A strong and muscular torso is only complete with a set of powerful shoulders – without great shoulders, a torso looks narrower and doesn’t fill out clothes as well. It leaves the top of the body imbalanced and lacks the impressive physical appeal that you get with a set of strong shoulders.
There are great additional bonuses when it comes to building strong shoulders – one of them being that some of the exercises required also help you to develop strong arms, a strong back and a strong chest.
The shoulder is an interesting joint and a proper shoulder training programme needs to consider its unique physiology. Of all the joints in the human body, the shoulder has the largest range of movement. There are 28 muscles that act on the shoulder either directly or indirectly and when imbalances occur through poor posture, poor exercise selection and bad technique the result is injury.
Thankfully, there are simple ways to avoid this and the workout I share with you in this article will ensure you build strong and healthy shoulders that look great, perform well and help balance your upper body perfectly!
Shoulder Training Considerations
If we go into a shoulder training programme without giving it proper consideration and thought, we risk making the whole thing pointless and completely ineffective, not to mention relatively dangerous. We have to consider anatomy, load, movements and technique.
Basic Shoulder Anatomy
To keep things simple, we’re going to break the shoulder into three main consistent parts…
- Anterior Deltoid (front of the shoulder)
- Medial Deltoid (middle of the shoulder)
- Posterior Deltoid (back of the shoulder)
In order to build strong shoulders, we have to ensure that we train each of these areas correctly. Over years of training people, I’ve learned that the posterior deltoid is the most neglected part of the shoulder, so we will perform more exercises for this area than the others.
Another reason for this is the cross-over effect from other exercises – any push exercise (bench press, push up, shoulder press, push press etc) trains the anterior and medial deltoids, whilst avoiding the posterior deltoid. Given these are the most popular exercises in most general exercise programmes, most people end of over-training their anterior deltoid, resulting in injuries and muscle imbalances.
Load and Movements
Building on the Anterior, Medial and Posterior Deltoid concept, we need to consider the exercises that we will select to make sure the programme is safe and effective. As discussed earlier, we will focus more on the posterior deltoid to help bring the strength of these muscles into balance.
There’s then the load of exercises. By load, we mean the weight lifted. We want to have a nice balance of strength exercises, prehabilitation exercises and bodybuilding exercises.
Exercises, Sets and Reps
We can largely group shoulder exercises into three – presses, raises and shrugs. The heaviest elements of the programme should be presses, with the other two being the exercises that we use to round off the programme to make it complete and balanced.
We also have a duty to protect shoulder health, so the programme includes exercises that aren’t obvious to bodybuilding enthusiasts, but are integral exercises when it comes to protecting shoulder health. We’re not in the business of creating injuries here!
Building Strong Shoulders – the Programme
I’ve included videos in the building strong shoulders programme, so you can see for yourselves the exact technique required for the exercises.
Do them in the order laid out here. Pick a weight you can manage with good form for every set of every rep, but that tests you to a limit. The aim here is to create fatigue and force the muscles to grow and change.
Dumbbell Shoulder press – 4 x 12
Push Press 4 x 8
Dumbbell Shrugs 3 x 20
Reverse Flyes 4 x 15
Face Pull 4 x 20
External Rotations 3 x 12
Dumbbell Lat Raises 2 x 15
Weight Versus Technique
One of the key mistakes that people make with their training is that they always go for heavy, when technique is a much better, more effective way of building muscle.
Proper technique combines the time under tension (TUT) of a muscle with a smooth movement that ensures the target muscles do the work. Most people find that by dropping their weights by 10-20% they are able to perform exercises with a very smooth, relaxed and more effective technique.
There’s a time and place for heavy, explosive movements, but they should always be executed with great technique.
Remember, form first. Always.
Building Strong Shoulders Conclusion
The building strong shoulders workout may not be an obvious one – you many be asking where the front raises are for example, but I’ve left them out for a reason – most of us use our anterior deltoids too much anyway, so I don’t want to add the load on them.
I’ve created a programme where the aim is to improve shoulder strength, but also improve shoulder health at the same time, reducing the chance of a shoulder injury occurring either now or in the future.
Enjoy building your strong shoulders, and if you have any questions, ask below!