When it comes to building an aesthetic physique, the area of the body that is often overlooked is the shoulders. Why are shoulders so important? One word: balance. Many beginners and veterans alike focus most of their effort on the top four areas: the legs, the arms, the chest, and the back. Now, these muscle groups should absolutely be the focus of your workout foundation; however, to form an evenly shaped physique and build maximum strength, you need to give attention to the rest of the muscle groups that are hungry for attention.
There are several key reasons why you should be working out your shoulder muscles. First and foremost is functionality. When someone says the word “shoulders,” they may not realize that they are referring to three separate heads of the muscle. You have your anterior deltoid (the front of the muscle), medial deltoid (the midsection of the muscle), and posterior deltoid (the back of the muscle).
Many shoulder routines lack variety and only develop the anterior deltoids via chest workouts. The anterior deltoid is a supporting muscle when the chest muscles are activated; it’s the reason that you can stabilize the bar as you move it through the motion of a chest press.
When one part of the shoulder muscle is dominating the other two, you’ll often see that muscle compensating for every upper body exercise. For instance, when the anterior deltoid is much stronger than the medial and posterior deltoid muscles, it will take over for the weaker two during exercises when the anterior deltoid has no place in the lift. This can become dangerous over time as an overworked muscle may lead to strain and injury.
Best of all, strengthening your shoulders will lead to an improvement in all other upper body exercises. Shoulders are stabilizing muscles. The stronger they become, the more you will excel in exercises like the deadlift, barbell hack squat, and overhead press.
Another terrific reason, and typically the one that grabs many people to begin weight training, is appearance. A well-formed set of boulder shoulders is the foundation of that V-taper that makes for a head-turning physique.
You could work on your latissimus dorsi and your waistline all day, every day, but without muscular shoulders, you just won’t have that fully developed V-taper that you’re after.
If you want jacked shoulders, you must focus on developing ALL three sections of the deltoid muscles.
Although many people have the best intentions in mind when they train their shoulders, ultimately, one of the following mistakes may be made. The most common mistake is training the shoulder muscles with high repetition sets only.
Just because the shoulder muscle isn’t as big as the quadriceps, for instance, that doesn’t mean they won’t respond just as well when pushed to the limit. High repetition sets have their place in weight training, but if you want to add mass to your shoulders, then more volume is a requirement. We’ll delve more into this concept below.
The other mistake that is commonly made, again usually with the best intentions in mind, is that lifters will choose exercises that may not fully activate the shoulder muscle and/or may be dangerous for the ligaments.
For example, it is better to perform three different exercises, each isolating one head of the deltoids, than to engage in the Shoulder Windmill. This exercise, especially for those who have never performed it before, places your shoulder in a very compromising position, increasing the chances for injury.
Stick with proven shoulder training for huge delts and be sure to master the form before increasing the volume.
Many athletes over-complicate their training. One of the time-tested and proven strategies is to simply lift heavy on the most important exercises and focus on making small incremental improvements each workout. Your goal rep range should fall between 4 and 7 as opposed to the popular 12 to 15.
This means that you should use a weight that you can safely control through a complete range of motion for at least 4 repetitions and no more than 7 repetitions. If you find yourself being able to reach 10 repetitions, try increasing the weight by 1 to 5 pounds.
Take, for instance, the dumbbell shoulder press, which is one of the best mass building shoulder exercises used by athletes on every level. If you performed the dumbbell shoulder press with 55 lbs for 6 repetitions in your last workout, push yourself to do 7 repetitions with the same weight the next workout. Once you can comfortably achieve 7 full repetitions with 55 lbs, move up to 60 lbs and strive for 7 reps again.
This may sound simple, but it forces the muscles to respond, growing bigger and stronger. This is a principle that is extremely basic, but also extremely effective.
In order to grow in size and strength, it’s going to be important to track your progress each and every workout. Shoulders are a stubborn muscle group, especially for the ectomorph body type, or those who tend to be much leaner and find it difficult to gain weight (hardgainers).
Through faithful tracking your progress, you will be able to emphasize progressive overload in your workouts effectively.
As with any muscle group, changing up your workout routine can be a great way to unleash powerful gains. Try to follow these three principles when planning your training regimen:
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