Out of all the body parts that bodybuilding enthusiasts would like to build the most, shoulders are most definitely third on the list following arms (biceps and triceps) and chest. However for an aspiring competition bodybuilder, well developed shoulders are a necessity when standing on stage.
Wide, thickly muscled shoulders will create a degree of illusion, causing your upper body to appear lager by adding width to your shoulders. If you are genetically cursed with narrow shoulders, and you are looking to compete at a high level of bodybuilding, you should make shoulder training a priority in your workouts. A lack of shoulder development will only hurt your competition goals in the long run.
When designing a shoulder training routine for someone who desires greater shoulder width, the main focal point of their training should be on the medial deltoids. The medial deltoid, also known as the side deltoid head, is the piece of muscle that causes the shoulder to have a nice "capped" look, when well developed.
A shoulder workout that is focusing primarily on the medial deltoids should consist of multiple pressing movements and also lateral raises. Overhead pressing movements are the best mass builders for the shoulders and should be included in every shoulder workout.
The pressing movements you use chose to use can come from a variety of different exercises including barbell presses (seated or standing), dumbbell presses, smith-machine presses, or any form of machine presses. The way in which you perform the exercise and the degree of intensity you put into the exercise will determine the results that you can achieve from the particular exercise.
Extreme Training Techniques
In everyone of my articles I discuss various extreme training techniques that can help take your workouts to the next level. Why do I discuss them? Because they are the most effective way to take a body part to absolute failure. For shoulder training especially, I feel triple drop sets are one of the most effective techniques to take your workouts to the next level.
Triple drop sets coupled with partner assisted reps will provide maximum overload to the specific muscle group you are working on. If you have not read my previous articles pertaining to bodybuilding workouts, a triple drop set is when you warm up to your maximum poundage, (a weight you can perform for 6-8 reps) which you will do for a given number of reps, followed by a few partner assisted reps.
Immediately after this set you will drop the weight so that you will be able to continue the set for another 4-6 reps, followed by partner assisted reps. The weight is further reduced for your last set of 8-10 reps, followed by additional partner assisted reps. Employing this technique on a few exercises in your workout will increase the intensity of your workout drastically.
Order Of Exercises
When beginning a shoulder workout many bodybuilders go directly into an overhead press movement, primarily because they want to be the strongest on their compound movement. I personally feel that this is not the best choice. For shoulder workouts I feel you should warm up properly with a lateral movement before going into your pressing exercise.
It is much more beneficial to warm-up with a few sets of seated laterals or a rear pec-deck machine to warm-up the shoulder girdle before going to your overhead press movement. I also feel that you will not lose any strength or power on your compound movement, and that your shoulders will feel much better while performing the compound exercise. So now lets get into the exercise selection…
Exercise #1 - Rear Pec-Deck Machine (Warm-up)
The rear pec-deck machine is a great exercise to warm-up on before going on to a compound exercise such as overhead military presses or a seated dumbbell press. I seem to notice a big difference in the feel of the compound exercise if I have performed a few sets on the rear pec-deck prior to the compound exercise.
When you start to venture into heavier weights on compound exercises such as heavy free weight military presses you run the risk of serious rotator cuff problems in the future.
Many bodybuilders swear by pre-exhaustion of the side deltoids before moving onto their compound movement due to the fact that they have gotten to the point where the weights they use run the risk of injury. By pre-exhausting the deltoids prior to their compound movement, the deltoids are already pre-fatigued so that when you move onto your compound movement you won't have to use as much weight as usual to get the same effect.
However, I do not feel this is necessary in the case of a less advanced bodybuilder because they won't be using nearly as much weight. What I recommend is that you perform 2-3 sets of rear pec-deck with moderate weights, aiming for sets of 10-12 just to warm-up the shoulder joints before moving into your compound exercise.
Exercise #2 - Seated Smith Military Press (To The Front)
I have become a big fan of this exercise (as well as many others) due to the fact that it is much easier to control the weight while performing an overhead press on the smith, compared to the free-weight movement. However, I do like to perform the free-weight version from time to time for more of a power movement. With the free-weight version I don't think you can feel the shoulders working as good as with a smith-machine because of the stability factor.
Extreme training techniques also work better when using a machine that is in a guided motion, rather than a free-weight exercise where your stabilizing muscles will fatigue before your primary muscles. This is why the smith-machine works well for this movement.
Seated smith-machine military presses are a great mass builder for the side deltoids. The military press for shoulders is like the bench press for chest, it is a standard "meat and potatoes" exercise. Any shoulder workout (along with any other muscle group) should start with a main mass builder before you move onto isolation movements.
On this exercise (as with any other compound movement) you should perform the most amount of warm-up sets for your workout before attempting your last set with maximum poundage. I feel that 3-4 warm-up sets should be sufficient before attempting your maximum set. However, the number of warm-ups that you perform should depend on your experience with bodybuilding.
A bodybuilder who is going to be using 400lbs on his maximum set will require more warm-up sets to work up to that weight compared to a bodybuilder who is only attempting 225lbs for their max set. The stronger bodybuilder will need more sets to "feel" the heavier weights. These sets should not be taxing to the muscle group what so ever, they are simply used to get your body ready for the maximum weights you will be attempting.
What exactly is a triple drop set?
After you have sufficiently warmed up and you are ready to attempt your maximum set, you will be performing a triple drop set as discussed above. A triple drop set is three mini sets within your maximum set. So lets use someone who is using 315lbs on their max set as an example.
They will start the set with 315lbs and attempt for 4-6 reps on their own, when they can't perform anymore their partner will step in and assist them to get an additional 2-3 reps. Right after this set the weight will be reduced to 225lbs where another 4-6 reps will be attempted before their partner assists an additional 2-3 reps.
The weight is further reduced a third time to 135lbs (which may not sound heavy, but it will feel just as heavy as the 315lbs) where another set will be performed to failure. This is a true triple drop set, and you will feel the effects of it if you properly complete it in this fashion.
Exercise #3 - Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raises
After finishing you compound exercise you will then move on to the best isolation exercise for the side deltoids, seated dumbbell lateral raises. These are a great mass builder for the side deltoids when performed with strict form and moderately heavy weights. For this exercise you should be seated on the edge of a flat bench with you feet together.
Grip the dumbbells with an overhand grip with your thumbs placed over the bar, this will help your form technique at the top of the movement. To start the exercise bring the dumbbells under your thighs in an overhand fashion. Perform the movement how you normally would, but at the peak contraction your wrists should be placed downward adding more stress to the side deltoids.
If you perform these strictly, you should feel all the stress from the movement on your side deltoids. Before you venture into heavy weights on this exercise you should get down the technique and feel of the movement with moderate weights first.
With this exercise only 1-2 warm-up sets should be performed before you attempt your maximum set. Your maximum set on this exercise will be performed as a triple drop set with partner assisted reps, similar to the set you previously performed on the smith machine. The only difference is that you should increase the number of reps performed on this exercise due to the fact that it is more of an isolation exercise.
I feel that you should bring your reps up to around 8-12 so that you will be able to get a better feel for the movement in your deltoids, rather than just throwing the dumbbells around and not feeling it where you should.
Exercise #4 - Seated Dumbbell Front Raises (Double Arm & Seated)
This is another great shoulder exercise that primarily works the front deltoids. In the same position as the seated laterals, hold the two dumbbells by your side in a hammer position. At the same time raise the dumbbells up slightly above shoulder level bringing the tops of the dumbbells together. You shouldn't be able to go to heavy with this movement, so use moderate weights and keep your form strict through out your sets.
Since your shoulders should be burning from the work sets you performed prior to this exercise, three or four straight sets with moderate weights should be more than enough. On this exercise keep your reps in the 10-12 range while keeping your form slow and strict throughout the movement.
Exercise #5 - Machine Press (Hammer Strength OR Weight Stack)
For the finishing movement its back over to an overhead press, and a drop set will be performed to make certain that every last ounce of energy has been burned up in the delts. This set will make your shoulders pumped beyond belief. For this movement the hammer strength behind the neck press works very well, or even a weight stack machine will work well.
Both these machines will work the three heads of the shoulder while primarily working the side deltoids. If you chose a weight stack machine, try to use the one in which the hands come together like dumbbells at the top. These machines usually work very well.
For this movement you should perform 1-2 sets to find a good weight to use for your drop set. For the drop-set you should pick a weight that you can handle for 8-10 reps, then continue your set dropping enough weight each time that you can continue to get 8-10 reps on the next two sets.
Performing this set at the end of this workout should insure that your shoulders are pumped beyond belief and that you will not be able to do any further work for them.
This a highly effective workout to shock the shoulders into new growth, while focusing on adding width to the side deltoids. This workout incorporates three different exercises to focus on the side deltoids, utilizing triple drop sets to fully tax the muscle.
If you have previously been using pyramid set techniques with straight sets and have not been receiving the results that you are looking for, try this high intensity routine for a few weeks to see if you feel a difference in your workouts.
I guarantee that you will experience a new level of intensity, and your shoulders will be exploding with blood from the incredible pumps following the workouts.
Be sure to also check out:
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