Choose your shoulder adventure from our selection of expert-authored workouts.
There is no single method of growing a bodypart. And, in the case of shoulders – where crazy mobility and three separate heads factor in – multiple methods is usually par for the course when seeking optimum development.
DIVERSIFY YOUR SHOULDER TRAINING
This diverse helping of workouts allows you to diversify your shoulder-training portfolio. Each has its own unique take on how the many variables – i.e. exercise selection and order, rest, angles – should be manipulated.
Try all four of these shoulder workouts over the next four weeks or simply select the one that you feel most closely suits your shoulder goals for the moment.
WORKOUT 1: ISOLATION NATION
Pressing overhead is one of the most functional and growth-triggering moves you can do for your shoulders, which is why most guys lead off with them. But sometimes, defying convention can help you take a bodypart to the next level.
Single-Arm Behind-the-Back Lateral Raise 4/12 (each arm) 2
Dumbbell Overhead Press 4/10 1
Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Overhead Press 3/12
Incline Bench Dumbbell Front Raise 3/12 3
Bent-Over Rear-Delt Cable Raise 4/12
Machine Overhead Press 2/10 4
1 Rest 120 seconds between sets. Rest no longer than 90 seconds on all other sets and exercises.
2 Because the cable pulls the handle slightly behind your glutes, the normal range of motion for a lateral raise is increased.
3 Lying back on an incline bench increases the normal range of motion of this exercise. Lie back, hang your arms straight down and raise the dumbbells up just past horizontal with floor.
4 Choose a weight that brings about initial failure at or about 10 reps. Lower the weight 20-30% and continue for another six reps or until you reach failure again.
Why It Works: While most people choose to start with big multi-joint exercises – and there are plenty of good reasons to do so – working on isolated movements may be just the reverse-thinking that your body needs. Use this program to focus on the range of motion of the middle and front delt heads, nailing the major medial portion of the deltoid first. Then, rather than using barbells and fixed range movements, use cables and dumbbells and alter your angles to create a much longer range of motion for your entire shoulder. Finish your routine with drop sets on your favorite shoulder machine and leave the gym feeling like you just put on a pair of shoulder pads. This non-conventional approach will crush your shoulders and give them a thicker, more defined shape.
David Sandler, MS, CISSN, CSCS*D, RSCC*D, HFD, HFI, FNSCA, FISSN has been a consultant, educator, researcher, and strength and conditioning coach for the past 25 years. He is the Director of Science and Education for iSatori and the President of StrengthPro, a training and nutrition consulting group.
WORKOUT 2: POWER SURGE
Guys usually train for their shoulders to get stronger or they train for them to be bigger. But how often do guys train for their delts to be powerful? Not often, but more should take to exercises that lend well to moving big weight explosively, as this can lead to gains previously thought impossible.
Barbell Push Press 4/8-10 1
Barbell High Pull 3/10 2
Front Raise with Plate 3/10
Leaning One-Arm Cable Raise 3/10-12
One-Arm Cable Rear-Delt Raise 3/10-12
1 Performed like a standing barbell press, you simply “unlock” your hips and knees and extend them while pressing the weight explosively overhead.
2 Performed like a wide-grip upright row, you simply “unlock” your hips and knees and extend them while pulling the weight explosively to shoulder height.
3 Vary hand spacing on the plate from set to set to shift the muscular recruitment and to increase difficulty.
Why It Works: Rather than executing your shoulder routine with the typical heavy presses to build mass and then following it up with the common “shaping” exercises like delt raises, here you’ll begin the workout with two heavy, explosive lifts. The push press and high pull both incorporate the use of your legs, which in turn allows you to handle greater loads and target growth-prone, fast-twitch muscle fibers. You then follow up with exercises that are variations of the common shoulder shaping lifts. These variations will force your body to quickly adapt to change and allow you to continue building more muscle and blasting through plateaus. Be sure to perform a thorough, active warm-up ahead of your initial working sets to maximize power potential and minimize risk of injury.
Jim Ryno, CPT, is the owner of LIFT Studios, a private personal-training facility in New Jersey.
WORKOUT 3: SERIOUS STRENGTH
Sure, the shoulders consist of many small, intricate muscles and delicate connective tissue but that’s no excuse to baby them. Instead, bolster them in their fight against injury – and gravity – with this strength-first approach.
Reverse-Band Standing Overhead Press 3/3
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press 1/RP 1
Handstand Push-Ups 1/To Failure
Lateral Raise 3/8 2
Face Pulls 3/12
Dumbbell Rear-Delt Flye 3/12
1 Perform this as one rest-pause set. Using your 8RM, perform 4-5 reps (short of failure) at a time, resting 20 seconds between segments, until you hit 25-30 reps, or until you can no longer safely perform reps with good form.
2 Using a weight close to your 10RM, “cheat” your way through the positive portion of each rep, pause for a count, and take a full five seconds to lower the weight on each of your eight prescribed reps.
Why It Works: Overhead presses have an ascending strength curve – the most difficult part is at the bottom of the movement and it gets progressively easier as you lock the weight out. Bands, in this case secured to the top of the power rack, complement the strength curve. As your leverage improves you will have to produce more force because the bands will help less and less—the entire movement will be a hellacious overload. The superset with dumbbell overhead presses and handstand push-ups offer a classic origin/insertion stimulus taxing the muscle at both ends. The cheat laterals help because the concentric momentum, with your legs helping a bit, assists you through the sticking point. The eccentric is overloaded because it is strict and done at a slow tempo. You can handle up to 160% more on an eccentric, which translates to more muscle damage and greater gains. The face pulls are essentially a multi-joint move for your rear delts that allow you to use more weight for this small but crucial muscle.
Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of JoshStrength.com and co-author (with Adam benShea) of the Amazon No. 1 seller Jailhouse Strong. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting.
WORKOUT 4: TRIPLE UP FOR TRIPLE GAINS
By performing multiple exercises for a single muscle group in succession, you can reap a variety of benefits. And if you go a step further and mix up your rep ranges, you can further exhaust a broad spectrum of muscle fibers in your delts.
Barbell Push Press 3/6
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press 3/12
Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3/25
Single-Arm Overhead Press 3/10-12 (each side)
Dumbbell Front Raise 3/10-12
1 Rest 10 seconds between exercises and 180 seconds between tri-sets.
2 Rest 45 seconds between sets and exercises.
Why It Works: The 6-12-25 protocol is very good at inducing growth hormone (GH) release, stimulating new gains in strength and hypertrophy. The single-arm dumbbell press is a very good exercise because when doing both arms at the same time you can not go as far up as the scapulae cannot separate as far. This Is a very good exercise for health and stability of the shoulder joint and can translate to additional strength when you go back to your bilateral presses.
Phil Gephart, MS, CSCS, is a certified personal trainer and owner of Newport Fit4Life in Newport Beach, Calif. A former professional basketball player, his CHEK & PICP certifications are recognized as the top in the world in the holistic, corrective exercise approach as well as preparing athletes for competition.