rack a barbell onto the squat rack like you would for a squat.
- Hold the bar with a grip that’s slightly wider than one for a military press.
- Dip under the bar and rack it onto your traps as you would with a squat.
- Squeeze your scapula and press the bar upwards while keeping your core engaged and stable throughout the movement.
- Be careful not to hit the back of your head when pressing.
- Repeat for desired reps.
Exercise #2: Bent-Arm Lateral Raise (Single-Arm Variation)
Most people use two dumbbells simultaneously when performing bent-arm lateral raises. However, alternating between each arm allows you to lift heavier. Here’s how you do it:
- Grab an appropriately-weighted dumbbell in either hand (one to counteract the weight of the other while performing the reps) with a neutral grip.
- With your elbow slightly bent, laterally raise your arm until it is parallel with the top of your shoulder.
- Control the weight on its descent to maximize the time under tension.
- Repeat for desired reps on both arms.
Exercise #3: 45-Degree Incline Row
While rows are more well-known for their effectiveness in a back workout, they can work wonders for your delts as well. Here’s how you should perform it:
- Set an adjustable bench to an incline of 45-degrees.
- Straddle the bench facing it.
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand.
- Perform a row, primarily pulling with your elbows instead of your lats. Your elbows should flare out to your sides, perpendicular to your torso.
- Like with the other exercises, perform slow and controlled reps for the desired number per set.
Exercise #4: Behind-The-Back Single-Arm Cable Lateral Raise
I know it might be a mouthful, but this exercise is the single most effective medial delt isolation exercise. This is largely due to the cable, which applies a good amount of tension throughout the motion. Here’s how you do it:
- Mount a single handle attachment to the cable machine and set the weight a little bit light.
- Grab the handle with the arm that’s on the opposite side of the machine while ensuring the cable is behind you.
- Hinge at the hips, keeping your chest up and butt out.
- Perform slow and controlled lateral raises like the one we mentioned earlier.
- Perform for the desired amount of reps on each arm.
Exercise #5: Barbell Upright Row
The barbell upright row is one of the best exercises that target your traps and your delts, especially the medial delt. Here’s how to do it:
- Load a barbell up with the appropriate weight and stand facing it with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Pick the bar up with arms fully extended and back straight while keeping knees bent.
- With your back straight and eyes looking forward, pull the bar up to your chest, keeping it as close to your body as possible.
- When pulling, make sure your elbows dictate the movement, flaring them outwards until they’re parallel to your shoulders.
- Pause before slowly lowering to starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Exercise #6: Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
The seated dumbbell shoulder press is better at isolating your shoulders than a standing one. It’s because it removes much of the core stability you’ll need from the equation. Here’s how to do it:
- Grab an adjustable bench and set it to a 90-degree angle.
- Get a dumbbell in each hand in an overhand grip, rest them on your knees, and then lean with your entire back on the bench. You’ll then arch your back, so there will be some space between your lower back and the bench.
- “Kick” the weights up to the starting position with the dumbbells at shoulder height, and elbows kept next to your ribs.
- Raise the weights overhead in a controlled motion until arms are fully extended. Pause at the top of the movement.
- Slowly return the weights to the starting position.
Exercise #7: Arnold Press
And last but certainly not least, we have the exercise named after the guy most consider the G.O.A.T. Who better to learn from than the man with one of the most iconic shoulders of all time? The Arnold press is a variation of the seated dumbbell press, which targets every head in the deltoid. Here’s how you do it:
- Set an adjustable bench to a 90-degree angle.
- Grab dumbbells of your desired weight in either hand with a neutral grip and sit on the bench with your back fully flat.
- Position the weights on your knees and kick them up.
- The starting position will mimic the top position of a bicep curl with palms facing you.
- Take a deep breath, then press the dumbbells upward while rotating your wrists so that they’re facing away from you at the top of the movement.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, making sure you rotate them in the other direction.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.