How to Build Big Shoulders, Part 2
Alright, so I’m going to break out my crystal ball here. This magical crystal is telling me that you read “How to Build Big Shoulders, Part 1” a little over a month ago. It’s still a little fuzzy but I’m starting to get the picture.
Hmmm… looks like you were a bit skeptical of some of the information I gave you in that first article. Wow, you even thought to yourself “This Wheeler guy is full of shit. All I need to build my shoulders is good ole’ fashioned barbell presses.”
But, you were curious so you gave my advice a try.
Looks like you hit the high incline dumbbell presses for a couple of warm up sets and felt your front delts blow up like never before. After that, you couldn’t wait to get to the work sets and you tore it up with heavier dumbbells than you’ve ever used for upright presses.
Interesting… a day or two later you were so damn sore you could hardly raise your arms to wash your hair. I told you….
Damn, you even followed my advice and corrected your form on lateral raises. And, just like I thought you would, you felt an awesome contraction and the most amazing pump in your side delts that you’ve ever experienced!
And, just look at those shoulders, you fucking Alpha Male you. In just a little over a month they’re thicker, fuller and more round. You’re on the way to carrying around a set of cannon balls.
Keep hitting your shoulders hard with the techniques I gave you in part 1, and throw in the exercises I’m gonna give ya here in a few, and you’re gonna need to buy new shirts my friend!
Now, if my crystal ball ain’t so crystal clear, and you haven’t taken action towards building YOUR Alpha physique, then I just have one question…
What the fuck are you waiting for?
Summer is almost here and, trust me, you want to be a man who can get a woman’s attention simply because he’s wearing a plain ole’ t-shirt or wife beater.
You know the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make em’ drink”?
I’m gonna give you the tools you need to build the kind of shoulders that make women’s panties wet. But, YOU have to put in the work.
With that said, allow me to pick up where I left off….
If you have read part 1, then you know you should be using a good, compound movement like High Incline Dumbbell Presses in your shoulder training, in order to build big, thick and strong shoulders.
You also know there are several variations of side lateral raises that can spark new muscle growth and bring out that nice cut between the shoulder and biceps.
If you haven’t checked that out yet I highly suggest you do and then start incorporating these exercises into your routine.
Regardless, I think it’s very likely that a lot of you are already doing some type of overhead press and lateral raise when you train your shoulders, even if it’s not exactly the way I recommend. Those exercises effectively target the front and side delts.
However, I think it’s also very likely that you’re not focusing anywhere near enough time, attention and effort into training your rear delts as you should be.
Obviously, I don’t know you personally and rear delts may be your favorite body part to train (ya fuckin’ weirdo), but the majority of guys neglect their rear delts in favor of training the front and side delts.
Which, by no coincidence, are the parts of their shoulders they can see in the mirror.
If they do anything at all for their rear delts it’s usually just a few half-hearted sets of bent over lateral raises, thrown in as a second thought at the end of their workout, because they’ve already exhausted themselves with intense sets of overhead presses, front raises and side lateral raises.
It’s like front and side delts are the super hot chick that every dude wants to fuck, and rear delts are her fatter, less attractive cousin that only gets some love if a guy has had enough to drink.
Most guys spend far more time performing pushing movements than they do pulling and this can lead to muscular imbalances, underdeveloped shoulders and injuries.
As I’ve already mentioned several times in other articles, it’s SO important to keep your shoulders healthy and an “ounce of prevention” goes a long way.
So, let’s call lil’ cousin “thick” instead of fat and show her some love! Hey, if it will keep your shoulders healthy and make them look better, take one for the team!
- Rear Delt Row: I’ll admit it; at one point I was guilty of only training my rear delts with a few light sets of bent over raises, thrown in at the end of my shoulder workout, before calling it a day. The only other stimulation I ever received in this area was secondary, coming mostly from exercises I was actually doing to work my back, such as barbell or dumbbell rows.
However, after I learned the importance of training the rear delts, I started searching for better, more effective ways to do it.
Being a pretty smart guy, I put 2 and 2 together and realized that my rear delts were always the most pumped, not when I performed bent over laterals, but when I performed rows.
So, I started putting a twist on the classic dumbbell row that is performed for the lats, to help take some of the assistance from my back out of it and place more emphasis on my rear delts. Let me tell you, it works wonders.
The setup is just like if you were going to perform a set of bent over lateral raises.
Bend forward at the waist until your upper body is about parallel to the floor. Instead of spreading your arms out wide, as you would when completing a bent over lateral raise, perform more of a rowing type motion.
At the top of the range of motion your elbows should be bent at around 90 degrees and the dumbbells should be in line with your upper body. Develop your “mind-muscle” connection and focus on pulling the weight by using your rear delts.
Once you master the correct form you will experience the best pump you’ve ever felt in this area.
I would recommend starting off light, just until you get the form down. Once you feel comfortable with this exercise, and you’re feeling it work in your rear delts more than in your lats, go heavier.
This is an exercise meant to be performed with power and an explosive rep style. In fact, you should go heavy enough that it becomes necessary to use just a bit of momentum from your legs to initiate the lift.
You can also play around with the positioning of the dumbbells and how you hold them. Most often when performing a dumbbell row guys will hold the dumbbell in the neutral (palms facing) position.
However, switching it up from time to time could lead to a better contraction and more development.
Try slightly supinating the dumbbells so your palms rotate to a position where they’re almost facing forward. This will shift the emphasis placed on the rear delts and cause a slightly different pathway of travel for the dumbbells.
These little tweaks can make a lot of difference and help you find what feels best for you.
- A Safer Upright Row: In the part 1 of this series, and in a few other training articles on this site, I’ve mentioned that I don’t really care for upright rows because of the toll they can take on your rotator cuffs. Specifically they can cause impingement and you never know when one bad rep will come along and take you out of action.
The truth is upright rows actually are an effective compound exercise that can help build your side delts. It’s just my humble opinion that the reward isn’t worth the risk, and that’s probably because I’ve already had one shoulder surgery and don’t care to ever do it again.
Fortunately there is a way to perform an upright row type of movement that provides the benefit of building the side delts without all of the wear and tear on your rotator cuffs.
As with any exercise that’s new to you, start off light until you’ve developed good form.
Take a pair of dumbbells and hold them in front of your body and about waist high. Focus on only using your upper arms/shoulders and bring the dumbbells up while simultaneously bringing them back towards your shoulders.
The end of the movement will look almost like you’re performing a row while standing and you’ll even have a very slight bit of external rotation as you bring the dumbbells up and back.
That external rotation actually helps strengthen your rotator cuffs, as long as you perform each rep with control and never use a weight that you can’t handle.
The primary difference between this movement and a standard upright row is the motion that has you bringing the dumbbells back towards your body rather than just straight up. It’s also what drastically reduces the chance of impingement in your shoulders.
I learned this move from a Physical Therapist who’s not only excellent at what he does but he also possesses some of the best shoulders I’ve ever seen on a person.
He feels like upright rows are destroying shoulders in gyms all over America. He told me it may have been what eventually led to my shoulder problems because I had done upright rows for years.
When I first started using this version I had a helluva time trying to get the form down. But, with practice I eventually got it and my side delts have grown tremendously. I’m confident this version can do the same for you, without all the stress on your shoulders.
A Kick Ass Intensity Technique
If you have less than 6 months of consistent training under your belt, don’t worry about this or any other intensity technique. Focus on getting stronger in basic free weight exercises before anything else.
While it definitely all starts with great exercises, performed correctly, every now and then you still need to throw your muscles a curve ball in order to keep them growing.
They grow because they’re forced to adapt to the resistance you’re placing on them. But, your body will set itself to cruise control when what you’re doing is no longer demanding enough on it.
Therefore, for muscle growth to continue, you have to give it a new reason to adjust and grow.
Now, this “new reason’ often comes in the form of using a heavier weight than you used the last time you did an exercise but it’s not the only way. That’s where intensity techniques can come into play.
To put it very simply, an intensity technique makes the training you’re doing harder or more…. intense. Bet you didn’t see that coming, huh?
A lot of you are probably familiar with drop Sets. But, in case you’re not, drop sets basically mean pumping out a certain number of reps with a given weight until you can’t do anymore.
As soon as you reach your limit (also known as failure) you immediately decrease the weight and, without resting at all, continue to push for more reps. Again, you hit failure, decrease the weight even more, and push out more reps.
Most guys repeat this cycle until they can’t go any further.
Drop sets are a great way to up the intensity of your workout. However, there’s more than one way to skin a chicken… or fuck a duck… wait, that’s not right. You get what I’m saying.
Instead of drop sets I like to use ascending sets. They are a lot like drop sets except, instead of decreasing the weight after each round of reps, you increase it. This allows you to combine an intensity technique with heavy weights, which will help to overload your muscles.
In case you don’t know, overloading your muscles is like scoring sex on the first date. It’s fucking great! In fact, overloading your muscles is the ONLY way to make them grow.
Just a fair warning, this shit is fucking intense and is not meant for beginners, the faint of heart or pussies.
Putting ascending sets into action
I recommend the use of free weights about 95% of the time. However, for these, I recommend using a good shoulder press machine of some sort. It makes this technique safer and it also makes changing the weight quicker and more convenient.
Quick weight changes are important because the whole point is to push yourself hard during this set with very little rest between weight increases. My personal favorite machine is almost anything that Hammer Strength makes.
Going along with our theme of building big shoulders, find yourself a good shoulder press machine that allows you to change the weights quickly.
Let’s say your goal is to complete 10 reps during each round. Start off with a weight that allows you to hit 10 reps, easily.
I start with a weight that I could get about 15 reps with if I wanted to. This is basically a warm up round.
As soon as you reach 10, increase the weight by 10lbs and crank out 10 more reps. The only bit of rest you should get is the amount of time it takes you to increase the weight.
Those 10 reps should be a little harder but still very much doable. After you’ve completed another round of 10, increase the weight again and push for another 10 reps.
Let me tell you….during your 3rd or 4th increase, at about 5 reps in, this shit is going to get REAL.
You’re going to start finding yourself fighting for survival. Your shoulders and tri’s are going to be absolutely screaming and you’re going to have an insane pump. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll fucking love it!
Eventually you’re going to find yourself unable to hit 10. That’s ok. Just crank out as many reps as you can in good form. As soon as you can’t get any more, increase the weight and try to get a few more, as long as you can do so with GOOD FORM.
It’s very likely that you won’t be able to increase the weight any more than 5 times if you can even make it that far. And, if you can, then you probably started off way too light and need to increase your starting weight the next time you do ascending sets.
This isn’t a technique to use every time you’re in the gym training shoulders but it’s definitely a great one to break out every now and then.
I would use it when you’re feeling really strong, your routine has gotten stale or you’ve hit a plateau and want to get your shoulders growing again.
Now, it’s all up to you….
I’m honestly not an arrogant guy and I won’t claim that I know everything about everything.
However, I’m sure if you’ve been following the training advice I provided in “How to Build Big Shoulders, Part 1” you’re well on your way to developing a set of shoulders that are the envy of every man in the gym and desire of every woman.
So, I’m breaking out my crystal ball again….
I can see you taking the advice from this article and running with it. You’re grinding out sets of rear delt rows and your shoulders are starting to get fuller, thicker and rounder.
I see your shoulder pains ending and your side delts blowing up as you drop the normal, boring upright rows and start using the safer version.
And, damn, it even looks like you man’d up and pushed yourself to the limit with a ball busting round of ascending sets.
Yep, you’re gonna have a fun summer you fucking Alpha Male you. I can see it clearly in the crystal ball.
– Michael Wheeler
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