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8 Challenging Shoulder Supersets For Maximal Growth

By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1


shoulder superset

An effective shoulder superset should take into account your goals and the specific area of the shoulder you want to target.

 

Over the years, I’ve written many client programs involving supersets for shoulders and have found these to be the 8 most effective in terms of growth and also enjoyment.

 

 

Let’s get into how to do each of these lifts and answer a few frequently asked questions including: 

 

What Makes For A Good Superset For Shoulders?


 

The first thing to know is what a superset is.  A superset is when you perform back to back exercises with minimal to no rest and then take a break once both exercises are completed.

There’s multiple ways to structure them and I break it all down in my guide on how to implement supersets for best results.

When deciding on what shoulder supersets to perform, you want to make sure you can do all the exercises with perfect form and you know what part of the shoulder it targets.

The shoulder is made up of three muscles:

  • Anterior (front) deltoid
  • Medial (middle) deltoid
  • Posterior (rear) deltoid

You’ll get a defined, broad shoulder look when you target all 3 and that’s possible with these 8 shoulder supersets.

3 Barbell Shoulder Supersets


 

Barbell Shoulder Press + Dumbbell Bent Over Rear Delt Fly


 

A classic standing barbell shoulder press, aka a military press, is a staple for many programs that will target the anterior deltoid.  Since this is a big lift that requires a lot of power and force, you should superset it with a lighter exercise that targets the posterior deltoid.

An exercise like the dumbbell bent over rear delt fly will allow you to do this shoulder superset without causing excessive central nervous system fatigue.

  • Barbell shoulder press: 3 x 6 - 8
  • Dumbbell bent over rear delt fly: 3 x 12 - 15
  • Rest 2 minutes after performing both exercises

Barbell Z Press + Chest Supported Rear Delt Fly


 

This is a similar variation to the last but is more joint friendly, which is always a win in my book.  Instead of standing, you’ll sit down and perform the overhead shoulder press.

Sitting down forces you to stay upright with the weight and you can’t arch your back like you can on a normal shoulder press to help push the weight overhead.  If you do, you’ll tip over!

The rear delt fly is the same motion but now you’ll be chest supported so you won’t put any stress on your lower back.

  • Barbell Z press: 3 x 6 - 8
  • Chest supported rear delt fly: 3 x 12 - 15
  • Rest 2 minutes after performing both exercises

Half Kneeling Landmine Shoulder Press + Landmine Lateral Raise


 

The last barbell shoulder superset involves the landmine and gives you a new twist on shoulder presses and lateral raises.

Performing your shoulder press in a half kneeling position will give you added hip flexor activation and requires your core to stabilize as you press the weight on each side.

These lateral raises are no joke so I recommend starting with only the bar when you try them out!

The benefit of the landmine lateral raise is that it will target your medial delt.  You’ll get a nice combo of front and medial deltoid in this superset.

  • Half kneeling landmine shoulder press: 3 x 8 - 10/side
  • Landmine lateral raises: 3 x 8 - 10/side
  • Rest 90 seconds - 2 minutes after performing both exercises

2 Front & Medial Deltoid Focused Shoulder Supersets


 

Dumbbell Z Press + Hollow Body Shoulder Press


 

If you want to really focus in on your front and medial deltoids, try this shoulder superset.

You get to do both exercises on the ground, with a little twist on the second movement.

Your shoulders will be fatigued after doing Z presses so have a lighter dumbbell ready as you jump into your hollow body presses.

If you feel pain in your tailbone or lower back from sitting directly on the ground, either use a mat or turn it into a seated dumbbell shoulder press. 

I learned this hollow body shoulder press from Ben Bruno and it’s a variation that will also be working your core so be prepared!

  • DB Z press: 3 x 8 - 10
  • Hollow body shoulder press: 3 x 10 - 12/side
  • Rest 2 minutes after performing both exercises

One Arm Dumbbell Push Press + Iso Alternating Prone Y Raise


 

A push press is going to have an explosive element to the lift unlike all the other movements in this article.  By slightly bending your knee and throwing the weight overhead, you’ll be able to lift slightly heavier than if your knees stayed locked out.

Alternating prone y raises will be done with a light weight since you’ll be under constant tension by always holding a dumbbell up.  It’s a great challenge and a nice compliment when looking for a front and medial deltoid focused shoulder superset.

Props to Joe Defranco for the y raise variation!

  • One arm dumbbell push press: 3 x 6 - 8/side
  • Iso alternating prone y raises: 3 x 10/side
  • Rest 90 seconds - 2 minutes after performing both exercises

3 Joint Friendly Supersets For Healthy Shoulders


 

Incline Band Overhead Raise + Meadows Rear Delt Swing


 

You can build a great set of shoulders using only a band and a light pair of dumbbells in this superset.

The angles created with both of these lifts allow you to target your front and rear deltoid.

If you would like to use a cable machine instead of a band for your incline band overhead presses, be my guest.  I often do that with clients and they like the feel of it.

This superset is great to do at the end of a workout to really burn the shoulders.

  • Incline band overhead raises: 2 x 15 - 20
  • Meadows rear delt swings: 2 x 25
  • Rest 90 seconds after both exercises

Chest Supported Y Raise + Bent Over Band Pull-Apart


 

If there’s one thing my clients know I love using, it’s bands.  They are great for joint health and are easy to recover from.

I love programing them in shoulder supersets to target the rear deltoids after having a big lift to target the front and medial deltoids.

This is that combo.

Chest supported Y raises are very similar to your traditional lateral raises but will be performed on an inclined bench.  Pull-apart have a slight twist and will be performed in a bent over position which will stretch the hamstrings.

  • Chest supported Y raises: 3 x 10 - 12
  • Bent overe band pull aparts: 3 x 15 - 20
  • Rest 90 seconds after performing both exercises

Windmill + Band Pull-Apart


 

I can’t give you a shoulder superset and not provide at least one funky exercise that you may have never done.

Introducing the windmill!   This shoulder stabilization exercise will get your torso rotating in a new way while you hold a dumbbell overhead.  If you pick the right weight, your shoulder will be burning!

Pairing that will a classic band pull apart for your rear delts is a great joint friendly superset for your shoulders.

  • Windmills: 3 x 6/side
  • Band pull-aparts: 3 x 15 - 20
  • Rest 90 seconds after performing both exercises
dumbbell shoulder superset

Frequently Asked Questions


 

Should You Superset Shrugs?


 

Pairing a deltoid shoulder exercise with a shrug to target your traps is an acceptable superset to help build your upper body.

Since you can load a lot of weight on shrugs using dumbbells or barbells, pair your shrugs with a joint friendly shoulder movement that requires a lighter weight.

How Can I Get Big Shoulders?


 

Target your shoulders at least 2 times per week with 8 - 12 hard working sets.  Those will be sets that are taken close to failure.

 Beginners can be on the bottom of the 8 working set range while more advanced lifters will need more to experience shoulder growth.

What To Superset With Shoulder Press?


 

The best exercises to superset with shoulder press are movements that will target the posterior deltoid and are done with a lighter weight including:

Additionally, if you want to target the same muscles as shoulder press, adding in lateral raises will be acceptable in a shoulder superset.  Learn more about what muscles lateral raises work.

Shoulder Supersets Workout Recap


 

You’ve now learned 8 shoulder supersets that you can add into your next workout.  Only pick 1 or 2 supersets to do in a workout and make sure to pick movements that you can perform correctly and feel good on your joints.

You can find many of these shoulder exercises in my free chest and shoulder dumbbell only workout.