Why are shoulders one of the most neglected body parts? Women spend hours in the gym crunching to obtain developed abdominal muscles and lunging for tight buns and shapely legs. Men, on the other hand focus on the chest or bicep muscles. As a result, most people don't consciously think about shoulders and the importance of developing this very noticeable muscle group. Yet people want to look their best, so often this lagging body part is covered by suit coats or dresses stuffed with shoulder pads.
Or at least they should be! Baby boomers, few things will detract more from an overall physique impression than weak shoulders and sagging triceps for all too see. Just as lines add years to a face, the shape and slope of shoulders when undeveloped can add years to a physique. Think about it. Can't you often tell someone is an older person from a great distance just by the contour of the shoulders? You can look like you're in shape with sculpted shoulders even if your lower body carries more fat than it should!
In spite of focusing on other body parts such as chest and biceps, wide shoulders and a narrow waist are considered attractive. Although wide shoulders are the result of the length of the bones of your shoulders (bio-acromial width), well-developed deltoids can give the appearance of wider shoulders, a narrow waist, smaller hips, as well as make your arms look more developed with the creation of the "V" silhouette. In other words, shoulders are important in creating an overall symmetrical physique that is pleasing to the eye. For boomers, developed deltoids create an image of youth, vitality and sexiness.
Shoulders are indeed an interesting muscle in that they not only look good, but are quite functional in ever day life, as well. We use them throughout the day, from stretching upon awakening in the morning, to lifting laundry and carrying groceries to pulling the covers over our heads prior to sleep. Strong and developed shoulders will also help prevent injuries when engaged in sports, whether playing tennis, golf, swimming or skiing.
A good example of what well-developed shoulders can do for a woman's appearance is seen with actress Linda Hamilton. Her shoulder development in The Terminator set off the lean appearance of her arms and sent women to the gyms in droves seeking that look for themselves.
Diane: To this day, the number one request of my female clients engaged in lifting weights is, "I want Linda Hamilton arms!"
The man who most reminds me of the importance of great shoulders is Larry Scott. Larry is known for his tremendous arm development, but his deltoids were out of this world! Larry had very narrow shoulders and no one could have predicted that he could have developed a physique great enough to win the Mr. Olympia, but he did.
His narrow shoulders were hidden by massive deltoids that not only made his shoulders appear broader, but because his deltoids had such great separation from his arm, they made his arms appear even more impressive.
So, what's the best strategy for developing impressive or attractive shoulders? For one thing, work on your posture and practice keeping your shoulders high and back.
Working the trapezius muscle with shrugs is an important part of maintaining a youthful and attractive posture. Shrugs executed with impeccable form will be critical for baby boomers seeking injury free training. Some rotator cuff issues arise due to poor posturing, so avoid injury to this delicate area and add shrugs into your routine.
You want to look great at the beach this summer, with the ability to wear tank tops with confidence, so it's time to work those deltoids, that triangular cap of muscle on the shoulders that gets is name from being shaped like the Greek letter delta. For youth, strength, sexiness, a legendary physique and the ability to ditch those shoulder pads, this article is dedicated to giving you some great information on creating your best shoulders yet. Yes, through the secrets to shoulders, your best physique ever will soon be yours!
Before we get to the actual routine, let us begin with an important caveat! The good news is that the shoulders respond more quickly to even a small amount of exercise than most other body parts. Richard: One thing I really liked about training the shoulders was that my shoulders responded to ever increasing training loads without becoming over trained like other muscles. The bad news is that shoulder injuries are the most common injuries for active people of all ages! We must unfortunately realize that we can no longer pound these muscles two or three times a week for all they are worth. To continue to do so, especially after the age of 50, is impossible without adversely affecting the joints and connective tissue. Therefore an important part of any training routine, especially for baby boomers whose recuperative abilities are not those of 20 year olds, is strict adherence to the following preventative measures:
- Proper performance of any exercise is key to avoiding injury. Follow the directions explicitly for any movement, especially in resistance training.
- Warm-up properly.
- Add rotator cuff exercises into your routine! (keep tuning in to our column for an article on the importance of rotator cuff exercises for the prevention and rehabilitation of shoulder injuries)
- If you already have a shoulder injury, certain exercises must be avoided (especially the Arnold Press and behind the neck presses)
- Use periodization techniques to get adequate recovery.
- Get that adequate recovery through days off from the gym and plenty of sleep.
Before we get to those concentrated "sexy shoulder" producers, let us give you four major secrets to success:
- You must eat nutritionally sound meals (read our advice about diet for abs on Week Fourteen)
- Do your cardio.
- Concentrate on isolating and flexing the shoulders!
- Don't hold your breath, but breathe out at the hardest part of the exercise so you won't get dizzy.
A complete shoulder routine should include work for all three major muscles of the deltoids: the anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear) deltoid muscles. The anterior portion of the deltoid raises the arm to the front and rotates the arm inward, while the lateral head raises the arm out to the side. The posterior head pulls the arm toward the rear and rotates the arm outward. Using this information as a guide, the most productive exercises for toning and firming or even building these important muscles are:
Front raises with books: -
View (Shown With Weights)
Everybody has some books in the house. Grab a book in each hand, standing with knees slightly bent with hands on your thighs and raise the books to the front up to eye level and lower back to thighs while keeping your arms slightly bent at the elbows.
Pushups: - View
This old standard free-hand exercise works many muscles of the body: triceps, pectorals, anterior deltoids, lower back, and tibialis anterior, among others. By putting your arms next to your body and pressing off the floor (from your knees for women and feet for men) and concentrating on the anterior deltoids as you press up, you can effectively work these frontal deltoid muscles. [Diane: For the female readers... many women lack the upper body strength to initially do a full pushup. But, as you make gains, try adding in a few where you are on your feet rather than your knees. Keep adding a few more reps until you can do a set of 12. Full pushups are very much within your reach. Just give it some time. Believe me, you're going to feel pretty awesome when you can do full pushups!]
Lateral raises with books: -
View (Shown With Weights)
Grab a book in each hand, standing with knees slightly bent with arms at your side and raise the books to eye level and then lower back to your sides while keeping your arms slightly bent at the elbows.
This is an extremely difficult exercise that only the strong should attempt. This is another compound exercise that will work the triceps, trapezius and anterior head of the deltoids, but also works the lateral heads. Basically, this is done with feet touching the wall in the handstand position. It's hard enough to get into this position, let alone lower one's self and then push back up into a handstand. [If any of you actually can do these without cracking your head, send us some photos!]
Bent over raises with books: -
View (Shown With Weights)
Grab a book in each hand, bend over either standing with knees slightly bent or sitting in a chair and raise and lower the books with your arms slightly bent at the elbows.
Anterior deltoids with dumbbells, barbell, cables, or machines
Front raise: -
A great way to focus on the anterior deltoids is to grab some dumbbells, a barbell, some cables or some handles on a machine and raise the arms to about eye level with the arms bent (slightly) at the elbow. A great trick to squeeze a little more work out of these muscles when using dumbbells is to bend ever so slightly to the side at the waist before raising the dumbbell. Raising it at this angle to the body will increase the work on the anterior deltoid.
Presses overhead: - View
Although this is a compound exercise and draws the lateral heads into the action, it is still a great mass builder. Variety in the form of dumbbells or barbell or cables or some handles on a press machine, either seated (with back support) or standing, can allow this to be a consistent weapon in your battle for great shoulders.
Lateral raise: -
Keeping the elbows bent here too will take pressure off that joint to minimize the chance of injury as you raise the dumbbells, cables or handles of a machine from down at your sides to slightly above shoulder height. This is the exercise that really separates those deltoids off from the arm and bulges out to make the shoulders look even wider and the waist narrower than they are.
Bent over raise (seated or lying face down on an incline bench): -
With the elbows slightly bent raise and lower the arms from a dead hang to a position as far toward the ceiling as possible.
Well, there you have it. Follow these simple tips choosing three exercises (one for each head of the deltoids) and working up to 3 sets each for two workout sessions per week, and you will soon have those sexy shoulders you've always wanted!
Richard and Diane
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Coming next week, inspirational stories and pictures from a few of our readers. From beginners just starting their journey towards a legendary physique to baby boomers that have lifted since their teens, you'll find a great source of motivation to help get you through your upcoming workouts with ease.
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Copyright 2003. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved. The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.