HOW to Sculpt Sexy (and strong) Shoulders

Besides following a clean diet, in order to have round, sculpted shoulders you must exercise them weekly. There are a few things to remember for working this muscle group: exercises for building size and exercises for defining. In order to gain muscle mass in the shoulders, you want to focus on heavy pressing exercises (think military presses with dumbbells or barbell, any kind of clean and press, push press, etc.). With these movements, it’s best to go heavier – think 6-10 rep range. These exercises will build mass (not manly) in your shoulders, as well as strength! Which we want both of, of course. The second set of exercises to focus on are more isolation-type exercises: lateral raises, front raises (anterior deltoids), and rear delt raises. With these, you do want to go lighter and keep reps in the 10-15 range. Other shoulder exercises I love are the upright rows as well as face pulls and handstand pushups. I will go into detail about each one and then you can try them out in your next workout.

  • Shoulder Press with barbell/dumbbell: I do these with the barbell or dumbbells. Both work great. I usually start out with heavier weight, such as 2 25# DBs or 55-60# barbell. With the barbell, it’s OK if you have to use a little momentum, i.e., a small jump, to get the weight up. But it’s important to do strict pressing as well – where you don’t use momentum. You can do sets of both. A good example would be to do 4×8-10 strict military presses and then add more weight to the barbell and do 3-5 sets of 5-8 push presses. You can do these seated or standing. I prefer to do most everything standing, though, as you work your core as well when standing.
  • Clean and press: This is an awesome full body exercise. With this, you do a power clean and then you press the weight overhead. Excellent workout to build strength and mass in your shoulders (again, the shoulder mass will not be manly it will be feminine curves). It’s also a heck of a cardio workout. Do a few sets of these fairly heavy and your heart will be pounding. Watch this demo on the clean and press here and try it on your next workout. Start with just the 45 # barbell, and once you are comfortable, add more weight! I highly recommend this exercise – do anywhere between 4-6 sets of 8-10. You can of course add super-sets of other things such as kettlebell swings, burpees, squat jumps, rowing, etc. Mix it up y’all!
  • Lateral Raises: These are great for building definition in the medial head of the deltoid. You can do them seated (harder), standing, one arm at a time, or even leaning. Use a lighter weight and don’t lose your form. You want to keep a slight bend in the elbow and don’t use momentum. Aim for 10-15 reps, as many as 6-8 sets and do them seated and/or standing.
  • Front Raises: Similar to lateral raises, these are great for working the deltoid (anterior). I do these alternating arms, and I do go heavier on these when compared to lateral raises. I do about 4 sets of dumbbell front raises, 10-12 reps per arm. I also love to hold a 25# plate and do plate front raises, which changes things up just a bit. You can also set up a straight bar and do cable front raises – again, using lighter weight so you can do up to 12 reps.
  • Rear Delt Fly: Don’t neglect the rear delts! Using a set of light dumbbells (think 7.5, 8, or 10#), bend forward at the hips and keep elbows bent slightly. You can do these seated (as in the video link), standing, or you can do them one arm at a time with a cable machine. Endless variations of this exercise. Do 4 sets of 10 reps.
  • Face Pulls: Another awesome exercise for rear delts. One thing about these to remember is to keep the cable hookup either at or below eye level, and keep elbows up (parallel to the floor) the entire time. You should then feel the burn in the rear delts. I love these and do 4-5 sets of 10-12. Don’t go too heavy or you will sacrifice form. And when you sacrifice form you are also sacrificing results, so, stick to perfect form and results will come!
  • Upright Rows:You can do these with a weighted barbell or dumbbells. You can also do them one arm at a time with DBs. I go heavier on these – usually 25 -30# DBs (that’s 2 of each). I like to do 3-4 sets of 7-8 reps heavy (alternating arms) and then I will switch to lighter weight and do sets of 10 with both arms. These really help define your shoulders, and help build strength.
  • Handstand pushups: These are self-explanatory. I love working on these because you are pressing your entire body weight – which is just awesome if you are able to do it! Even if you can’t do more than 3 in a row, start practicing these now. I recommend handstand holds as well, where you just get in a handstand position and time yourself for 30 seconds. Do 3 sets of that at the end of your workout – feel the burn! Handstand pushups are awesome to master because they build so much strength in your upper body! Plus, it’s good for us to be upside down sometimes! 😉

So there you have it. My favorite shoulder exercises! As you can see there are TONS of variations of each exercise, so you should never get bored. I recommend switching up your workouts every other week or so – at least focus on changing the weight, reps, seated versus standing, super-setting, etc. You don’t want your body to adapt to what you are doing. Even simple things such as switching up the order in which you do your workouts will suffice. Also important to remember: to avoid risk of injury, don’t ever work shoulders directly before or after working chest (in terms of days being back to back). I like to put my shoulder day after or before a leg day, and then some sort of circuit workout the day following that. Be mindful of your workout split, rest, recover, stretch, and train hard!

WORKOUT SPLIT EXAMPLE:

SUNDAY: REST

MONDAY: LEGS

TUESDAY: SHOULDERS

WEDNESDAY: FULL BODY CIRCUIT/HIIT CARDIO

THURSDAY: REST

FRIDAY: LEGS/BACK/BICEPS

SATURDAY: CHEST/TRICEPS/CIRCUIT

There are NUMEROUS ways you can setup your workouts for the week. If you ever have questions or want advice, feel free to ask me. Also: fun ways to work your shoulders that are not necessarily mass building include BURPEES, mountain climbers and kettlebell swings! These all work your shoulders, but it’s more of an endurance burn than it is a lifting burn – if that makes sense. You could do these the day after shoulders, for example, if you wanted. It’s the heavy pressing you don’t want to do multiple days in a row because you are not allowing recovery time for the muscles. SO to sum up: for shoulder days be sure you include some sort of heavy pressing exercise, lateral raises and front raises (so you hit each head of the deltoid), and don’t neglect your rear delts either!

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