The Elite Physique

Caution: Shoulder Work Ahead

Intense should work is a must for a balanced physique. The shoulder muscles, commonly referred to as the deltoids or delts, are important muscles to develop if your goal is bodybuilding or even to compete on the physique stage. Well-developed shoulders bring proportion to your physique by adding width to your upper body. This effect can even give your waist a smaller appearance. Great delts are just pleasing to the eye.

As great as all this sounds, shoulder work is hard work. To build great delts you need determination, focus, and training consistency. If you are ready for real shoulder work that will give you great results, let’s get started.

caution shoulder work ahead

Dedicated Shoulder Work Pays Off By Giving Your Great Muscle Balance…

Warm-up the Rotator Cuff for Shoulder Work

Before you being your shoulder work it is recommended that you warm-up your delts well to prevent tears which can lead to painful shoulder injuries. Serious lifters warm-up their rotator cuff fully before starting their shoulder work.  The rotator cuff is a stabilizer that needs to be warmed-up in order to prevent injuries. A well-prepped rotator cuff can also improve upper chest training and shoulder work.

The rotator cuff is a collection of tendons secured together and surrounds the deltoid. The delicate group of tendons helps the shoulder to rotate in various directions. The rotator cuff is often damaged by lifters who don’t warm it up, who use too much poundage too soon, and who use poor form by slinging and jerking the weights.

There are various rotator cuff warm-up exercises you can do.

Start with no weight, just so you can get the feel of the exercise. When you do start to use weight, choose a light plate or dumbbell. The rotator cuff is a very delicate area, so you want to use light weight, always. Using heavy poundage could cause injury and damage.

Get more rotator cuff training here.

rotator cuff tear diagram

 

Compound Movements for Shoulder Work

Once you warm-up your rotator cuff you can move on to your shoulder work to build nice cannonball delts. Compound exercises build mass, so let’s use them first.

The primary muscle building exercise for the shoulders are any overhead pressing exercises such as barbell presses, machine presses, dumbbell presses, and even cable presses. Advanced lifters might use free weights more, as they allow all the muscles and stabilizers to be used. Since the body does adapt rather quickly, you can change your pressing movements from time to time to give your delts a shock.

Overhead pressing exercises involves all the heads of the shoulder muscle to be used simultaneously. Pressing from the front is preferred. Pressing movements from behind the head are unnatural movements and if the poundage you use is heavy, could cause injury.

When doing your shoulder work, you can boost gains, strength and development by using partial training at times to avoid too much trap muscle involvement. To do a partial shoulder press use the Smith Machine for safety. Load the bar, set the safety brackets and position the seated bench in the unit. Un-rack the bar and lower it halfway. When your upper arms are parallel to the floor, contract the weight back to the starting position.

Shoulder work for strength and size isn’t always easy and a lot of people give up too soon. The deltoid muscle has a lot of muscle fibers, mainly slow-twitch fibers. With this in mind, it would be wise to use lighter poundage and more sets and reps the first few months of your shoulder work.

female bodybuilder dumbell pressing

 

Adding Symmetry

To add more width to your upper body, lateral shoulder training works wonders.  This will give your physique better proportion and help create the complete package.  Many people have problems with form on lateral raises. Simply hold a light dumbbell in each hand, keep your arms straight, and lift your arms until they are parallel to the floor.

You don’t need heavy poundage for side lateral raises. It’s a small muscle and it can only handle so much weight. Light to moderate poundage should work just fine. This muscle responds to a few more reps, so you might shoot for 12.  You can do lateral raises with cables as well. Cables bring a different kind of intensity. You also have the option of pulling from the front or back to bring more shoulder work variety.

An advanced technique you can use is, when you start your first rep, keep the dumbbells about an inch or two away from your body. This will bring more stress to the lateral head. Start and stop at this point and see if you can feel the difference. Another little advanced tip you can use is to lean forward slightly. This will help to isolate the lateral delts even more! Keep the lean slight. Don’t bend over and go into some other exercise.

fitness competitor doing lateral raises

 

Front Shoulder Work

A lot of lifters neglect the front shoulders, assuming that they get enough stimulation from their chest training when doing flat and incline presses. The front delts do get some shoulder work with chest training, but it’s not really enough to build the front shoulders. Training the front of your shoulders is important and you need to make it a regular part of your shoulder work to create the total package.

The most popular front shoulder exercises are the Arnold press and front raises. As usual, I have a few training tricks up my sleeve to help you get even more out of your shoulder work.  Try this with front dumbbell raises. Lean into the movement. Doing so will get the front deltoid to contract fully. You can do this by holding on to something stable, lean in to the movement roughly 25 degrees. While keeping your arm straight, raise the dumbbell until your arm is parallel to the floor.

Another twist you can try is using a hammer grip where your thumbs are facing up. This simple change in the position of your hand will change the stress of the exercise.

fit woman flexing upper body

 

Rear Deltoids for Shoulder Work

Often times the rear delts don’t get much attention with shoulder work because people either skip over it or they assume the back of the shoulders get trained enough with back training. For overall shoulder development, the rear delts need to be trained.

A good mass builder for the rear delts is the rear delts row. This can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, cables, and even the Hammer Strength Machine. As you pull the bar, bring it toward your collarbone to stimulate the rear delts.

An example of how to do the rear delts row with a barbell is to grab the bar using an over-handed grip. Make sure your hands are placed on the bar just slightly wider than shoulder width, but not excessively wide. Bend over and using your rear delts, pull the bar toward your collarbone. As you do, contract your shoulder blades together. Release and let your shoulders roll forward to get the full stretch. Repeat.

The bent-over lat raises are also a great exercise for the rear delts. Simply sit on the end of a bench and bend over. With a dumbbell in each hand, lift the dumbbells outward from the side. Contract your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. You can jazz this exercise up by using an underhanded grip so instead of pulling the weights from your side you’ll be pushing them. It will bring a different form of intensity.

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I have a lot more secrets, tips, and tricks for training to build muscle, lose fat and transform your body. The real trick is knowing how the muscle works, what exercises do the muscle building, and how each muscle should be trained.

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Karen Sessions NSCA-CPT

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My name is Karen Sessions and I am a life-time natural female bodybuilder, multi-certified fitness instructor, author, specialist in performance nutrition, and a success coach. I've been in the fitness industry since 1988! I teach people Just Like You how to transform their bodies, get in shape, build muscle, lose fat and compete in Bodybuilding, Physique, and Figure Competitions. When you have the CORRECT information you can have total confidence and turn your dreams into reality... and I can help transform YOUR body. I have helped THOUSANDS of clients reach their goals and I can help you, too

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