Take a second, and picture in your mind a bodybuilder. As you ponder an individual at their absolute physical peak, what parts of their impressive physique enter your thoughts first? Is it those hulking biceps, that effortlessly bulge out of shirts. Maybe its rock-hard abs, the definitive sign of someone in shape and an asset seemingly everyone desires. It could even be bulging pecs, giving them a monstrous, prominent chest.
Sure, these muscles are almost definitely the first that comes to your mind when you picture a bodybuilder.
How about the muscles and parts of the anatomy that receive less attention, are tuned for performance, and are way less ‘glamorous’ than your abs, arms, and chest?
If they’re so important, how come they receive comparatively little attention?
The shoulders are, relatively speaking, a rather tough muscle group to train. As a complex region consisting of finely intertwined bone, joints, and muscle, the shoulder is incredibly fragile and devilishly easy to injure. Trust us, when you skew something up top, you’ll know all about it!
As exercising your shoulder muscles operates in fine margins, where utmost attention to detail is essential, this makes them not only a complex challenge to face but with the looming potential of injury, a daunting task too.
Stepping back from the potential pitfalls, it has to be stated that the benefits of training and developing your shoulders far outweighs the negatives.
As such an influential muscle group in the body, your shoulders do take some secondary benefits from back, chest, and tricep workouts, but it is certainly worthwhile implementing some dedicated shoulder exercises into your gym routine.
Primarily stabilisation throughout your upper body. Possessing a set of strong shoulders provide practical benefits pertaining to your range of movement, in particular enabling a far more functionally effective range of movements in your arms.
Also, despite the potential for injury, taking on shoulder exercises and building up the muscle will also contribute to a resistance factor against injury, meaning your chances of encountering such nasties as a torn rotator-cuff are far more limited.
Finally, let’s be honest here, possessing jacked delts and traps looks phenomenal. Shoulders largely fly under the radar in terms of muscle people desire to develop as we touched on earlier, but giving your shoulders the attention and exercise they deserve will make as much of a difference to your appearance as making huge gains on your arms. Plus, you’ll never get sick of people complementing or taking a squeeze of your newly huge shoulders, giving your self-confidence a massive boost.
The Anatomy of The Shoulder
Before we march on and show you the best exercises for your shoulder, it’s crucial that you know the composition of your shoulder and exactly what you’re exercising.
As a major conjuncture of bones (the clavicle, the scapula, and the humerus), joints (sternoclavicular, acromioclavicular, glenohumeral, and scapulothoracic), and muscle (anterior deltoid, medial deltoid, posterior deltoid, trapezius) all that effectively operate in harmony to provide you with the necessary movement capabilities. Selecting a workout that hits all the major groups, providing you with balanced stability, is absolutely key for a healthy, strong pair of shoulders.
Shoulder Workouts – How To Get Gains Up Top
Here is the part you’ve all been waiting for – the exercises, regimes, and workouts that’ll give your shoulder the action they deserve. Expect a balanced perspective on what you must do to exercise all the shoulder muscles, to an almost equal degree, that’ll provide you with not only serious gains but greater functionality and movement too.
First things first, you already know how incredibly sensitive the shoulders can be, so it’s imperative that you warm up your muscles properly before you consider any exercise. Walking in and heading straight to the weights is a one-way ticket for an injury.
Focus on two key areas when you warm up, the scapulae (shoulder blades) and the rotator cuff. These two locations have access to all the points in your shoulders, so warming these up will give you a complete and comprehensive warm up.
To start, you’ll do a Back-to-Wall Shoulder Flexion. A simple action to execute:
- Back flat against the wall with arms at your side, thumbs up
- Slowly raise your arms till they’re above your head, and thumbs touch the wall
- Bring your arms back down to the initial position, and repeat
- Do 2 sets of 8 reps
Next, the Forearm Wall Slide:
- Turn to face the wall, take a step back, and place your forearms on the wall, with palms facing each other, with your elbows at ribcage height
- Manoeuvre your arms slowly up the wall, and one your elbows are above head height, squeeze your shoulder blades together, then pull your arms away from the wall and make a Y shape above your head. Repeat
- Do 2 sets of 8 reps
Now on to the rotator cuff muscles, and for the next two warmups you’ll require a resistance band.
It’s time for the Band Internal and External Rotation:
- Attach a resistance band to a prop at hip height
- Elbow held in the position your left hand first, an overhand grip to pull the band across your body and outwards, until your palm is facing outwards, rotating your shoulder
- Complete a few sets then saw hands.
- Do 1 set of 8 reps
Our final warm-up is the External Rotation from Half-Kneeling Position
Quite a mouthful this one, but highly recommended too. Once again you’ll need the resistance band as the previous warm up.
- Get down on one knee, grab the band and angle your hand so your palm is facing the floor
- Slowly pull back the band so your shoulder rotates, and your palm is facing directly ahead
What’s your warm-up complete, and your shoulders limbered up and ready to rock.
To provide you with some insight into what we’re going to be covering here, we’ll be providing you with a high quality work out, that’ll work your muscles in a balanced and effective manner, providing you with superior results functionally and physically.
Creating a set of soldiers that are defined and in excellent condition, there are four essential points the regime must contain:
- Compound movements, for explosive movement and gains
- A singular exercise focus on the posterior deltoid
- Another isolated exercise focusing on the rotator cuff
- An exercise that simultaneously stimulates the rotator cuff and scapulae
Taking these points in tow we can move forward and create a workout that brings these factors together and help you smash your should goals. So without further ado, here’s the workout that’ll proper your shoulders into marvellous condition.
The Ultimate Shoulder Workout
Exercise #1 – The Overhead Press:
- With your feet at shoulder-width distance, lift the bar from the ground and rest on your front shoulders
- Thrust the bar skywards and above your head, stretching your arms straight above you
- Hold the position by locking your elbows in position, before shrugging your shoulders upwards
- Bring the bar back down and complete the set
- Do 5 sets of 5 reps with a 3-minute break between sets
Exercise #2 – Bent-Over Lateral
- Bend your knees and edge your ribcage to be in line but above your kneecaps, and maintain a straight back
- Pick up the dumbbells with the hammer hand grip
- Lift the weight upwards slowly and in a controlled manner (do not swing the weights) and reach a position where your arms are parallel to the floor
- Hold the position for a second then retract your arms to the first position
- Do 3 sets of 12 reps with a lighter weight, or increase the weight and drop the reps to 8-10, and rest 90 seconds between sets
Exercise #3 – Cull Dribble
- Choose a medicine ball that’s light enough to dribble for the entirety of this exercise
- Pick up the ball with both hands, before rolling into one hand, lifting said hand so the ball is at about the same height as your head
- Dribble the ball against the wall, using close, quick bounces to stimulate your rotary cuff
- Do 3 sets on each side, lasting 20 seconds a time, with a 60-second break between sets
Exercise #4 – PNF D2 Flexion
- Approach cable machine set your weight, and kneel down on one knee
- Grab handle across your body with the side on the body where the knee is not touching the floor
- Pull handle diagonally upwards in one movement, going from your hip on the kneeling side, across your body and up past your head on the opposing side of your body
- Ensure to push your shoulder blade back but do not rotate
- Do 3 sets of 12 reps, or increase the weights and drop the reps to the 8-10 range, and rest 60 seconds between sets
Deadly Dumbbell Workout
If you’re craving an extension to the previous workout, you need to incorporate dumbbells as an addition to this regime. Gaining massive shoulders can easily be achieved by adding these free weights into the mix, so we’ devised a few moves you can use to attain those mountainous shoulders you’ve long desired.
Exercise #1 – Front Raise
- Pick up your desired dumbbell, one in each hand, stand upright, tighten your torso, and position the weights to be in front of your thighs
- Slowly lift your left hand so that the dumbbell is straight out ahead of you, in line with your shoulder and parallel to the ground
- Lower your arm to the starting position, and change arms
- Do 3 sets on each side, of 10 – 12 reps
Exercise #2 – Lateral Raise
- Pick up a dumbbell with each hand, and position them at the side of your thighs
- Tighten your core, and slowly with both hands raise the dumbbells outwards from your body to be in line with your shoulders, and parallel to the floor
- Hold the position, then release down to your side and restart the movement
- Do 3 sets, 10 – 12 reps
Exercise #3 – Shrug
- Select a heavier set of dumbbells, and place one in each hand
- Stand upright, with the weights at the side of your body at thigh height
- Raise your shoulders into a shrug, and hold for a moment, then release
- Do not roll your shoulders
- Do 3 sets, of 12 reps
Shoulder Workout for Women
The above workouts are equally as applicable and successful for men and women, through scientific research has established that women cope better with higher volume exercises, so dropping the weight and increasing the weights can give you more out of your workout. Below are some workouts that absolutely adhere to that set of rules and will give the ladies an incredible, defined set of shoulders.
Exercise #1 – Front Plate Raise
- Select a plate, and hold it tight just below waist height
- Raise the plate so it is directly in front of your face and holds
- Lower the plate, and repeat
- Do 3 sets, of 12 reps
Exercise #2 – Arnold Press
- Select dumbbells, take a seat and curl your arms so the palms are facing inwards to your shoulders
- Press your arms upwards, in doing so twist your arms so the palms are now facing outwards, and extend both arms fully
- Hold the position, and slowly bring your arms down, turning both arms to the original position, and repeat
- Do 3 sets, of 12 reps
Exercise #3 – Dumbbell Upright Row
- Select dumbbells, and hold them in front of you at thigh height
- Raise both weights simultaneously, until they’re in line with your shoulders
- Hold, then release, and repeat the motion
- Do 3 sets, of 12 reps.