The shoulders and traps are the only muscles in my opinion that can't be developed enough. The wider and rounder your delts and traps are, the more your upper body appears much bigger than it actually is, and the smaller your waist looks, giving your body a "V" taper. Read this article and start blasting those delts and traps into boulders of muscle!
Anatomy of the Shoulders:
The shoulders are made up of 3 different heads called deltoids, each with it's own specific function. The anterior (front) deltoid lifts the arm to the front, the medial (side or middle) deltoid lifts the arm to the side, and the posterior (rear) deltoid lifts the arm to the rear. All 3 of the deltoids also work together in order to press weight over the head.
Training the Shoulders:
There are two basic types of shoulder exercises:
Straight arm raises: In which the fully extended arm is lifted in an outward arc from the body.
Presses: in which the arms are extended in a pressing motion over the head.
All presses stress particularly the front and side deltoids, with secondary belief to the rear head. Straight-arm raises almost completely isolate a single deltoid. As you have probably figured out, front raises stress the anterior deltoid, side raises stress the medial deltoid, and raises performed in a bent forward position stress the rear deltoid. The deltoids all work together in order to rotate the arm 360 degrees, so there are many angles from which the shoulders can be worked at.
Quantity and Quality of Training:
The shoulders can handle unbelievable amounts of weight, and also assist you in many upper body exercises such as bench presses and bent over rows. Therefore, it is very important to train the shoulders intensely with maximum concentration because they so many compound movements rely on shoulder strength. Like all muscles, try to get your mind inside it and truly feel it working.
Here are some tips to make the best of your training:
- When performing straight-arm raises, keep your pinky finger slightly higher than your thumb. This contracts the deltoids better and provides better stimulation.
- When performing presses, make sure your forearms are at a 90-degree angle to the bar. This form works the shoulders the best and puts the stress off your triceps.
- To be super strict, don't perform any raises over head level, this will create a stricter movement and stress the deltoids better.
- When doing raises, make sure you start the rep from a dead stop. This makes the movement stricter.
- Do seated raises to make an even stricter movement.
- Behind the neck shoulder presses puts you at risk for a rotator cuff injury, however, I find that presses in front of the head put to much stress on the anterior deltoid, so to reduce your chance of injury, when performing behind the neck presses, make sure you keep good form, press in a straight line and don't let the bar go further down than your upper neck.
Some methods to pump up the intensity are:
- Supersetting presses with raises.
- Supersetting presses or raises with shrugs.
- Applying any of the Weider intensity principles to your training regularly.
I recommend doing at least one pressing exercise along with an isolation exercise for all 3 deltoids.
My current shoulder routine looks like this:
- Seated dumbbell presses
- Seated behind neck presses
- Standing lateral raises
- Bent over laterals
- Front Raises
For me, that is 20 sets for the shoulders alone. This routine is designed to get complete shoulder development as well as build up shoulder strength with compound movements. The shoulders are my personal favorite muscle group, and in my opinion should either be given their own workout day or trained with the traps only.
It is very important to avoid injury to the shoulders at all costs. The shoulders, like I mentioned before, assist you with many important compound movements, including all types of rows and presses. Make sure you have a proper 5-10 minute warm up and also stretch and flex the deltoids in between your sets. Let your ego go, use a weight that you can handle. Don't just go pick up a 30lb dumbbell and try to do straight arm raises. This will definitely result in injury, a major setback that can kill your bodybuilding progress in an instant. You are in the gym to stimulate your muscles, not to be a tough guy. Make sure you find a weight that works for you and get the proper form down before progressing to heavier weight.
Anatomy of the Traps:
The traps, or trapizus is a large triangular shaped muscle that originates above your shoulders around your neck, and inserts all the way down to the middle of the back. The main functions of the traps are to raise and retract the shoulder girdle and assist in turning the head.
Training the Traps:
Trap exercises are limited to two types of exercises:
Shrugs - In which the shoulder girdle is raises towards your ears.
Upright Rows - In which your arms, extended and hanging at your hips are raise straight up in front of your face. (Upright rows don't recruit as much fiber as shrugs, but are very useful for creating separation between your chest and anterior deltoid, a good tool for pre contest training). Also, your traps will receive some indirect stimulation from exercises such as dumbbell laterals if the arms are raised above the head.
Quantity and Quality of Training:
Since the exercises for the traps are limited, and not to mention that I want a big neck, I make sure to hit the traps with maximum intensity. The traps can also handle unbelievable amounts of weight, and are a piece of cake to train. Here are some tips to make the best of your training:
Perform extra sets for the traps to make up for the limited amount of exercises.
Make sure to use proper form and fully contract and extend your shoulder girdle to work the them through a full range of motion.
Minimize the use of barbells. They allow you to handle more weight, but have a very restricted range of motion that simply doesn't stimulate the traps as well as dumbbells.
You may find that using straps will help you perform a few more reps.
Here are some tips to up the intensity:
- Superset trap and shoulder exercises.
- Superset shrugs with upright rows.
- Apply any of the Weider intensity principles.
My current trapezes routine looks like this:
- 5 sets Dumbbell Shrugs
- 5 sets Upright Rows
(I normally perform only 4 sets per exercise)
Like all body parts, you do not want to injure the traps. This could effect many exercises and halt your gains instantly. As I mentioned before, make sure you warm up sufficiently and use a weight that works well, not one that makes you look tough.