Nothing completes the look that says “Yeah, I lift” like strong, developed shoulders. But for some individuals, shoulder growth can be as elusive as restraint at an all-you-can-eat buffet. If this is you, perhaps your workout regimen lacks a dedicated shoulder session. If so, it’s time to add one—and Mike Vazquez is here to show you how it’s done.
You probably already realize this, but the shoulder is a structurally complex joint that needs to accommodate diverse ranges of motion. So training-wise, the key to training shoulders is to target all angles with a combination of presses, flyes, and isometric movements.
This approach will improve your shoulder aesthetics. What’s more, it will keep them healthy and functional. Shoulder injuries often relate to overuse and compensation for weaker surrounding muscles, so this workout takes a well-rounded approach to building and strengthening.
And while he’s at it, Vasquez adds two abdominal moves for good measure to end the session.
Mike Vazquez’s Boulder-Shoulder Workout
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Sit up straight on the bench with a neutral lower back. Your elbows should be just below parallel with your shoulder joints at the bottom of the movement. This will keep tension on your delts.
Bent-Over Reverse Fly
Maintain a tight core in the bent-over position to keep your back as flat and torso as stationary as possible. Your arms should be slightly bent at the elbows as you bring the dumbbells straight out to the side and contract your rear delts and upper back. People with lower back pain may prefer doing these from a seated position, with their chest resting on their knees.
Alternating Front Raise
Stand tall and avoid letting your shoulders roll forward as much as possible. It can be easy to let momentum take over as you alternate reps, so keep your torso as rigid as possible and complete one side before raising the other. Throughout, your elbows should stay slightly bent and your palms should face down.
Straight-Bar Upright Row
This exercise can compromise the shoulder joint if done without being conscious of internally rotated shoulders. Keeping your back straight and shoulder blades pulled back will help you maintain proper posture. Hold the bar close to your body. Use a moderate weight, one that enables you to raise your elbows up and above your shoulder joint at the top of the movement.
Kneeling Behind-the-Head Barbell Press
Stick to lighter weights at first. It’s also recommended to have a spotter nearby if you haven’t performed this movement before. Use a wide grip to maintain stability and support. Brace your core and press up until your elbows are locked out. Return to your starting position with control.
Your elbows should never bend during this exercise. Raise just your shoulders and be sure to maintain an upright posture throughout. Hold the contraction at the top for a second or so before lowering the weights.
Weighted Hanging Leg Raise
Take a deep breath and engage your core before initiating this movement. Your body should not swing back and forth as you raise and lower your legs. Perform these unweighted if it’s too difficult to complete all 12-15 reps in weighted fashion. To increase the difficulty of this move, try raising your legs in a straight position instead of bending your knees.
Medicine Ball Slam
This exercise will add a slight cardio element to your workout for an intense finisher. Stand tall with the ball over your head. Bend your knees as you slam the ball into the ground. If you keep a wider stance and aim right between your feet, the ball won’t get away from you, making it easier to maintain a steady rhythm. Complete the slams as quickly as possible without sacrificing form.