The Top Shoulder Exercises for Muscle Mass

If you want to make a powerful first impression, either in your daily life or at the gym, you need to spend more time working on your shoulder muscles. The shoulders are important because they cap your (hopefully) well-developed arms, and frame your expansive chest. Broad shoulders carry connotations of power, dominance, and masculinity. This may come from the Greek God Atlas, who was always depicted as carrying the world on his expansive shoulders.

Seated and Standing Shoulder Press

This exercise surpasses all the others when it comes to building your deltoids. This is because it is one of the few exercises that afford enough leverage to lift large loads. When performed in a careful, controlled, manner, this press will offer you round, well-toned, impressive deltoid muscles.

There are several variations of the military press. One suggests that the best way to utilize the down movement is to lower the bar to the back of the neck. Another claims that the best way to utilize the down movement is to lower the bar to clavicle height at the front of the body. Both variations of the downward movement are advantageous in different ways. The advantage of lowering the bar to the back of the neck is that the shoulder muscles stretch deeper, meaning that the lateral and anterior deltoids get plentiful stimulation due to the positioning of the shoulder socket. The advantage of lowering the bar to the clavicle is that this position is actually safer for the shoulder socket. This position however, isolates the anterior deltoids whilst exercising the upper pectoral as a synergist.

Lateral Dumbbell Raises

Lateral Raises are often sadly under-utilized by more experienced bodybuilders. Such users tend to use them as a muscle-defining or shaping technique, rather than as a tool to develop added mass and strength in their shoulders. The raises target the lateral and posterior deltoids muscles. As a lifting beginner, it might be hard to provide your muscles with enough weight resistance to feel like you are getting enough stimulation. Over time however and when the correct techniques utilized, you will begin to see sizable gains in your deltoids.

There are several different ways to perform Lateral Dumbbell Raises, and your choice may depend on the amount of equipment you have available. A cable machine can be used or free weights. You have the flexibility to decide whether you want to sit or stand, and also whether to exercise both arms at one time, or spend time on each arm individually.

Whatever your choice might be, the movement is basically the same. You should securely hold your dumbbells at hip level. The inverted nature of your palms will ensure that the dumbbells are parallel. Extend your arms and raise them until your weights are level with your shoulder. At this point, they will be perpendicular to the ground. If you elevate the weight higher than your shoulder, you will put unnecessary strain on your shoulder socket.

You should never swing the weights. It is the careful, continuous, controlled movement, both to the shoulders and back to the hip that strains the muscle and gives you maximum gains. If you are having difficulty with your technique, use a mirror or ask someone to help you with this.

Upright Rows

The rows target the traps with the lateral and posterior deltoids. They are common exercises for both beginners and advanced lifters, and are often seen in the gym setting. Upright rows are easily performed and highly effective. The mixture of heavy loads and good posture make them a staple in many routines.

There are many different aids you can use to perform this shoulder exercise. The cable machine, and dumbbells are oftentimes used, but the barbells tend to better suit beginners, as they leave little room for poor technique. Use a secure overhand grip on the barbell, which should be resting at your waist. Holding the bar tight to your abdomen, lift the weight vertically, and finally rest it around chin height. Your eyes should be focusing straight forward at all times.

Heavy Barbell Shrugs

Historically, many experienced bodybuilders have exercised the trap muscles as part of their back routine. It has long been argued, that for efficiency reasons, the traps should instead become part of the shoulder workout routine. Your aim is to develop expansive, angular trap muscles, which can be difficult to do because of their nature and position. Heavy loads are needed to utilize the shrugs to the maximum effect.

You will need an Olympic barbell and a standing barbell rack to perform this exercise. Grip the bar overhand with one hand, and underhand with the other. This is known as an alternate grip. Carefully rise to a straight standing position using a shrugging motion. Take care to strain your trapezius muscles and not your back.

The shrugging movement can be achieved by rolling the shoulder in a rotating arc, or by simply shrugging vertically. You can try shrugging both ways and see which way you prefer – though it should be noted that cartilage problems can occur if the rotating method is not done in the correct way. This is because the weight of the barbell can over strain the joint.

Earlier in the article, it was mentioned that the shoulders are a key part of the physique. The mentioned shoulder exercises and workouts will make an effective addition to any routine, but they do not by any means represent an exhaustive list.


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