Building W I D E Powerful Shoulders

Building wide shoulders can be difficult without the understanding of certain fundamentals.

Today, we’ll talk about these and how to build shoulders big, strong, and wide.


Building W I D E and Powerful Shoulders

Of all the muscle groups, the shoulders constitute the most complicated, and with the possible exception of the back, requiring the most careful attention to form.

Rotator cuff and other shoulder injuries will put more guys out of the gym this year than any other injury except Lumbar.

But, if you like working upper body, you simply cannot get around working your shoulders.

Most kinds of presses put tremendous reliance on the shoulders for stability and balance – and a hurt shoulder means you can’t do these.

So you’ve got to take care of them…

…….. and if you want to build them, you’ve got to understand a little about how they work, first.

I said earlier that shoulders were complicated.

Just think about it….

your spine passes within a half inch of the bar you’re using to back press or squat with,

—– right there at the point of your shoulders where your clavicle, traps, back and neck meet….

In this area, there are muscles rotating, moving side to side, up and down, laterally, and even diagonally…

If this was a machine,
Detroit couldn’t make it right,
’cause there’s too many moving parts.

You’d have to call the Germans.
(and then, it’d be too damn expensive,
………. and you couldn’t read the manual.)

When you talk about working shoulders,
the major groups you’re dealing with will be:

First, come the Deltoids – anterior, posterior, and medial ……

Then, the Trapezius, the Sternohyoideus, the Omohyodeus, the Scalenus , the Infraspinatus…. the….. oh hell.

Let’s just narrow it down to the Traps, Delts, Upper Chest and the Upper Back-us. I mean… Back.

(Hey- don’t blame me– all these muscles got named by a bunch of Roman guys……. )

Some general rules to remember when working shoulders

1: One thing you gotta watch out for right away is the potential for hyperextension of the spine….
— use a bench when doing dumbbell or bar presses when possible.

2: If a certain movement gives you sudden pain, STOP immediately.

(Here’s where the ‘see your doctor’ stuff usually comes in – and if he’s on the bench next to ya, why not?
Otherwise , you aint gonna do it, so I aint gonna waste my breath. )

Once you’ve convinced yourself that you are not hurt, then ask yourself –
— was there something off about the way you were doing it (FORM) ??

Lighten up the weight, and try it again nice and slow,
—— making sure you are doing it according to Hoyle.

If the pain returns, go pay that MD some of yer hard earned cash –
— cause it’s still better than losing the hard earned muscle you’ll lose if you tear somethin…..

3: Your shoulders contain a good deal of pennate muscle- that means, they can lift more, but with a shorter range.

Don’t expect your shoulders to rotate more, or raise higher, than they do naturally.

Maybe a yoga expert can learn to extend his shoulder range,
——- but as far as weightlifting is concerned, what you got is what you got.

Start your presses at a comfortable position, and stop before you go beyond your comfort range. Don’t push it.

Your rotator cuff muscles are particularly vulnerable to the results of such ego-lifting….
—and there’s all kinds of activities you won’t be able to do with your hands if you screw THEM up.

(Oh well, you can always give her MY number…)

4: Don’t go ape-shit on the weight if you want to target your shoulders.
A lot of the extra weight, sloppy form and all, will be taken by the supporting groups like Teres major and minor, Rhomboids, Pecs, etc…

—- and you won’t get the results you want… not to mention you could do some damage.
(ok, I did mention it… )

5: Stop looking in the mirror every once in a while while you’re working, close your eyes, and feel the rep…
—— go for the burn, and once you get it, you’ve hit on your rep point.

6: How narrow or wide you grip the bar on bar-based movements will tend to have a bearing on which groups the movement ends up targeting- for instance, on the front press, a wider grip will hit the upper pecs higher – while a narrower one will focus on the delts.

Movements and Implements for the Shoulder

Upright Rows
Hits the traps, delts, and biceps. Spread your feet to shoulder width, keep your back naturally arched. With an overhand grip lift the bar from thigh level to chin level in a smooth motion. Slow on each eccentric.

Single Dumbbell Front Raises
Hits the pecs, traps, delts, and biceps. Suck in your abs, spread your feet slightly, and holding one dumbbell with both hands in front of your beltline, arms straight out, slowly raise and lower the dumbbell to shoulder level and back. This movement is very effective at building strength throughout the shoulder structure.

Reverse Pec Deck Laterals –
Hits the traps, delts and teres minor, and the rhomboids. Mount the deck facing the back pad.
Bring your elbows back, and bring your shoulder blades as close together as comfortable.
Great for back detail, and lateral power.

Bent over Low Pulley Crossover Laterals –
Hits the delts hard – also the traps, teres, and rhomboids. Spread your feet about shoulder width,
— knees bent, back straight and bent over to 45 degrees, hold a handle in each hand with cables crossing in front of you, —- and raise to a comfortable point above the level of your shoulders.

Low Pulley Raises –
Can you say DELTOID power? Position yourself perpendicular to the low pulley machine, keep your back straight, grasp the handle, and pull up and out diagonally to a comfortable position above shoulder height.

Back Press –
This is another one that works your delts, but also hits the traps, triceps, and serratus…. keep careful watch on your form. I like to do these seated on a Smith Machine- as you can really wrench your back if you hyperextend. Pick a comfortable starting point behind your head that’s not too low that it’s gonna hurt. Keep your natural arch, but no more. Push up to a comfortable point above your head, but don’t lock out.

Hammer Strength Shoulder Press –
A great machine that will force form if you adjust the seat properly. Works the same groups as Back Press, except more of the upper pecs, and not so much the serratus. You can go ape shit on the weight if you’re careful.

Dumbbell Press –
Works the delts, traps, serratus, and triceps. Again, seated is safest. I know that hottie on the otherside of the gym might not be able to see ya that way, but your spine is more important. (Ok… it’s a close one, but spine wins.)

I like to press them both at the same time to keep my form and balance better, but you can do these one arm at a time. Grip the dumbbells with an overhand grip, starting at the elbows parallel to the floor position, and pushing up to extension. Don’t lock out, and don’t shove… slow and easy will get ya more results. And don’t drop the damned weights on the floor when you’re finished, pleeeeeeze. ———-> If you can’t put em down , don’t pick em up.

Nautilus Laterals –
I love this machine. You can work the full range, and it doesn’t stress the tendons… works the delts, traps, and supraspinatus. You can go abover horizontal to hit the traps harder…

Shrugs –
Nothing complicated here.. works the traps, delts, supraspinatus, serratus, but mostly the traps.
Be sure you’re maintaining your natural arch, and don’t spin your shoulder when loaded.

Double Front Raises –
Here’s an all around exercise for the shoulders and upper chest and back. Grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip, starting at your thighs and raising them to shoulder height. Feel da burn.

Alrighty…. have a fun time working your shoulders, and I’ll see ya in a coupla days.

And don’t forget what yer ole Uncle Nuts says:



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