Let’s face it, working out your shoulders gets boring. You do some presses, lateral raises, front raises, and shrugs and call it a day. You never deviate from your path because it is what you have been trained to do. Many people fumble through the same workout not ever knowing why they are performing the exercise that they are doing. This is not a good way to approach the gym. You need to break down each movement and analyze what muscle it is working and what makes that exercise effective on that muscle. This could not be move evident than when training shoulders.
The shoulder itself refers to the group of structures in and about the shoulder joint. It is made up of three bones (clavicle, scapula, and humerus) and where they meet (articulate) is called the shoulder joint. Although there are many minor movers, such as the muscles that make up the rotator’s cuff and muscles associated with the scapula we are going to focus on the main movers of the shoulder. The main movers include the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids along with the muscles of the upper half of the trapezius. Let’s look at what each of these muscles do and give an exercise that primarily uses that particular muscle.
Muscle Structure of Shoulder
||What does it do?
||over head press
||bent over lateral raise
The anterior deltoid is worked the most with over head presses and as a helper in things such as bench press and dips. This is why most guys at the gym are really big in the front shoulder, but have nothing to show on the side or the rear shoulder. An anterior deltoid is built naturally; the other two are worked for.
The lateral deltoid has the ability to make a huge difference in the appearance on a person. Its ability to make you look wider and cap off the shoulder from the front view makes it the most important of the three to bodybuilders. Not that the other two do not matter, but the width difference wins shows and the lateral head gives you width. To bad that it is also the most commonly miss used of the three. Most people’s form on side laterals still involve to much help from their anterior deltoid or too much trapezius involvement due to elbow placement.
The posterior deltoid is usually neglected by most and if it gets worked at all it is a couple of sets of reverse peck decks at the end of a workout. This muscle along with the lateral deltoid can make a difference at show time. From the side view the shoulder is noticeably flat in the back on a contestant that neglects there posterior deltoids and can be a quick way to single out a competitor.
Setting up a Routine
In most areas I would suggest to start with the lagging part of the muscle group at the first of the workout, but on shoulders any over head presses should be done first in my opinion. I do not think starting with posterior deltoid flyes is a good idea just because you are lagging in them. I believe this to be true do to the extra blood pushed into the area from a more complex and stressing over head movement. The over head press uses ever head of the deltoid in a stabilizing or active manner. After starting with a couple of pressing movements, you could move to the posterior deltoid. I always place it here to ensure I blast them hard and perform them well. It is sad, but if I spend too much time on laterals I may leave without hitting posterior deltoids. Placing them before in the workout forces me do them much more regularly. I finish with a couple of lateral movements and try to keep perfect form and try to force all of the pressure into my lateral deltoid. Shrugs follow to cap of the workout.
Exercise Reps Sets
Barbell Military Press 12,10,8 3
Arnold Dumbbell Press 12,10,8 3
Bent Over Lateral Raises 15 3
Reverse Peck Deck 15 3
Lateral Raises 12-15 4
Shrugs 12-15 4
Breaking Down the Exercises
- Barbell Military Press
Sit at a military press, smith machine, squat rack or anywhere that will allow you to put a barbell on a rack behind and above you. Grab the barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip with your palms facing forward. Lift the barbell off of the rack and press it straight up over your head. Lower the barbell either in front of your head towards the top of your chest, or behind your head towards the back of your neck. Using your shoulders, press the barbell straight back up overhead and repeat.
- Arnold Dumbbell Press
Take a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip, starting with the bells on either side of your collarbone and knuckles facing away; press them overhead until your arms are fully extended. As you push the bells overhead rotate them 180 degrees in a continuous motion until the finish position with your palms facing away from you. Lower and repeat.
- Bent Over Lateral Raises
Grasp dumbbells to each side. Bend knees slightly and bend over through the hips with the back flat, parallel to 30° to the floor. Raise upper arms to sides until elbows are shoulder height. Maintain upper arms perpendicular to torso and a fixed elbow position (20 to 30° angle) throughout exercise. Maintain height of elbows above wrists by raising "pinky" side up. Lower and repeat.
- Reverse Peck Deck
Sit on a peck deck machine facing the back pad. Grasp the handles. Bring your arms back as far and as comfortable as you can and hold. Make sure to keep the same elbow bend during the exercise due to the involvement of the triceps if it is not done correctly. Reverse the movement make sure to be firm in the negative of the exercise. Lower and repeat.
- Lateral Raises
Grasp dumbbells to each side. Bend knees slightly. Raise upper arms to sides until elbows are shoulder height. Maintain upper arms perpendicular to torso and a fixed elbow position (20 to 30° angle) throughout exercise. Maintain height of elbows above wrists by raising "pinky" side up. Lower and repeat.
Stand with your legs about shoulder width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in toward your body. To execute this movement, elevate your shoulders while keeping your arms completely straight. Be sure that you hold your shoulders in the elevated position for a one-count at the top of the movement. Return to the start position and repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.
- Other shoulder exercises
Dumbbell Shoulder Press, Machine Shoulder Press, Upright Row, Front Raise, Clean and Press, Low Pulley Lateral Raise
- Fitting it into Your Schedule
Shoulders are a pushing muscle and should not be done within two days of chest. If you are doing chest on Monday then shoulders should fall in on Friday or earlier in the week, but no earlier than Wednesday. Triceps are secondary movers for the shoulders as well. Although it is not required, you should be able to recover with a back-to-back shoulder and triceps workout days, but one day separation would be ideal.