“It has been said that shoulders make the man, in bodybuilding and other strength sports big thick strong deltoids are the difference between winning and loosing.”
Go to any bodybuilding contest and watch the relaxed round of judging, all you see are contestants trying to out size each other when they are supposed to be relaxed. Everyone is trying to be as wide as possible to make sure they have as big a difference between their waist line and their shoulder width. Some come by shoulder width naturally through good ode mom and pop, others through hard work and planning. It doesn't matter if you have the best genetics in the world if your training isn't up to the task. It has been said that shoulders make the man, in bodybuilding and other strength sports big thick strong deltoids are the difference between winning and loosing.
When we talk about shoulders we're talking about the shoulder region as a whole. This consist of the deltoids, trapezius, and neck, yes we said neck. Walking around with great shoulders and trap along with a pencil neck is one of the oddest cartoonish thing any bodybuilder, powerlifter, weightlifter or any athlete competitive or not can do. Lets begin by breaking down the primary motions of the three muscles involved and the exercises we'll use to make them grow.
Deltoids: Your "delts" create the roundness of your shoulders. Well-developed deltoids resemble cannonballs. The muscle is made up of three parts, or "heads," known as the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoid. Each head connects on the upper arm, but they all originate in different places on the shoulder.
Trapezius: Large flat triangular muscle of upper back. Originates on the occipital bone of skull, ligamentum nuchae and 7 cervical and all thoracic vertebrae and inserts onto the clavicle, acromion and spine of the scapula. Muscle actions:
Neck: The motion of the neck can be divided into rotation (looking side to side), lateral flexion (ear to shoulder), flexion (chin to sternum) and hyperextension (looking up).
Push Presses: Grasp or clean a barbell from the floor or off a rack. Position it high on the shoulder right below the chin. Dip the body by bending the knees, hips and ankles slightly. Explosively drive upward with the legs, driving the barbell up off the shoulders, vigorously extending arms overhead. Return to shoulders and repeat. Push presses can also be done from behind the neck, but be very careful with this version as it places greater stress on the rotator cuff of the shoulder joint.
High Pulls: Squat down and grip the bar with an over hand grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Position the shoulders over the bar with the back arched slightly. Arms are straight with elbows pointed along the bar. Pull the bar up off the floor by extending (raising up) the hips and knees. As the bar reaches the knees vigorously raise the shoulders in a shrugging motion while keeping the barbell close to the thighs, jump upward on the toes extending the body (do not leave the ground). Flex elbows out to the sides while pulling bar up to neck height. The complete movement resembles an Upright Row at the end but with the arms extended wider and the squatting start affords more weight to be used and allot more mass and width to be gained.
DB Side Laterals: Grasp a pair of dumbbells in each hand. Standing with your space apart for good balance rasie both dumbbells out to your sides keeping your arm slightly bent to relieve elbow pressure, but relativly straight. Make sure to keep the hands with the palms facing downward, don't allow them to raise forward, as this removes the tension off the side deltoids and shifts towards the fornt. Continue raising the dumbbells until they are slightly above shoulder height. At this mid point your hands should be directly out to your sides, with your pinky finger higher then your thumb (as if your pouring something from a jug). Lower in a controlled manner and repaet for desired number of reps.
DB Bent Laterals: Grasp a pair of dumbbells in each hand. Standing with your space apart for good balance bend over at the waist to a 35-40&dreg; angle. Keeping the dumbbell in line with the shoulder raise them out to the side as high as possible. Don't allow your hands to go to far backward as is the tendency as this shift the focus toward the upper lats. The action should be felt in the rear deltoids and the traps at the top of the movement.
Barbell Front Raises: Choose a barbell about 25% of your max pressing weight to start with. Get a grip the puts your hands about 1 inch beyond your shoulder width. Standing with firm footing raise the barbell out in front of yourself until it reaches about nose height. Sounds easy right, but the movement should always be controlled and never some thing that resembles pure momentum. This means that after an initial nudge to get things going all other force should come for the front deltoids and upper chest and not your legs or lower back. There are times when overloading this movement is desired but this routine is for deltoid isolation and growth.
Power Cleans (Dead Hang): Dead hang cleans are just what the phrase describes, clean done from a dead hang. Grasp a barbell with a grip slightly wider then shoulder width. Standing with the barbell hanging across your thighs dip your body at the waist so the barbell travels to just above your knees. At this point pull up using your shoulders as if doing a shrug, and at the same time push up through your thighs down to your toes to create more force on the barbell. As you rise up on your toes with your body fully extended the barbell should be in the catch position. Rotate your arms underneath the barbell and catch it on your shoulder as if your going to press it overhead (NO PRESSES). Return to the starting position in a controlled manner. Some trainers drop the weight to the ground and start from there others drop it to their thighs and ready for another repetition.
Power Shrugs: Now most people out there say “Oh I Know This One”, but almost every time you see some one doing shrug with a heavy weight they're loading the bar up with half a ton and just rattling the plates, The shoulders aren't moving one fucking iota. What the hell are those, because they sure ain't shrug of any kind. Also don't even talk about the little pussy that goes over to the rack and does his little shrugs in total isolation style and wounder why his traps suck! The suck because the shrug is a power movement. It not made to be cute, but nasty. Doing power shrug means first finding a power rack in your gym. Next you need to do a couple of warmup set of regular shrug to warmup. Next select a weight that normally you could only do 3 reps with (Yeah that right 3 Reps). Now your first thing is to set your mind on 6-8 reps no matter what, I mean reps where your shoulder are trying to touch your ears. Now strap up and pull with everything you got, drop the weight to the pins - do not ease up on your grip, stay connected t the bar. Wait 2 Seconds and do another rep, again letting the weight stop on the pins. This time wait 3 Second and do another rep. Proceed this way until all reps are completed. This shit works!
Seated Front Presses: Why is that everyone wants to use dumbbells for seated presses. Is it because they see the professional doing it in the magazines and figure that the way to go. When they do use a barbell it almost alway in the form of some damn smith machine. Got news for your asses, every Mr Olympia champion uses free weight presses to build their shoulders. You know why because it works the best. Machine work good for rehab, so if there isn't anything wrong with your ass get over to the press bench.
Now when doing front presses first make sure to warmup the shoulder with a couple free hand presses. To position your self with the right hand spacing just position yourself in the seat of the bench raise your arms straight up and lower them until your elbows form a L-shape. This is your correct hand spacing. Keeping this hand spacing reach up grab the bar and lift it out off the catches. Lower the bar in a straight line about two inches below the chin (because your going to have to till your head back a little) and press it back to full extension. Reps should feel normal and controlled with know abnormal wrist or elbow strain.
DB Shrugs: DB Shrug cap off the traps fantastic. Neve do DB Shrugs with the DB's hanging in front of the thighs. What the hell you doing this for? This crap is even worse then the cute asshole smith machine or pisses around in the rack trying to do some isolation crap. The DB's should be held at your sides with your palms facing your thighs. Tuck your chin and pull straight up as high as possible and squeeze for a one-two count and repeat for the desired number of reps. Doing this right build trap thickness down the back.
Neck Work (Front, Back, And Side): Neck work is one of the most neglected of any body part. Most think I train my traps so I don't have to train my neck. For the most par this is somewhat true but direct stimulation of the neck muscle is needed to stabilize for heavy lifts such squats, standing press and such. Plus a thick neck is better than a skinny one any day.
If you have a neck machine in you gym use it every time you train shoulder and trap to finish your workouts. If you don't have a neck machine the next best this is a neck Harness that lets you preform pulls and extensions for the front and back. Also you can use the old fashion method of barbell plate resistance. Just fold a towel up into a square for padding and place it on your forehead. Lie down on a flat bench with head hanging over the edge(not to far, your head should hang over just enough for it to comfortably move back and forth). Have your partner hand you a barbell plate and position it on the towel so the to force of the weight squarely on your forehead. In a controlled manner extend and contract your neck muscle for your desired number of repetitions. Be careful with exercising your neck if you have never done any neck exercises. If any discomfort besides soreness result see your physician as to there may be a problem.
Remember that all training is nothing without adequate nutrition. This means large amount of protein, carbohydrates, essential fats, precise multi-vitamins and plenty of rest ( 8hrs needed each day!). So there you have it, a plan for shoulders that works. Its the real shit!