Build shoulder strength and size for beginners
For beginners, we will do 4 exercises for shoulders. This will target all 3 areas of the shoulders, and 1 for your traps.
Shoulders are one of the most difficult muscles to build strength and size. By focusing on shoulders at the beginning, you will quickly build strength and size.
- Seated barbel press (behind the neck) – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Seated dumbbell press – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Seated lateral raises (bent over) – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Barbell chin raises – 3 sets of 8 reps
Huge shoulders – advanced workout
Shoulders are probably one of the most difficult and sometime most painful muscles to grow. Shoulders are not normally used to pick or carry heavy weights, and this makes them natural weaker than other muscles.
I found this workout online at workoutlabs.com, and also on leanitup.com, which is a great workout. This shoulder workout is more advanced and targets the entire shoulder.
Breathing: Remember to exhale when you push the weight up and inhale when you bring the weight back down.
[SS] = super set, do two or more exercises one one set. For example, [SS] Upright row + Front plate raises – Do 10 sets of upright row immediately followed by 10 front plate raises
1. Dumbbell Shoulder press
You can have a gym partner to help you complete the set or to keep the weights stable, especially when the weights starts getting heavy as you progress. If you arch your back then you are either you are cheating, or the weight is too heavy, which means that the exercise is wasted time!
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, sit on a military press bench or utility bench that has back support. Place the dumbbells upright on top of your legs.
- Now raise the dumbbells to shoulder height one at a time using your legs – push up with each leg to throw the weight up into position.
- Rotate your wrists so that the palms of your hands are facing forward. This is your starting position.
- Push the dumbbells upward until they touch at the top, your muscle is not contracted. Exhale as you push the weight up.
- After a brief pause at the top position, slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position while inhaling.
- Repeat from 4 until you have done your reps.
2. Clean and Press
Image from LeanItUp
- Stand tall with a loaded barbell on your thighs. Tighten your core, dip down slightly, and powerfully pull the barbell up on top of your collarbone.
- Dip your legs slightly and explosively press the barbell overhead.
- Hold for 1s, slowly lower the bar back to your collarbone, then down to your thighs, and repeat for a set of 10. Complete each clean & press in one fluid motion. You can also use dumbbells.
3. Upright row + Front plate raises (Super set)
This is a super set. A super set is when you do one complete set, immediately followed followed by another set of different exercises targeting the same muscle before resting.
Image from LeanItUp
- Upright Rows — hold the bar slightly narrower than shoulder width and pull it up to your chin. Keep your core tight and shoulders back throughout.
- Front Plate Raises — make sure to keep your core tight and body steady. Raise the plate up to eye height and hold it for 1 second. Resist the pull to fall forward.
4. Reverse dumbbell flies
- Grab two dumbbells and bend over so that your torso is at a 45º angle.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, tighten your core and lower back, and raise both arms directly out to the side.
- Hold the contraction for .5 seconds at the top and slowly return to starting position. Repeat for 15 reps.
5. Dumbbell shoulder shrugs
- Stand tall with 2 dumbbells.
- Tighten your core, puff your chest up, and powerfully shrug your shoulders up into your neck.
- Hold the squeeze for 1s and slowly lower all the way down. Repeat for 15 reps.
6. Cable face pull
- Stand at a cable station with a rope attachment. Adjust it as high as possible.
- Tighten your core, raise your arms, draw your shoulders back, and pull the rope in towards your mouth. Flare it and pull your rear deltoids as far back as possible. Your elbows should stay high throughout.
- Hold the contraction for 1s and slowly release it back to start. Repeat for 12 reps.
7. Push press + lateral raises (Super set)
Complete 12 push presses immediately followed by 12 lateral raises.
- Push Press — tighten your core and stand with two dumbbells raised at shoulder height (neutral grip). Dip your knees, powerfully explode upwards, and press the dumbbells overhead. Hold for 1s and return back down to the bottom.
- Lateral Raise — while keeping your core tight and back straight, raise both arms directly out to the side. They should reach neck height and form a “T” with your body. Hold for .5s and return to the bottom.
Shoulders were one of my weakest, most painful and most difficult muscle to exercise when I was a beginner, as the shoulders are really weak. Now it is just painful to train. It is still difficult to exercise even if I can lift heavier weights.
The shoulder consists of 3 muscle groups:
- Function: Flexion, Medial Rotation
- Location: Front portion of the shoulder girdle
- Function: Abduction
- Location: Middle/Side of the shoulder
- Function: Extension, Lateral Rotation
- Location: Back of the shoulder
Many beginners treat the shoulder as one muscle group by pressing, even through it is 3 separate muscle groups.
Presses for the shoulders will recruit the front or anterior head. The shoulder will not be balanced as the back and middle of the shoulder is not exercised. This also increases the risk of injury.