Trainer Tip Tuesday...building a strong set of shoulders is important but many of us also want them to be sculpted and have that visible separation between the "cap" and the arm. How do we achieve this besides the obvious, eating at a caloric deficit to burn overall fat to reveal the muscles underneath?...p.s. this is always answer #1 when it comes to visible muscle definition. No matter how strong they are, no matter how big they are, if you are carrying excess body fat in your upper body, you will not see definition.
Before sharing specific exercises, it's important to talk about the anatomy of the shoulder. Many people think the shoulder is only the set of muscle on the cap or the deltoids...but there are a lot more muscles involved in the function of the shoulder. This includes the trapezius or the upper shoulder (that attaches to the neck and into the back where we usually want a shoulder massage), the rhomboids (the muscles that lie deep in the upper middle back beneath the mid-traps), the muscles of the rotator cuff(Supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres major and subscapularus), PLUS the pectorals, and the biceps because they attach into the scapulae (shoulder blades) and help in the function and movement at the shoulders!
Why is it that when I do some shoulder specific exercises I have to go so much lighter in weight than other upper body work? There is a lot happening in a very small area. But the shoulder is an open joint which is very vulnerable to injury if not trained properly, with proper form and appropriate weights for your strength. Imbalance of this area is common because most people don't train each muscle group equally. Imbalance can lead to injury because of range of motion, tightness, immobility, hypermobility, and the dominant versus non-dominant side in strength. It may feel like a step back, but train lighter to build up equal strength and balance in these muscles. In time you will move up in weights and be able to do so carefully.
There are many many exercises to work this area, many of which I am sure are already a part of your program...remember shoulder work is happening during MOST upper body exercises simply because the shoulder is where the arm attaches to the body. During chest work, back, biceps and triceps your shoulders are active...focus on proper form and you will notice this. Some of my personal favorites are:
1. push-ups plus (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hjrxz8YfOeM)
2. Upright rows (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=g7E-8wEdg20)
3. Front and lateral straight arm raises (flipping grip palm down or palm up https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bRIaAAkNA1A)
4. Rear flys with dumbbells or cables (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=63nR-MY-Cks)
5. Dumbbell overhead presses (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ITtDm1SGLrA)
6. Alphabets (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=43kf7192cYc)
7. Cheerleaders with a pull and press (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-e3AleiKedM)
8. Rows all variations (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MRYkrC85F0c)
9. LTI (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tBwTciRwODA)
10. Cable push-pull (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=X2kl3Iyw6JI)
I realize that some of these names are not what others might call the exercises, I've been a trainer for over 15 years and I've established my own language (lol). So I have added the links to my tutorials for those specific exercises. This is a short list, because there are so many more including variations on these that can be done for shoulder definition and strength. Because shoulders will be active on upper body days, I recommend no more than 3 upper body focused workouts per week, with only 1 dedicated to shoulders if you choose. In my current program and challenge, shoulders Are incorporated on the back/biceps and chest/triceps days rather than an entire shoulder day on its own. When incorporated into upper body days, only do 2 or 3 shoulder specific exercises focusing on the different planes of motion (sagittal, frontal and transverse) and also the different areas of the muscles (anterior, lateral and posterior). They will fatigue quickly so work efficiently and carefully.
If you are finding that your upper traps are overly sore or are becoming more dominant in your shoulder exercises, please check your form as you don't want to overdevelop this muscle group (men are a different story, as they tend to like big traps). Also important to note here is posture. Please always be aware that you are working with proper posture and spine alignment. This will ensure that your core is active and engaged which will help in overall strength and control of the movement...plus you will be building your core strength as well. Get more bang for your buck...and make those workouts as efficient as possible!