5 Best Shoulder Exercises for Mass
Well developed shoulders are right up there with the most important features of a noticeable physique. Authority and power are associated with someone bearing broad, strong shoulders. The coveted V-shape is achieved by building broad shoulders and trimming down to a rippled set of 6-pack abs which are free from body fat. Even women’s fashion provides them an edge by adding padding in the shoulders of many clothing items, especially in business clothing.
Besides the aesthetic benefit, strong shoulders add power to other bodybuilding exercises such as deadlifts, bench presses, and other upper body workouts. Athletes with big, developed shoulders often have an advantage over their lesser-formed rivals in both performance and avoidance of injury. Since most shoulder injuries involve damage to the rotator cuff, building shoulders through a targeted strength training program significantly reduces this debilitating injury.
Shoulder Anatomy 101
Before you can properly develop a set of strong shoulders, you first have to understand the underlying muscle structure. By knowing shoulder anatomy, you can target the shoulder muscles with specific exercises that will strengthen all of them and keep your form in balance.
Also, the shoulder contains a delicate system of small muscles which are built around a ball and socket joint and can easily be overworked and sustain injury. Since your shoulder provides an incredible range of motion, it’s important to know how your shoulder moves and what muscles govern those movements so you can reduce shoulder injury during workouts.
The deltoid muscles cover the outer surface of the shoulder joint and consist of three separate layers:
Anterior Deltoid – The anterior deltoid muscle is located at the front of the shoulder and is responsible for rotating the arm inward. The anterior deltoid is often over-developed because it is engaged through a variety of arm and chest exercises. If you do not develop the other shoulder muscles when building the anterior deltoids, you may experience posture problems and muscular imbalance.
Medial Deltoid – This shoulder muscle is located on the outside of the shoulder head. The medial deltoid flexes to move the arm away from the body. By developing the medial deltoids through isolated shoulder abduction exercises like lateral dumbbell raises, you round out the shoulders and increase the width of the upper V-shape.
Posterior Deltoid – The muscle responsible for rotating and extending the arm outward is the posterior deltoid. It is located at the back of the shoulder and is strengthened through such exercises as pull ups, chin ups, reverse flyes, rows and other back building exercises.
5 Best Shoulder Exercises for Increasing Mass
Keep in mind when incorporating shoulder exercises into your strength training program that most arm exercises already engage the shoulder muscles to some degree. Therefore, exercises and exercise splits need to be planned carefully so as not to over train the shoulders and cause damage or injury.
Shoulder Exercise #1 – Overhead Squat
Traditional squats are one of the best exercises for developing strength, definition and balance in the lower body. The overhead squat achieves the same goals in the shoulders. This shoulder exercise uses significantly less weight than standard squats for the legs.
To perform the overhead squat: You want to bring the barbell to a position where you are holding it over your head. You can either snatch it to the starting position, begin with the bar on a high rack, or have spotters assist you with raising it into position. When holding the bar overhead, ensure that the weight is held in line directly over your head and feet and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Now, go into a squat while maintaining the weight directly overhead. Return to a standing position and repeat.
Shoulder Exercise #2 – Military Press
The military press will add a great deal of muscle mass and definition to the shoulders. Most bodybuilders include this exercise at the top of their training program list along with the bench press, squat and deadlift due to its effectiveness in increasing shoulder size.
To perform the military press: Raise the barbell from the floor, remove it from a rack, or receive it from spotters until the bar rests on your upper chest. Press the weight straight up and directly overhead, stopping at full extension but without locking your elbows. Slowly lower the weight back down to your chest and repeat. Take heed not to use your legs during this exercise as you want your shoulder muscles to receive the full benefit.
Shoulder Exercise #3 – Upright Barbell Row
This shoulder exercise can significantly build the medial deltoid, but can also exert a great deal of stress on the shoulder joints if the medial deltoids are under-developed. Therefore, make sure you build a foundation of shoulder muscle before attempting the upright barbell row.
To perform the upright barbell row: Grasp the barbell at about a shoulder-width space. Lift the bar up by bending your elbows until it reaches just under your chin. The bar should stay close to your body through the entire movement and should end with your elbows pointing outwards. Slowly lower the weight back down and repeat.
Shoulder Exercise #4 – Dumbbell Shoulder Press
This is a great exercise for building strength and mass in the overall shoulders. You can perform this shoulder exercise from either a standing or seated position, but be sure to use a weight that is not excessive. Remember, your shoulder joints are vulnerable to injury, especially if you’re just starting out and they are underdeveloped.
To perform the dumbbell shoulder press: Begin by holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms held at your sides. First, bring one dumbbell up until it rests on your shoulder and then raise it straight up and over your head until your arm is at full extension without locking the elbow. Slowly return the weight down and to your side and repeat with the other arm.
Shoulder Exercise #5 – Hang Clean and Press
The hang clean and press is considered to be one of the best shoulder exercises and should be included in a bodybuilding training program. Keep in mind when performing this shoulder exercise that you can lift more weight if you use momentum from the starting position through the pressing motion.
To perform the hang clean and press: Stand while facing the bar with feet about shoulder width apart. Bend over and grasp the bar at about the same width as your feet. Keep your back flat and lift your chin up. Lift the bar until you are in a standing position with the weight held against your thighs. From this starting position, complete an upright row by flexing your knees, extending your ankles and flaring your traps until the bar reaches your shoulders. At this point, catch the bar with upright palms by rotating your arms and elbows under the bar. Slightly bend your knees to help absorb the impact of the catch. Press the barbell over your head until your arms reach full extension without locking your elbows. Bring the bar back down to your shoulders and then back down to your thighs and repeat.
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