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Shoulders, the long lost muscle group that always seems to be pushed back whenever you don’t feel like working out. For a muscle group that is used extremely often, it always seems to be relegated with your calves as one of those muscle groups which you’re happy to skip. Which is a shame considering that well rounded and well built muscles can not only look aesthetically pleasing, they can create the illusion of a smaller waist, allowing for that desired and classic V Taper.

In addition, broad shoulders exude a level of masculinity that women love and represents on a subconscious level, a sign of a strong and protective long term mate. The problem with a majority of trainers is imbalance. You see these guys with fairly large anterior or front delts, but their middle and back delts look like they’ve had the air let out of them.

Watch How Bodybuilder Cedric McMillan Trains For Well Rounded Shoulders

Shoulder Anatomy

If you’re a fairly experienced trainer, skip ahead. If you had no idea that your shoulders consists of three distinct sets of fibres (or heads), then keep reading. While your shoulder muscles or deltoids are one muscle, they are in fact separated into three sections:

  • Anterior Delts – The front section of your shoulders, these fibres help to flex the shoulder and also for medial rotation (ie. turning your shoulders in)
  • Lateral Delts – The sides of your shoulder, these fibres help to abduct the shoulders or bring them away from the body sideways.
  • Posterior Delts – The back section of your shoulders, these fibres help to extend the shoulder and also for lateral rotation (ie turning your shoulders out)

Why Your Shoulders Are Imbalanced

As previously mentioned, most trainers shoulders are imbalanced with the front delt generally being both stronger and larger than the two other sections. This is due in part to two main reasons:

1. Chest Workouts – Even the most experienced trainers will find that training the chest will hit the shoulders quite extensively. This is especially true for incline chest exercises and when you’re fatigued.

2. Shoulder Pressing Movements – While shoulder presses are one of the best exercises around, they also tend to focus a lot of the tension onto the anterior delts, which can result in imbalance, especially if you don’t utilise other shoulder movement exercises.

How to Build Boulder Shoulders

If you want your shoulders to be round and muscular, you MUST train the side delts and the back delts. And you must place emphasis on it every so often. This means not starting with presses all the time and instead beginning your shoulder workouts with exercises that work the side and posterior or back delts. In terms of rep and set ranges, it’s really up to you, but we recommend 6-10 reps for compound exercises such as presses and slightly higher 10-15 reps for the isolation movements. Aim for at least 3-4 working sets, just as with your other muscle groups.

"Supercharged Shoulders" Sample Workouts

Workout 1

Exercise

Sets/Reps

Rest

Seated Barbell Shoulder Press

3 sets x 6-8 reps

90 seconds

Standing Side Lateral Raises

4 sets x 12 reps

60 seconds

Standing Dumbbell/Plate Front Raise

3 sets x 12 reps

60 seconds

Lying Rear Delt Raise

4 sets x 12 reps

60 seconds


Workout 2

Exercise

Sets/Reps

Rest

Seated Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises

3 sets x 10 reps

60 seconds

Reverse Flys on Incline Bench

4 sets x 10 reps

60 seconds

Arnold Press

3 sets x 8 reps

90 seconds

Standing Cable Side Lateral Raise

3 sets x 15 reps

60 seconds

 

Workout 3

Exercise

Sets/Reps

Rest

Seated Bent Over Side Lateral Raises

3 sets x 12 reps

60 seconds

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

4 sets x 10 reps

90 seconds

Standing Side Lateral Raises

3 sets x 10 reps

60 seconds

Standing Barbell Rear Delt Rows

3 sets x 12 reps

60 seconds

 

Workout 4

Exercise

Sets/Reps

Rest

Dumbbell One Arm Side Lateral Raise

4 sets x 15 reps

90 seconds

Dumbbell Front Raise

3 sets x 12 reps

60 seconds

Standing Military Press

3 sets x 8 reps

90 seconds

Reverse Flys on Incline Bench

3 sets x 12 reps

60 seconds

 

Workout 5

Exercise

Sets/Reps

Rest

Bent Over Cable Side Lateral Raises

3 sets x 15 reps

60 seconds

Seated Side Lateral Raises

3 sets x 12 reps

60 seconds

Cable Side Lateral Raises

3 sets x 10 reps

60 seconds

Feet Elevated Push Ups

3 sets x 12 reps

60 seconds

 

The Importance of Rotator Cuff Exercises

Your rotator cuff muscle are the stabilising muscles of the shoulder girdle and include the four muscles:

  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres Minor
  • Subscapularis

All four of these muscles are recruited pretty much anytime you’re doing an upper body exercise, but especially during pushing movements. Rotator cuff injuries are some of the most common shoulder injuries around, but can be easily prevented simply by doing some prehabilitation also known as just prehab. The best exercises for these muscles are a variety of internal and external rotations with the elbows in or raised. A heavy weight doesn’t necessarily have to be used, and it’s a good idea to mix it up with the cable machine and/or resistance bands.

Tips for Building Massive Shoulders

For a lot of trainers, shoulders are actually one of the hardest muscles to grow and their progress tends to be slower than other muscle groups such as the chest, back and legs. Here are some top tips on building some serious shoulder size:

  • Lift Heavy – Just as with any muscle group, it’s important to use heavy weights to really stress the muscle and to promote growth.
  • Perfect Form – The shoulder is a muscle group that is notoriously easily injured. A lot of ego lifters will follow the first tip without perfecting their form, which can really place a lot of strain on the muscles and connective tissue around the joint. This is a recipe for disaster and can leave you relegated to lower body movements for weeks.
  • Work on Neural Connections – Remember, as with all muscle groups, you need to constantly vary your workout variables. Have a few weeks where you develop strength and neuromuscular adaptations with lower reps mixed in with hypertrophy and endurance training sessions. This will help you make achieving gains that much easier
  • Warm Up and Know Your Limits – Warming up the shoulder girdle and the rotator cuff muscles is extremely important. As is knowing when to stop the exercise. A lot of trainers often take on new training techniques such as pressing behind the head or barbell upright rows. These movements are problematic for many due to the range of motion of the movement, which can cause impingement and pain. Know the difference between pain and exercise tension.

Bodybuilder Nick Trigili Gives Great Tips For Bulking Up Shoulders

Don't Neglect the Shoulders

Make this year the year where you focus on building up your shoulder muscles. Really focus on growing the thickness and the roundness of the delts by focusing on side lateral raises and rear delt movements. Pretty soon, that V Taper will kick in, and you’ll be struggling to fit through doors in no time.

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