Caution - Shoulder Work Ahead!

03 February

The shoulders are an important muscle group. They give the body balance and proportion. Well-developed shoulders provide the upper body width, they make the waist appear smaller, and it's aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Creating well-developed and balanced shoulders can be a daunting task. It requires focus, determination, and consistency.

Compound Movements

The mass builder in shoulder exercises are any overhead pressing movement. This can come in the form of barbells, dumbbells, machines, and even cables.

Keep in mind that free weights allow all the muscles and stabilizers to be utilized, and the barbell will be the best overall shoulder builder. However, your body can adapt to an exercise, so it's best to change your pressing methods from time to time to prevent staleness.

Overhead presses target all of the heads of the deltoid simultaneously. The important thing when pressing is to press from the front. Rear shoulder presses are unnatural, especially with a lot of weight. You could possibly injure yourself.

Another aspect not tapped on to very much is that to effectively target the deltoid, you really only need a partial movement. When pressing, once your upper arms (from your elbow to your shoulder) are parallel to the floor, the movement is finished. Going pass this point will be involving the traps more and not the shoulders.

If you want to train traps, then that's fine, give them an exercise of their own. If you want to build dramatic deltoids, focus on the proper form.

Shoulder training for size and strength can be difficult and many give up far too early in their endeavor. The shoulder is composed of many fibers, and a lot of slow twitch fibers. With this in mind, be sure to focus on endurance training in the beginning months of your shoulder development.

Start with about 4 sets of 20 repetitions. When you feel you can master this easily, increase the poundage slightly and lower the reps to 15. Keep progressing in this manner until you are lifting heavy poundage in the 6-8 rep range. When you hit heavier weight and less reps, you can drop down to 3 sets.

Once you have mastered heavy shoulder training, be sure to alternate it with the endurance training for variety and shock.

Adding Symmetry

Now that you have the shoulder packing mass training down, let's shape those deltoids to make them more impressive.

Lateral deltoid work will add more symmetry to your prize winning shoulders. This is necessary to create proportion and the complete package. Without tailored deltoids, your physique could look like a giant blob. Build your shoulders and sculpt them.

Lateral raises are best for bringing out shoulder symmetry. This can be a difficult exercise in the beginning, but keep working at it to build your shoulder endurance and strength.

Don't begin too heavy with this exercise, it's a delicate movement and can cause injury if you go through the motion haphazardly. Start the training as stated above, with high reps and light to moderate poundage and gradually build on it.

When using dumbbells for the lateral raises you should begin with the dumbbells about a fist space away from your thighs. This puts more stress on the lateral head of the deltoids. Each repetition should begin at this point, stop when the arms are straight out and parallel to the floor, and end at the starting point, about a fist space away from your thighs. A slight forward lean will isolate the lateral deltoids even more. Keep in mind this is a slight lean and not exaggerated.

You can also do lateral raises with cables. This movement can be preformed from the front or from behind you. Do one arm at a time and begin in the stretched position. When executing the movement, stop when your arm is parallel to the floor. Going pass your shoulder height or cheating will recruit the traps. As previously stated, keep the focus on the shoulders, not the traps. The end of the repetition is once again in the stretched position.

Front Deltoids

Many people neglect to work the anterior shoulder area, thinking it gets enough work from flat and incline chest presses. Although the anterior shoulder does get targeted in some chest training, it's hardly enough to actually build the anterior deltoids adequately.

Anterior deltoid training is necessary and should be a part of your shoulder training to build well-developed and proportioned shoulders. The most common front shoulder exercises that isolate the area are front raises and the Arnold Presses.

Even though you may be doing these exercises, you could possibly perform them better. For instance, when doing front raises, how are you doing them? Perhaps over handed and standing erect? How about using a plate or a barbell? While all this is common, and could be effective, you can achieve far greater results be modifying this just a bit.

First, the shoulder area is detailed and you must get detailed with training it. For the dumbbell front raises, lean into the movement so you can get the front deltoid to contract fully. You can easily do this by grabbing something stable to hold on to. Lean into the movement about 25 degrees. As you raise the dumbbell, keep your arm straight and bring it up in it's alignment to the body. Don't cross your arm over or away from the movement's natural flow, but allow it to follow its natural path. As with any shoulder exercise, keep the movement limited to the shoulder. The movement is finished when your arm is parallel to the floor.

To add more detail to this movement, try a hammer grip, where your thumbs are facing upward. Simply changing hand positions will really put stress in the front shoulders.

As with all shoulder exercises, begin with light weight and increase reps to build your joints first. When you have strong joints, move on to adding more weight and decrease the reps.

Rear Deltoids

The back of the shoulder is sometimes neglected in training. People sometimes skip over it, training it more on back day. This can work for some people, but I find I get a much better shoulder workout by training the rear deltoids on shoulder day.

The mass builder for the back of the shoulders is the bent-over barbell row to the collarbone. This is pretty much the granddaddy of rear deltoid training. It's very powerful and can put on some good mass in that area.

To execute this movement, simply grab a barbell with a pronated grip (palms facing downward). Be sure your arms are a little wider than shoulder-width apart, but don't over-exaggerate. Pull the bar toward your collar bone and contract the shoulder blades together. When you release, be sure to get the full stretch at the bottom of the movement.

Another rear deltoid exercise many people do is the conventional bent-over lateral raises, which are very effective. This is where you bend over with a dumbbell in each hand, raising each one from the side and contract the shoulder blades together. I'm sure most of you are familiar with this. If you want to spice it up and really bring those rear shoulder muscles into action, try rotating your hand grip on the dumbbells. Rather than having a pronated grip use a supinated grip (palms facing upward). You can really feel the effects with this small hand rotation.

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