The Best Shoulder Isolation Exercises: Build Strong and Aesthetic Delts

Updated: 22 hours ago


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If you are looking to build strong and aesthetic delts, then you need to be doing isolation exercises! In this article, we will describe the best shoulder isolation exercises. These exercises will prioritize the muscle-building aspects of the lifts, which muscle groups they emphasize, and how to perform them. So, whether you are a beginner or an experienced lifter, there is something for you in this article!


Before we dive in: check out our full-body training program to develop a strong body and aesthetic physique; you will benefit from one of our programs. We designed a program that gives you the tools to build muscle with an easy-to-follow routine that will fit any schedule. To find out more:


Anatomy of the Shoulder


Before we get into the exercises, let's quickly review the anatomy of the shoulder muscles, specifically the delts. The deltoid muscle is actually made up of three distinct heads: the anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear).


The front delt primarily works to raise the arm in front of you (think: shoulder press), while the side delt helps to lift your arm out to the side (as in a lateral raise). The rear delt, finally, works to bring your arm back behind you (like in a bent-over row).


Isolating these muscles can be difficult, as they often work together in compound exercises. However, by using isolation exercises, you can better target each individual muscle group. This is important for both building muscle and achieving symmetry in your physique.


What is the best way to isolate the delts?


You can isolate the heads of the delts with a variety of methods. Some of the best ways to isolate the delts are by using cables, resistance bands, and dumbbells.


Cables offer a great way to target the deltoids without putting unnecessary strain on the joints. They also allow you to keep constant tension on the muscle throughout the entire range of motion.


Resistance bands are another great tool for shoulder isolation exercises. They are relatively inexpensive and can be used anywhere.


Dumbbells are a classic choice for isolation exercises. They come in a variety of weights and can be used for a wide range of exercises.


Now that we have reviewed the anatomy of the shoulder and some of the best ways to isolate the delts, let's get into the exercises!



The Best Shoulder Isolation Exercises


Here are some of the best shoulder isolation exercises for building muscle and achieving symmetry.

Anterior (Front) Deltoid


Exercise #1: Front Raise


The dumbbell front raise is a great exercise for isolation the front deltoid.


To perform the dumbbell front raise:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.

  • Let the dumbbells hang at arm's length by your sides, with your palms facing your thighs.

  • From here, slowly raise the dumbbells in front of you until they are at shoulder level.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.


Exercise #2: Seated Dumbbell Front Raise


The seated dumbbell front raise is a variation of the front raise that can be done with a lighter weight.


To perform the seated dumbbell front raise:

  • Start by sitting on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Let the dumbbells hang at arm's length by your sides, with your palms facing your thighs.

  • From here, slowly raise the dumbbells in front of you until they are at shoulder level.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.


Exercise #3: Cable Front Raise


The cable front raise is a great exercise for targeting the front deltoid.


To perform the cable front raise:

  • Start by attaching a rope handle to a low pulley.

  • Grasp the rope with your palms facing each other and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

  • From here, raise your arms in front of you until they are at shoulder level.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.


Exercise #4: Front Raise with Plates


The front raise with plates is a great exercise for isolation of the front deltoid if you don't have access to dumbbells or want extra forearm work.


To perform the front raise with plates:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a plate in each hand.

  • Let the plates hang at arm's length by your sides, with your palms facing your thighs.

  • From here, slowly raise the plates in front of you until they are at shoulder level.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.


Exercise #5: Resistance Band Front Raise


The resistance band front raise is a good exercise for isolation of the front deltoid if you don't have access to dumbbells or cables.


To perform the resistance band front raise:

  • Attach the resistance band to sturdy support and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

  • Grasp the band with your palms facing each other and raise your arms in front of you until they are at shoulder level.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.

Lateral (Side) Deltoid


Exercise #1: Lateral Raise


The lateral raise is a great exercise for isolation the side deltoid.


To perform the lateral raise:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.

  • Let the dumbbells hang at arm's length by your sides, with your palms facing your thighs.

  • From here, slowly raise the dumbbells out to the sides until they are at shoulder level.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.


Exercise #2: Seated Lateral Raise


The seated lateral raise is a variation of the lateral raise that can be done with a lighter weight.


To perform the seated lateral raise:

  • Start by sitting on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand.

  • Let the dumbbells hang at arm's length by your sides, with your palms facing your thighs.

  • From here, slowly raise the dumbbells out to the sides until they are at shoulder level.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.


Exercise #3: Barbell Upright Row


The barbell upright row is a great exercise for targeting the side deltoid.


To perform the barbell upright row:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell in front of you.

  • Grasp the barbell with your palms facing your thighs and your hands shoulder-width apart.

  • From here, raise the barbell up to your chin, keeping your elbows close to your sides.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.


Exercise #4: Seated Arnold Press


The seated Arnold press is a great exercise for isolation of the side deltoid if you don't have access to dumbbells.


To perform the seated Arnold press:

  • Start by sitting on a bench with a weight plate in each hand.

  • Let the plates hang at arm's length by your sides, with your palms facing your thighs.

  • From here, slowly raise the plates out to the sides until they are at shoulder level.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.


Exercise #5: Cable Lateral Raise


The cable lateral raise is a great exercise for isolation of the side deltoid.


To perform the cable lateral raise:

  • Start by attaching rope handles to a low pulley on each side.

  • Stand in the middle of the pulley with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the handles from the opposite hand with your palms facing each other.

  • From here, raise your arms out to the sides until they are at shoulder level.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.

Posterior (Rear) Deltoid


Exercise #1: Bent-Over Lateral Raise


The bent-over lateral raise is a great exercise for isolation the rear deltoid.


To perform the bent-over lateral raise:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.

  • Bend forward at the waist and let the dumbbells hang down in front of you, with your palms facing your thighs.

  • From here, slowly raise the dumbbells out to the sides until they are at shoulder level.

  • Be sure to keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the entire range of motion.


Exercise #2: Seated Bent-Over Lateral Raise


The seated bent-over lateral raise is a variation of the bent-over lateral raise that can be done with a lighter weight.


To perform the seated bent-over lateral raise:

  • Start by sitting on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand.

  • Bend forward at the waist and let the dumbbells hang down in front of you, with your palms facing your thighs.

  • From here, slowly raise the dumbbells out to the sides until they are at shoulder level.

  • Be sure to keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the entire range of motion.


Exercise #3: Single-Arm Bent-Over Row


The single-arm bent-over row is a great exercise for isolation of the rear deltoid.


To perform the single-arm bent-over row:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in one hand.

  • Bend forward at the waist and let the dumbbell hang down in front of you, with your palm facing your thigh.

  • From here, row the dumbbell up to your side, keeping your elbow close to your body.

  • Be sure to keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the entire range of motion.

  • Repeat for the desired reps before switching sides.


Exercise #4: Incline Dumbbell Y Raises


The incline dumbbell Y raise is an excellent exercise for isolation of the rear deltoid.


To perform the incline dumbbell Y raise:

  • Start by sitting on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand.

  • Let the dumbbells hang down at arm's length by your sides, with your palms facing your thighs.

  • From here, raise the dumbbells out to the sides and up until they form a Y at shoulder level.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.


Exercise #5: T-Bar Rows


The T-bar row is a good exercise for isolation of the rear deltoid.


To perform the T-bar row:

  • Set up a T-bar machine with the desired weight.

  • Straddle the bar and grasp the handles with an overhand grip.

  • From here, row the bar up to your chest, keeping your back straight and your core engaged.

  • Repeat for the desired reps.



Common Mistakes


One of the most common mistakes people make when doing shoulder isolation exercises is not keeping their back straight. This can lead to lower back pain and injury.


Another common mistake is not using a full range of motion. Be sure to raise the weight all the way up on each rep, and lower it all the way down.


Finally, be sure to use a weight that is challenging but not too heavy. Using too much weight can lead to poor form and an increased risk of injury.


Summary

These are some of the best exercises you can do to target the individual heads of the delts. To get the most out of these exercises, be sure to keep good form, use a full range of motion, and challenge yourself with the appropriate weight. Adding these exercises to your routine or split will help you build strong, aesthetic delts. Make sure to avoid common mistakes, such as not using a full range of motion or poor form. With consistent training and progress, you'll be on your way to building the shoulders of your dreams!


For a complete routine, check out our full-body training program to develop a strong body and aesthetic physique; you will benefit from one of our programs. We designed a program that gives you the tools to build muscle with an easy-to-follow routine that will fit any schedule. To find out more:


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