Shoulders train

Shoulders train

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A new week, a new article! I will continue the series on metabolism and energy balance next time; I thought it would be nice to keep some variation in it and to pick up something new; for that reason I will write an article this time (or maybe a series, if you like it) about how you can best train certain muscle groups. This time shoulders!

If your shoulders are well developed, your entire physical will benefit; your torso looks wider and your waist narrower (when you train your legs properly then all the more!).

Anatomy of the shoulder

When we talk about the shoulders, we talk about the deltoid. The rest of the small muscles in the shoulder girdle are certainly important for stability and the prevention of injuries, but they will do little for appearance. If you want to know more about these muscles you could take a look on Google at 'rotator cuff '. For a very short moment: you can train this sufficiently internal and exteral rotations to do as a warm up for your workouts!

The delts consist of 3 muscle heads, all of which have a slightly different function; the front (anterior) attaches to the collarbone and the other side of the muscle to the upper arm. The side (lateral) attaches to the upper point of the shoulder blade, and also to the upper arm. Finally the back (posterior) attaches a little further back to the shoulder blade, and also to the upper arm.

Research shows that the muscle fiber type of the delts is approximately 50/50 distributed (fiber types 1 and 2). This means that a combination of low weight with many reps and lots of weight with few reps is the most optimal.

The anterior delt has the task of shoulder flexion; the conditional lifting of the arm, as with a front raise.

The lateral delt causes shoulder abduction; lifting the arm sideways, like with the lateral raise.

Re posterior delt ensures horizontal abduction; the arms move away from each other in the horizontal plane, as with a reverse fly.

Jan Willem shoulders front

The literature about training your shoulders

First of all, it is good to realize that for shoulders, just like any other muscle group, there is no exercise that cannot be replaced. If you cannot do an exercise properly, or if an exercise hurts, there are alternatives. It is often better to wait and learn an exercise well under supervision than to teach it incorrectly in order to 'unlearn' it later and then learn it properly; The latter takes much longer and also gives you a much greater chance of injuries.

That aside, you could consider a press movement (if you could perform it properly in terms of both technology and physical limitations) as the basis for a shoulder workout.

Anterior delt

The anterior delt helps with almost all presses, even with flat bench presses. The more incline you put on your bench, the more activation of the anterior delt (1); It is not the case that you only cooperate with the front of your shoulders with a big incline, on the contrary! (2)

Furthermore, this (3) study shows that a standing press shows a greater activation compared to a sitting press and that dumbbels are a better choice than a barbell. Also according to this study (4), which furthermore found that a lateral raise together with the 45-degree incline row are the best choices for the lateral delt. The posterior delt was best addressed by a reverse fly and again by the 45 degree incline row. Please note, these are the results from this study and from the tested exercises.

The conclusions from previous studies and this (5) is that the anterior delts are very well activated by presses, while this is much less the case for the lateral delts and especially for the posterior delts. The latter 2 heads also have the most room for improvement in many people for this reason.

Lateral delt

How do we solve this? Shoulder abduction is best for the lateral delt (side raise with dumbbels, or better with a cable, since with dumbbels the peak contraction becomes much lower when the dumbbels come towards the body). Keep in mind that with a sidereal A) you do not use your traps (keep your neck muscles relaxed, or better still keep your shoulder blade low) and B) do not lift you further than 90 degrees.

In addition, the upright row is a good exercise if one looks at activation for the lateral and posterior delt (6). A grip wider than shoulder width appears to be the most effective. Upright rows, however, are known for causing shoulder complaints. Don't let elbows rise above your shoulders, or a safer option: opt for rope upright rows at the cable station. I say it once more: Does an exercise hurt even with a good performance? Then don't do it.

Horizontal rope upright row

For people who suffer from sensitive shoulders like myself: I always do this exercise lying on the floor with the cable on a low position. You then 'upright row' the cable over your body. You use a rope for this so that you have a lot of freedom of movement. In this way you are much more stable than when you stand and the risk of pains is smaller.

Posterior delt

The posterior delts are furthermore the most efficiently trained by the reverse pec deck (7) (8). The hand position that causes most activation seems to differ between people. Play with this.

Jan Willem competition

Shoulder training in practice

1: It is recommended from the literature that shoulders are trained at least twice a week.

2: The lateral delt and completely the posterior delt need insulation work; try to aim at a minimum of 8 sets per head per week, but this can go up to 22 sets per head per week, according to Mike Israetel. The volume that you can grab naturally depends on how advanced you are. Keep in mind that when you do an exercise that trains both heads, this set counts for both heads!

3: The anterior delts do not have to be isolated if you do enough presses (bench presses also count!).

4: Vary hand position during shoulder exercises to see what works best for you.

5: Use dumbbels instead of barbells, and where you can use cables instead of dumbbels. The advantage of cables is that the load is distributed much more evenly over the entire trajectory of an exercise than with a dumbbell; a dumbbell side raise gives hardly any resistance at the bottom, while this is not the case with a cable side raise.

6: Watch your shape! With isolation exercises this is perhaps even more important for your progression than with compound exercises; Forget it that you lateral delts do a lot of work if you do not stabilize your shoulder blades and therefore you can lift much larger and stronger traps.

7: As with almost any other muscle group: vary your rep ranges. As described in this article, for optimum growth, both fiber type 1 and fiber type 2 will have to give up.

8: No 1 exercise is irreplaceable; I have said this before, but let me take myself as an example. I have not done any presses for years and I still hardly do them in connection with a shoulder injury. My shoulders are certainly developing well, precisely because I take the points above very seriously. For me, cable exercises for shoulders are really a huge outcome.

Jan Willem gym shoulders

Quite spicy material, but after reading and applying all this information you will quickly develop a good deal of shoulders that should be able to bear that burden!

Jan Willem van der Klis

Instagram: @Jay_Whey


This blog is written by

Jan Willem van der Klis

"My focus is on obtaining and disseminating the best possible knowledge to optimize training and nutrition"

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