Best shoulder workout

It’s the season to get huge. There’s nothing better than having a strong, crisp and clean shoulder cut heading into summer to boost your confidence. But getting those monster delts can be challenging. I’m going to share a few of the best shoulder workouts to help you build bigger and stronger shoulders in no time.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is a staple movement in any shoulder routine. Kettlebells create full-body tension, which is key to developing a strong core and fundamental to any kettlebell movement.  

  1. Beginning with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes facing towards 11 and 1 (like on a clock).
  2. Place the kettlebell on the ground in front of your toes. Similar to the deadlift, with your shoulders tucked back and lats pulled down, hinge at the hips pressing the booty to the wall behind you.
  3. Reach out (not reach forward) and grab the kettlebell with two hands on the handle.
  4. From this position, your knees should be directly over your ankles, creating a substantial amount of tension in your quads and hamstrings in order to ‘load’ the muscles before you generate force. 
  5. Take a deep breath in through your nose, brace the core and hike (like a football) the kettlebell back between your legs with your lats until your forearms are touching your inner thighs.
  6. After you reach the full extension, generate force and power THROUGH THE HIPS (not the arms or upper body) by snapping the hips, standing up, and keeping tension throughout the entire body, opening the hips at full extension/top of the swing.
  7. You want to see the kettlebell reach chest/shoulder height before gravity takes it back down.
  8. On the descent, gravity will bring the bell back down and you’ll want to engage your lats to speed it up.

Single-Arm Kettle Bell Swing

Similar to the double-handed kettlebell swing, this movement is a bit more advanced. Greater tension and isolation will help you develop a stronger stance, body awareness, and core engagement, to ultimately build bigger and stronger shoulders.

  1. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place the kettlebell on the ground in front of your toes
  3. With your shoulders tucked back and lats pulled down, hinge at the hips pressing your glutes to the wall behind you.
  4. Reach out (not reach forward) and grab the kettlebell with one hand on the handle, the other out parallel to the floor for stability and balance.
  5. Brace your core and hike (like a football) the kettlebell back between your legs with your lats until your forearms are touching your inner thighs.
  6. After you reach the full extension, generate force and power through your hips (not the arms or upper body) by snapping the hips, standing up, and keeping tension throughout the entire body, opening the hips at full extension/top of the swing.
  1. You want to see the kettlebell reach chest/shoulder height before gravity takes it back down.
  2. On the descent, gravity will bring the bell back down and you’ll want to engage your lats to speed it up.

Kettlebell Press 

Muscle isolation is crucial when you’re focusing on aesthetic goals. Kettlebell press is one of the best shoulder workouts for complete shoulder isolation. In addition to isolation, the kettlebell press will improve your range of motion, mobility, core strength, and posture. 

  1. Standing with the kettlebell in the rack position right below the chin and full-body tension.
  2. Engaging the shoulder, keeping a tight core, and standing nice and tall, press the kettlebell into an overhead position.
  3. When pressing, the elbow stays facing forward and up.
  4. Keeping the elbow facing forward will build a full range of motion strength and muscle memory that will translate into many other movements of your training (including push press).
  5. At the top of the movement, make sure that your palm is facing the front, your knuckles are facing the ceiling, and your hand is relaxed.
  6. To bring the KB back down, bend the elbow and track the weight down into the rack position with the fist under the chin, the lats engaged with the armpit, and the bell resting between the forearm and the bicep in the ‘nest’.
  7. For a shoulder press, you want to keep tension throughout the body and not use the momentum from the legs for the entire movement. 

Dumbbell Lateral Raise 

The lateral raise is a fundamental movement that should be included in every shoulder routine. With tons of different variations, the key to this movement is tempo and form. Keep it slow and steady isolate your delts with each rep. Make sure to use a weight that is challenging but does not compromise your form.

  1. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, arms by your sides, palms facing inwards.
  2. Ensure your shoulders are neutral (don’t shrug), your abs are engaged and there’s a slight bend in your knees.
  3. Retaining this posture, lift the dumbbells out to the sides, going no higher than shoulder height.
  4. Pause and check your stance – is your back still neutral? Is there a gentle bend at each elbow?
  5. Gradually lower the dumbbells to the starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 8-12 reps

Dumbbell Front Raise

Similar to the lateral raise, the front raise will work the anterior delts and even the upper chest. The front-raise is another isolation exercise, that will help you build strength and definition in the front of your shoulders.

  1. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Keep the back straight and feet planted flat on the floor. Your arms holding weights should hang down.
  2. Hold the dumbbells across the thighs horizontally, palms facing back toward the thighs. Ensure that you have a firm grip.
  3. Brace the abdominal muscles.
  4. Lift the weights upward, inhaling, with arms out in front and palms facing down. Keep a slight bend in the elbows to reduce the stress on the joints. Pause when the arms are approximately horizontal to the floor and feel the contraction in the shoulders.
  5. Return the dumbbells to the starting position at the thighs with a slow and controlled motion while exhaling.
  6. Repeat the exercise for the number of sets and repetitions in your program.

Scarecrows

Uncommonly found in most shoulder routines, the scarecrow is an amazing shoulder workout which help your range of motion, develop your rotator cuff and build stronger delts. Although you’ll look like a limp scarecrow in your initial starting position, each rep will strengthen your rotator cuff and develop your shoulder posture.

  1. Grab a lightweight plate in each hand (5-10lb) and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Brace your abs and bend at the knees and hips (keep your lower back arched) until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor.
  3. Let your arms hang straight down. Row the weights to the sides of your torso until your upper arms are in line with your body (you should finish with a 90-degree bend in your elbows)
  4. Now rotate your forearms until the weights are in line with your head 
  5. From there, press the weights straight out in front of you 
  6. Slowly return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Do three sets of 10-12 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets. You’ll be burning with just 5lbs in each hand.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The dumbbell shoulder press will help you increase your shoulder strength, increase your core stability, and help you build monster shoulders. The exercise works all aspects of your delts and improve shoulder imbalances.

  1. Stand upright and keep the back straight.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at the shoulders with an overhand grip. Thumbs should be on the inside and knuckles facing up.
  3. Raise the weights above the head in a controlled motion while exhaling. Pause at the top of the motion.
  4. Return the dumbbells to the shoulders while inhaling.
  5. Repeat for eight to 12 repetitions as desired.

Arnold Press

Famous for it’s founder, Arnold Schwarzenegger aka “The Governator” the Arnold press moves and works all aspects of the delts in one movement (front, lateral, rear) which makes it extremely effective in building bigger, stronger shoulders.

  1. Start with the dumbbells under your chin, elbow in front, palms facing in.
  2. As you press the dumbbells up, twist your palms and elbows outward. 
  3. To keep the focus on your shoulders, you don't need to lock out your elbows overhead in the top position. 
  4. Focus on controlled movement throughout the movement -- ascending and descending -- even if that means choosing lighter weight. 

Front Plate Raise

The front plate raise is a highly effective shoulder workout. In addition to your shoulders, the plate raise also works your upper chest, traps, and core. Different than a traditional isolated shoulder movement, the front plate raise, will help you build more full-body strength.

  1. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Keep the back straight and feet planted flat on the floor. Your arms holding weights should hang down.
  2. Hold the plate across the thighs horizontally. Ensure that you have a firm grip on each side.
  3. Brace the abdominal muscles.
  4. Lift the upward, inhaling, with arms out in front. Keep a slight bend in the elbows to reduce the stress on the joints. Pause when the arms are approximately horizontal to the floor and feel the contraction in the shoulders.
  5. Return the plate to the starting position at the thighs with a slow and controlled motion while exhaling.
  6. Repeat the exercise for the number of sets and repetitions in your program.

Standing Y Raise

As one of the most underrated shoulder workouts, the Standing “Y” Raise is a great variation to keep your shoulder workout fresh and fun.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your hips.
  2. Raise the dumbbells above your head, with your palms facing each other, and form a Y with your body.
  3. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position and repeat. Open your chest, face front, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keep your arms straight and breathe out as you raise the dumbbells above your head.
  4. Move the dumbbells only with your shoulders, keep your body static, and don’t arch your back. Breathe in as you slowly return to the starting position.

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