Previously, we spoke about knowing your limits, the virtues of the overhead press and reasons to use free weights. Now, we look at the remaining parts of our quest for better, bigger shoulders.
Good supplements, good nutrition and the correct attitude are key to building a good physique. But knowing what to do in the gym is the thing that counts.
So here is part 2 of the shoulder workout bible.
Part 1 here: 11 laws of building boulder shoulders: Part 1.
6. Isolation exercises after overhead presses
Isolation or single-joint exercises are usually focused on individual muscles and eliminate the assisting muscle groups that support multi-joint exercises. To target a single deltoid you need to train in the particular plane in which the deltoid is working most prominently.
Isolation 1 – Front Raises
When you extend and raise your arms directly in front of your body you’re focussing on the anterior deltoids (also known as front delts). This exercise can be done with a variety of equipment including barbells and dumbbells, seated or standing and with one arm at a time or both.
Isolation 2 – Lateral Raises
Raise your extended arms directly out to the side when holding dumbbells and this targets the middle delts. The movement is performed in the lateral (side) plane hence the name of the exercise. As with front raises, lateral raises can be done seated or standing, and be performed one arm at a time or both at the same time.
Isolation 3 – Bent Over Raises
If you bend over maintaining a straight back and extend your arms from a position down below your body out to your sides, you target the rear delts. You can perform the exercise standing in a bent over position or seated.
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7. Make sure all delt heads are worked equally
Keeping muscle groups balanced is vital all over the body, including the shoulders. More often than not newcomers to the gym focus solely on building a big chest which can sometimes cause overdeveloped anterior delts (due to the fact anterior deltoids contribute to the chest pressing motion). The medial delt is worked heavily during overhead pressing motions which is also a popular weight training exercise. However, if you neglect back training, which many new gym trainers do, your posterior deltoid will be small in comparison to the other deltoids.
You can use the targeted single joint exercises above to work on the lagging delt head, try and work your lagging delt head straight after your presses when energy levels are high.
8. Protect the rotator cuffs
The rotator cuffs are a group of four strap like muscles and their primary function is to stabilise the shoulder joint. It is very important to warm up the rotator cuffs when doing any upper body workout, but in particular shoulder and chest training where they can they can cause tremendous pain shortly afterwards if not warmed up beforehand.
In a more long term sense, if you are constantly training the deltoids and chest muscles without adequately training the rotator cuffs, the strength imbalance between the rotators and muscle groups can increase to a point where there is an elevated risk of injury.
9. Deal with shoulder pain
Shoulder pain is very common amongst lifters due to the complexity of the joints and repetitive motion of the exercises. Persistent pain could mean serious trouble so mustn’t be underestimated; a prolonged time off period is often needed. For less severe pain a simple change in exercise behaviour may be required. For example switching from barbells into dumbells which allow the shoulders to work in a more natural position.
10. Don’t underestimate shrugs
The upper trapezius gets through a lot of work during overhead presses and lateral raises, but shrugs are a terrific way to round off a solid shoulder workout with a single joint exercise to specifically target the traps.
11. Variety is king
As with all training your body will eventually adapt to the training stimulus presented to it. Consider alternating your shoulder training, going from light to moderate to heavy and frequently utilising different movements and routines. This helps to avoid a plateau in your training and offers greater long term growth potential.