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Turn Your Shoulders Into Boulders With This Workout

April 2, 2013 | Joe Giandonato

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Developing your deltoids will benefit you whether you're chasing gridiron glory, pulling down rebounds or just preparing for a season at the beach.

Three prominent deltoid muscles give shoulders their size. Each performs a different function:

Anterior Deltoid: shoulder flexion and internal rotation
Lateral Deltoid: shoulder abduction
Posterior Deltoid: shoulder extension and external rotation

Before embarking on a quest for bigger shoulders, first ensure that your thoracic mobility, scapular stability, and rotator cuff strength are up to par.

Deltoid Workout

Barbell Overhead Complex: Overhead Press, Push Press and Push Jerk

Sets/Reps: 2-3x10

Weight Selection: 25% of your body weight on the barbell

This trio of barbell presses serves as a great warm-up, priming the muscles for further work by elevating your heart rate and patterning shoulder flexion and upward rotation of the shoulder blades.

Overhead Press

  • Assume a hip-width stance, engage your core and keep your hips locked out
  • Grasp the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width
  • Unrack the bar
  • With your core engaged, hold the bar above your chest and shoulders while you slightly shrug your shoulders up
  • Drive the bar straight overhead as you exhale, pushing your head through once the bar passes your eyes
  • Briefly hold at the top before returning to starting position

Push Press

  • Grasp the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width
  • With your core engaged, hold the bar above your chest and shoulders while you slightly shrug your shoulders up
  • Dip your hips back slightly while you shift your weight (bar included) to your heels
  • Initiate the press by driving your heels through the ground and extending your hips, knees and ankles
  • Explosively drive the bar overhead while maintaining a tight core and keeping your feet in contact with the ground
  • Briefly hold at the top before returning to starting position

Push Jerk

  • Grasp the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width
  • With your core engaged, hold the bar above above your chest and shoulders while you slightly shrug your shoulders up
  • Sink your hips directly below the bar, shifting your weight (bar included) to your heels
  • Bend your knees
  • Forcefully drive the bar up to a locked out position overhead, simultaneously extending your hip,  knees and ankles, while maintaining an erect torso
  • Briefly hold at the top before returning to starting position

Neutral Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Sets/Reps: 3-4x6-10

This is a good alternative to the Overhead Press if you have shoulder issues. Using dumbbells does not push the shoulders into impingement as much. This exercise can be performed seated, half kneeling or standing.

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells
  • Hoist them into starting position: above your shoulders, elbows bent, palms facing each other and the heads of the dumbbells facing out in front of you
  • Engage your core, slightly shrug your shoulders up and press the dumbbells directly overhead as you exhale
  • There should be no movement occurring at the wrist
  • Briefly hold at the top before returning to starting position

Six-Way Dumbbell Raise

Sets/Reps: 2-3x10-15

Few exercises engage the musculature of the shoulders as much as Six-Way Raises. They help promote and maintain shoulder stability and range of motion; and they serve as an excellent finisher since they combine lateral raises, front raises, and overhead movements into one exercise.

  • Venture to the far end of the dumbbell rack and grab a light pair of dumbbells (five to 10 pounds)
  • Keeping your torso erect and your chest big, perform a lateral raise, with your elbows slightly bent
  • Pause for one second
  • Move the dumbbells toward each other in front of you, again pausing for one second
  • Push the dumbbells straight overhead with your elbows locked out, again pausing for one second
  • Reverse the entire movement by bringing the dumbbells back down in front of you, holding for a second, then to your sides, holding for another second, and returning back to starting position
  • If your shoulders are already toasted, keep in mind: that's only one rep.
Topics: SHOULDERS
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
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