How to optimize your shoulder training routine
When you build your shoulders, you set the foundation for your physique. Whether you are male or female, capped shoulders help the physique to look proportionate, sculpted and fit. For men, this can help to give the illusion of width and dominance, and for women it results in toned arms and gives the illusion of a smaller waist. Let’s get into some of the best shoulder workouts you can do.
Benefits of training shoulders
As mentioned, the shoulders play a key role in the aesthetics of a physique. It’s kind of an unspoken rule in the bodybuilding and fitness world that the perfect physique forms a V taper. This involves the shoulders being wider than the waist to create a superior shape, reflective of hard work and strength. However, unless you’re born with naturally wide shoulders, you’ve got to lift weights to build muscle and sculpt your physique.
This doesn’t just apply to men, shoulder workouts for women have also increased in popularity. This is because when women add size and width to their shoulders, it gives the illusion of a smaller waist and wider hips, creating the desired hourglass shape. In addition to this, arms are a common insecurity in women, so training the shoulders can help to create toned arms with the capped delt look, which looks great when the arms are on show. For both men and women, broad shoulders help to make them look strong and confident.
As well as the aesthetic benefits, building your shoulders has a multitude of other key benefits. Shoulder workouts improve posture. By strengthening the secondary muscles surrounding the joint, it creates more stability in the upper body and a more robust and athletic body structure. Strong shoulders can help to increase total body strength, as the shoulders are one of the most involved joints in the body.
Our shoulders are ball-and-socket joints. This means they are able to perform the following movement patterns: anterior (moving frontward), posterior (moving backward) and medial (moving inward); capable of extension, rotation and flexion, amongst others. Shoulder workouts can be separated into their following movement patterns based on the part of the deltoid being hit. For example, the anterior deltoids (at the front) can be trained by doing lateral raises and is responsible for the capped look common in fit individuals and athletes. For this reason, the anterior delts are often trained the most in shoulder workout routines. However, training all parts of the shoulder is more effective and will help you reach your aesthetic and functional goals faster. In fact, when you neglect the other parts of the deltoids (posterior and medial), it can lead to injury and a disproportionate physique.
Shoulder workout with dumbbells
If you only have access to dumbbells or you’d prefer to keep it simple in the gym, here’s an example shoulder workout for men and women that you can do that hits all parts of the delts for a full, effective workout.
Two arm dumbbell upright row - 4x10
Lateral raises - 4x8
Rear delt fly - 4x10
Front raise - 4x12
Dumbbell press - 4x10
Shoulder workout with cables
The cable machine is one of the most effective machines to use to train the shoulders based on the constant resistance. This ensures that your muscles are activated and engaged through the whole set, and performing these high rep is a great way to build up metabolic stress and make your delts look full and pumped.
Four way fly - 4x8
Face pulls - 3x12
Single arm cable lateral raise - 4x10
Straight bar front raise - 4x10
Double cable rear delt fly - 4x10
How to build size on your shoulders
The above exercises target the anterior, posterior and medial parts of your deltoids, and include a range of movement patterns to encourage flexibility and mobility in your shoulder joint. If your main focus is building size, it is important to include a variety of rep and set ranges to ensure you are hitting the three main mechanisms of hypertrophy: muscle damage, mechanical tension and metabolic stress.
Mechanical tension refers to how much time under tension your muscles receive during an exercise. Remember that your muscles do not know the size of weights you use, they only know how much tension and resistance is being created.
Metabolic stress is when there is a buildup of blood and oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) in the muscle, making it look ‘pumped’. This is achieved by working at a high rep range (15-20+ reps) to pump blood into the muscle making your cardiovascular system work harder, creating metabolic stress.
Muscle damage is achieved by implementing progressive overload. This is typically increasing the weight in increments as you get stronger, but can also include decreasing rest time, altering the tempo, doing more reps or longer workouts. This makes sure that your muscles are still getting damaged causing micro-tears in each session to begin the cycle of tear, repair, grow.
Should men and women do the same shoulder workout?
Many women are afraid to train shoulders because they picture a bodybuilder with a wide, domineering frame and massive shoulders, contrary to the typically ‘feminine’ physique which is desired for many women. However, it is very difficult to build muscle and women do not have the same hormonal composition which makes it even more difficult to build muscle in the same way as men. Thus, men and women can do the exact same shoulder workout. That being said, for hormonal, metabolic and aesthetic reasons, it may be preferential for women to train in a higher rep range using a lighter weight.
Now you know all about the shoulders and are ready to get started with your shoulder workout routine, whether you’re doing this shoulder workout at the gym or at home; you can get a good pump in and start sculpting a proportionate, athletic physique.