5 ways to make your shoulder workouts even better
While complete balance of all body parts is important, they say the shoulders make the physique. This is somewhat true – especially in the competitive side of the sport. Building out massive shoulders can help shape the rest of your physique. It can create the illusion that your waist is smaller than it really is – thus giving you a sharp V-taper aesthetic.
But it’s not easy to build boulder shoulders. That’s why this article is going to break down key strategies to keep in mind when you head into your next shoulder workout. Here are five tips to fine tune your shoulder workouts to avoid any potential injury while growing cannonball delts.
1 – Warm-up with a bottoms-up press
Your workout starts with what you’re doing before those muscle-stimulating sets. To get the most from your shoulder workouts then warming-up with a few shoulder circles just won’t cut it. Instead, try a 2-3 sets of bottoms-up kettlebell presses (BUP’s). Sets of 8-15 work well.
Why they work
Sure they look weird, but just a few minutes of BUP’s will result in more stable, well-greased and press-ready joints. BUP’s work through the principle of irradiation. In short, you’re forced to grip the bottoms-up kettlebell hard to stop it from falling. This increased tension in your grip and forearms irradiates down your entire arm to create more stability at your shoulder. It’s not only a way to “switch on” your shoulder stabilizers for literally any heavy press you want to throw at it, but also a good way to test your overall workout readiness.
2 – Switch your shoulder press grip
Some of the best delts are build with a hefty dose of overhead pressing. The problem is that most people just aren’t built to press straight overhead with a barbell. In the long-run this can cause pain and inflammation that can hold you back from making consistent and steady progress. If this is you then one option is to opt for dumbbells instead of a barbell, and use neutral (hammer) grip variations a much as possible.
Why they work
Dumbbells offer more freedom and natural movement at your shoulder joints. One of the reasons why so many have shoulder issues is because it’s a very tightly packed joint. That space underneath the acromion process gets even more tightly packed when you go overhead, especially when your shoulder is in more of an internally rotated position as with any overhead press using a pronated (palms-down) grip. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do them, but some of you will be more tolerant of them than others based on your shoulders anatomy. Since a neutral grip helps to drive more external rotation at your shoulder joint and more “space” within the joint, it can be a better shoulder pressing option for many.
3 – Swap basic lateral raises for these
Basic lateral raises can become boring. Plus, doing them all the time will reduce how effective they are in helping build cannonball delts. Instead, try this eccentric variation to shock some new growth.
Why they work
Eccentric lateral raises are one of the many exercises frequently credited to the late Coach Charles Poliquin. Bending your elbows on the concentric (lifting) portion shortens the lever arm from the dumbbell to your shoulder, making the dumbbells easier to handle. This also gives you the chance to focus on lifting with your elbows for pure delts isolation.
On the way down the lever arm lengthens to a more disadvantageous position which provides an eccentric overload to your medial delts. Eccentrics are great for building muscle when applied correctly, as well as promoting tendon strength and the overall health of your shoulders. Start lighter than you think and take about 4-seconds to lower down on each rep.
4 – Do more Y-raises for medial delts
Lateral raise variations aren’t the only option to work your middle delts. To add more width to your shoulders then try doing y-raises on a bench using a palms-down grip. You’ll program these in much the same way you would your lateral raises.
Why they work
Using an incline bench or machine to support your chest works to maximize your stability and focus on the area you’re trying to hit hardest. The angle of the bench, dumbbells and arm path work to recruit more of your medial delts. It’ll take some practice to find the correct arm path here as it’ll vary individually, so don’t be afraid to experiment a little to find the angles that feel best to you.
The focus should be on feeling it through your middle delts without any clunkiness going on in your shoulders. You can also do these similar to what are commonly termed a “trap 3 raise”. With that you’ll use a thumbs up grip and have a greater degree of external rotation at your shoulder. However with those it’ll target more lower traps and anterior delts.
5 – Build and bulletproof with “Y” Cuban presses
You already know that your rotator cuff muscles are important, and that it’s good practice to throw in strengthening exercises now and then. The problem with these is you don’t feel you’re getting a lot from them — You’re training to build bigger delts, not to work the little muscles you can’t see!
Well, unfortunately these muscles are pretty darn important, and without them you wouldn’t have any shoulders to speak of. The more you work you delts the more important it is to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles, too. Here’s a good option that’ll not only strengthen your shoulder external rotators, but will also pump up your delts at the same time.
Why they work
Fair warning: you won’t need much weight at all here. Some even find just holding a couple of Fat Gripz or baby pink dumbbells are enough! Y Cuban Presses are a 3-phase movement with various advantages to each. Whereas the basic Cuban press is essentially a wide upright row, external rotation and overhead press, with this variation you’re pressing outward more like a “Y” at the top. This makes the press portion even harder on your delts. If you want to drive up your bench press poundages or bulletproof your shoulders then throw in a few sets of 8-10 of these towards the end of your workouts.