Shoulder Training 101

Big shoulders are a thing of beauty. They instantly make your waist look smaller; making you look leaner and more jacked.

There are 3 key heads to the shoulder: the front, side, and rear deltoid.
I don’t recommend training the front deltoid. This part of the shoulder can be built via horizontal press (bench presses, pushups, etc.) There’s no need to do more work here.

The side deltoid is what makes your shoulders look wider. This can be achieved via overhead pressing and lateral raises. I recommend working towards being able to overhead press your bodyweight with a barbell for one rep. So if you weigh 200lbs, your goal is to overhead press 200lbs (another reason to always stay lean). I’ve never seen a guy with small shoulders who can overhead press 200lbs. I recommend doing one day of heavy overhead pressing, and one day of moderate overhead pressing.

For lateral raises, I like to do them a bit differently. Set up an adjustable incline bench on its highest incline (approximately 85 degrees). Lean your chest on the bench and then do your lateral raises. The slight leaning forward action will allow you to isolate those side deltoids. On top of this, the bench reduces the amount of cheating on the exercise. This is a win-win in my book.

Lastly, if you want great shoulders, you need to train your rear deltoids. Many guys have big side-deltoids, but as soon as they turn around it seems that their shoulders disappear. You want big, wide, and round shoulders. This is where the rear deltoids come into play.

Pro bodybuilder John Meadows is famous for preaching training your rear delts, and I’ve caught the “rear delt” bug. The easiest way to train them is setting up an incline bench on a 30-degree incline and then doing chest supported lateral raises. You can use a full range of motion with lighter weights, or go heavy and do partials out of the bottom (up to 100 reps in one set). The goal is to pump them up, but also overload and try to get stronger in the muscle (this takes time).

If we put together everything I just talked about, your workout week for shoulders could look something like this:

Day 1: Barbell military press for 4 sets of 4–8 reps
Day 2: 85 Degree Chest Supported Lateral Raises for 3–4 sets of 8–15 reps, and then 30-degree chest supported lateral raises for 3 sets of 15–20 (if light weight full range of motion) or 3 sets of 30 (if heavy weight partials).
Day 3: Dumbbell overhead press for 3 sets of 8–12 reps

Theoretically, you could use this same working scheme for your shoulders for years and still make great results. The goal is to always try to “beat” or “tie” your last workout’s performance. This will ensure that you are following the overload principle.