Ultimate Workout Routine for Shoulders – The Best Exercise for Deltoid and Rotator cuff

Ultimate Workout Routine for Shoulders

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Shoulder muscles are hard to develop unless you train them with proper exercise. You have to choose those exercises that are safe for your shoulders. 

The shoulder joint is a complex joint with a high chance of injury. There is a greater chance that you have done such exercise that had put your shoulder joint in a high risk of injury. 

Why?

I have done such exercises that are bad for my shoulder joint, during my beginner days. 

This article will help you to identify the good and the bad ones. 

To understand more about the shoulder, let's look at the anatomy of the shoulders. 

Shoulder joint anatomy 

Your shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint between your upper arm bone(humerus) and the shoulder blade -scapula.

It is the most mobile joint in the human body due to its loose joint capsule.

Your biceps long head attaches to the scapula, thus supporting your upper arms to the scapula.

human anatomy of shoulder muscles and rotator cuff muscles

The ligaments of rotator cuff muscles attach to the upper arm and help in movement and balancing of the shoulder joint. 

Rotator cuff muscles comprise of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.

Infraspinatus and teres minor are responsible for external rotation of arms.

While subscapularis is responsible for internal rotation of arms. 

Due to the absence of strong ligaments, your shoulder joints are prone to injury. 

To develop shoulder muscles, first, you have to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles.

A strong shoulder joint is necessary for these heavy lifting workouts. 

Shoulder muscle

Your shoulder muscles comprise three muscles: the anterior deltoid(front), posterior deltoid(back), and lateral deltoid(side).

The posterior deltoid and lateral deltoid originates from the scapula(shoulder blades) and inserts into the humerus (upper arms).

Anterior deltoid originates from (clavicle) collar bone and inserts into the humerus.

Your anterior and posterior deltoid acts as synergists while training chest and lats. So the posterior and anterior deltoids get trained during your chest and back day training. 

For overall development, you have to train your lateral deltoids.

It will help you to get 3d shoulders.

  Workout tips 

Muscle imbalance

We have already talked about muscle imbalance. Your body won't let your muscles be too imbalanced.  If your muscles are imbalanced, then it will be hard for you to progress in a workout. 

Your workout should include exercise for lateral deltoid, even if you don’t have a separate day to train your shoulders.

When I started lifting, the workouts be like

Shoulders and arms are trained the same day, starting with shoulders.

Shoulder routine included seated shoulder press and dumbbell press (that only hit anterior deltoid). Lateral and posterior deltoids are not trained. 

But posterior deltoids get some work while doing back workout. 

Start training your Lateral and posterior deltoids 

A study showed that bodybuilders have front delts that are on average five times bigger than sedentary people. But their lateral delts are just three times bigger and their rear delts a mere 10 to 15 percent bigger.

M Gundill. Ironman 2002 August; 8: 42

Behind neck exercise 

Behind the neck shoulder press can strain your shoulders.

 To do behind neck exercise, you have to rotate your shoulders externally. This position can injure your shoulder joint. Stabilizing weight in this position is difficult for your rotator cuff muscles and can damage them.

If you have less flexibility, then it will be challenging to get enough external rotation to get proper form for your workout.

In that case, you have to bend your neck forward while doing the workout; this will add strain in your neck.

The added strain while workout in this position can cause disc herniation. It's safe to avoid behind the neck exercise.  

Shoulder workouts reps and sets

Your shoulder muscles are formed of mixed muscle fibres (slow-twitch and fast-twitch). So they respond well with hypertrophy, strength, and endurance workouts.

For your hypertrophy gains, it is good to do 4-8 reps.

It's good to take 60- 90s rest in between sets. It will give enough time for your body to recycle ATP.

While targeting rotator cuff muscles, you have to do `12 -16 reps. As our goal here is not hypertrophy, but add strength and endurance. 

Exercise type

Choose compound exercise over isolation exercise; compound exercise will enable you to lift more weight. Compound lifts are multi-joint exercises which work  more than one muscle group.

You can lift more weight with these compound exercises. 

Compound exercise for shoulder muscle 

  • Overhead shoulder press
  • Shoulder push press
  • Shoulder push and jerk 

How often should you change your workout routine?

It's not a necessary thing until you are bored with a routine. You have to progressive overload. Increase the reps or weight lifted each week. That way without changing the workout you can make your workout harder. 

Progressive overload 

Progressive overload is the key to muscle growth. Progressive overload means you have to increase the weight lifted if you do your targeted reps.

Don't lift the same weight every week; you have to increase the weight lifted or reps done every week. It doesn't mean you have to increase 10-20 kg every week. 1 or 2 kg will be enough.

*The key thing here is you have to increase the weight or reps.

*During your beginner stage, you can add 5 or 10 kg and as you advance, it will become harder, then 1 or 2 kilograms will do the work. 

     Target: 6 reps

  • Week 1 - 20 kg 4 reps
  • Week 2 - 20 kg 6 reps (increase weight)
  • Week 3 - 25 kg 5 reps 

Equipments for shoulder workout

Bench, barbell, weight plates, dumbbell.

Bench is needed to do a seated version of military press, dumbbell press, lateral raise. 

Barbell is an iron rod with a provision to add weights at both ends. They are 4 ft to 7 ft long, for our purpose we need 7ft bar or any larger than 5ft. 

Dumbbell is a short bar with a weight attached to each end. 

Weight plates are disc usually made of cast iron. It is added to the barbell to increase weight. 

        The best shoulder exercise

  • Standing Overhead press
  • Dumbbell front raise
  • Dumbbell lateral raise
  • Bent-Over Dumbbell
  • Lateral Raise
  • Face pull

How to do shoulder exercise?

How to do a Standing overhead press?

Place the bar on the squat stand or power rack. If you don't have it (home gym), place the bar on the floor.

Grab the bar with a grip wider than shoulder-width.

Lift the bar and position it in front of the shoulders. Your forearms must be vertical and palms facing forward.

This is your starting position.

Push the bar towards the ceiling.

Pause when your arms are straight at the top, then return the bar to starting position. 

overhead press for shoulders

Overhead press form

Let's start from the floor, stand with your feet at hip-width apart. You shouldn't keep it narrower than that as it will be difficult to press.

Keep your knees and hips locked throughout the movement. That way, It will not assist you in pressing if it does then it will be push press – more functional exercise for shoulders.

Grab the bar with your grip wider than shoulder-width apart. Place the bar in front of your shoulders.

Your forearms must be vertical throughout the workout. Your palms must face forward throughout the exercise. 

Keep your lower back in its neutral position. 

During the press, don't flare out your elbows.

Take a big breath and hold it.

Press the bar towards the ceiling by flexing your shoulder muscle.

Press until your arms are fully extended. Pause at the top and return slowly to starting position.

Exhale, then take a big breath before the next rep.

Finish the workout with the required number of reps.

Dumbbell lateral raise - best shoulder exercise with dumbbells

-how to do dumbbell lateral raises?

Take two dumbbells and position it on your sides.

Take a deep breath and raise the dumbbells to your sides, as if you are throwing them away from your body.

Pause when your arms are parallel to the floor and return to starting position. Exhale and take a big breath before the next rep. 

dumbbell side laterals for shoulders

Bent-Over Dumbbell  Raise

This workout is for your rear deltoid. 

Grab the dumbbells and lower your body by bending at your hips and knees. Lower your body until it's nearly parallel to the floor. 

Keep your knees and hips locked. Breathe in and hold.

Raise the dumbbells to your side as if throwing them away. Pause at the top and lower them to starting position. Exhale and take a big breath and raise the dumbbells to do the next rep. 

bentover dumbbell raise for shoulders

Face pull with rope

How to do face pull?

Face pull targets your rear deltoid muscles and rotator cuff muscles.

You can do this with the rope attachment in a cable machine. Adjust the pulley height to match your upper chest. Grab the rope with palms facing each other and arms straight.

Pull the rope towards the face by extending upper arms at shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades together during the movement.

Pause when the elbows are in line with the shoulders (when the muscles are fully contracted).  This position will look like you are flexing your arms. Squeeze your rear deltoids and slowly return to starting position. 

facepull for shoulders

Rotator cuff strengthening exercise

Focus on a rep range 10-15

Side-lying external rotation

Grab a dumbbell with one arm and lie with your opposite side on a bench. Flex your arms at 90 degrees at the elbows out in front of you.

Raise the dumbbells by rotating your arms outside(external rotation). Return to starting position and repeat.

If you keep a towel under your arm, it will help to keep the form.

After completing one side repeat with the other side. Throughout the workout, keep your arm 90 degrees at elbows; and upper arms to the side. 

Side-lying internal rotation

Grab a dumbbell and lie with that side on a bench. Flex your arms at 90 degrees at the elbows out in front of you.

Raise the dumbbells by rotating your arms towards the body(internal rotation). Return to starting position and repeat.

After completing one side, repeat with the alternate side. Throughout the workout keep  your arm 90 degrees at elbows 

Cable external rotation

Adjust the cable to your elbow level.  Stand with your side and Grab the D handle with arm (opposite side). Flex your arms at elbows to form 90degree. Always keep your upper arm close to your side.

Pull the cable by rotating your upper arms externally while keeping your upper arm close to the body. 

Click here to download the rotator cuff exercise pdf and shoulder workout routine pdf for free. 

Best shoulder workout routine

Overhead press 3* sets 4-8 reps

Dumbbell side laterals 4* sets 4-8 reps

Bent Over side laterals 4 sets 8-10 reps

Face pull 3 sets of 10 reps

Alternate internal/ external rotation exercise each week 3 sets-15 reps

*Does not include warm-up sets, do 2-3 warm-up sets with light weights before doing working sets.

shoulder workout routine


Rest for 60- 90 s between sets, suitable for muscle growth. This gives your muscles enough time to restore the energy stores. 

Do this workout once every week. 

A good workout is not enough for building big shoulders; you have to get proper nutrition and rest. 

Muscle growth happens outside the gym. So take care of your nutrition and get enough sleep. 

-Arun 

Arun Kumar T, D.P.T.
 

Arun is the founder of @workoutable. He is a certified trainer and has a PN level 1 nutrition certification. He is Learning different ways to transform his body from fat to fit. Himself as a crash test dummy, experimenting with his body. He is trying to help people to transform their body.

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