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Build Boulder Shoulders with This Ultimate Shoulder Workout


Shoulders are often slightly neglected by some people, who instead choose to train arms and chest. This is because traditional shoulder exercises are perceived as boring, or difficult. Hopefully, this article will change some opinions on the shoulder workout, while also changing some shoulders from mere pebbles to boulders. We'll go over 6 different types of exercises that really target the shoulder, and lead into the ultimate shoulder workout that everyone needs to know.

Muscles in the Shoulder

If you want to train shoulders correctly, it is important that you are aware of what the shoulders are made up of. You have the main shoulder muscle which is called the Deltoid, this is split into 3 parts (referred to as heads by anatomists);

  • The Anterior -or front delts

  • The Lateral - or middle delts

  • The Posterior - or rear delts

Each head has specific functions and certain exercises that will target them. Other important shoulder muscles include the rotator cuff muscles which connect your arm to your scapula. These are called;

  • Subscapularis

  • Supraspinatus

  • Infraspinatus

  • Teres Minor

It is not enough to just exercise your delts and call it a day. These smaller, less glamorous muscles need to be strengthened as well to prevent injury. Performing face pulls, for example, can strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and muscles of the scapula (which we will get to in a bit), this can help prevent over-use injuries that result from performing bench presses or dips. If you want a great chest or huge shoulders you need to avoid injury at all cost.

The last muscles we need to look at are the ones alluded to earlier, the muscles that move the scapula (ones that haven't already been mentioned earlier). These are;

  • Rhomboids

  • Upper Trapezius

  • Lower Trapezius

Now that you know the main shoulder muscles, we will look at the exercises that work them best. Strengthening these muscles will help improve your posture, increase your upper body strength, increase your shoulder size (hypertrophy), and improve your maximum bench.

Yes, strengthening your shoulders, especially the stabilising muscles around your upper back and scapula will massively improve your bench. Score.

Exercise One: Face Pull


Face pulls are one of the best rotator cuff exercises. For this exercise, you will need a cable station, with a rope attachment. Place the rope on the high setting of the cable, and then grab a handle in both hands. Stand a good distance away from the station with one foot in front of the other (this will stop you from losing balance during the exercise).

Pull the rope attachment with each handle going towards your ears, the middle of the rope should be close to touching your face. Make sure your elbows are raised high in the air, rather than dropping low. Slowly return rope to starting position.

This exercise will strengthen your Upper and Lower traps while also improving your rotator cuff muscles.

Exercise Two: Push Press


The ultimate shoulder exercise! Grab a barbell (or 2 dumbbells) and hold it at shoulder height with your elbows pushed forward and the bar resting on your collar bone. Bend your knees slightly, and then drive the bar up as you straighten your legs, making sure that the bar moves slightly backwards after it has passed your nose.

You want the bar to finish up directly over the centre of your head (this takes the pressure off the shoulders). Bring the bar down slowly, making sure not to hit yourself on the nose, and return it to the original position.

That is the push press, and it is fantastic. Works the deltoid muscles, and allows you to lift more weight than the traditional shoulder press.

Exercise Three: Barbell Shrugs


Grab a barbell and lift it to waist height, keeping your arms straight, shrug your shoulders as high as you can, whilst pulling your shoulder blades backwards. Pause at the top of the movement and then slowly lower your shoulders again. This exercise works the Upper and Lower traps, whilst also improving grip strength. Barbell shrugs are often thought of as upper back exercises, but they also work the shoulders, which is why they are included here.

Exercise Four: Dumbbell Front Raises


This exercise can also be done using a cable attachment. Grab a dumbbell in each hand, place your legs at shoulder width and push your chest out. Have your hands resting at waist height, then slowly raise both arms forward until the dumbbell are parallel with the floor. Pause and then lower them slowly down again. This exercise works the Anterior (front) deltoids.

Exercise Five: Lateral Raises


Similar to the last exercise but instead of bringing the dumbbells in front of you, you bring them out to the side. Again stop when they are parallel to the floor, pause, and then lower them back to your sides. This exercise works the lateral (middle) delts.

Exercise Six: Rear Delt Flies


No shoulder workout would be complete without working the posterior (rear) delts. One of the most commonly injured muscles due to neglect, the posterior delts are best targeted using this exercise. It can be performed at a cable station, on a specific machine, or in this case with 2 dumbbells and an incline bench.

Have the bench set to a 45-degree incline, lie on the bench face down so that your chest is resting upon it. Make sure your head is clear of the bench. Grab a light dumbbell in each hand and hold in front of you (as if you were performing a chest fly but in reverse), pull your arms apart until you feel the stretch in your upper back and shoulders, then return to original position.

The Ultimate Shoulder Workout

Slay this workout to achieve your dream shoulders. Let's dive right in.

  • Face Pulls 3 x 12-15

  • Push Press (2 x warm up sets) 3 x 6-8

  • Barbell Shrugs 3 x 8-10

  • Front Raises 2 x 12

  • Lateral Raises 2 x 12

  • Rear Delt Flyes 2-3 x 12-15

*Perform as a superset (one set of front raises immediately followed by a set of lateral raises, and repeat).

Follow this program religiously and not only will you have shoulders to kill for, you'll have healthy shoulders that are less prone to injury.

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