Ask A Trainer: What's The Best Exercise For Shoulders?
Nothing complements a physique better than a set of well-defined shoulders. For women, the shoulders add an extra dimension to an hourglass shape, making the waist appear smaller and the hips wider. For men, a pair of developed deltoids instantly commands strength and respect.
The shoulder is a complex structure with the largest range of motion of any joint in the human body. Both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers make up the musculature of the front, lateral and rear ‘heads’ of the deltoids. Therefore, this muscle group requires stimulation in a wide range of reps as well as exercises that work different angles. Our clients build impressive shoulders using a variety of exercises and a rep-range of six to 20 reps.
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Focus on posture
Building your shoulders begins before you even step inside a gym. Bad posture can make your shoulders look narrower and unconvincing. Practice standing with a straighter spine to display confidence: raise your head vertically as if a hook was lifting your diagram directly upward. Good posture means keeping your chest up and shoulders back; your shoulders should be roughly in-line with your ears from a side-view.
Make sure you work the back muscles religiously as these guys provide the supporting structure on which your deltoids can be adequately stimulated through proper movement. Underdeveloped back muscles, especially in the lower traps and rhomboids, further exacerbates slouched shoulders and a head that protrudes forward like an ape. Not a good look!
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The lateral raise
The shoulders are a stubborn muscle group that requires diligence in the execution of its movement. To perform a lateral raise—a solid and effective isolation exercise that works the lateral head of the deltoid—holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, lift them sideways with straight arms (a slight bend in the elbows and thumbs-down angle, akin to pouring a full jug of milk, further activates the lateral head of the delts) until you create a T-shape with your arms and torso.
Bring them back down slowly and aim for a high number of repetitions. However, don’t overestimate your strength. Rather than heave heavy weights up, keep your ego in-check and use lighter weights with a controlled tempo. Doing so ensures that your deltoid muscles are at work instead of the neck and traps. Two seconds both up and down works as a good guide.
Whether you want to “tone up” or build your shoulders, the practice remains the same. You must stimulate hypertrophy in that muscle group and that means working it hard. If you truly want deltoids that catch the attention of passers-by, don’t be afraid to feel a burn. No muscle can be built without enduring some level of discomfort. So, either get used to challenging yourself or settle for mediocrity.
Learn more about building muscle with Ultimate Performance Hong Kong.