1. Start with an overhead press.
The time-tested approach is to start training the target group with a multi-joint movement while the tanks are still full of fuel. Also known as compound exercises , multi-joint movements involve a large amount of muscle mass because two or more joints work at the same time. The overhead press is the most famous multi-joint exercise for the shoulder girdle, involving all three deltoid heads, as well as triceps and other accessory muscles.
What matters is not only the correct choice of exercise, but also a competent approach to the choice of working weight. You should get to muscle failure in 6-8 reps. This is the low end of the muscle hypertrophy range, with the high end at 12 repetitions.
2. Perform Seated and Standing Press
Although you perform the same movement while sitting and standing, there is a significant difference between these exercises. While standing, you can create extra effort from your knees and hips. This option, known as the military bench press , usually allows you to lift more weight or do more reps than the seated bench press.
The seated press is considered preferable in terms of isolating the target muscles, as it is much more difficult to use the impulse from the lower body. As a consequence, you have to sacrifice a little weight, reps, or both.
A well-planned shoulder workout has room for every variation of the overhead press. Don’t fall in love with one exercise, you want the benefits of each.
3. First, free weight, then – exercise equipment
The overhead press of a barbell or dumbbell is more difficult than a programmed press in a machine. It increases the activity of the stabilizer muscles to the detriment (albeit minor) of working weight, the number of repetitions, or both at the same time. But there is an important difference. At the beginning of the workout, before fatigue builds up, you need an increased load. In this regard, doing a free weight overhead press is the best way to start a workout. Save the exercises in the simulators for later, when fatigue will make it difficult to balance the apparatus over your head, and at the end of the session you will be able to focus all your efforts on lifting the working weight, and not on stabilizing it.
4. Be careful when pressing because of a very heavy head weight.
It is tempting to train the deltoids at their maximum working weight and do sets with low repetitions, like on bench press or squat days . However, when applied to the overhead press, this strategy may be wrong. At the lowest point, when the bar is behind the head, the muscles of the shoulder girdle are in their weakest anatomical position, and heavy weight significantly increases the risk of stretching. This is stated by amater bodybuilder and sports medicine doctor Guillermo Escalante, who is also a professor of kinesiology at the University of California, San Bernandino.
When working with very heavy weights, he recommends using the chest press. When working at medium weights, Escalante gives the green light to the overhead press.
5. Upright row: another multi-joint movement
Multi-joint shoulder exercises don’t end with overhead presses; vertical thrust is another representative of this category. As long as you use a not too wide grip, the upper arm is positioned along the torso, making the vertical row a great deltoid exercise. As in the case with the extension of the arms to the sides, there is a slight reduction of the shoulders during the upward movement, thanks to which the trapezius muscles also receive their portion of the load. Upright rows can be performed after the overhead press or in the final phase of the workout for final muscle burnout.
6. Perform Isolation Exercises After Heavy Pressing Movements
Single-joint exercises turn off accessory muscle groups so you can focus on each head of the deltoid muscle. To aim at one head, you have to act in a certain plane in which the front, middle or rear deltas work most intensively. In this case, you should slightly bend your arms at the elbow joints. The angle of flexion cannot be changed during movement – the elbows must be fixed in one position throughout the entire approach.
For single-joint exercises, move towards the upper end of the rep range for muscle hypertrophy, choosing a weight that you can finish with at least 8, preferably 10-12, reps in each set. This is not an exercise in which you should lift very heavy weights, as this puts a lot of stress on your elbow joints. With single-joint movements, you carefully work out each bundle of the deltoid muscle, training to complete exhaustion in the name of powerful muscle pumping .
7. Front lifts for the front head
Raising your extended arm in front of your body, you aim at the front deltoid head. You can perform the movement while sitting or standing, with one hand or two hands at the same time. You can also use a variety of equipment, including dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, or cable machines. The front delts are also involved in multi-joint overhead presses (and in the pectoral bench press, especially on an incline bench). The single-joint movement should be performed after compound exercises.
8. Raising arms to the sides for the middle head
A single-joint movement in which you raise your straight arms to the sides targets the middle bundle of the deltoid muscles. Note that I am not using the terms lateral or medial deltas – two non-existent muscles that are often confused with the middle deltas. The movement is performed in the lateral (to the sides) plane, and therefore the exercise is often called lateral arm raises. Of course, this is all semantics, but it helps to make sure that you have a good understanding of what is at stake.
Like the front lifts, the lateral raises can be done while sitting or standing, with one hand or with both hands at the same time. Usually, the exercise is done with dumbbells, resistance bands, or in a cable machine, although I’ve seen bodybuilders try to lift the bar to the side with one hand. Let’s face it, not a very common version of this exercise.
In the upper part of the trajectory, the shoulders are on the sides of the body, which in many respects repeats their position in the lower phase of the press from behind the head. Therefore, both exercises are aimed mainly at the middle heads of the deltoid muscles.