The Best Shoulder Exercises You've Never Even Seen

Bigger Delts, Guaranteed

Set off a hypertrophy bomb with these four deltoid exercises. They’re challenging, effective, and won’t bang up your joints.

The secret to building big, wide shoulders? Hard work. Already working hard? Then challenge your delts with some new, growth-stimulating exercise variations, like these:

1. McLean Lateral Raise

This exercise is named after strength coach Shane McLean. One side performs a dumbbell lateral raise. Lean the other side of your body into a wall or rack and press into it to create an isometric shoulder contraction.

Why You Should Do It

  • Working dynamically on one side helps improve muscle awareness and fix any shoulder asymmetries you might have.

  • Leaning away from the moving arm allows a little more tension to be maintained towards the bottom portion of the lateral raise. More force generation at greater muscle lengths equals stretch-mediated hypertrophy gains!

  • There’s some magic happening on the non-working side, too. By pressing into the wall or rack using your elbow or forearm, your shoulder (particularly the medial head) contracts isometrically in that longer-length position. By doing so, you’re generating a good amount of mechanical tension and extra muscle-building stimulus.

2. Lean-Away Dumbbell Shoulder Press

They say that creativity is forgetting where you first saw it. I have no idea the origin of this. But one day, I found myself playing about with a slightly different pressing position, and these were born.

Why You Should Do It

  • Struggling with shoulder asymmetries? Then use more dumbbells and perform more single-sided exercises to level out your left-to-right strength differences. With the underhand grip, you also have no excuse to have horribly flared-out elbows as you press upward, resulting in a more shoulder-friendly overhead press.

  • Leaning away and pressing vertically upward results in the load being maintained on your shoulders at the top of the movement and a stronger peak contraction as your anterior and medial delts hit a shortened range at the top.

  • These are super humbling. You won’t need a lot of weight. These fall into the “achieve more with less weight” category of exercises. Start light and focus on form, really feeling that big stretch in your anterior delts at the bottom, then dominating that dumbbell throughout a full range of motion as you raise up, then back down.

3. Dead-Stop Lateral Raise

The dead-stop method builds functional hypertrophy and helps re-establish correct technique.

Why You Should Do It

  • By inhibiting the muscles’ elastic components, only contractile components (myofibrils) can contribute to force production.

  • During standard lateral raises, because of leverage factors, the closer the dumbbells get to your sides, the less tension the muscles receive. With controlled lateral raises like these, you can stop at a point before there’s a loss of tension. The bench restricts you from bringing the dumbbells too close to your sides and losing tension.

  • This exercise forces you to keep every single rep honest.

4. Lateral Dumbbell Swing

Here, you have permission to swing. No, you’re not using your full body to generate momentum, but instead trying to use your deltoids to rapidly decelerate the fast-moving dumbbells and then generate more force out of the bottom to fire the dumbbells back up. These were a favorite of John Meadows, who also used the same technique for rear-delt flyes.

Why You Should Do It

  • Generating force out of the bottom position challenges your delts more in their lengthened range. This is the opposite of a standard lateral raise, where the emphasis is on the top of the movement.

  • If you’ve been stuck using little pink dumbbells for your lateral raises, these will force you to pick up heavier weights. In fact, use a weight that scares you and do half-reps with momentum.

Sets and Reps

The lateral raise variations work best with higher rep ranges taken to failure or within one to two reps of failure. Do 12 to 15 reps per set.

For the lateral dumbbell swings, use 25-30 reps or more! Save these for the end of your workouts and go for a pump!

The lean-away shoulder press works well with all hypertrophy rep ranges. Do sets as low as 6 reps with a 5-6 second total rep speed (2 seconds up, 4 seconds down). Perform 8-12 reps to failure or very close to it.



Any info about the blonde in the background for the McLean Lateral Raise would be greatly appreciated. :joy: :joy: :joy: :joy: :joy:


I’ll let her know :joy:

Scrap the rack press saved my shoulders.
I use the swing but with bands. Really rapid reps.
Both seem to work.


I like the band idea with a light band plus dumbbells as you get the over-acceleration affect from it on the downward potion. That’ll work nicely with the aim and benefits of the exercise

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I might incorporate the McLean Lateral Raise. I always lack the discipline to keep my form right on DB lateral raises in the endeavor for progressive overload. I don’t like the idea of spending a little longer on them because it’s one side at a time, but it beats waiting for all the guys with the same haircut using the cables for their 7th lat raise variation of the day.

Same haircuts and crocs? Possibly doing everything cable cuffed too!?!? Think there’s some kind of virus going around. I’d personally stay away before they start spreading their pseudoscience your way too.

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