Looking for a Killer Shoulder Program?

I've been working a lot this year, thanks to the incomparable Marcia Robles, on shoulders. Shoulders are like the Regina George of joints: they're fabulous but they're evil. Meaning they are (or should be) one of our most mobile joints, but due to modern living and desk culture many folks suffer from lack of proper shoulder mobility/stability, impingement and other dysfunctions which make it hard or impossible to strength train. But with the proper warm up and mobility drills, and the clearance of your physical therapist if you have one, this program is a great one for getting those striations popping and to stimulate hypertrophy (muscle growth).

When building your shoulder program, use the outline below as a guide for movement selection. Scale this to your body and baseline. I've been working shoulders for a while, so I'm able to knock this out in about an hour. If you are new or coming back after PT, it may be too much to go for in one workout and you may wish to break the big lifts into multiple days. Whether you do this in one workout, or break it down over a few days as part of a total body workout approach, these movements will give you a nice variety of modalities (bodyweight, barbell, dumbbells, cable), planes of motion and representation of all the deltoid heads, upper pecs and other muscles that surround the shoulder.

This is not an exhaustive list so there are plenty of great exercises/variations not included. Work this program for 6-8 weeks and then revisit your movement selection, rep/set scheme, load and make some changes to avoid plateaus. If you are trying to bulk up one area more than another (like your rear deltoids) you may want to make some substitutions/additions (like adding in some drop sets on the pec dec as a finisher or using BFR bands). Make sure you are also working a back strengthening program for balance with plenty of horizontal pulls and external rotation.

Curious what to eat before/after? You may want to consider adding a creatine and BCAA supplement to your diet as well. 

Warm Up

Shoulder Mobility Drills: Foam Roll, Pec Release and Overheads
Banded Push Ups 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps

Superset: 3 sets of 12 reps

Rest ~1m between exercises as you circuit through and pick a weight that is hard, but manageable so you can completed all the reps and sets. 

Lateral Cable Raises
Dumbbell Upright Rows
Dumbbell Shrugs to Hammer Curl to Overhead Press

Big Lifts: 4 working sets of 8-10 reps

These are your big lifts. I selected a push press below but you could also stick with a strict overhead barbell press (i.e. no bounce). Focus on lowering the barbell with control and tension and any time you press overhead make sure your glutes and core are engaged and don't arch your back. For the Smith Rack press, count 3-5s on the way down and 3-5s on the way up and don't lock out at the top of let go of tension at the bottom. The focus here is on "time under tension" so the muscles are constantly engaged. Ideally pick a weight where you struggle on the last 1-2 reps to deplete the muscles' ATP. Rest between ~2-3m between sets. 

Push Press or Strict Barbell Press

Incline Bench Press

Smith Rack Tempo/TUT Press

Superset: 3 sets of 8-12 reps 

Rest ~1m between exercises as you circuit through and pick a weight that is hard, but manageable so you can completed all the reps and sets. 

Seated Dumbbell Front Raises
Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Cable Face Pulls