THE PROBLEM WITH TYPICAL SHOULDER WORKOUTS
The classic theory of “Front, Middle and Rear” delt exercises is a good start for a shoulder workout.
But, I’ll tell you that it’s not enough!
If we look at the four main exercises that people do in their ‘shoulder day’ workout routine: overhead press, side lateral raises, front delt raises and maybe even dips, you’ll see that they share a common problem. Each of these exercises lacks a stretch position of the shoulder or doesn’t take the muscle through its full available range of motion.
This is a problem when it comes to developing a set of impressive boulder shoulders.
I’ve said it in several of my other Perfect Workouts and I’ll say it again. Just because you are going through a full range of motion on the exercises that you are doing it does not mean that you are taking a muscle through its full range of motion.
Because the shoulder is a three dimensional ball and socket joint, you have a great deal of motion available to you on your shoulder exercises. You’re going to want to find exercises that tap into that full range of motion, and our Perfect Workout is designed to do that.
Let’s start out with a little anatomy, courtesy of the Muscle Markers. And later on, Raymond is going to make a cameo appearance to help illustrate the three dimensional nature of the shoulder joint.
Don’t know who Raymond is?
You’ll find out!
THE 3 PARTS OF THE DELTOID MUSCLE
There are three main portions of the shoulder: the front delt, the middle delt and the rear delt.
I’ll be breaking out those handy Muscle Markers to illustrate each of these for you.
how to train the shoulders
The Perfect Shoulder Workout should consist of exercises for your front delts, middle delts and rear delts, but even that doesn’t make the shoulder workout complete.
We’re going to need to ensure our shoulders are properly activated, receive sufficient overload, are worked explosively and are challenged throughout their entire range of motion, including on stretch.
Right off the bat, our workout needs to include exercises that activate the shoulder properly, before you train it.
Why is this so important?
Because the shoulder is a three dimensional joint.
But that’s not all!
The shoulder is also a ball and socket joint which gives us additional freedom.
You were wondering who the heck Raymond is? I’m going to use him to demonstrate the range of the shoulder’s ball and socket movement.
Additionally, since the socket is actually the shoulder blade, there are many additional muscles that are affected by shoulder movement. This not only includes all of the muscles that attach to the humerus, but the muscles that attach to the scapula as well.
There are so many muscles at play here, and we need to activate them and get them to work together properly and to avoid injury. We’ll do that by doing a few warm up sets of an activation exercise with resistance bands.
FOUNDATIONAL STRENGTH MOVES
Any Perfect Workout must include foundational strength moves and the Perfect Shoulder Workout is no exception.
For this particular muscle group, the best exercise for overload is the Overhead Press.
When we do the standing barbell Overhead Press we want to make sure we have a way of scaling the weights, and we also want to incorporate some neuromuscular reeducation to make sure we’re locking in what we’ve established with that activation exercise.
STRETCHing each head of the deltoid
Why is accounting for the stretch of the deltoids in our shoulder workouts such a big deal?
The shoulder is perhaps the upper body muscle group that is most neglected when it comes to stretch. Why? That’s because the most commonly performed shoulder exercises don’t even come close to putting the delts on stretch. Let’s take a look.
In a Side Lateral Raise such as a dumbbell lateral raise or a cable lateral raise, arm stops right at the side of my body.
In a Dumbbell Front Raise my arm also stops on the side of my body.
In a Shoulder Press motion such as a seated dumbbell shoulder press, my arm stops pretty much in the same position. As you can see, all of these exercises are lacking the stretch placed on the deltoid.
However we CAN incorporate a stretch into these exercises if we perform these movements a little differently.
For example, in this Front Delt Raise movement if you take your arm back behind the body, the fibers in the front do get stretched. We are going to apply this principle to all the heads of the delt in this Perfect Shoulder Workout.
TRAINING ALL THE MUSCLES TOGETHER
We often overlook the fact that the shoulder joint is much more than just a ball and socket joint.
Since the socket is technically the shoulder blade itself, you need to consider the other muscles that are connected to these bones that then play an important role in shoulder training.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that hypertrophy should never be the only goal of your shoulder workouts. To train like an athlete you are going to have to incorporate some movements that train the entire shoulder girdle explosively and allow you to train all of these muscles together. The Cheat Lateral is a great exercise to achieve this.
TARGETING THE REAR DELT
We can’t do an upper body workout without including Face Pulls!
This is the number one exercise for targeting the rear delt so it’s an absolute must for our Perfect Shoulder Workout.
THE best SHOULDER WORKOUT: step by step
The Perfect Shoulder Workout needs to include shoulder activation, overload, stretch and working all of the shoulder girdle together explosively. Let me put it all together for you, and show you exactly how to do this step by step.
Since we’ve got so much range of motion in the shoulder, it’s important that we warm it up before we attempt to do the rest of this workout.
We’re going to warm up the shoulder with an activation exercise, the Overhead Band Press.
OVERHEAD BAND PRESS
With this exercise, the resistance isn’t coming from the ground up, like it would in a typical dumbbell or barbell press. It’s pulling you toward the front, which means you have to activate the muscles on the back side of your body. These are the rear delt and more importantly, the rotator cuff muscles.
We need the support of the rotator cuff to do overhead activities, so it’s important that we warm it up. This exercise is a great activator to get your shoulder to start working properly.
EXERCISE NOTES: Do two sets of 15 reps with a three second hold. Try to do very deliberate high quality reps.
1.) OVERLOADING THE DELTS
We can’t overlook the value of those foundational exercises that we are able to overload the most.
For the shoulders, the Barbell Overhead Press is our best exercise for overload.
gym option: BARBELL OVERHEAD PRESS
We’re going to do this exercise for four sets in a descending fashion. Ideally, you’re going to add some weight to the bar and not just allow fatigue to bring your reps down. We are working on trying to build our strength.
Start position is with your hands slightly more than shoulder width apart on the bar, palms facing forward. Then and push the bar up with arms extended overhead. Then lower the weight to approximately shoulder height before beginning again.
Now, if you’re training at home and you don’t have access to a barbell for a press, don’t think you’re getting off so easy! You can always do the Handstand Press.
HOME OPTION: HANDSTAND PRESS
Guys, the Handstand Press is not easy. We’re lighting up the entire shoulder girdle and you can see that it’s clearly being overloaded. If for some reason this is too easy for you, throw a weighted vest on and you’ve just made this a lot harder.
Before we complete this section, we’re going to incorporate that Banded Overhead Dumbbell Press.
First, anchor the resistance band in front of you. Then start standing facing forward, feet shoulder width apart, with a piece of the resistance band and a dumbbell in each hand. Press the dumbbells overhead and then lower them back to start position at shoulder level.
BANDED OVERHEAD DUMBBELL PRESS
Since we just went through this exercise weighted with vertical force up and down, we can use this exercise to reinforce it and get the rotator cuff awakened once again.
EXERCISE NOTES: Do 3 sets of the Barbell Overhead Press or the Handstand Press for 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, and 6RM. Finish with one set of 15 reps of Banded Overhead Press for neuromuscular reeducation.
2.) DELT STRETCH
Next, we’ll want to incorporate exercises that force the delt into stretch.
To do this we’re going to do a tri-set with cable machine raises. We’ll do variations for the front delt, the middle delt, and the rear delt.
The key to the benefit of these exercises is your starting and finishing points. In the middle of the movement, it’s pretty similar to what you’d do with a dumbbell. However because of the cables and how we position the body, we can place a good stretch on the deltoid muscle with these exercises.
With this Rear Lateral Raise, the best way to stretch the delt is to get extension of the arm behind the body, and then let it come out across the front of your body.
REAR LATERAL RAISE
Next we’ll move to the Middle Delt Raise. Again, we’re positioning the arm behind the back to get that extra stretch on the middle delt every time. I start out with a big stretch and I explode it up to the top.
MIDDLE DELT RAISE
For the front delt we’ll do the same thing. By positioning myself in a split stance and allowing my upper arm to go back into extension behind my body, I’m placing a better stretch on the front delt fibers. Be sure to keep the elbow slightly bent.
FRONT DELT RAISE
EXERCISE NOTES: Do 2-3 sets of the Delt Stretch Tri-Set (21’s), 7 reps in each direction for rear, middle and front delts. Make sure you perform these in the order of rear to front to account for fatigue.
3A.) AND 3B.) EXPLOSIVENESS AND WORKING ALL shoulder girdle MUSCLES TOGETHER
I always say it. If you want to look like an athlete, you’ve got to train like an athlete. One component of that is training explosively.
When we are training explosively it’s not the time to try to isolate individual muscles. You want to make sure you’re including something that allows all the shoulder girdle muscles of the upper body to work together. We can do that with a combo of a Cheat Lateral, going into a Dumbbell Push Press which is a great combination to include in any dumbbell shoulder workout.
CHEAT LATERAL INTO DUMBBELL PUSH PRESS
For the Cheat Lateral we will load up our weight higher than what we would normally use for a lateral raise. We’re not really looking to activate the middle delt in this exercise. We’re allowing the traps to help here.
When you’re looking to strictly develop the middle delt you want the traps out of it. But when you’re trying to train for power and explosiveness, you want the trap to help because it’s trying to help. All these muscles are situated in this area together, so they prefer to work together. The Cheat Lateral will help us focus on that.
During this exercise the weight is not out of my control as I lower the dumbbell. Even though we’re using a heavier weight, I get the chance to swing it up, but I have to control it on the way down. If it’s not possible to control it on the way down, the weight is too heavy.
From the Cheat Lateral I go directly into a Dumbbell Push Press.
I clean the weight up to my shoulder, and now I’m trying to press up overhead explosively. I’m allowing the legs, the hips and my entire body to help me in this movement. Just like I would if I was out in the field of competition and I had to push someone away from me. I’m not going to try to isolate the middle delt. I want all the muscles at my disposal to kick in.
EXERCISE NOTES: Perform 3 supersets of Cheat Lateral directly into Dumbbell Push Press on each arm to double failure, working one arm at a time.
4.) TARGET REAR DELT
You may have heard me say before that you should end every workout with a Face Pull.
The Cable Face Pull will be the last exercise in our Perfect Shoulder Workout because it’s a great exercise for targeting the rear delt.
Doing face pulls regularly will help work a commonly neglected muscle group and avoid shoulder injury.
GYM OPTION: CABLE FACE PULL
The key in doing this exercise is your mindset. Quality reps trump everything, and don’t worry if you find you need to start with a light weight. I’m having you do three sets of 15, but you should focus on doing 15 sets of 1, three times.
Make sure that for every single rep you do you’re not focused on pulling, but instead on keeping the knuckles facing backward to demand external rotation. This helps to incorporate the rotator cuff with the rear delt to help provide support for the shoulder.
If you’re doing a home workout and don’t have access to the cables, you can do a Banded Face Pull.
HOME OPTION: BANDED FACE PULL
EXERCISE NOTES: Perform 3 sets of 15 reps focusing on high quality repetitions for every single rep.
So, here is the entire Perfect Shoulder Workout step by step, all sets, all reps for you to follow.
PERFECT SHOULDER WORKOUT
WARMUP: OVERHEAD BAND PRESS – 2 x 15 (3 SECOND HOLD EACH REP)
- OHP or HANDSTAND PUSHUPS – 4 x 10, 8, 6, 6RM (NOTE: FINISH WITH 1 SET OF BANDED OVERHEAD DB PRESS X 15
- DELT STRETCH TRI-SET (21’s) – 2-3 SETS x 7 REPS EACH (FRONT, MIDDLE, REAR)
- EXPLOSIVENESS AND WORKING ALL SHOULDER MUSCLES TOGETHER
3A. DB CHEAT LATERALS – 3 SETS TO FAILURE – 1 ARM AT A TIME (SUPERSET WITH 3B.)
3B. DB PUSH PRESS – 3 SETS TO FAILURE – 1 ARM AT A TIME
- CABLE OR BAND FACE PULLS – 3 x 15 (USE ’15 SETS OF 1′ CONCEPT)
This Perfect Shoulder Workout will help you hit all heads of the delt, as well as hit the shoulders through their full range of motion, including full stretch. It also incorporates overload, explosiveness and allowing the deltoids to work together with other muscles in close proximity.
This workout is a great example of how to apply science to your shoulder workouts. Start training like an athlete and putting science back in every workout you do. You can do that with the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs. Get started right away on building a ripped, muscular, athletic body with the best workout tips and exercise videos.
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- The four main exercises that most people do in their shoulder workouts: overhead press, side lateral raises, front delt raises and dips all have something in common. Each of them lacks a stretch position of the shoulder or neglects to take the muscle through its full range of motion.
- The Perfect Shoulder workout hits all three heads of the deltoid muscle and places special emphasis on placing each head on stretch.
- It also takes into account overloading the shoulders, training them explosively and allowing all the muscles of the shoulder girdle to work together to help build stronger and bigger shoulders.