The top trainer shares his best methods to build boulder shoulders.
When it comes to build up an upper body befitting a superhero, guys normally think
thick chest and monster bis and tris first, and oftentimes neglect the importance of having a broad set of shoulders.
Building boulder shoulders requires a generous amount of presses and accessory work, including plenty of raises. Importantly, your shoulders can be delicate, with unnecessary strain on the muscles leading to hard-to-repair aches and injuries.
In this latest Elite Trainer video, celebrity strength coach Gunnar Peterson leads Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. through three subtle adjustments to your normal shoulder exercises that can elevate your gains and eliminate the pains over the long term by targeting different angles.
One common shoulder exercise staple is the lateral raise, a reliable lift that targets the deltoid. But as Peterson points out, not all shoulder joints are built the same, and some people are not able to withstand the excess strain. The lateral raise is one of those exercise done in the traditional standing position, over time leads to “pinching” or impingements on some shoulders.
Peterson suggests as an alternative: try a high-incline lateral raise, a more natural movement, by bracing your stomach on an incline bench. This subtle tweak can even work the rhomboids, Samuel says, all while easing the strain on your joints (you can even try a palms-up raise as another version). Try two to five sets of 12 to 15 reps as a finisher.
No shoulder workout is complete without some sort of overhead press, but Peterson says you no longer need to be committed to the standard barbell press. Be creative with other equipment you might have at your disposal–from landmines to Viking press bars and other tools–and choose other anchor points to target different parts of your shoulder. Depending on your goals and how heavy the load you use, you can do low reps (six reps) or the eight-to-12-rep range.
“Don’t be locked into what the placard on the machine says, there’s a much bigger world out there than that," Peterson says. "Use your imagination.”
In this drop set variation, you won’t cycle through different weights. Instead, you’ll shift your body positioning. According to Peterson, a mechanical drop set allows you to change anchor points within the same exercise, moving the intensity level throughout different portion of the move.
Certain shoulder machines allow you to adjust where you want the weight to be heavier, at the top middle or bottom of a movement.
The same theory applies with dumbbells, only this time you’re maneuvering your posture. By standing straight, or angling either in or out and raising the weight from a dead hang can allow for different intensities in the movement, which can stay within the eight-to-15-rep range.
“It’s comprehensive,” Peterson says. “You’re getting more out of the set than you might if you don’t happen to have weights that are heavy enough. You can do it with a lighter weight because as you progress through it, the weights is gonna feel heavier.”
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