During my 18 years in the trenches hauling weight, I've come to understand that in order to build boulder shoulders I have to constantly experiment with new angles, loading schemes, and workouts. That's why you could probably find more shoulder workouts by me on Bodybuilding.com than pretty much any other body part, including Plates of Pain, Shoulder Annihilation, and my recent shoulder workout with IFBB Figure Pro Leah Dolan.

Why so much variation? I've suffered two separated AC joints and rotator cuff tears, which means my shoulders can be more vulnerable than most if I use too much weight, too frequently. The two exercises I've plucked from my repertoire for you are perfect for fast-paced, high-volume shoulder workouts which require less weight because they deliver annihilation through repetition.

Incline Machine Unilateral Standing Press

I'm not talking about the shoulder machine press. Nope, you'll be using a Hammer Strength incline chest-press machine.

With a relatively light weight on the arm of the machine, I press above my head with my hand positioned on the bar the weight plate sits on. The motion is almost like an "up and out" angle, making it perfect for adding a new source of stimulus for my deltoids.

This angle replicates a seated dumbbell press, but with some extra benefits:

  • Each shoulder gets more specific attention, leaving no place for weakness on either side.
  • The angle I'm able to press from brings in more medial deltoid fibers, along with anterior deltoid fibers.
  • My body is doing double the number of sets I'd have to do for a bilateral press, making me more conditioned.
  • Standing up and pressing from a unique angle makes my core work harder as it stabilizes the weight.
  • Finally, as failure sets, this variation makes it easy to squeeze in a few partial reps just to completely finish my shoulders off.

Before you criticize me for making up exercises needlessly, take a second look at that list. That's a serious payoff.

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Press Using Side of Smith Machine

This is one you can see me doing in the 8-Week Hardcore Trainer, which contains plenty of unique machine moves. Yes, it looks strange, but hitting my front deltoids got a lot easier when I discovered this exercise.

Standing at one side of the Smith Machine, place both hands on the end of the bar. Then, perform a narrow-grip overhead press. As the bar is slightly away from my body, compared to a dumbbell press, the tension falls directly on my anterior deltoids, making it about as isolated a shoulder press as you could hope to find.

Press Using Side of Smith Machine

Due to the length of the bar on the Smith Machine and the angle I'm pressing from, there is a natural imbalance in weight distribution across the bar which only compounds the impact of this exercise on my deltoids.

One rule I always apply with this exercise is to avoid "lockout" at the top of each rep. Doing this helps me blast my deltoids with more intensity because there is no let up, where locking out on every rep would give them a moment of reprieve from the pain.

Application and context is always essential with exercise selection. Both of these unusual exercises are best performed within a high-volume workout where the emphasis is on repetition rather than extreme weight. Neither exercise lends itself particularly well to training in the 6-10 rep range, so I don't go there and I don't recommend you do, either.

Supersets, dropsets, and even giant sets are all ideal choices to go along with these moves. Make them burn!

About the Author

Kris Gethin

Kris Gethin

During my 18 years in the trenches hauling weight, I've come ...

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Shoulders