Shoulder muscles are extremely important part of the upper body. They are situated at the top of our arms and are attached to them. Actually we couldn’t move our arms in any direction without using muscle of the shoulders.
The proper name for this body part is deltoids or simply ‘delts’. They are involved during most trainings of the upper body. They work hard when you train chest, back and of course shoulders themselves.
Anatomy of shoulder muscles
Deltoid muscle has 3 parts or heads:
- Front (anterior part) is involved in any pressing movement and raising arms to the front. It works hard during chest muscles training especially bench pressing.
- Side delts (medial-lateral head) raises our hands to the side and also pulls things up (in upright direction).
- Rear delts (posterior) work together with back muscles during any type rowing and pulling movement like row or pull-down. Besides they pull arms to the back. Generally they work pretty opposite to front delts.
Shoulder muscles work during any type of sport and martial art. Judo, boxing, mma and even traditional sports like basketball or swimming require strong delts. Believe me or not but they are also essential in running.
Exercises for shoulder muscles
The most important exercises for shoulders are:
- Military Press (Shoulder Press or Over-head Press – SP or OHP),
- Shoulder Press Behind The Neck (SP BTN or OHP BTN).
Of course above exercises should be done with the barbell. Besides them we also few additional movements for this muscle group like Dumbbell Shoulder Press, Upright Row or Push Press.
To attack each head of delts directly there are couple isolation exercises:
- Front raises – front delts,
- Lateral (side) Raises – side delts,
- Bent Over Raises – rear head of shoulder muscles.
All of the above exercises can be done standing or seated. Front raises can be done with barbell, dumbbells, cables or even with just a plate. To do side or rear rises we can use only dumbbells or cables.
Workout examples for shoulders
Here are few examples of shoulder muscles workout for different stages of bodybuilding training:
- Military Press 15/15
Add another set of 15-12 repetitions after week or two of training.
- Military Press 12/10/8
- Lateral Raises 12/10/8
- Shoulder Press Behind the Neck 12/10/8,
- Dumbbell Seated Shoulder Press 10/8/6,
- Seated Bent Over Dumbbell Raises 12/10/8
- Military Press 12/10/8/6
- Barbell Upright Row 10/8/6/6
- Lateral Raises 12/10/8/8
- Standing Bent Over Dumbbell Raises 12/10/8/6
To develop big shoulder muscles build your workouts around barbell overhead presses (front or behind the neck). I am big fan of behind the neck presses. I think front delts get quiet much work during chest training. BTN version of over-head press hits harder side delts which usually aren’t as big as front ones and don’t receive as much stimulation during other upper body parts training. The downtside of this movement is that not everybody can do it. It places shoulder and neck in not very comfortable position and can cause an injury for people with very bad mobility. But this is not the fault of exercise because there are lifters who press more than 100kg (225 lbs) from behind the neck without any issues.
Upright rows are also very effective. Use isolation movements like raises, only to finish off your shoulders. Don’t rely on them. They might cause ‘burn’ or great ‘pump’ in your delts during training but they will not make your shoulders big or strong.
Shoulder muscles are probably the most visible muscle group of the upper body. We can see them from the front, side and also from the back. They are very important because they transfer power between torso and arms.
Because delts work very hard during chest and back training we have to watch out to not overtrain them. Make sure also that you train equally all 3 heads of delts especially rear ones because they are very often neglected. Too much stimulation or muscle imbalance can slow down or stop the growth completely.
Big shoulders especially side delts contribute very much to our overall look . They make us look ‘wider’. As I stated earlier they play big part in each martial art and most of sports which make them quiet important body part.