A great set of shoulders can earn you some serious fitness points – with the exception of rock solid biceps, no other body part signifies ‘strength’ more than a massive shoulder area. Unfortunately, shoulder development can be far from an easy task for most people.
The shoulders are exceptionally vulnerable to injury and when they get exposed to too much stress, combined with bad form and sloppy technique, they are guaranteed to lag. And when your shoulders lag, it shows – there is no such thing as a proportional body without decent delts. If this is your reality and you desperately want to change it, you’ll have to train really smart and really hard. That means that first you’ll have to learn how to prevent injury from happening and keep your shoulders strong and healthy, and then focus on choosing the best training routine. Let us show you how.
1. Improve health & flexibility
Inflamed shoulders are one of the most frequent causes of discomfort and pain in the upper body. If there is any kind of injury to the shoulder joint, the tendons may become inflamed, and this will significantly limit your ability to do any kind of exercise.
Also, the main reason behind most shoulder injuries is a muscle imbalance. This occurs when one muscle is stronger than its opposing muscle, creating an undesired look. Most often, bodybuilders are overdeveloped in the front part and too weak in the rear, which enhances muscle inflammation.
To prevent this from happening, it’s important to have a balanced training routine that works every shoulder muscle and helps you achieve better overall definition. On the other hand, shoulder flexibility is as equally important as balanced growth. Stiff shoulders are very hard and even painful to work with, limiting the range of motion and increasing the risk of injury. In order to increase flexibility, experts recommend performing certain shoulder exercises such as towel stretches and circles, which can improve the form of the shoulders and enhance their performance.
Also, remember to regularly give your shoulders a good stretch, since this can help loosen up the muscles, improve blood circulation and prevent painful muscle knots. Although it doesn’t look like it, stretching can be an amazingly efficient tool to improve mobility and proper muscle alignment.
How to perform a towel stretch:
Take a towel and hold it in your right hand. Raise the right arm over your head so that the towl hangs behind your back, then reach behind the back with the left hand and grab the bottom of the towel. Gently extend the right arm upwards, pulling the towel up, and move your left hand (the one behing the back) across and up the back, following the movement of the towel. Once you feel a good stretch in the shoulder, stop the movement and hold the position for 10 seconds, then slowly lower the arms back to the original position and switch arms. Perform 5 reps with each arm.
2. Don’t forget the rotator cuff
The rotator cuff is a muscle group that lies under the delts and consists of four relatively small muscles. These muscles are responsible for providing stability to the whole shoulder complex while supporting all upper body movements, which makes their training crucial for optimal shoulder health and strength – it’s best to train them once a week by performing stretches, pendulum movements and inwards and outwards rotations.
3. Train the rear delts
Since the rear delts can often get neglected in standard workout routines, make sure you train it at the beginning of your shoulder workout. Developing these small muscles will help you achieve better symmetry and improved stability, prevent your shoulders from gowing too forward and give your upper body that sought-after three dimensional look, while weak rear delts can significantly limit your overall progress.
That being said, the best exercises for strong rear delts include the high-cable reverse flyes, uncrossovers, j-pulls, one-arm dumbell side rows and bent-over wide-grip barbell row to neck.
4. Increase the intensity of your workout
Introduce the following exercises to your regular shoulder routine:
– Seated overhead press
One of the most simple ways to increase the effectiveness of your workout is by doing overhead presses in a seated position. The extra stress placed on the delts is guaranteed to make them scream. But don’t overdo it – shoulder injury can easily bring your bodybuilding efforts right back where they started.
– The clean and press
This is a classic exercise that uses heavy weight, high reps and a wide range of motion to ignite immense muscle growth and build explosive upper body strength. Using two dumbbells translates to synchronized unilateral work, which is good news for both sides of your body.
– Superman presses
The superman press is an extremely effective way to develop well-rounded, cannonball shoulders. To perform it, set an incline bench at 30 or 45 degrees and lay on it with your chest. Pick a relatively light pair of dumbbells and push outward, alternating sides.