How to Vary Shoulder Developments? | Some Alternatives

Shoulder development (or “military development”) is a very old and common exercise that allows you to work your shoulders, as well as upper body strength in general. It is the default option for growing shoulders – for very logical reasons. Not only does it work your shoulders, it is also an excellent exercise for core stability, thus helping with other key lifts.

We should always vary the routine and the selection of exercises to avoid habituation and stagnation. In this article, we are going to talk about some of the many shoulder exercises that we can use in the gym to achieve developmental or similar effects.

Try them out and see what they bring back to your training.

How to perform Shoulder Development or “Military” ( Military Press )

This is a simple and effective exercise:

  1. Start by grabbing the bar, with your hands at shoulder level.
  2. Activates the core to keep the body stable and lift the weight above the head. It’s as simple as that.


1. Arnold Development ( Arnold Press )

How to run:

  1. Sit on a bench and hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height – your palms should be facing you (not outward, as they would be in a regular dumbbell development)
  2. Lift the dumbbells over your head while rotating your hands so that, at the end of the movement, your palms are facing forward.
  3. The key to running Arnold Development is to achieve the correct rotation throughout the movement. Do not completely turn your palms too early: the rotation should end only at the top of the movement.

Recommended series and repetitions:

3 sets of 12 – 15 with a lighter weight than what you would use for dumbbell development.

2. Shoulder Dumbbell Development ( Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press )

How to run:

  1. Sit on a bench and hold the dumbbells at shoulder height with a pronounced handle (facing outwards)
  2. Keep your feet flat on the floor for greater stability.
  3. Lift the dumbbells straight up in a controlled manner, taking care not to let the dumbbells hit each other at the top of the movement.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back to shoulder level to complete a repetition.

Recommended series and repetitions:

4 sets of 6 – 8

3. Shoulder Development with Machine ( Machine Shoulder Press )

How to run:

  1. Sit at the machine and grab the handles.
  2. Activate the core and fit your feet as well as you would for any other shoulder exercise.
  3. Keep your back fully seated on the machine and lift the handles above your head.
  4. Returns your hands to the starting position to complete a repetition.

Recommended series and repetitions:

3 sets of 12 – 15

4. Front Plate Raise ( Front Plate Raise )

How to run:

  1. Gripping it firmly by the sides, hold a weight that you feel comfortable with and lift your outstretched arms forward.
  2. The arms must remain stretched throughout the movement.
  3. Lower the weight to the torso in a controlled manner and bring it back up to shoulder height.

Recommended series and repetitions:

3 sets of 20 reps – make sure the weight is light enough to be able to perform multiple reps.

5. Lateral Lifting ( Lateral Raise )

How to run:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at the level of the top of your hips and lean very slightly forward.
  2. With the elbows slightly bent, use the deltoids to lift the weights very high, in a wide movement to the sides – imagine that you are stretching an elastic.
  3. After reaching shoulder level, return with the weights to the starting position to complete a repetition.

Recommended series and repetitions:

2 – 3 sets of 10 – 12 repetitions

Final Message

Almost all major shoulder movements involve lifting a weight above your head – there’s not much to vary there. Lifting heavy objects towards the sky develops strong shoulders: this has always been the case and always will be. But you can vary the routine using dumbbells and machines to achieve this same movement and end with lateral or front lifts, valuable additions to your shoulder training.

You will find that the greater the weight you lift, the more crucial it is to devote some time to these accessory movements, which will contribute to robust and healthy shoulders. So, the next time you need to vary your shoulder training, follow the recommendations in this article and you’ll reap wide benefits.

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