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Shoulder Exercises




Shoulder Muscle Anatomy

The primary muscle of the shoulder is the deltoid (also know as the "delts"). It is the rounded cap over the point of your shoulder. There are three heads of the deltoid that insert into the upper arm bone. The anterior (front) head, the medial (side) head, and the posterior (rear) head.

Around the shoulder joint itself is a small bundle of muscles called the rotator cuff. These smaller muscles help to rotate the arm in its shoulder socket. Since these muscles are small relatively weak they can be injured easily. That is why it is essential to warm up well before working your shoulders or doing any activities that incorporate the shoulder joint.





It is essential that when you do any exercise that you perform the movements correctly, if you don't you will receive less then optimum benefit from the exercise. It is very difficult to unlearn bad exercise habits, so it is best to learn the right exercise technique from the very start.

For each shoulder workout pick 3 of these exercises and do 4-5 sets (including warm up sets) for each exercise. You can vary the exercises you do for each shoulder workout.

Seated Barbell Press (also know as the "Military Press")

This is a basic shoulder exercise that works the anterior (front) delts and the triceps. It also works the upper chest and upper back as secondary muscles.





Sitting on an upright bench. Grab the barbell with a wider then shoulder width grip. Push the barbell directly upward until it is at arms length above your shoulders. Lower the barbell back to starting position. Repeat.

This exercise can be done lowing the barbell to the front or behind the head. But some people find that the behind the head version places more stress on the shoulder joints.

Seated Dumbbell Press

This exercise works the entire deltoid area and the triceps. Secondary stress is placed on the upper chest and upper back muscles.





Sit on an upright bench. Grab 2 dumbbells and pull them to your shoulders. The palms of your hands should be facing forwards during the exercise. Keep your feet shoulder width apart.

Keeping your elbows directly under the dumbbells press them upwards until they are at arms length above your head. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat.

Side Lateral Raises

This exercise works the medial (side) deltoids. Secondary stress is applied to the front deltoids and the forearms.





Grab 2 light dumbbells. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold the dumbbells just in front of your body with the palms of your hands facing each other. Keep a slight bend in your elbows.

Using your deltoid strength, raise the dumbbells out to the sides and upwards in a semicircular arc until they are just above shoulder level. Hold this position for a second to maximize the peak contraction in the deltoids. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat.

Tip - to really isolate your deltoids you can do this exercise seated on a bench. This will eliminate any body motion.

Front Lateral Raises

This exercise works the font (anterior) deltoids. Secondary stress is applied to the side deltoids and the forearms.





Grab 2 light dumbbells. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold the dumbbells at your sides with the palms of your hands facing each other. Keep a slight bend in your elbows.

Using your deltoid strength, raise the dumbbells to the front and upwards in a semicircular arc until the dumbbells are just above shoulder level. Hold this position for a second to maximize the peak contraction in the deltoid. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat.

Tips - to really isolate your deltoids you can do this exercise seated on a bench. This will eliminate any body motion. For variety you can do this exercise with a barbell instead of dumbbells.

Plate Raises

This exercise works the font (anterior) deltoids. Secondary stress is applied to the side deltoids and the forearms.





Grab a weight plate with your hands on the sides, as if you were holding a steering wheel of a car. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep a slight bend in your elbows.

Using your deltoid strength, raise the weight plate to the front and upwards in a semicircular arc until the plate is just above shoulder level. Hold this position for a second to maximize the peak contraction in the deltoid. Lower the plate back to the starting position. Repeat.

Bent Lateral Raises (also known as "Bent Over Dumbbell Flyes")

This exercise works the rear (posterior) deltoids. Secondary stress is applied to the upper back muscles and forearms.





Grab 2 light dumbbells. Bend over at the waist with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep a slight bend in the knees to prevent stain on the lower back. Hold the dumbbells at arms length in front of you with the palms of your hands facing each other. Keep a slight bend in your elbows.

Using your rear deltoid and upper back strength, raise the dumbbells to the back and upwards in a semicircular arc as far as you can. Hold this position for a second to maximize the peak contraction in the rear deltoids. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat.

Tips - to really isolate your deltoids you can do this exercise lying face down on a high exercise bench. This will eliminate any body motion.

Reverse Pec Dec Flyes

This exercise works the rear (posterior) deltoids. Secondary stress is applied to the upper back muscles and forearms.





Adjust the seat of the pec dec machine so that your upper arms are parallel with the floor when you are seated. Ajust the handles so they are all the way back. Sit down facing the backwards and grab the handles of the machine, keep a slight bend in the elbows.

Using your rear deltoids and upper back pull your arms apart in an arc motion until your arms are straight out to the sides. Hold this position for a couple of seconds to maximize the peak contraction in the upper back. Slowly move your arms back to the starting position. Repeat.




Trapezius Exercises




Technically the trapezius is a back muscle, but a lot of lifters like to train their trapezius (traps) with their shoulder workouts, so I have also included some excellent trapezius exercises.





The trapezius (traps) muscle is made-up of three separate regions. The upper portion of the trapezius is mainly responsible for shrugging your shoulders. The middle and lower regions are used during rowing type movements. Well developed traps help to counterbalance the chest and front (anterior) deltoids. This helps to improve posture and reduce the risk of injury.





Here are are some exercises designed to target your traps. You should incorporate these in your shoulder and back workouts. Do 1-2 warm up sets for each exercise and then do 2-3 heavy sets. Do 8-12 reps per set and really focus on feeling the muscles stretch and contract with each rep.



Barbell Shrugs

This exercise is excellent for working the traps. Secondary stress is placed on the forearms from gripping the weights.



Barbell Shoulder Shrugs Picture


Grip a barbell shoulder width apart. Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold the barbell at arms length in front of you.

Keep your arms straight during the entire movement. Sag your shoulders downward as far as you can. You will feel your traps stretch, hold this position for a second. Shrug your shoulders upward and squeeze your traps at the top. Hold this position for a second. Repeat.



Cable Upright Rows

This is a good exercise for working the muscles of your shoulder girdle. Primary muscles are the traps and the deltoids. Secondary muscles are the biceps, brachialis, and the forearms.



Low Pulley Cable Upright Row


From a low pulley cable hold a rope or handle attachement. Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your elbows above your hands at all times. Pull the cable directly up from the starting position until your elbows are shoulder height. Hold this position for a second to maximize the peak contraction, then lower to the starting position. Repeat.

This exercise can also be done with a barbell or dumbbells. However, I personally find using a rope attachment from a low pulley much more comfortable on the wrists, elbows, and shoulder joints.



Face Pulls

This exercise is excellent for building up the trapezius and upper back muscles.



Face Pull Picture


On a cable pully machine use a rope attachment. Pull the rope towards your face with your elbows held high. You can use either an overhand or underhand grip. Contract your upper back and rear delt muscles by squeezing your shoulder blades together while keeping your chest held high.



Hise Shrugs

This exercise is excellent for building up the trapezius and upper back muscles.



Hise Shrug Picture


Shoulder a barbell, just like you were going to do a set of squats. Keep your legs straight during the entire exercise. Simply shrug or hunch your shoulders up. You will feel your traps contract hard, hold this position for a second. Then relax your shoulders for a second, then repeat.




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