3 "Killer" Compound Shoulder Exercises That Actually Get Results | Jason Clemens Blog

3 “Killer” Compound Shoulder Exercises That Actually Get Results

Shoulder exercises

Better looking shoulders equal better looking body… period.

So why do you keep wondering why you look pathetic and weak in tee’s and tanks when you don’t put a premium emphasis on shoulder-day?

I am not talking isolation lifts here either!   I am not talking doing endless repetitions of lite weight shoulder raises and machine flyes.   I’m talking real-life heavy compound shoulder exercises.  Allow me to let you in on a little gym time secret – there is a reason why most men and women don’t get way better bodies – they do not focus on compound exercises.

Compound exercises are those that involve multiple muscle groups as opposed to just a single muscle group.

For example, squats and deadlifts are compound movements.  Leg extension and shoulder raises are isolation movements.

Compound Exercises:

How to actually get gym results!

The article contains info and actual compound movements not found in the video.

Do you understand the difference?

I am telling you right now, that the difference in body development can be astronomical!

Like Jason Ferruggia says in his article “The 10 Best Weight Training Exercises for Building Muscle and Strength:”

“Compound, multi-joint free weight exercises that allow you to use the greatest amount of weight, through a full range of motion, will build size and strength faster than anything else because they incorporate the largest amounts of muscle mass.

Now, there are obviously many reasons why you are not getting great looking shoulders and a way better-looking body even though you are in the gym nonstop.  Diet is a big one!  But assuming your diet is at least satisfactory (doesn’t have to be perfect), there is one primary reason you fail to develop like you know you should.

Are you ready for it?…

You waste your time and energy pounding out endless sets of isolation exercises instead of putting your focus and energy smack on compound movements.

Heavy compound exercises create amplified muscle growth and definition.

I’m not just talking to men either, if you are a female this is important to you too.  Shoulders do not differentiate.  Better looking shoulders will make you look way sexier in your bikini too.  Did you know that wider shoulders make your waist appear thinner?  It is true!

So here’s the bottom line – shoulder day does not have to be this long “drawn-out” ordeal with 8 to 10 different exercises.

Truth be told, I get the best results by putting my focus on just a couple compound movements.  Same thing goes with all the other workout days of the week.

Sure, I will throw in some isolation lifts, but the bulk of my results are triggered by a few main compound exercises that I’d be willing to bet you are not taking full advantage of.

Here they are in no particular order:

Compound Shoulder Exercise #1:


Doing some hang cleans

Hang-cleans work about 200 muscle in your body!

You can also do power-cleans if you want, although I prefer hang-cleans.

The only difference is that power-cleans begin from the floor and hang-cleans begin from the arms hanging position just above the knees.  The forces required for each are very similar, although some research shows that hangs require more to propel the weight up from a “hanging position” to the shoulder rest position as seen in the photo above.

They are a F*N powerhouse of muscle building potential that less than 1 percent of the people at every single gym across the country even do.  HUGE massive mistake as they are easily one of the best shoulder exercises around!

Have you ever done these?

Most people have not.

If I were going to pick one exercise that would get me bigger, better-looking shoulders that actually look good in a tank-top it would be hang-cleans.

Not only shoulders…

  • Traps
  • Arms (especially forearms – I’m telling you right now if you have pathetic forearms doing hang-cleans will get you way more growth than sitting there doing wrist curls!)
  • Legs

Hang-cleans work everything!

If you are a young athlete looking for a major edge in speed, explosion, and pure athletic ability… hang cleans can deliver BIG-TIME!  We put a prime emphasis on these back in my D-I football days at the University of Wisconsin.

They are my favorite shoulder exercise… period.  Not to mention they are one of my favorite exercises in general.

Well, actually – I would probably throw clean and press in there too… I list that below (They are just a little variation).  But here’s the thing, you don’t need to add the press at the end in order to get some bad-ass results.

Not only to hang-cleans develop your shoulders but as I said, they will literally help get everything bigger and stronger too!

As Eric Bach writes in his article for T-Nation “Hang-Clean for Total Body Power”…

“Hang cleans will get you absolutely jacked. They not only stimulate your forearms and traps but nearly 200 muscles in the body so that you get a huge anabolic surge and training effect.”

Typically you probably think of “pushing” exercises as the movement that stimulates shoulders to grow.

Obviously, this is true.

I mean, lifts like military press and bench press really trigger those deltoid muscles, but what you probably fail to realize is that the simple act of just carrying heavy weight builds behemoth shoulders too.

Deltoid Muscle

Think about this…

When you hang-clean, you are forced not only to grip the weight but then to pull it up to the clean position as you see her doing in the photo above.  Repeat this several times with heavy weight and not only do your forearms scream, but your shoulders and traps do too!

This exercises will get you bigger if performed consistently over time.

Compound Shoulder Exercise #2:

Military Press

Military press

If you did nothing but military press, you’d grow much bigger shoulders.

That is a fact!

I know that you probably are doing this lift already, but if you are anything like most guys, you just don’t do enough of it.

You can use either a straight barbell or a dumbbell.  I personally like to mix it up.

The #1 mistake you are making on your shoulder day is that you are allotting equal time to isolation lifts and compound lifts.  So, for example, you might begin your shoulder workout with military press and knock out 3 sets, but then you’ll go to lateral raises and spend the exact same amount of time on that exercise.

My point is simple – there is no way that lateral raises are going to give you even close to the mass growth that military press will!   Not a chance!

Here’s a little tip… if your shoulders are not progressing the way you’d like, GIVE-UP all the other isolation lifts and put your focus smack on military press and hang-cleans.  You’ve just dropped the number of lifts you do on shoulder day from 5 or 6… to just two!

Your lift will be the exact same amount of time if you take a good amount of rest, only you’ll just be spending more of it on the compound movements that will actually get you growth.

An added benefit is that you’ll be able to conserve your energy from being wasted on pointless lifts not working for you.

As Clayton South points out in his article for Bodybuilding.com “The Big Four: Clean and Press, Deadlift, Squats and Flat Bench”:

“The effectiveness of these exercises lies in their ability to simultaneously stimulate multiple muscle groups. These are not isolation movements; they are the most compound movements known, and also the best mass builders known.”

Make damn sure you are getting in your military presses on shoulder day.

I like to tell people that if you had to make a choice between bench or military press, choose military press every day of the week.  That is how important they are.

Compound Shoulder Exercise #3:

Hang-Clean + Press

My shoulder days are Tuesday and Friday.

If I picked any one of these exercises listed here and simply focused on that, my gains would be A+!  That is it.  Just do less and get better results.  That is the name of the game!

The way this works is by only focusing on the lifts that produce results.

Hang-Clean and press is absolutely dynamite for this.

As Jason Ferruggia points out on his blog

“The clean and press is the most basic, old school exercise there is. You pick a weight up off the ground and put it overhead. It’s the essence of weight training. And nothing is better if you want to build big shoulders.

Not going to lie, though, it takes some practice.

Check out the video.

Start doing these (and hang-cleans) with lite weights in order to get your form down.  Then you’ll be able to quickly progress up and notice some solid gains.

Ultimate shoulder workout

Next time shoulder day rolls round try doing the following…

Limit the number of lifts you actually do and add in military press and either hang-clean or hang-clean and press.

With the military press, I use both dumbbell and barbell.

So, for example, my shoulder days are Tuesday and Friday.  On Tuesday I use dumbbells and on Friday I use barbell press.  Honestly, if you did press and hang-cleans you would be golden!  Every now and then I still throw in some lateral raises to target my middle delts, but they are not needed from a sheer muscle gain perspective.

So your shoulder lifts on those days could literally be…

  • Military Press 5×6 (switch the reps up.  I love doing only six reps or less with heavy weight because I feel like I get better growth.)
  • Hang Clean 5×4 (You could also make this a hang-clean and press too.  I like to alternate between just hang-clean and then the next set I will add the press.)

One of the advantages to doing just hang-clean is you can do heavier weight.  Heavier weight naturally helps develop the traps more.


Here’s the bottom line – you need to quit expending all of your energy on isolation exercises and put a prime emphasis on compound lifts.  These are the types of exercises that are going to make your shoulder days really pay off.

There is a reason why Olympic weightlifters have such big shoulders, they do these types of lifts.

One major advantage of growing your shoulders is that your waist will look smaller and you will naturally add a sexier “v-taper” that stretches from your shoulders to your lower back.

These are the exercise that will make it happen for you.

If you have any questions feel free to ask below.

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Great article Jason! Thank you.
Honestly I have been lifting for a long time, and found out (much later unfortunately) that nothing hits my upper back/traps like Hangcleans and Snatch Grip High Pulls. After years of useless shrugging I have finally moved on, maybe they work for some but not for me. The amount of trapezius strength and growth I had from Olympic lifts is amazing compared to any other exercise. In addition they are very functional exercises for the sports person (i.e. football, Jiujitsu, etc…).


Awesome Jason! I got some cleans lined up for tomorrow too. and keep up the good work!
BTW, here is a thread from last year showing how SGHP helped me with traps, I think they are even much better now in strength and size.



Hey Jason,

Great article! Over head presses are one of my favourite lifts of all time so I’m glad you included it on the list 🙂 P.s. hang cleans are an awesome trap exercise, probably why Olympic athletes have traps up to their ears haha!

It would be awesome to get your thoughts on my own list that I have compiled (10 best lifts for strength)?

I have sent you a brief email, look forward to your reply!