Cannon-Ball Shoulders!

The deltoids can be separated into three different individual muscles. Similar to the triceps, in order to effectively train the shoulders, you need to do the appropriate exercises to hit all three groups or muscles...
The deltoids can be separated into three different individual muscles. First, there is the front deltoid, then the middle deltoid, and finally, the rear deltoid. Similar to the triceps, in order to effectively train the shoulders, you need to do the appropriate exercises to hit all three groups or muscles. This means that you don't need to make a workout with all side lateral movements or all pressing movements either.

Personally, I believe that well-built shoulders are what really make you look huge with your shirt on from the front and back, and also, big shoulders give your body a wide look.

Shoulders can be very difficult to train however. This is because it is easy to use your traps on a lot of the movements instead of your actual deltoid. I actually have problems with this from time to time. It is more of a mental battle, if you're simply trying to get the weight to move and that's it, you'll tend to pull more with your traps. Concentrate and really use your deltoids for the designated exercises.

I've always been a big fan or pressing movements for the shoulders. There are three basic pressing exercises that I am going to hit on. The first is shoulder press with dumbbells. This is a very good exercise to start with if you are a beginner. Simply get a pair of dumbbells, start at shoulder level, and push the weight straight up and slightly in towards your head so that at the top of your rep, both dumbbells have made contact with each other directly above your head. Never let the weight down below your shoulders, the bottom of the dumbbell should line up with the top of your shoulder at the bottom of the rep. Another exercise is front shoulder press with a barbell. This is a very good mass builder. It is the same movement as the dumbbell press, except the weight is more in front of you. Hold your grip about the same distance as when you bench press. If your grip is too narrow, you'll use too much of your triceps, and if it is too wide, you risk injury. Personally, I bring the weight down right below my chin, I don't touch my chest with the weight, although some people do. It's more of a personal preference than anything. When you push the weight, push straight upwards, and slightly back towards the top of your head so that when you finish the rep, the weight is inline with the middle of your head.

Finally, military presses, which are the same as front barbell press, except the weight begins at the back of your neck. For this exercise, I touch the back of my neck with the bar, and push the weight directly upwards. Arnold presses are also a very good exercise, and I highly recommend it for precontest training. To execute, get a pair of dumbbells and begin at the normal position (with the weight next to your head). However, start with your palms facing you, the opposite of a normal dumbbell press. Push the weight up, except now twist your wrist so that your palms face away from your head and the head of the dumbbells closest to you are pointing down at the top of your head. If performed correctly, at the top of the rep, you will have formed some what of a circle with your arms over your head.

Now, onto the dumbbell raises. We'll start with front raises. This is a very simple movement. After you get your dumbbells, stand with the weight by your side with arms slightly bent. Raise the weight directly up in front of you without bending your elbow more than it already is while slowly turning your wrist so that your palm faces the floor. Raise the weight to a point where the dumbbell lines up with the top of your head. Be sure that you don't jerk the weight around, form is everything with this exercise. I prefer dumbbells, but I have seen people execute this exercise with plates and barbells.

Side raises are slightly different, namely, you'll raise the weight to the side instead of to the front. Begin with the dumbbells right below your waist with palms facing each other, and elbows slightly bent. Now, pull the weight directly out to the side without further bending your elbows. With this movement, be conscious of the location of your elbows relative to your hands. Your hands should never be above your elbows. At the top of your rep, slightly tip the dumbbells like you're pouring a pitcher of water, this will really capitalize on your middle delts. This exercise can be performed with one arm at a time also, but if this is one of the first times you've done this movement, stick with two dumbbells for the time being.

Finally, the rear delts are often forgotten by many weight lifters. I've never understood it, rear delts are vital for overall shoulder development. I think that the reason is that it is a rather difficult movement that many people have trouble with. It is the same basic movement as a side raise except you are now bent over and the dumbbells should be directly inline with your face at the beginning of every rep. Slightly bend your elbows and avoid pulling with your scapulae. Your elbows should always be above your hands in this movement, and your wrists should never rotate. You'll really need to concentrate on squeezing your rear deltoids. Basically it is the same movement as a fly exercise for chest except for lying on a bench and looking at the ceiling, you are bent over looking at the ground. It's the same concept, however, in that you want to make believe you are hugging a barrel. This movement can be performed standing or seated, but the same concept applies either way.

Some of you maybe saying, "Well what about upright rows?" Personally, I have never liked upright rows because they kill my shoulder joints. The next day my joints are more sore than my muscle, and that affects my back, chest, and triceps workout as well.

The shoulders are sometimes difficult to train, but concentration is the key. Avoid training shoulders soon after chest, and vice-versa. Here's a great workout if you want cannon-ball shoulders:

  • Military Press 15, 15, 12, 10, 8
  • Side raises 12, 10
  • Front raises 10, 8
  • Rear delt raises 12, 10
  • Arnold Presses 12, 10, 8
Good luck!