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How to Train Your Shoulders

For shoulders workout routine is important to start training session with presses and finis with raises (start with compound, finis with isolated). This practice gives you possibility to work hard with presses which power one exercises and warm up your shoulders for rises, which traumatic ones.  There are two main exercise type motions: Presses and Rises (flyes).


Shoulders workout routine is combination of raises and presses.

Shoulders, more than any other body part, require irreproachable performance technique of each repetition. Correct performance technique is the main key of success.

All main exercises aimed at shoulders workout can be divided into two big main groups:

  1. Presses (compound exercises to gain muscle mass)
  2. Raises (Isolation exercises to train target muscles)
Barbell Shoulder Presses (Seated or Standing)Barbell Presses Behind Head or  Military Presses (Seated or Standing)Dumbbell Shoulder Presses (Seated or Standing)Machine Shoulder Presses
Front Barbell / Dumbbell / Cable Raises (for front deltoids)Lateral Barbell / Dumbbell / Cable Raises (for lateral deltoids)rear rises/ Cable Flyes (for rear deltoids)

As I say, It’s better to start your workout session with difficult shoulder presses and after them ‘finish’ target muscles with different raises. Such practice has two advantages: first, you have enough energy to complete the most difficult exercises in the very beginning; and second, raises are less dangerous. That’s why you’d better end your workout with these exercises that use rather light weights.

Rear shoulders workout.

Rear shoulders are such muscles that bodybuilders often forget about. But you shouldn’t make this mistake. Exactly thanks to developed rear delt sections a bodybuilder’s shoulder looks like a cannonball. The majority of professionals know this very well and workout rear shoulders  very intensively by means of isolation exercises. First and foremost, these exercises are represented by different raises. Rear Delt Dumbbell Raises and Rear Cable Raises are the best exercises for back deltoids. There are some ‘specialists’ who advise not to perform such special raises for rear shoulders: they say that they anyway work hard in such exercises as:

rear delts work in compound back exercises
Bent Over Barbell RowsT-Bar RowsPull-UpsOne-Dumbbell RowsPulldowns

Indeed, compound exercises are the best choice to gain mass of big muscle groups. But rear shoulders are very small muscles and, besides of it, they play secondary role in all exercises mentioned above. It means that they don’t receive purposeful load and don’t have stimulus for growth. There are a number of other reasons why it’s so difficult to workout rear shoulders:

● too small size of rear  deltoids limits their possible growth;

● due to the fact that rear shoulders play a secondary role in compound exercises, it’s difficult to isolate them and the majority of the training load falls on big muscle groups;

● it’s difficult to concentrate on workout of such small and inconveniently situated muscles.

What comes to the position of rear shoulders, the main problem is not the inconvenient position itself but absence of correct performance technique. You need to feel your rear deltoids and be able to achieve burning sensation when workout them because it’s no use in aimless arm swinging. How is it possible to achieve it? – Here are my pieces of advice:

Use very light weight: it will help you control the complete amplitude of dumbbell movement.

Imagine that your arms end with elbows: it will help you load deltoids more by moving some load from triceps.

Incline angle when performing flyes shouldn’t be too high: otherwise the whole load will fall on your back. I DO NOT recommend you to lower your torso so that it’s parallel to the floor. 30-45° is far enough.

Raise dumbbells upright and a bit forward; make pauses and strain muscles to the fullest extend in the upper movement point.

Stick to such sets completing which it’s possible to reduce working weights: you start working with a heavy weight and strictly according to the performance technique; then, having got too tired to master this weight, you reduce it and go on completing reps. As your weight is decreasing you’ll feel that burning sensation in your back deltoids becomes more and more pronounced.

Try to work with only one hand; it will allow you to concentrate on your target area more sufficiently and work with heavier weights.

If your rear deltoids are behind you’d better always start shoulders workout with exercises aimed at rear delts sections. Such priority can help you liquidate this lag.

Workout rear delts either in complex together with the whole deltoid muscle or in complex with muscles of back. Doing this you’ll be able to load them additionally when performing different rows.

Rear deltoids recover quite quickly: it means that they are able to suffer workout loads 2-3 times a week. Good luck to you!

Wide your shoulders (workout).

I believe that every man dreams about a V-shaped figure with broad shoulders. Unfortunately, nature presented only few people with the ideal proportion of shoulders. But it’s no use to lose heart. It’s much better to set it on striving for this proportion J There are two main ways of getting a V-shaped figure:

  • to ‘widen’ the bones of shoulders and the chest
  • to grow shoulders muscle mass as much as possible.

It’s not difficult to ‘widen’ shoulder bones if you are under 20. After this age your bone growth is getting slower and their widening becomes quite problematic. The best exercise to widen your shoulders is to perform a lot of Pull-Ups (many sets) using very wide grip. If you do it when you are young in future, even if you quit sports completely, you’ll keep broad shoulders. But what is to be done if you are older than 20? My answer is the following: go on performing wide grip Pull-Ups anyway because their effect will be produced anyway (though, of course, it’ll be not too pronounced).

What comes to chest widening, it requires another workout specificity. Activation of growth processes of your chest can be achieved by means of a series of ‘respiratory’ squats. In comparison with usual Barbell Squats, respiratory squats are performed with lighter weights and obligatory during full inspiration. Such regime of lungs hyper-ventilation followed by hard work widens cartilages and assisting chest growth.

Technically it’s very simple: set a barbell weight with which you can perform 20 squats. Take into consideration that you’ll have to do not 20 but 25 reps; still, pauses between reps will also be increased due to more inspirations-expirations you’ll have to do. So, let’s start:

  • 1-10 repetition – 3 inspirations-expirations before each rep
  • 11-20 rep – 4 inspirations-expirations
  • 21-25 – 5 inspirations-expirations

As soon as you finish respiratory squats you should start performing Dumbbell Pullovers. Your aim is to stretch out your chest in order to strengthen the achieved effect. It’s enough two of such ‘respiratory squats – pullovers’ pairs in the very end of your training.

Widening training is constituted by series of several cycles with a month break between them. The duration of such cycles is to be gradually increased:

  • 1 cycle – 4-5 weeks,
  • 2 cycle – 5-6 weeks,
  • 3 cycle – 6-8 weeks.

As a rule, a vivid effect of widening trainings of shoulders can be observed after the 2nd and the 3rd cycles. Try to perform ‘respiratory squats’ on the day when you train legs.

2. To grow shoulders muscle mass as much as possible is the second important thing you should do. Here you can face some difficulties: the deltoid muscle represents quite a small muscle group that, by the way, receives heavy loads when you perform exercises for chest and back. That’s why simple increase of basic weights rarely leads to its growth.

When choosing exercises for your individual shoulders workout program, you need to consider, which exercise allows you to ‘feel’ the work of your deltoids best of all. Try to keep your deltoids always strained when performing exercises (don’t allow them to relax in the lowest movement point of flyes and try to keep dumbbells for a couple of seconds in the upper movement point). Work with light weights and try to achieve burning sensation in your muscles.

The most often mistake of beginners is the emphasis that they put only on lateral deltoids while rear ones are absolutely neglected. Don’t make this mistake: rear deltoids influence shoulder width no less than lateral ones.


For beginners is enough one – two exercises: military press (main) and upright row (additional).

Shoulders workout routines for beginners
military press2 warm ups + 3 working sets (6-10 reps per set)
upright row1 warm up + 3 working sets (6-10 reps per set)

If  you workout all body per day, than only military press is enough for your shoulders.

Ok. After two or three months you can add 1-2 isolated exercise. Your shoulders workout routine can be look like this:

Shoulders Workout Routines for intermediate levels
Workout Routine # 1
military pressupright rowlateral raisesrear delt rises2 warm ups + 4 X (6-10)4 X (6-10)3 X (6-10)3 X (6-10)
Workout Routine # 2
dumbbell shoulder presslateral raiseshammer strength pressrear delt rises2 warm ups + 4 X (6-10)3 X (6-10)3 X (6-10)3 X (6-10)
Workout Routine # 3
barbell press to back of headdumbbell shoulder presslateral raisesupright rowrear delt rises2 warm ups + 4 X (6-10)3 X (6-10)3 X (6-10)3 X (6-10)3 X (6-10)
Workout Routine # 4
smith presses to back of headupright rowrear delt rises2 warm ups + 4 X (6-10)4 X (6-10)3 X (6-10)

Exercises quantity depend on general workout volume. If you workout shoulders and e.g. back per one day, than your shoulders workout should be limited. On the other hand if you have special day for shoulders workout than you can add 1-2 exercises.

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Shoulders workout  rules

  • Try to increase barbell weights regularly. Having got stronger, your shoulders muscles are bound to grow.
  • Workout with only such weights that allow you to perform each repetition exclusively correctly. Don’t cheat. If you feel that a certain weight is too heavy for you you’d better switch to a lighter one.
  • Achieve burning sensation in target muscles when performing raises: it’s the best marker of a high-quality deltoid training.
  • Don’t straighten your arms completely in the upper movement point when performing presses. Keep your deltoids strained constantly: this will help you achieve burning sensation much sooner.
  • When performing raises and presses make a second pauses in the upper amplitude point and strain your muscles with additional force.
  • Shoulders are small muscles that recover rather quickly: that’s why rest intervals as well as intervals between sets should be minimal – up to 45 seconds. Always have an eye out for a second watch hand when resting.
  • Your shoulders will look visually broader if you are able to reduce the size of your waist. Be careful with traps muscles because if they are too developed they optically ‘narrow’ shoulder size.
  • You shouldn’t be afraid to over-train deltoid muscles and can apply to them principles of intensity increase such as drop sets, prior fatigue, and supersets. This muscle group is very mobile and recovers quickly.
  • Complete more reps of exercises for deltoid muscles than for other muscle groups. What comes to raises, true work begins only starting from the 10th repetition. Usually bodybuilders stick to 15 reps but for some people even 20 is not enough.
  • Workout shoulders together with your back muscles or on a separate training day. It’s also possible to train back deltoid muscles together with back ones and front deltoids – together with chest muscles.
  • Start you shoulders workout with Bent Over Dumbbell Raises: doing this you’ll warm up your shoulders for heavy presses without making them tired and, at the same time, you’ll train slowly growing back deltoids.
  • Don’t be afraid to do a lot of exercises for shoulders: this muscle group prefers many-repetition training.
  • If you workout shoulders and chest muscles on the same day you need to define the amount of sets for front fascicles (including all chest sets) as sets for front deltoids.
  • Don’t workout shoulders before chest; otherwise it will surely decrease the efficiency of all chest presses.

There are no universal recommendations that would suit everyone; that’s why, never stop trying to find the variant that will suit you best of all.

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