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30-Minute Shoulder Workouts (Building Upper Body Width)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Last updated: April 25, 2023

As a personal trainer, I realize the importance of finding time-efficient but practical exercises, as time is often the biggest obstacle that most of my gym clients face.

So, after weeks of extensive research and testing, I’ve created the ultimate 30-minute shoulder workout you can squeeze into your busy schedule that will help you build upper body width.

You can also combine this training program with an arms workout.

Quick Summary

  • An effective 30 min shoulder workout includes bench presses, face pulls, farmer’s carries, incline rows, upright rows, and bent-over dumbbell reverse flys.
  • Start your workout with a warm-up to properly stretch your shoulders and avoid injury.
  • You should train your shoulders for at least twenty minutes once a week in the weight room to get noticeable results.

The Best 30 min Shoulder Workout

A person doing a 30-minute shoulder workout in the gym

1. Warm-up

Start your workout with a warm-up to decrease the risk of injury and loosen stiff shoulders [1].

Warm-up drills you can start with are:

Straight Arm Circles

How to do this exercise:

  1. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Fully extend both arms to the sides at your shoulder level.
  3. Move your arms in a circular pattern.
  4. Repeat 10-15 reps.

Chest Hugs

How to perform chest hugs:

  1. Stand straight with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take your arms and cross them in front of your chest, giving yourself a big hug. Keep your elbows up and shoulders relaxed.
  3. Pause for a few seconds before releasing your arms and repeating the exercise 10-15 more times.

Band Pull-Apart

How to do this exercise using a resistance band:

  1. Grab a band and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your arms fully extended shoulder-width apart.
  3. Pull the resistance band apart until it reaches chest level by moving your arms to the sides as far as possible.
  4. Squeeze the shoulder blades at the top of the movement and go back to starting position.
  5. Repeat 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

Banded Lateral Raise

How to do a banded lateral raise:

  1. Stand on a resistance band with both feet with a shoulder-width stance.
  2. Raise the arms laterally to shoulder height with palms facing down. Keep your arms slightly bent.
  3. Slowly lower the band back to the start under control.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

“Don’t lead movements with your hands. If your hands are being raised higher than your elbows, you’re doing this exercise incorrectly. This error removes tension from your deltoids and decreases your range of motion. Lead with your elbows instead.”

- Victoria Hamilton, Editor

2. Leaning Cable Lateral Raise

A person doing a leaning cable lateral raise

This exercise primarily targets the lateral deltoid on the shoulders' sides.

This will allow you to develop defined shoulders and upper arms with a rounded appearance.

By engaging each side of your shoulders independently, you can pinpoint discrepancies between your right and left side and focus on specific areas with targeted training.

How to do this exercise:

  1. Attach a single-handle attachment to a cable machine adjusted to the lowest height setting.
  2. Step your outside foot over the handle and directly in front of your back foot. Your shoulder should be an inch away from the cable column.
  3. Grab the column at shoulder height with your left hand and bend over to grab the handle with your right hand.
  4. Stand up and lean away from the cable column, keeping your left arm straight and parallel to the floor.
  5. With your elbows slightly bent, raise your right arm to the side, stopping when it’s parallel to the ground.
  6. Slowly lower the cable back own, but don’t return it to the bottom; stop when your arm is vertical.
  7. Repeat until you reach the desired amount of repetitions.

3. Seated Overhead Press

A person in the gym doing a seated overhead press

This exercise outshines the original version (standing overhead press) when isolating the shoulders muscles for a deep burn.

It trains all three heads of the deltoids.

Your grip should create a 90-degree angle between your upper arm and forearm as the weight goes down.

To do this exercise:

  1. Pick a weight that you’re comfortable with.
  2. Sit straight on an inclined bench and hold the weight with a shoulder-width grip.
  3. Raise the weight to your shoulder level, with your palms facing forward.
  4. Exhale as you extend your arms over your head.
  5. Keeping a soft bend in your elbow to prevent injury, lower the weight to about your shoulder level.
  6. Repeat until you reach the recommended amount of reps.

“Performing this move also helps identify whether you have an imbalance in shoulder strength. One sign is if you can lift a certain amount of weight more easily with one arm than the other. Muscle imbalances can affect how you move, limiting your mobility and movement efficiency.”

- Paur Rogers, Editor 

4. Incline Dumbbell Front Raise

This exercise primarily targets the anterior (the front of the shoulders) and the lateral deltoids (exercising the side delts).

It can help develop your shoulder flexion, giving you the strength and definition you crave in the front and sides of your shoulders [2].

How to perform the incline dumbbell front raise:

  1. Pick two dumbbells and sit on an inclined bench.
  2. Extend your arms forward with the weight raised an inch above your thighs, keeping a slight bend in the elbow.
  3. Raise the weight above shoulder level.
  4. Lower the dumbbells down to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat until you reach the desired amount of repetitions.

5. Seated Rope Face Pull

A person in the gym doing a seated rope face pull

Face pulls work the posterior deltoids or rear delts by exercising, the primary muscle group of the shoulders responsible for all overhead actions [3].

To do this exercise:

  1. Attach a rope to a high pulley.
  2. Sit with a neutral spine in front of a cable machine. Your knees should be slightly bent, your arms entirely extended in front of you to grab the ends of the rope.
  3. Pull the rope attachment using a palms-down grip toward your neckline.
  4. Pause for a few seconds, then return to the starting position while maintaining a stable torso.
  5. Repeat until you complete the desired amount of reps.


What Are the Best Shoulder Workouts?

The best shoulder workouts are the lateral raise, upright row, overhead press, face-pull, bench press, reverse fly, and front raise.

How Long Should I Work Out My Shoulders?

You should work your shoulders for at least twenty minutes twice a week to build mass. The only muscle groups that demand more effort are the back and legs.

Pick the Top Protein Powders to Get the Most Out of Your Shoulder Workout

The thirty-minute workout routine above is a great place to start if you want to build solid and aesthetic shoulders.

However, it's essential to remember that exercise alone won't necessarily get you the results you're after. Your diet plays a crucial role in muscle growth.

I also recommend incorporating one of the protein powders to maximize your muscle gains further:

These protein powders have been trialed and tested, and we've seen firsthand how they can enhance and maintain muscle mass and encourage muscle recovery.


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