People who believe the Overhead Press is the top exercise for building big shoulders often underestimate the importance of deltoid workouts.
Eric Cressey once stated, “You have to earn the right to train overhead.” The truth is that most people lack sufficient t-spine extension and scapular stability to perform an Overhead Press.
This is mainly due to two factors. First, most Americans spend the majority of their day sitting down or working in a hunched-over position. Yes, this also includes many athletes. Second, most people love to train their “mirror” muscles, like their pecs, but neglect their upper back and external rotators.
What does this lead to? A whole bunch of people with forward-rounded shoulders, weak external rotators and overly active internal rotators. Compound this with the fact that most shoulder programs use the Overhead Press and tend to overemphasize the anterior head, which is already overworked from horizontal pushing, and you have a recipe for injury.
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Properly training the deltoid muscles around your shoulders will not only help you improve your performance; it will also provide much-needed armor to protect your joints.
Unfortunately, most deltoid workouts are prescribed haphazardly, which can lead to pain and injury.
I’ve put together a couple of safe options that will both build and bulletproof your shoulders. But first, some background.
Without getting super geeky, the delts consist of three heads: the anterior (front), middle, and posterior. Collectively, they allow your shoulder to abduct (reach away from the midline of your body) in the frontal plane, but independently, each serves a specific purpose.
Anterior: The anterior head is primarily involved with shoulder abduction, when the shoulder is in external rotation. It also assists the pectoralis major with shoulder flexion.
Middle: The middle head is primarily involved with shoulder abduction.
Posterior: The posterior head is primarily involved with shoulder extension. It acts as an antagonist (counter) to the internal rotators (pecs and lats), along with the infraspinatus and teres minor (two muscles that make up the rotator cuff).
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The workouts below emphasize engaging the posterior head, which tends to be neglected. Not only will they help strengthen your external rotators, they will also help you create 3D-looking shoulders. We use the Dumbbell Neutral Grip Press or Landmine Press to elicit muscle-building benefits while keeping the rotator cuff and shoulder safe from injury.
Use one workout below for 4 weeks, then switch to the other. Do not do a deltoid workout more than once a week.