Boulders for Shoulders
CORRECTION: In last week’s TDW newsletter I wrote that “We naturally lose around 1 – 2 lbs of fat a year as we age….”
This should have stated: We lose 1 – 2 lbs of muscle per year (which is why weight training is so important as we get older). Please find the corrected version of the newsletter here: The Power of Muscle. Here are some good tips on gaining said muscles.
Boulders for Shoulders
One of the defining visual characteristics of the strong, athletic man is that of broad shoulders. That V look starting with wide delts and tapering into a trim waist is the hallmark of a well-conditioned man. Personally, shoulders have always been one of my favorite body parts to train. Here are my top 5 exercises to help you develop your shoulder muscles:
1. Military press: This is a classic and essential lift for stronger shoulders. While I am generally a proponent of free weights, this is a good exercise to do with a machine until you get your technique down. You can also go heavy with a military press machine given that the range of motion is fixed. A great exercise to start your shoulder training session.
2. Dumbbell press: Using dumbbells allows you a wider range of motion. Make sure to bring the weights all the way down to your shoulders and have them touch at the top as you are contracting (squeezing) your shoulders. For advanced lifters, try the ‘Arnold’ press where you bring the weights all the way together in front of your neck (rather than to your shoulders). Try this first with light weight. Really squeeze hard when the weights are in front of your chin.
3. Lateral raises with dumbbells: There are several variations of this exercise. Keep the weights fairly light – this exercise is more about building definition than mass. You can raise the weights out by your sides or in front of you (front raises). When lifting the weights at your side, start with your palms up and rotate your wrists throughout the lift such that once you get them to shoulder height your palms are facing the floor. This motion is like that of pouring a pot of coffee. For front raises, bring the weights to just above shoulder height. Maintain control at all times. Don’t swing the weights, and don’t use your back. Strict technique is really important. The amount of weight doesn’t matter, the effect on your muscles does.
4. Upright rowing/shrugs. Using either a straight or cambered (curved) barbell, hold a narrow grip (hands about 6 inches apart) and bring the weight all the way to your chin. Bring the weight back down slowly. For shrugs, use heavy dumbbells and literally shrug. Both these exercises are good for developing your delts and traps (which is another muscle that distinguishes the well trained athlete).
5. Handstand pushups. I use handstand pushups as a way to ‘burn out’ at the end of a hard shoulder workout. Find a wall, place your hands on the floor a couple feet from the wall, and walk your feet up. Shuffle your hands closer to the wall if you have the strength to do so. Either hold, or if you have the strength, lower your head to the floor and do pushups. When you are done, walk your hands away from the wall and drop your feet to the ground. If you have a training partner, she can spot you without using a wall. As with all exercises, your body will adapt (read: get stronger) over time and allow you to go from holding a handstand for a few seconds to performing multiple pushups.
Important Training Tips:
Warm up well (see article)
Always use a full range of motion. Benefits of lifting include not only stronger muscles and bones, but more flexibility (and injury prevention) if done right.
Rather than doing just one exercise and then sitting around, pick 2 or 3 exercises and do ‘super sets’. For example, I’ll do a circuit combining dumbbell presses, lateral raises, and shrugs, going straight from one to the next. When you do these back to back without rest (take a minute or so off once you’ve finished the final exercise) you can get an hour’s worth of lifting / sets completed in 30 minutes with far more benefits. If you need more rest, use your time between sets to stretch, jump rope, perform ab exercises, or something else productive. It is not about time in the gym, it is about the quality of your training and the results that follow.
The world can impose heavy burdens on modern day men, especially during times like these. Having Atlas-like shoulders to hold up your responsibilities is a tremendous advantage. There is a strong mind/body connection which cuts both ways; when your body is strong it gives you more confidence to achieve your goals in life.
For more on building up those 'Boulder Shoulders' see video of my favorite workouts: Top 3 Shoulder Exercises