Mastering Shoulder Training: 12 Essential Rules for Broad and Muscular Shoulders

shoulder workout

Do you know the shortest way to broad and muscular shoulders? By following these 12 laws of shoulder training, you will be on the right track. Some people think that strength training has become unnecessarily difficult. They follow the simple principle of “lift and conquer” and do not bother too much with the choice of exercises. As long as the weights are moving in space, everything is fine – this is their principled position.

To pump up the muscles, you have to connect the brain, otherwise, you can spend years puffing under the barbell without getting the desired result. How to get the most out of a shoulder girdle workout? Start with 12 key rules that optimize muscle growth and strength indicators and at the same time reduce the risk of injury. You will find that strength training really forces you to turn on your head, although you also have to lift weights

Maximizing Shoulder Gains, The Standing vs. Sitting Bench Press

Although you perform the same movement in a sitting and standing position, there is a significant difference between these exercises. Standing up, you can create additional effort coming from your knees and hips. This variation, known as the army bench press, usually allows you to lift more weight or do more reps than the sitting bench press.


Bench press from a sitting position is considered preferable from the point of view of isolating the target musculature since it is much more difficult to use the momentum from the lower body. As a result, you will have to sacrifice a little weight, repetitions, or both.

In a well-planned training of the shoulder girdle muscles, there is a place for each variant of the overhead press. Don’t fall in love with one exercise, because you need the benefits of each of them.

Free Weights vs. Machines

The overhead press of a barbell or dumbbell is more difficult than the programmed press in the simulator. It increases the activity of the stabilizer muscles to the detriment (albeit insignificant) of the working weight, the number of repetitions, or both at the same time. However, there’s a crucial distinction to consider.

free weights

At the start of your workout, when you’re still relatively fresh and haven’t accumulated fatigue, it’s essential to work with a heavier load. In this regard, doing a head press with a free weight is the best way to start a workout. Save the exercises in the simulators for later, when it will be difficult to balance the projectile over your head due to fatigue, and at the end of the session you will be able to direct all efforts to lifting the working weight, and not stabilize it.

Cautionary Note on Behind-the-Head Bench Press

There is a great temptation to train the deltoid muscles with maximum working weight and do approaches with a small number of repetitions, as in the days of bench presses or squats. However, in relation to the bench press from behind the head, such a strategy may be erroneous. At the lower point, when the barbell is located behind the head, the shoulder girdle muscles are in the weakest anatomical position, and heavyweight significantly increases the risk of stretching.

This is stated by bodybuilder Amateur and doctor of sports medicine Guillermo Escalante, who is also a professor of kinesiology at the University of California at San Bernardino. When working with a very large weight, he recommends using a chest press. When working with an average weight, Escalante gives the green light to the bench press from behind the head.

Overhead Press Multi-Joint Exercises

A time–tested approach is to start training the target group with a multi-joint movement while the tanks are still full of fuel. Also known as compound exercises, multi-joint movements involve a large amount of muscle mass because two or more joints work simultaneously. The overhead press is the most famous multi-joint exercise for the shoulder girdle, involving all three heads of the deltoid muscles, as well as the triceps and other auxiliary muscles.

It is important not only to choose the right exercise but also a competent approach to choosing the working weight. You should get to muscle failure in 6-8 reps. This is the lower threshold of the range of muscular hypertrophy, the upper one is at the level of 12 repetitions.

Vertical Thrust, Expanding Your Shoulder Workout Repertoire

Multi-joint exercises for the shoulder girdle do not end with overhead presses; vertical traction is another representative of this category. As long as you use a not-too-wide grip, the upper part of the arm is located along the trunk, which makes vertical traction an excellent exercise for the deltoid muscles. As in the case of spreading the arms to the sides, there is a slight reduction of the shoulders during the upward movement, thanks to which the trapezius muscles also receive their portion of the load. Vertical traction can be performed after the overhead press or in the final phase of training for the final burning of the muscles.

Heavy Bench Presses Precision Targeting for Deltoid Muscle

Single-joint exercises turn off the auxiliary muscle groups from work, and you can focus on each head of the deltoid muscle. To aim at one head, you have to act in a certain plane, in which the front, middle or rear deltas work most intensively. At the same time, you should bend your arms slightly at the elbow joints. The bending angle cannot change during movement – the elbows must be fixed in one position throughout the approach.

In single-joint exercises, move towards the upper limit of the range of repetitions for muscle hypertrophy, choosing a weight with which you can finish at least 8, and preferably 10-12 repetitions in each approach. This is not an exercise in which you should lift a very large weight, because this way you put a significant load on the elbow joints. With single-articular movements, you carefully work out each bundle of the deltoid muscle, training until complete exhaustion in the name of powerful muscle pumping.

Front Raises for Front Deltoid Development

By raising the straightened arm in front of your body, you aim at the anterior head of the deltoid muscles. You have the flexibility to do these exercises either in a seated or standing position and you can choose to use one hand or both hands simultaneously. You can also use different projectiles, including dumbbells, barbells, expanders, or rope simulators.

front raise

The anterior deltas also participate in the multi-joint overhead bench press (and in the bench press for the pectoral muscles, especially on an inclined bench). The single-articular movement should be performed after compound exercises.

Lifting The Arms To The Sides For The Middle Head Understand the Middle Deltoid Workout

The single-articular movement, in which you raise your straight arms to the sides, is aimed at the middle bundle of deltoid muscles. Note that I do not use the terms lateral or medial deltas – two non-existent muscles that are often confused with the middle deltas. The movement is performed in the lateral (to the sides) plane, and therefore the exercise is often called lateral hand lifts. Of course, all this is semantics, but it helps to make sure that you understand well what is being discussed.

As well as frontal lifts, the spreading of the arms to the sides can be performed sitting or standing, with one hand or both hands at the same time. Usually, the exercise is performed with dumbbells, expanders, or in a rope simulator, although I have seen bodybuilders trying to lift the barbell sideways with one hand. Frankly speaking, this is not a very common version of this exercise. In the upper part of the trajectory, the shoulders are on the sides of the trunk, which largely repeats their position in the lower phase of the bench press due to the head. So, both these exercises primarily target the middle part of the deltoid muscle.

Rear Delt Development with Lateral Raises

By raising your arms to the sides from the tilt position, you aim at the posterior deltoid muscles. This movement is in many ways similar – although not identical – to multi-articular traction movements, which, among other things, work out the rear deltas. Regardless of whether you perform the movement standing (in a tilt) or sitting, or even in the simulator, sitting facing him, the trajectory of movement remains unchanged.

One of the advantages of working in the simulator for the pectoral muscles is the fixation of the arms with a slight flexion in the elbow joints throughout the approach. In contrast to this variant of the exercise, the dilutions in the cable simulator make it possible to unbend the arms at the elbows, which turns the exercise for the rear deltas into a movement for the triceps.

Mastering Isolation Exercises: The Key to Effective Deltoid Targeting

What makes single-joint exercises the best isolating movements is the fixation of the elbows in a position of slight flexion during the entire approach. As soon as you begin to unbend your arms, you immediately include the triceps in the equation, and this reduces the effectiveness of the isolation that you are striving for.

In a movement like lateral lifts and reverse arm extensions in the simulator, many athletes mistakenly straighten their elbows at the end of the exercise to 180°, and then bend them to 90° in the descending phase. Often the reason for this is the use of too much weight. On the other hand, most athletes make this mistake unconsciously, so it’s good to have a trained pair of eyes that will follow you from the outside. By learning about your technical mistakes, you will be able to avoid wasting time due to incorrect exercise performance.

Balancing Shoulder Development: The Crucial Role of Symmetry in Shoulder Training

Nowhere is asymmetric development more striking – and not as critical – than in the shoulder girdle. Usually, guys who focus on the development of the chest muscles achieve disproportionately high development of the anterior deltas. This bundle participates in all chest press movements, while the middle head is most heavily loaded during the overhead press. If you neglect back training, your back deltas will look small in comparison. This is not only noticeable in the mirror but also threatens with health problems of the rotator cuff of the shoulder.

When it comes to single-joint exercises, first of all, perform movements for the lagging area (after compound presses) while there is still enough energy in the fuel tanks. Or think about doing a second one-joint movement for this group. If your deltoid muscles are developed relatively proportionally, you can arbitrarily change the order of exercises from training to training in order to achieve the most balanced development of muscles. If you consistently leave a specific muscle area for the end of your workout, it may eventually fall behind in development compared to other muscle groups.

Shoulder Health and Performance: The Overlooked Importance of Rotator Cuff Training

Everyone wants to have muscular shoulders, but no one wants to train the rotator cuff. Indeed, why do it if you can’t even see it? Well, rotators (a group of four muscle belts) help to stabilize the shoulder joint. If you train the deltas (and the chest muscles, for that matter), but ignore the rotational muscles, the balance of forces between the two muscle groups can be severely disrupted. This increases the risk of injury to the rotator cuff of the shoulder. We know that training to avoid injury is not very cool, but various rotational exercises are key to the health of the shoulder cuff, especially for bodybuilders with a lot of experience.


Shoulder pain is almost inevitable for experienced bodybuilders who perform repetitive movements. Depending on the severity of the pain, you should think about switching to different training equipment. For example, using dumbbells instead of barbells in overhead presses allows the shoulder joints to work in a more natural and possibly painless range of motion. Constant pain can become a serious problem, the severity of which varies from inflammation to damage and tendinitis of the rotator cuff of the shoulder. Do not underestimate the danger of such injuries. Rest compresses with ice, and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (which treat inflammation, but do not always eliminate its causes) will help. In short, it is better to learn about exercises for the rotator cuff yourself than to hear about them from your attending physician.


What is the purpose of multi-joint exercises for the shoulder girdle?

The purpose of multi-joint exercises is to engage a large amount of muscle mass.

What’s the difference between standing and sitting bench presses?

Standing bench press allows for more effort from knees and hips.

Free weights or machines: which is better for starting a shoulder workout?

Free weights are always better at the start for heavier loads.

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