Building a massive, well-balanced set of shoulders can be far from easy for most people – it takes a lot of hard work done correctly and patience. The shoulders are included in all upper body movements, but are very vulnerable to injuries and you can’t do much in any exercise if your shoulders hurt.
Although they’re crucial for achieving an equally defined, symmetrical muscular body, many guys struggle with their development and having a ripped chest without solid delts is not really our idea of handsomness. Now put your coffee cup aside and get ready, because we are going to help you build a stronger, injury-free set of prizeworthy shoulders!
If you want to spark up some real progress, first you need to understand the shoulder anatomy. The shoulder is a rather unstable ball and socket joint, covered by a major pinnate muscle called the deltoid, which gives it its round shape. If you imagine your shoulders being structured as onion layers, the deltoid would be the top layer and it consists of three heads:
– The anterior head starts on the front of the clavicle and attaches to the humerus (upper arm). It’s most important job is shoulder abduction when the shoulder is externally rotated.
– The middle head starts more central, i.e. on the acromion, and attaches to the outer portion of the humerus. It’s mostly involved in shoulder abduction when the shoulder is internally rotated.
– The posterior head starts on the back of the scapula (shoulder blade) and attaches on the humerus. It contributes to shoulder extension, external rotation and transverse abduction and extension.
Attaining a balanced definition of the shoulders involves developing all three deltoid heads, especially the medial and posterior because the anterior gets a good amount of work during chest workouts.
Deep under this layer of deltoids lies another major muscle group called the rotator cuff, which is responsible for stabilizing the joint and all overhead and rotational movements. It consists of four muscles:
– Infraspinatus, a thick triangular muscle wrapped around the outside portion of the scapula
– Teres minor, a smaller mucle found under the infraspinatus
– Supraspinatus, a muscle that runs from the scapula to the inside of the humerus, separated from the infraspinatus by the spine of the scapula
– Subscapularis, another large triangular muscle that originates from the subscapular fossa of the scapula and inserts in the humerus.
Since this muscle group provides stability to the shoulder complex while working hard to support all upper body movements at the same time, it’s very important to keep it strong and healthy in order to prevent possible injuries from overuse or acute trauma. Always warm up by doing stretches and pendulum movements before you start the heavy shoulder routines.
No matter which muscle of your shoulders is lagging behind the most, these three shoulder workouts are guaranteed to ignite overall growth and strength gains!
– Military Barbell Press
This intense compound movement powerfully hits the anterior and lateral heads of the deltoid. Since it requires a lot of energy, perform it in the beginning of the shoulder workout – start with either a bench at 90 degree or standing within a squat rack, then un-rack the barbell from the front position and press the weight up and slightly back, poking the head forward at the end of the movement.
Finish by lowering the weight slowly back down. Depending on your shoulder strength and flexibility, you can also take the barbell behind the head, as long as it doesn’t put the shoulders under too musch stress. Remember, these muscles are very prone to injury if you don’t train carefully. Optimal number of sets is 5, with 6-8 reps.
– Clean and Press
The clean and press is another complex compound movement that’s incredibly efficient at working all major muscle groups together and building explosive strength, endurance and stability in the shoulders, traps, triceps, back and abdominal muscles. All of the great pro’s have heavily used this exercise to develop massive shoulders, but keep in mind that it takes some time to learn to perform it with proper technique.
It’s best to do it in the beginning of your shoulder routine, but it can be also done at the end with lighter weight. Start by positioning your feet at shoulder width apart, bending your knees and placing them in between your fully extended arms, as you would set up for a deadlift. The grip should be slightly wider than shoulder width. Initiate the lift by extending with the knees and hips.
When the weight reaches chest-level, tighten your core, shrug the shoulders as high as possible and press the bar overhead. Finish the movement with placing the weight slightly behind the torso. Optimal number of sets is 4, with 10-12 reps.
– Wide grip upright rows
This multijoint shoulder exercise is great for building the side delts. A wider grip will automatically recruit and innervate all three delt heads (with emphasis on the front and middle heads) with higher precision, intensity and effectiveness.
Start in an upright position by holding a bar in front of you. Your hands should be placed a bit wider than your shoulders width. Start pulling the bar towards your chin with your elbows leading the way. Hold the bar for 1-3 seconds in the top position then lower the bar down. Keep the bar close to your body throughout the whole movement. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps
– Dumbbell rear lateral raises
This exercise is guaranteed to finish of your shoulders, especially your rear deltoids and give you that 3D look to the shoulders. Start in a bent position with your hips bent and your back straight.
Grab a dumbbell in each arm and make sure your palms are facing together. Raise upper arms to sides until elbows are shoulder height. Maintain height of elbows above wrists by raising “pinkie finger” side up. Lower and repeat. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
As with any other type of exercise, make sure you perform the movements with proper form and adjust the number of sets and reps to your abilities in order to avoid possible injuries. Less can be more sometimes, as long as you train regularly!