Combine compound & isolation exercises
For an explanation on the difference between compound and isolation exercises see our article ‘11 Ways To Get Proper Scotch Eggs / Legs’ . The key to developing functionally strong, defined and striated shoulders (anatomical term is Deltoids aka Delts) is to get the right balance between multi-joint compound moves and single joint isolation exercises, if you manage this you will achieve full looking, separated Delts which will not only fill out your shirt, but give you that much sought after X shape.
It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between multi-joint and single joint exercises for your Delts because you’re almost always recruiting your elbows, so for the sake of clarity we consider the elbow and shoulder joint as one. The Delts consist of 3 sections namely the anterior deltoid (front); the middle deltoid (side) and the posterior deltoid (back), which means certain exercises target certain Deltoid heads.
Compound Delt Exercises
- Clean and Jerks (Whole Delts and full body workout)
Isolation Delt Exercises
- Shoulder Presses (works anterior (front) Delts)
- Arnold Presses (full Delt workout)
- Side to front raises (Anterior (front) and Medial (side) Delts) - Bring dumbells out to your side, return to start position and instantlyraise them out in front of you.
- Bent over dumbbell raises (Posterior (rear) Delts)
- Upright Rows (Posterior and secondary Anterior Delts)
- Lateral Raises (Medial Delts)
- Front Raises (Anterior Delts)
Get the weight and rep range right
The weight and rep range inevitably varies depending on whether you want to gain size, strength, power, endurance or definition. Despite this, the general rule is the same…build a foundation of enduring strength first of all, it’s no use trying to lift heavy weights if there is no base of endurance as you will only fail during your sets before you reach your growth threshold, basically you finish prematurely, and that my friends is never good! Therefore my advice is to start with a weight that allows you to complete a rep range of approximately 10-12; this is trial and error at first and will help you to gauge the perfect weight for you (if you’re honest with yourself of course). If you find you are completing the reps without adequate muscle pump or fatigue then don’t be tempted to increase the reps, increase the weight instead maintaining the 10-12 rep range.
If strength is your aim then reduce the rep range to approx 6-8 and lift a weight that allows you to complete the reps so that you are close to failure at the end. Remember that the Delts are a smaller muscle group and therefore factor the weight accordingly.
Don’t forget your Rotator Cuffs!
The Rotator Cuff muscles include:
These are located around the shoulder joint and work as a unit to stabalise and strengthen the shoulder joint. Therefore it would be rather reckless to not train this vital muscle group. Unfortunately the term ‘out of sight, out of mind’ resonates here, just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be trained. After all, strong, dense and aesthetic muscles must grow from the root, plus if your injured (which happens all too often with the Rotator Cuffs) you can’t train anyway!
Try these rotator cuff exercises:
Get the balance right
Notoriously, the hardest of the three Delts to work are the posterior (rear) Delts. Consequently they are frequently neglected which starts off a vicious cycle, because the more you train the anterior (front) and medial (side) Delts the tighter they become, this overstretches the posterior Delts which makes them weaker still! So do not forget to perform bent over dumbbell raises (read back to number 1 on this list) and full Delt exercises such as Arnold Presses to ensure you achieve muscular balance and avoid those Neolithic man esque rounded shoulder!
Your shoulders are a small muscle group which require tender loving care. A poorly recovered Delt or rotator cuff muscle is highly likely to become strained or torn due to the lack of supporting muscles. To limit the risk of injury whilst helping to promote growth, the supplement of choice is whey protein. Try Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey and XL Nutrition Xtra Whey Protein for a 70-80% protein that mixes great and tastes even better. Reduce the onset of ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’ (DOMS), the dreaded stiffness that follows a training session by adding in some Glutamine. Glutamine is very important to our muscles, in fact, over 90% of the body’s Glutamine is stored within skeletal muscle. According to Llewellyn, (2009) the body’s Glutamine stores deplete after a heavy training session, meaning the replenishment of the Glutamine pools can go some way to stunting catabolism (muscle breakdown) and aid recovery for the next day’s session. Consequently, Glutamine is one of the most effective supplements out there for reducing muscle soreness, injury and the onset of the dreaded overtraining syndrome!
Llewellyn, W. (2009). Sport Supplement Reference Guide. FL: Molecular Nutrition.