Menz Magazine

The 05 Best Shoulder Exercises To Build Strength

Always look at your deltoids as three different muscles,” Terry says. “You’ve got anterior [front], posterior [back] and medial [side]. A lot of people just do pressing motions, which won’t hit every part of the delt. You need compound moves to start with, like a barbell press. But then you need to split things up.”

As for how much and how often, Terry keeps things old school. “I work on a six day bodybuilding-style split. Five days for each individual muscle part, then the sixth day for a certain muscle group I’m trying to improve. If your shoulders need work, hit them twice a week, with three-four days in between to recover.”

Exercise 1: Barbell Overhead Press

This is your big compound move to get things going. Start with a warm-up set that focuses on time under tension (i.e., the amount of time you spend moving the weight), aiming for four seconds lowering with a two-second blast upward, to strengthen your shoulders for the workout ahead.

Sets
2 warm-up sets 18-20 reps, slow
4 working sets of 10-12 reps

Execution

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your core set tight and a barbell held at your shoulders, palms facing forwards. From here, tense and drive the bar upward, really squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. Lower with control.

Increase the weight each set and rest for 1 minute in between. Finish with a triple drop-set – the max weight you can do for 10 reps, then immediately drop 10 per cent weight and do another 10 reps without resting, then repeat once more.

Exercise 2: Dumbbell/Cable Machine Lateral Raise

Lateral raises hit the middle of your deltoid, an area often missed and therefore underdeveloped for a lot of people. Don’t get hung up on form here. Keep your back and body in the right position but if you can really push yourself, creating a little swing for the final three is fine. Obviously if there’s pressure on the lower back, stop.

Sets

2 warm-up sets 18-20 reps
4 sets of 10-12 reps

Execution

Either stand with a pair of dumbbells at your sides or set up a cable machine so the handles are at the lowest points, grabbing the left handle with your right hand and vice versa. Set your feet at shoulder width, pivot forward slightly at the hips, engage your core and pull your shoulder blades together to lift the weights out to your sides. Lower with control.

Increase the weight each set and rest for 1 min in between. Finish with a drop set or partials: double the weight and go for 10 partial reps, which increases blood flow and expands the fascia (the connective tissue) around the muscle.

Exercise 3: Pec Deck Rear Fly

This really isolates the rear of your deltoids, so you won’t need to go too heavy here. Using the pec dec machine ensures there’s constant resistance during both the eccentric and concentric part of the movement, which equals more muscle building bang for your buck.

Sets

2 warm-up sets 18-20 reps, slow
4 working sets of 10-12 reps

Execution

Set the seat so the handles are at shoulder level, which in turn should be sat fully to the rear of the machine’s settings. Hold the handles with your palms facing inwards. From here, set your torso tight and draw your arms out to the side and back through the dec’s semicircular plane. Return with control.

Increase the weight each set and rest for 1 minute in between. Finish with a triple drop-set – the max weight you can do for 10 reps, then immediately drop 10 per cent weight and do another 10 reps without resting, then repeat once more.

Exercise 4: Reverse Cable Crossover

Time to hit the front of the deltoids with some serious time under tension. The focus here is steady, sweat-inducing control. Don’t use a weight that you can’t move slowly for 10 reps. And resist the urge to let the cables swing back with speed. You want tension the whole time.

Sets

2 warm-up sets 18-20 reps, slow
4 working sets of 10-12 reps

Execution

Stand in between the cable machines, with the handles set at the highest points. As with the cable lateral raise, grab the handles in the opposite hands, but this time draw them to your chest so your arms are crossed a bit like Wolverine. Lean forward slightly and draw your arms out and down. Again, a bit like Wolverine but in his full, claws-out extension. An alpha male growl at the mirror is optional.

Increase the weight each set and rest for 1 minute in between. Finish with a drop set or partials: double the weight and go for 10 partial reps.

Exercise 5: Front Raise

This pretty painful move targets the front delts and doesn’t let up. It’s imperative you pick a reasonable weight here, because overdoing it will put all the onus on your lower back and very little of it on your delts. You want big shoulders, not a month off work due to muscle spasms.

Sets

4-5 sets of 15 reps

Execution

Holding either a weight plate or barbell, set your hands at hip height. With your feet at shoulder width and your core tensed, draw your shoulder blades back and raise the weight with straight arms up to shoulder level. Keep breathing. Lower with control.

Stick with the same weight throughout unless you feel like it’s too hard or too easy, in which case adjust accordingly. Rest for 1 minute in between sets. Each rep should be 4 seconds up, 4 down.

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