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3 Training Strategies for Maximum Muscle on Shoulders

The shoulder is incredibly complex. 

So many muscles, heads, segments, bundles, and who knows what else. 

It can flex, extend, abduct, adduct, internally rotate, externally rotate, and so on.

 There are many ways to skin the proverbial shoulder-training cat. Below are three of the most effective ways. 

Just don’t try to use all three at once.

Strategy 1: Develop the external rotators and low traps

 When we think about shoulder training, we automatically think of training the front, side, and rear delts with shoulder presses, lateral raise variations, and the like – they’re great exercises and very necessary for developing an impressive set of shoulders.

But because the shoulder joint is the most mobile and least stable joint in the body, for the sake of longevity, it would be wise to spend time working the external rotators and low traps.

Strengthening these muscles will improve posture and provide stability.

Below is a three-phase sample:

Shoulder training

Perform this series of exercises after every upper body workout for a period of 2-3 weeks. 

Perform this series of exercises after every upper body workout for a period of 2-3 weeks.

Perform these exercises after every upper body workout for a period of 2-3 weeks.

Over the course of the three phases, the intensity is increased and the shoulder is worked through a variety of arm positions. After 6-9 weeks of spending just 15 minutes per workout on these muscles, they should be up to par. Well worth the effort.

Strategy 2: Use variety and high ‘time under tension’ for hypertrophy

As discussed earlier, the shoulder joint is incredibly mobile. So for total development, a wide range of exercises should be used. 

And for most lifters, delts respond well to high amounts of time under tension, lactic acid, and metabolic stress.

Try the giant set below:

A1) 15° Prone Dumbbell Lateral Raise

A2) 60° Prone Dumbbell Lateral Raise

A3) Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise

A4) L-Style Extended Dumbbell Lateral Raise

A5) L-Style Dumbbell Lateral Raise

A6) Dumbbell Front Raise

A7) Dumbbell Upright Row

A8) Dumbbell Shoulder Press

 -All exercises are to be done with a 3010 tempo.

-Start with a challenging weight for 10 reps of A1 and keep this weight for all eight exercises, performing as many reps as possible on the remaining exercises.

-Move from one exercise to the next without resting.

-Perform this giant set three times with two minutes rest between each.

-Don’t be ashamed of the tiny weights you’ll have to use to make it through the third time.

The burn from this giant set will be excruciating. But that’s the price that must be paid to prompt muscle growth.

Strategy 3: Prioritise overhead pressing strength

The overhead press was a favourite exercise of many old-time lifters. That is until it was removed from the sport of Olympic weightlifting in 1972. Since then its popularity has been on the decline.

Bench pressing has since taken over as the most popular lift. But benching doesn’t have to come at the expense of the overhead press.

Not to mention, stronger shoulders and increased overhead pressing strength often drive up bench-pressing poundage as well.

How do you know if your overhead press is lagging? You should be able to strict barbell overhead press at least the equivalent of your bodyweight. If you can’t, the below cycle is for you.

Sample 12-Week Progression:

12-week shoulders

The designated press variation should be performed three times over the course of each two-week phase.

Because overhead strength is the priority, these shoulder press variations should be performed first in the workout. Other pressing variations and assistance lifts can be done later in the workout.

The first six weeks of this cycle gets progressively heavier. And the exercises, intensity, and tempo are chosen to facilitate that.

At the start of Week Seven, the cycle starts over but with a slightly higher intensity than Week One.

Make the decision to work hard following these guidelines for 12 weeks and your overhead press strength will take off. 

There you have it. Three different approaches for developing strong and muscular shoulders. Now all you have to do is choose one and put in the work.

Want to train with world-class personal trainers and get a taste of the real UP training experience? Click here to sign up for one of UP’s famous Hypertrophy Camps.



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