Shoulders

Want Capped Shoulders? Try These 4 Powerful Exercises

exercises for capped shoulders

Capped shoulders make you look strong, give you a huge confidence boost (especially when wearing tight t-shirts), and help to create the illusion of a smaller waist.  But contrary to popular opinion it involves more than just working on your side delts, and a decent shoulder workout should encompass exercises to target your front and rear delts too.  

When people think of capped delts, they think of a broad upper body when viewed from the front or rear.  But, for fully rounded shoulders it’s important to build size to the front and back of the shoulders as well, this looks much better aesthetically and creates more definition between your shoulders, biceps, and triceps.  


Recommended Reading – 13 Best Lateral Shoulder Exercises For Broader Side Delts


A lot of people think that developing capped shoulders is largely down to genetics.  While this is true to some extent, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  With the right shoulder exercises, you can carve out some impressive boulder shoulders in no time! 

Keep reading as we’re now going to jump into the four best exercises to help you develop your entire shoulder muscle group.  

The Best Workout To Get Capped Shoulders

Whether you’re male or female, the only four exercises you need to do for capped shoulders are the EZ bar front raise, dumbbell lateral raise, single arm reverse cable fly, and the Arnold press. Collectively, they’ll work all of your shoulder muscles for maximum growth and size.  

Let’s look at each of these in more detail:

1. EZ Bar Front Raise

front raise exercise

Front raises with an EZ curl bar are going to isolate your front delts.  The benefit of using an EZ bar as opposed to a pair of dumbbells is that it’s easier to increase the range of motion by taking the bar straight up and overhead.   

When you do this exercise with dumbbells, you typically stop when your arms are roughly parallel to the ground.  While that’s OK, you’re missing out on more muscle gains so if your shoulder joints allow, move the bar all the way up until it’s above your head.  

The key here is not to go too heavy.  Start with just the bar and perform sets to a high rep range.  

How to do an EZ bar front raise: 

  1. Stand up straight keeping your chest up (this keeps tension on your front delts). 
  2. Hold an EZ bar with an underhand grip with your hands pointing slightly inwards. 
  3. The bottom of the movement should have your arms down by your sides. 
  4. From here, keep your elbows locked out and move your arms in an arc shape.
  5. Go as high as you find comfortable and when your arms are extended up and overhead hold this position for a couple of seconds.  
  6. Use control during the negative part of the exercise and slowly move your arms back to the starting position. 
  7. Perform 3 sets of between 15 and 20 reps.  

2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

dumbbell lateral raise

Dumbbell lateral raises are likely one of the most popular exercises for shoulder day.  Not only that, as this exercise works your lateral delts, it’s one of the most important for developing a good shoulder cap.  

One of the most common mistakes I see with this exercise is going too heavy with the weight.  This almost always contributes to poor form and overcompensating with other muscles.  

Stick to a lighter weight and, as with the EZ bar front raise, increase the range of motion by raising your arms beyond parallel to the ground.  

If you can, try and complete each rep to a full range of motion by bringing the dumbbells overhead.  As your arms get higher, you may find it feels more comfortable to rotate your wrists in a little so that your thumbs start to face one another.  

That’s fine, but keep in mind that you’ll be taking away some of the tension from your side delts and putting it on to the front of your shoulders.  The most important thing is to not stress your rotator cuff! 

How to do a dumbbell lateral raise:

  1. Hold a lightweight dumbbell in each hand keeping them down by your sides and arms relaxed. 
  2. With your hands remaining in a neutral position, move your arms up and out while keeping your elbow fixed.
  3. Continue moving your arms in a circular plane of motion until your arms are straight up and overhead.  
  4. Pause briefly and then slowly lower your arms back down to your sides.  
  5. Complete 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.  

3. Single Arm Reverse Cable Fly

Now that you’ve fired up your front and side delts, you’re going to move on to the posterior delts (the back of your shoulders).  The thing I like the most about the single-arm reverse cable fly is that you can get a really deep stretch to your rear delts making for a great mind-muscle connection.   

As with the other two exercises, completing each rep slowly and with a full range of motion is most important.  Because you’ll be keeping your elbow locked out, begin with a lighter weight on the stack so that you don’t stress your joints.  

How to do a single arm reverse cable fly:

  1. Set the cable to around shoulder height.  
  2. Stand side on to the pulley and take hold of the cable with the hand furthest away. Your working arm should be crossing in front of you. 
  3. Step away from the machine so that your feel a stretch to the back of your shoulder. 
  4. Hold on to the machine with your free hand to brace yourself. 
  5. While maintaining a straight arm with a slight bend to your elbow, pull the cable across your body and out to your side. 
  6. Move your arm back as far as you can to increase tension on your rear delt.  
  7. Hold this position for a second and then use control to move your arm back across your body. 
  8. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps and then switch to work the other shoulder.  

4. Arnold Press

arnold press for capped shoulders

The final exercise of this capped shoulder workout is the Arnold Press.  This is a variation on the regular shoulder press but with a rotational element added in.  As you extend your arms straight up and overhead, you rotate your hands outwards.  What this does is activate all three deltoid heads throughout the movement making it a great finisher.  

I won’t go into too much detail here as we have an entire article dedicated to the Arnold press VS the Shoulder Press.  Have a read if you’d like to know more about their key differences.  

How to do the Arnold press:

  1. Stand upright while holding a pair of dumbbells to your chest with your palms facing you. 
  2. Slowly push the dumbbells straight up but as you do so rotate your wrists and forearms out.
  3. When your arms are fully extended your palms should now be facing away from you.  
  4. Slowly move the dumbbells back down to your chest and repeat. 
  5. Complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps using lighter weights.  

​What If I Don’t Have Access To The Equipment

If you don’t go to the gym and prefer to workout at home, that’s no problem.  You can still perform the above exercises, just swap out the equipment for a set of resistance bands.  

I personally use bands all the time when training at home and get a great muscle pump from the constant tension you get from them.  

resistance band lateral raise

Here’s how you can modify each exercise. 

Front Raise Band Variation – take an open-ended resistance band with a handle on each end.  Step on the center of the band with both feet and complete the reps the same way as you would if using an EZ bar. 

Lateral Raise Band Variation – get yourself into the same position as with the banded front raise.  This time, instead of moving your arms up and in front of you, you should move them up and out.  

Single Arm Fly Band Variation – for this one you’ll need to anchor the band to a doorway so it’s at height shoulder height and follow the steps as though doing it on a cable machine.  

Arnold Press Band Variation – as with the first two exercises, place both feet on the center of the band.  Take the handles and hold that at chest height so your palms face your. Complete the exercise in the same way as if you were using dumbbells.  

Wrapping Up

Capped shoulders are a desirable feature and by getting stuck into the workouts above, these four exercises are all you need to do.  Just remember to focus on high reps with light weights to avoid stressing your joints and preventing sloppy form.  

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