Shoulders are one of those muscle groups which can sometimes be very stubborn! You press, you push, you lift and they just won’t grow! However, in my experience I think there are some common errors made which make shoulders a tough muscle group to stimulate! Read on and learn some new tips on developing your deltoids!
Shoulders can be one of those muscle groups which you say ‘I will do next week’, a bit like legs. They almost seem insignificant in some ways, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They are most certainly a muscle group in their own right which needs to be trained like any other muscle group once a week!
Like most workouts, to me form is everything! This is particularly relevant to shoulders because it is very easy for other muscle groups to take over on your shoulder workouts as well as body momentum. Exercises like lateral raises are limiting in the fact that they won’t allow you to lift much weight, therefore you need to focus on a solid contraction with controlled form. By going heavy on isolation exercises for your deltoids it is more than likely you will be FORCED to use excessive body movement to hoist up the weight, which is both non-productive and potentially risky to your lower back and shoulder joints. In fact, that brings me neatly on to my next point.
The damaging of the Rotor Cuff is quite a common injury for a number of reasons among athletes, especially those who frequently weight train, and here is why. The shoulder is involved in a lot of exercises; therefore over training as well as excessive levels of stress can potentially cause irritation to this area. So when it comes to train shoulders what is really needed is at least 10 minutes to warm up. This involves using very light dumbbells and doing side later partial reps, around the worlds and some very light pressing. By getting high amounts of blood into the joint you have less chance of damaging the area and whilst the joint is warm, the ligaments have increased elasticity which means they can take more punishment. Take it from me; you want to avoid shoulder injuries at all costs. Just a couple of years ago, I was pressing way too much for muscle stimulation because I was only getting two repetitions, my shoulder joint gave in. Since then, I experience a seriously painful aching sensation in my right shoulder during most shoulder and chest workouts which is why I warm my shoulder joints up before any upper body workout! The trick is to learn from my mistakes and not your own!
In regards to training your shoulders, here are a few tips I would recommend. As mentioned before, I would spend up to 10 minutes with very light dumbbells (they are usually pink they are that light!) increasing the blood flow into the shoulder joint and really stretching the connective tissue. Even after this, I am still gradual when it comes to increasing the weight on pressing. Usually, I will only use dumbbells because I find this causes less irritation to my shoulder joint, although, with enough warm up sets I do like to use military press and even behind the neck pressing occasionally.
If you find that your triceps are particularly strong and they take over your shoulder pressing, try pre-fatiguing them with some pushdowns so that it is your deltoids which take most of the strain! For me, my triceps are strong and I feel that is partly the reason as to why my chest and deltoids are lagging!
Although shoulder pressing is a great way of hitting your deltoids, I believe that isolation movements are your ‘bread and butter ‘exercises. Take for instance the side lateral raise, it totally hammers your deltoids and, performed with the correct form, I don’t think there is an exercise like it which optimizes blood flow into your deltoids. I strongly recommend using this exercise and performing triple drop sets and even partials. If you can develop the outer portion of your shoulder cap then you really do enhance your v-taper! Hitting the rear head of your deltoids is also very important to complete that rounded shape from the side, so I would recommend rear lateral raises as well as reverse cable cross-overs. Again, like your side deltoid exercises, you need to focus on complete control during each repetition and maximizing the blood flow. It is quite rarely that I will isolate the anterior deltoid (front) because I feel it gets adequate levels of stimulation from chest pressing and dumbbell flyes.
To conclude, I would advise that you use very strict form on shoulder day because it is so easy to lose the weight transfer from your deltoids and on to other muscle groups. I would also recommend focusing on pumping blood into the muscle group to really volumise the area.