Train shoulders safely and effectively

Whether you're doing fitness exercises for your arms, triceps, chest or back, your shoulders are always put into action and stressed when training other muscle groups. Strong and well-developed shoulders not only look aesthetically appealing to the opposite sex, it also prevents you from getting an annoying and unnecessary shoulder injury while performing your workout. In this article you will also find a number of tips to help you avoid annoying shoulder complaints.

What you will learn in this article is among other things:

  • Why women love broad shoulder muscles
  • 3 Reasons why you never want to skip shoulders
  • 8 Tips to prevent shoulder complaints
  • 6 Exercises that ensure well-developed shoulders
  • The optimal shoulders diagram

3 Reasons Why You Never Want To Skip Shoulder Exercises

There was a time when we were young and just started playing sports. We had that invincible feeling that our bodies were indestructible and that as a young god we could rage as hard and aggressive as possible in the gym. Nothing was too crazy for us. Building from light to heavy sets? No need! Warm up? Well, no! We're not old people, are we? For years this was our sports philosophy and it kept going well until one day it suddenly changed. Without warning or any omens, you're confronted with a stabbing pain in your shoulder. Tonight you take it easy and the day after tomorrow everything will be back to normal. Your regular fitness buddy mumbles to reassure you a bit. But that damn pain hasn't gone away after a week. With tears in your eyes and a lump in your throat you have to admit that you have suffered a shoulder injury. It's this nightmare that almost everyone who can be found at the gym every week and has weights, will sooner or later experience. Shoulder injuries can quickly ruin your enthusiasm for going to the gym. Fortunately you can avoid shoulder injuries if you know what you're doing. I'll tell you how you can easily prevent common shoulder complaints. But first something else… I assume that you regularly train your shoulder heads as a primary muscle group in the gym, if not start with that as lightning. 

Training your shoulders is important for several reasons:

  • Health benefits
  • Strong shoulders make your daily arm movements a lot easier.
  • Whether you're painting the ceiling or lifting a suitcase, strong muscular shoulder heads lighten the task.
  • People who sit at the computer for long periods of time often have an imbalance that causes their shoulders to pull forward.
  • By regularly training your shoulder muscles, you make sure they stay in the right place.
  • Injury prevention
  • If your shoulders are weak and contain no muscle mass, you will not be able to perform fitness exercises properly (e.g. deadlifts or bench presses) and will also be more likely to suffer shoulder injuries.


Not only can you impress and deter other men with broad shoulders, research also shows that men who had shoulders wider than their hips were found more attractive by women. From an evolutionary point of view, broad shoulders radiate dominance, strength and fertility in men. Surely these should be reasons enough to motivate yourself and to take the shoulders into your own hands? 

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The human shoulder joint can be divided into three bone fragments:

  1. The upper arm (humerus)
  2. The shoulder blade (scapula)
  3. The collarbone (clavicle) shoulder blade

What you need to know about the scapula

Scapula is actually a flat piece of bone that connects to the collarbone and the upper arm. The shoulders form the bridge between the upper arm and the body. The special thing about the shoulder blade is that it has no fixed connection to the torso. Your shoulder blade is attracted to your ribcage by a number of muscle groups. Because your shoulder blade can move in a number of directions (sideways, up and down and rotation), it is important that you perform your fitness exercises correctly because prolonged incorrect guidance will inevitably lead to shoulder complaints.

Shoulder injury

Shoulder complaints can be caused by a variety of reasons:

  1. Incorrect posture while performing exercises. Solution: Training in an upright posture where your shoulders are pulled back.
  2. A trauma (shoulder dislocated) or a congenital abnormality. Solution: Training rotator cuff exercises under the supervision of a therapist or undergoing surgery to shorten the shoulder capsule (this should be seen as a last resort.
  3. An inflammation of the bursa. Solution: Therapeutic massages, injections or surgical clean grinding of the shoulder roof creating more space.
  4. Osteoarthritis (joint wear) Years of intensive exercise with heavy weights can cause your joints to wear out faster. This can eventually cause a stiff and painful shoulder joint. Solution: Osteoarthritis is also referred to as a chronic disease that, according to doctors, cannot be cured. However, glucosamine and painkillers can be recommended to prevent or reduce the symptoms of wear and tear.

Of course, preventing annoying shoulder injuries is better than curing them.

Useful tips to prevent shoulder injuries:

  • Glucosamine as a supplement (a.o. responsible for the production of joint lubrication)
  • Optimal circulation through stretching exercises
  • Training warm up start with light weights
  • Rotator cuff exercises (prevents injuries and relaxes the muscles)
  • Sufficient rest days (prevents overtraining)
  • Avoid overloading 'push exercises' (chest, shoulders, triceps)
  • Pay attention to the right technique and execution (shoulder exercises for your best sitting out)
  • Keep varying in exercises (this way you get stronger and keep stimulating your muscles to grow)

As already said, you can divide the shoulder muscle into roughly three parts. Because we don't want an area to be left behind unnecessarily, it's important that we give all three parts of the shoulder muscle the maximum attention in the gym.

Front Shoulder Exercises (Deltoid Anterior) 

The front part of the shoulders (red part, see illustration) is often used when working intensively on the pectoral muscles. Think of decline or incline benchpress. Therefore, on a 'breast day' it is not necessarily necessary to train the front part of the shoulders. It is also this part that develops the fastest when it comes to muscle mass.

Shoulder Exercise #1: Military Press

An effective exercise to train the front of the shoulders is the military press. You work with a long barbell, which you hold in the starting position on your chest, with the palms of your hands towards you. Then you press the barbell in front of the face with the palms facing upwards. The exercise can be performed either sitting down or standing up. Dumbbells can also be used instead of a barbell. This exercise that is very similar to this is the push press. With the dumbbell push press you can use heavier weights and thus train optimally. The difference with the military press, is that you perform the push press standing up. You get some extra support from your hips by making a quarter squat. It is a compound exercise in which, in addition to the shoulder muscles, the quadriceps and hamstrings are also trained.

Shoulder Exercise #2: Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The shoulder exercise dumbbell lateral raise not only provides strong shoulder muscles but at the same time helps you to have a well-developed V-back. Choose a pair of dumbbell weights that you can lift and stand with a straight torso and the dumbbells on the side of your body. Have your palms pointing towards your body. While keeping your torso straight, lift the dumbbells up as if pouring water into a glass. Your arms continue to rise until they are parallel to the floor. Exhale calmly and then bring the dumbbells down in a controlled way. Repeat this process until you are up to the number of repetitions of your fitness routine.

Shoulder Exercise #3: Cable Front Raise

Not only with barbells or dumbbells you can train the shoulder muscles in the gym, also with cables. For this, the cable front raise is an excellent exercise. This insulation exercise focuses on the front shoulder muscles, so you have to be careful when doing this exercise. You perform the cable front raise with your feet at shoulder width and with slightly bent knees. You grasp the handle of the cable and then pull it forward in a controlled way. In this exercise, make sure that your back remains straight and tight and that your shoulders remain pressed back. If you have the cable in a horizontal position (the end position), hold it for a moment and then bring it back to the starting position in a controlled way.

Side Shoulders Exercises (Deltoideus Lateralis) 

The side of the shoulders (green part, see illustration) is the middle part where the focus is often placed because it plays an aesthetic role in beautiful and broad shoulders. The consistent training of the next two exercises will ensure that your shoulders will no longer go unnoticed.

Shoulder Exercise #4: Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The dumbbell shoulder press is a good exercise to train the middle of your shoulder muscles. You need a fitness bench with a straight handrail for this. Sit with your back against the backrest and take a dumbbell in both hands. The weight is held wide next to you, at the height of your shoulders. The palms of your hands point forward. Then push the arms vertically upwards. Breathe in while doing this exercise. Slowly lower the dumbbells until you are back in the starting position. When performing the dumbbell shoulder press, make sure that your back is tightened and straight.

Shoulder Exercise #5: Behind Neck Press

The neckpress resembles the military press and can be performed either sitting or standing. You may perform this exercise sitting down for safety reasons and try to be as accurate as possible. Take a barbell above your head and put it slowly in the back of your neck. Then make a controlled movement in which the elbows go backwards as much as possible and the barbell eventually touches the top of your back.

Rear Shoulder Exercises (Deltoideus Posterior)

The back shoulders (blue part, see illustration) is the part that is most neglected by many beginning strength athletes because the progression is not immediately visible at first sight. Where the front shoulder head (consciously or unconsciously) often gets too much attention, the rear shoulder head is often forgotten. You can prevent this by taking this muscle group with you when you train your back muscles. The rear lateral is a good exercise for this. 

Another exercise you can do to train the rear part of your shoulders is the reverse fly.

Shoulder Exercise #6: Reverse Fly

You execute the reverse fly correctly by lying with your chest on a sloping bench against the slope of the bench. In each hand you take a dumbbell, with the palms facing each other. Then stretch the arms and keep the elbows slightly bent. The dumbbells should be raised until they are parallel to the floor. 

Below you can see our shoulders schedule to get your shoulders right. You can add this schedule or use it as a replacement for your current shoulder exercises. Make sure you keep this schedule for at least eight weeks to see maximum progress in strength and muscle growth.

| Exercise | Sets | Repetitions | | -------- | ---- | ----------- | | Military Press | 3 | 8 | | Dumbbell Lateral Raise | 3 | 8 | | Cable Front Raise | 3 | 10 | | Dumbbell Shoulder Press | 3 | 8 | | Neck Press | 3 | 10 | | Reverse Fly | 3 | 12 |

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