The shoulders are a great muscle group to focus on to either get some quick motivation or to enhance your progress on the rest of your physique. The shoulders show respond to work very quickly, which gives you a real boost when you’re just starting out with weights. Broadening and building your shoulders is also an excellent way to maximize the appearance of a smaller waist and hips and just give your body more symmetry.
The key to getting fast results in your shoulders is to take a 360° approach. Too many people throw one shoulder move into their workout and expect to get dramatic results from it. The shoulders (or deltoids) are actually made up of three muscles that are responsible for three types of motion – attack them all and you’ll get the results you’re looking for.
There are many good exercises for the shoulders, but these three are the time-honored favorites because they work and they work on each of the specific shoulder muscles. The front heads of the delts, which flex the arms inwards, the medial delts, which bring the arms outward and the posterior delts, which extend the arms and facilitate external rotation.
Lateral Side Raises:
Lateral side raises are the only move that isolates the medial delts, so no shoulder routine would be complete without them.
Lateral side raises can be done with cables, but dumbbells require more focus and coordination, so they make the muscles work harder and get better results when done with proper form.
To do lateral side raises properly, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbells in front of you with an overhand grip (thumbs pointed inward). Slowly raise the dumbbells to just above the shoulders and then bring back down to the center, maintaining control at all times.
You can add a little extra work to the medial delts on the downward movement by rotating your thumbs downward (exactly like giving something the “thumbs down”) and then return them to the inward-facing position before beginning the next rep.
Many people think upright rows are primarily for the back muscles, but when you use a narrow grip, they’re an excellent move for all three of the delts.
To do the movement effectively, space your hands no further apart than six inches and pull the bar upward to just below the chin, naturally allowing your elbows to flare away from the body. You’ll often see people lifting higher than this, but it’s unnecessary added work.
Be sure to keep your feet shoulder-width apart and be just as focused on the negative (downward) movement as you are the positive.
Standing Military Press:
The Standing Military Press is as old-school as shoulder moves get, and this is because it’s effective. It allows you to use maximum loads, so it really targets muscle fatigue and tissue breakdown. It also works all three areas of the delts, making it an extremely efficient move to include in your workout.
Most people do a seated military press using a machine. However, the balance and coordination required to do this move with a barbell while standing makes it far more effective. If you have back trouble, use a lifting belt. Otherwise, going beltless will actually help engage and strengthen the muscles that support the lumbar while you lift.
Place your hands on the barbell about two inches wider than your shoulders, keep feet shoulder-width apart and really focus on not using your hips or back to lift the barbell above your shoulders. Lift just to the lock point without locking you elbows and try to lower the weight just as slowly, if not more slowly.
Because these moves are so effective and because the shoulders respond so quickly to work, you’ll see results very quickly if you incorporate all three of these moves into your upper body or shoulder-specific workout.