Do you think you can get a strong upper body without having the right shoulder routine in place?
Well for anyone who wants to get a statuesque and sexy chest, or develop a Herculean back that looks like it’s carved out of marble, then you’ve got to have a strong set of shoulders. But putting this into practice means doing more than the typical shoulder shrugs.
Matt Schifferle, aka the Fit Rebel, over at Red Delta Project is the guy who spurred the idea for this post with his video above. I totally agree with his thought process on the shoulder being such a versatile joint and how it’s the gateway to true upper body strength. The secret to gaining incredible power from the chest, arms and back lies in focusing on making those shoulders more stable.
Set Your Progress in Motion With Stability in Mind
So what are some of the better exercises to help strengthen the shoulders?
Almost any upper body movement will bring the shoulders into action. If you’ve ever experienced a shoulder injury then you’ll know that’s practically impossible to train any part of your upper torso without cringing in pain.
Here’s a list of my top 5 shoulder-specific exercises:
Clean and Jerk
The Military Press
Lateral Dumbbell Raises
Alternating Kettlebell Presses
Front Plate Raises
The importance to using the right shoulder routine goes beyond lifting weights.
Try going out for a run and see how far you can get without pumping your arms. You’d look pretty silly if you took a trek through the neighborhood with your arms posted at your sides. It’s the shoulders that help to keep the pace, and with proper running form each swing of the arm will help maintain balance because it’s a natural movement with each stride.
But one of the better ways to increase the role of your shoulders is to make sure you stick with the best compound exercises like push ups, which really do generate quite a bit of muscle stimulation across the entire upper body region.
So doing exercises that don’t allow for a platform like a bench or a wall to help take off the burden of a weight load can really be an advantage in your training.
Using an exercise like the incline bench press, for example, will predominately target the chest, but it can also aid in strengthening the shoulders as an auxiliary muscle. If you were to take away the back of the bench then your secondary muscles like the shoulders and your triceps receive more engagement and are forced to work even harder.
Staying Healthy with the Right Shoulder Routine
One of the major reasons beginners-to-advanced trainees are plagued with shoulder instability issues is from the lack of proper attention and overuse of this joint.
The three bones that make up the shoulder—the collarbone (or clavicle), the shoulder blade (scapula) and the upper arm bone (humerus)—help to give the shoulder an extreme range of motion, but on the flip side this ROM makes it more susceptible to injury.
One of my favorite exercises is the Dip. It offers a great bodyweight workout that can either be made to target the chest or triceps, so you’ll see this in a lot of bodyweight routines. However, since it’s meant to target the upper body, you’ll also be working the shoulder joint, and with most of the stress being put on the front deltoids.
If you’re a beginner with this can lead to injury real fast. One of the reasons is because if you’re not extremely familiar with this exercise it’s easy to put the shoulders further out of it’s natural ROM. That’s not good.
So, how can someone new to exercise start to workout their shoulders? Here’s a good beginner shoulder routine from WorkoutBOX that will help you gain shoulder mobility and strength. Their instructions are dead on: you need to make sure you’re using enough weight to perform each rep in the full ROM and with proper technique (no cheating!), making sure your breathing pattern follows the exhale on effort/inhale on reset, and to recover for 1-2 minutes between all your sets.
What if you want big ol’ coconut-shaped shoulders? To really get that roundness in the muscle check out this shoulder routine over at Muscle and Strength. It’s a 3-week cycle that’ll put heavy emphasis on the shoulder and trapezius muscles in the first week, shock the traps the second week and then shock the shoulders in the third week. Then it’s all about starting over with week one.
[Note: If you do don't have access to a cable machine here are a few trapezius exercises you can take on with just a set dumbbells.]
For myself, I’m not so keen on strutting around with shoulders that make me look like the Hulk. Yet, for keeping my body in top shape I do understand the importance of giving a bit of attention to this integral muscle area.
If I didn’t have healthy shoulders I wouldn’t be able to: play with my daughters, do actual “work” at work, or do actual “work” around the house.
So you don’t always have to separate your shoulder work from the rest of your workout sessions, but by giving yourself some exercise time with the right shoulder routine you just might find you can keep on target with your upper body strength goals, and stay healthy in the process.