The shoulder muscle or deltoid is comprised of 3 sections of merging fibers running from different directions. The anterior fibers help with lifts that raise and rotate your arms forward, and are heavily involved in pushing moments, thus very involved in chest exercises. The lateral fibers are the primary movers of your arm directly out to the side. Your posterior fibers are responsible for extending and rotating your arms backward, thus very involved in back exercises.
Direct work on your shoulders may not even be necessary in a well designed program, and should be implemented correctly if direct work is implemented. For example, I typically do chest on Monday, back on Wednesday, and shoulders on Friday/Saturday. This allows 1-2 days between use. This not only helps to avoid injury, but prevents sore/damage muscles from the previous day from running into the following workout. I know what you’re thinking, “should I just put shoulders on chest or back day?” You could I suppose, but you won’t have the fresh energy needed to hit them well following a heavy chest lift, nor will you hit the posterior fibers; vice versa for a back day pair up.
The following workout was designed to hit all sections of the shoulder, and should be placed in a workout separate from your weekly chest/back workout.
- Cardiovascular warm-up: 5-10 minutes: on a cardio machine (or jogging).I typically use an elliptical, because of the moderate upper body involvement.
- Resistance band internal/external rotation: 2×30 reps each direction: Focus on slow and controlled movements throughout your entire range of motion.
- Light warm-up sets: 1-2 sets x 6-10 reps: You should perform a light warm-up set for each exercise, despite how warmed up you feel. This will not only warm up certain parts of your back that have not been directly stimulated through other angles, and will also help to familiarize you to the specific movement.
I. Overhead DB Shoulder Fly: 4 sets x 10 reps: 2-3min rest.
Set-up: You will a pair of DBs for this exercise. I suggest grabbing 5-15lbs to start. This exercise is very from-dependent. You should sit with your back tight against the pad, torso straight, and the DBs touching together directly above your head. There should be a very slight bend at your elbows.
Execution: In a controlled fashion, lower your arms from above your head to a position out to your side. The downward motion should stop when your fists are straight out from your shoulders. If you kept a constant elbow bend, your elbows should be just
below the height of your fist and shoulders. Once you have reached that position, return back to the top a roughly 1.5 the speed; repeat.
- This lift requires very little weight if done correctly, treat your shoulders with respect.
- If you find you are arching your back or bending your elbows, the weight is too much.
- If you feel an uncomfortable stretch in your biceps, try increasing the elbow bend slightly
- I like to imagine this exercise as the familiar chest fly, just over my head.
- This exercise targets your anterior deltoid fibers
II. Lean-away Lateral Raise: 3 sets x 10-12 reps: 120s rest.
Set-up: You will need one DB and a stable object that you can brace and slightly hang on. I suggest using a pillar or a large squat rack. Place your feet together and tightly pressed against the base of your supporting object, while firmly grabbing the support with your hand at about shoulder height. Then, extend your arm until your are leaning away with only the support of your arm. The dumbbell should be hanging freely in the non-grasping arm.
Execution: Raise the weight out to your side until the dumbbell is 3-4inches above your shoulder without shrugging. Hold for a brief moment, and then return only about 80% of the way back down; repeat.
- By hanging at an angle, you’re changing the range of resistance so that it starts and ends later in the range of motion. Thus stressing the deltoid at different points not typically targeted through a traditional lateral raise.
- Two things to watch out for is a shrugging shoulder and allowing your arm to return to the complete starting position, as this takes away from the angle mention above.
- This targets the lateral fibers of your deltoid.
IIIa. Cable face pull with external rotation: 3 sets x 12 reps: Superset with next exercise
Set-up: You will need a high cable pulley and a rope attachment. Select a weight that is very moderate until you are familiarized with the lift. Grab the rope so the end pieces rest on the thumb side of the thumb side of your hand (see example picture). Walk backwards until your arms are straig
ht out from your body and the cable is taught. The cable should have a slight downward slope from the machine to your hands.
Execution: Spread the rope as you flare your elbows straight out from your body and bring the rope towards your face. When your elbows are directly to the side of your shoulders, rotate your shoulders upwards as if your were flexing your biceps. Return to
just before the starting position in a slower and more controlled fashion; repeat.
- Do not jerk the cable. This lift is highly technical, and you can injure your shoulder if you’re ego-lifting and careless.
- If you find the cable weight overpowers your body weight, try setting the cable height at stomach height for better leverage.
IIIb. Resistance band reverse fly: 3 sets x 15-20 reps: 120s rests.
Set-up: You will need a smaller resistance band. Grab the middle of the band so there is a 14-16inch gap between fists. You can decrease this distance later if the exercise is too easy or increase to reduce the difficulty. Raise your arms until they are straight out in front of your nose.
Execution: Stretch the band as you move fists apart while keeping your elbow at the same bend. Rotate your arms backwards about halfway through the motion so that your elbows are facing the floor. Continue to stretch the band until you feel a tight muscular contraction in your back at the area between your shoulders. Return back to the starting position until just before the band loses tension; repeat.
- If you see slack in the band between reps, then you’re letting tension off of the band between reps. Do not allow your fists to get that close between reps.
- Mark the band where your index fingers wrap around, and use this to gauge your progress. The close the lines get, the stronger you’ve become. Just make sure its your band..
This concludes the shoulder workout
Do 2-3 reps of each stretch for 10-20 seconds. Focus on breathing to allow a deeper stretch range of motion.
God gave you another day, and another healthy workout.
Kyle Blair, BS Exercise Physiology, CPT, SPT