Drop Everything

Use this drop sets to build muscle and endurance in your shoulders.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Sometimes your muscles need a little nudge, especially if they’re stubborn and are refusing to shape up. Shoulders are notorious hard-gainers, but this drop-set program could be the key to getting them to move in the right direction.

Related:Build Your Best Delts With Drop Sets

A drop set is an extended set in which you do more repetitions by lowering the weight several times during the course of the set in order to maintain tension on the muscle and encourage growth. For example, if you were doing a dumbbell lateral raise, you might start with 12 pounds in each hand. You’d do as many reps as you could with that 12-pound weight, then you’d put them down and pick up a lighter set, say 10 pounds, and again do as many reps as you could. Once you failed with the 10’s then you’d move down once more to the 8’s, and once you achieved failure with the 8’s that set would be over.

Related: Sculpt Your Arms With Drop Sets

Drop sets are intense, so do them on a rotating basis in your program. You can do an all-drop workout like this every other week to bring up a particular bodypart, or select one move per workout to do a drop with to boost intensity and increase endurance.

Choose either the Building or Detailing workout below — depending on your goals — and give drop sets a go. In about a month you should have bolder shoulders to show for it!


Tip: Line up the weights you’re going to use ahead of time so you don’t have to hunt around for them when it comes time to drop!

Dumbbell Lateral Raise


Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a set of dumbbells in front of your thighs with your palms facing inward. Bend your elbows slightly and lock your arms in place.

Move: Slowly raise the weights up and to the sides, leading with your elbows. When the dumbbells come to shoulder height, pause a moment before slowly lowering to the start.

Tip: To avoid using momentum, do these seated on a short bench with a back.

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press

Setup: Sit on a bench with a short back and hold a set of dumbbells at your shoulders with your palms forward and your elbows down.

Move: Press the weights straight up overhead, coming to a full extension without locking out. Slowly lower to the start and repeat right away.

Tip: For variety, try pressing one weight at a time, alternating arms, to challenge your core as well as your shoulders.

Bent-Over Lateral Raise

Setup: Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Fold forward from the waist, back flat, so your torso is at a 45-degree angle and your arms hang perpendicularly to the ground, palms facing inward.

Move: Maintain your body position as you raise the weights smoothly up and out to the sides. When your arms come level with your shoulders pause a moment then slowly lower to the start under control.

Tip: Be careful not to make this into a back exercise; keep your arms extended and the weights in your peripheral vision at all times to emphasize the shoulders.