Know what it takes to build showoff shoulders? Fitness model and Instagram star Lais DeLeon definitely does. Shoulders are her favorite body part to train, and her hard work has been paying off.
You don't need to build big shoulders to enhance your physique. By just filling out your delts a little, you can change the way your upper body looks and make your waistline appear slimmer.
Another perk of working your shoulders is that you don't have to lift heavy to see results. Shoulders love volume, and DeLeon has the plan that'll deliver it. Here are her best shoulder-training tips, along with a killer workout to get you started.
1. Warm up Sufficiently
Warm-ups are critical to optimal performance for any body part, but especially when it comes to shoulder training. And we're not talking treadmill strolling here. DeLeon does a four-move warm-up with cables and bands before pressing a single weight!
While it may seem boring to spend 10-15 minutes prepping before diving straight into your set, doing so helps get blood flowing into the muscle tissues, which helps you protect yourself from injury and enables you to harness maximum strength once you do start your heavy lifting.
"I like to start with cable or band external rotations," DeLeon says. "I also do front and lateral raises with either light weights or cables, along with band pull-aparts."
2. Start off Strong
Once she completes her warm-up, DeLeon wastes no time getting into the challenging part of her workout. "I like to get my heaviest lift out of the way early, while I'm still feeling fresh and strong," she says. "I usually start with a heavier compound lift such as an overhead press or dumbbell military press."
Compound exercises like these activate more muscle than isolation exercises like raises, helping you get stronger and make the most of your precious time in the gym.
But there's no need to work down in low rep ranges like 5 reps per set. Too many promising shoulders have been hurt that way! Keep your reps in the 8- to 10-rep range with these movements as well.
3. Cut Your Raises Short
One of DeLeon's favorite moves is the lateral raise, but she does them a particular way, stopping just before the 90-degree point in the lift. Modifying her range of motion allows her to keep stress on the muscle and get the most out of every rep.
"Once I go past the point where my arms are parallel to the ground, my traps kick in too much and I lose contraction in my delts," DeLeon explains. "By stopping just short of parallel, I also avoid losing the muscle contraction and keep my delts under tension the entire time."
You've already done your lifting with dumbbell or barbell presses; don't try to be a hero with something like a lateral raise! Focus on feeling that burn and pump in the muscle you're targeting.
4. Bring the Volume
To really get your shoulders to pop, you need to hit them with volume. "Once I've chosen my ideal rep range for my goals, I beat up my shoulders with lots of volume," DeLeon says. "I rarely do fewer than 4 sets, and it's not uncommon for me to do 5-7 sets of an exercise when I'm really feeling it in the right places."
When she wants to add muscle, each of those sets will be 10-12 reps. "When I'm in a maintenance phase, I make sure the weight I'm using allows me to reach failure at 12-15 reps," she says. When she's leaning out, she adds a few reps and reaches for a lighter weight that allows her to do 15-20 reps with perfect form.
Working in these higher rep ranges can make it hard to know when to add weight. When DeLeon wants to add muscle, she increases the weight once she can do 15 reps with perfect form. She increases the weight until she can do 10 reps with good form, and keep working at that level until she makes it to 15 reps again. Then the process repeats.
5. Embrace the Pump
Doing multiple sets of 12-15 reps per set will definitely give you a serious shoulder pump during the workout. If you've been cutting your sets short or keeping them at 8-10 reps in the past, the feeling of this new pump might be alarming at first. DeLeon says don't fear it—chase it!
"I always train with the goal of getting a good pump," she says. "Doing so helps move blood into the muscle to provide it with nutrients and oxygen to recovery and grow." DeLeon often judges how good her workout was by the degree of pump she attained. "I truly believe it's a major key to muscle growth."
According to DeLeon, focus and intensity are the two driving components that dictate the level of pump you'll experience. "Stay focused throughout the whole set, making every rep count while ensuring you are always using perfect form, the right tempo, and activating the core muscles as you execute the lift, " she says. Techniques like dropsets, decreased rests, and burnouts also help to rev up the intensity.
Now that you have a better idea of how DeLeon trains her shoulders, try her sample workout, and get ready for your own shoulders to shine.