The Quest For Cannonball Shoulders
Full, round shoulders are without a doubt the hardest muscle group to develop as a natural gym-goer, however by training and understanding the shoulder anatomy and the 5 most common shoulder training mistakes being made you'll put yourself ahead of the pack.
Shoulder Training Mistake #1
Not hitting all parts of the deltoid
Your shoulder is not just made up of one muscle, the shoulder is comprised of 3 ‘heads’, these are known as:
- The anterior deltoid (the front of your shoulder)
- The medial deltoid (the side of your shoulder)
- The posterior deltoid (the rear of your shoulder)
If you are not training all 3 heads you will not get round, full shoulders.
Shoulder training is based around 2 main movements, presses and raises, the traditional dumbbell and barbell presses are a great starting exercise for your shoulder routine as they are a compound exercise (and therefore hit all heads of the deltoid) we can then hone in on the anterior, medial and posterior heads individually through different variations of raises.
Shoulder Training Mistake #2
The standing military press is without a doubt the best mass builder for the deltoids, however like all exercises for this to be true it MUST be performed with correct form.
Now, the push press and the thruster are legitimate exercises, however if your intention is to build big, strong shoulders and you're intending to perform the standing military barbell press it's paramount you use strict form.
Your stance should be shoulder width and you should maintain a slight bend in your knee (I have seen quite a few people performing the military press with locked out knees, however for stability and reduced risk of injury a slightly bent knee is superior).
At the bottom of the repetition you should lower the barbell to your chest and pause for a split second before driving the barbell back upwards while your legs maintain their position constantly - no bouncing. The hardest part of the military press is without a doubt the bottom portion of the repetition, by bouncing you're eliminating this and removing tension off the muscle. You may be getting that weight overhead however you won't be benefiting from the potential size and strength gains because you're lifting the weight incorrectly.
Shoulder Training Mistake #3
Using partial range of motion
Partial reps can be used to push yourself beyond your point of failure at the end of your set, however strict, full range of motion must be practised first.
Standing military press
The barbell should be lowered to the upper chest.
Dumbbell shoulder press
The dumbbell should be lowered until the your arms are below parallel.
Side lateral raises
The dumbbell should be raised until they are at least parallel and lowered all the way back down to your sides.
The barbell or dumbbells should be raised until they are at face level before being lowered down until your arms are fully extended in front of you.
Rear deltoid flies
You should fly the dumbbells until you are unable to contract your shoulder blades together any further.
Shoulder Training Mistake #4
Incorrect scheduling of your shoulder workout
I highly recommend having at least 1 day between your chest and shoulder workouts.
The flat barbell bench press, incline bench press and dips place a large amount of tension on the front deltoids (even though the chest is the primary muscle targeted during this exercise).
If you're going straight from a heavy chest workout on Monday into a shoulder workout on Tuesday you won't be getting the best bang for your buck out of your workout - your shoulders will be recovering and from my experience you won't be able to lift anywhere near as heavy as if they were fresh.
Ongoing, excessive amounts of stress placed on the shoulders can result in a shoulder impingement which'll have you out of performing the vast majority of upper body exercises for weeks if not months, not good.
If you're strapped for time and can only train three times a week the push/pull/legs workout regime is an option which hits both chest and shoulders in the same (push) workout however if you're able to train 5 days a week I recommend performing a split in the following order:
Alternatively, through a leg or rest day between your chest and shoulder workouts.
Shoulder Training Mistake #5
Placing too much emphasis on the front deltoid
If you're neglecting your medial or posterior deltoids it'll show.
A bunch of dumbbell shoulder presses and dumbbell front raises won't build you the full, cannonball like shoulders you're chasing - both the medial and posterior deltoids must also be evenly developed.
As mentioned earlier, the front deltoids already take a hammering from chest presses, so they do not require an excessive amount of direct work.
Ensure you're hitting side lateral raises for the medials and a form of rear fly for the posterior deltoids and you'll be on your way to building impressive, broad shoulders!