It’s not always easy to sculpt truly impressive boulder shoulders.
Why? Because your shoulders, unlike other bodyparts, can’t always take a beating. You want them to look massive, but other large muscle groups, like chest, back, and legs, your shoulders aren’t actually a massive single muscle.
No, the shoulder is a delicate joint. It’s a joint with a vast range of motion, and it’s a meeting place for a host of tendons and ligaments, any of which can be injured or inflamed easy if your shoulder’s delicate balance is upset, if you overtrain, or if you don’t train smartly. And boy, is it easy to
They’re a delicate joint and a meeting place for a host of tendons and ligaments, all of which can be injured or inflamed easily if you overtrain or don’t train smartly and correctly. Your shoulders also wind up getting plenty of stealth work in your other training. Your large shoulder muscles play a key role in many chest exercises, your rear delts come into play on back exercises, and your shoulders are key stabilizers on many leg exercises. Want more? Your biceps tendon attaches into the labrum, a key piece of cartilage that lends your shoulder major stability.
Why Pairing Shoulders with Back Works
So how do you get your boulder shoulder work on? First off, instead of planning out a major shoulder day, pair it with a different bodypart and treat it like an “accessory” muscle, a muscle you’re going to hit lightly after you’ve attacked a bigger bodypart. This can help prevent you from overtraining your shoulders.
And one of the best pairings for this purpose: Back and shoulders. Here’s why: When you hammer your back with rowing motions, you build key strength in your lats, rhomboids, and other muscles that help retract your shoulder blades. You also insure that those muscles are “awake” and doing their jobs, something that does not always happen after, say, a long day at the office.
One more benefit: You’re already training your shoulders when you work back anyway. All rowing motions train shoulder extension, which basically involves shifting your upper arm behind your torso. One of the main functions of the hard-to-reach rear delts? Yup, shoulder flexion.
Do the exercises in this workout in order. Rest 60-90 seconds between each set. Rest 2 minutes between exercises. Do this workout once or twice a week, resting at least two days in between each session. For best results, train legs the day after this workout, then hit chest and triceps the following day.
Half-Kneeling Archer Row
Fire up your scapular retractors and start to warm up your shoulders with two sets of half-kneeling archer rows with an ultra-light resistance band. Do 12-15 reps per side during each set.
V-Taper Dumbbell Row Series
Now get down to business, and start with this dumbbell row series, which has you mixing standard dumbbell rows with your elbow close to your torso and rows with your elbow flared out. The rows with your elbow tight to your torso will attack your lats and rhomboids. Mixing in the rows with your elbow flared out will place extra stimulus on your rear delts. Do 3 sets of 3-4 clusters of reps per side. Keep rest periods between sets minimal for this exercise; when one arm is working, remember, the other is “resting”.
Incline Dumbbell Half-Iso Countdown Row Series
Now attack your lower lats and traps with this half-iso countdown rows series. You’ll really fire up your scapular retractors here as well as you battle to hold and squeeze in the position with one arm while ripping through reps with the other. Do 3 full sets.
Now that you’ve attacked your back, start to focus in on your shoulders. Do 3 sets of kettlebell halos, aiming to do 12-16 reps each set. This will hit your delts while still forcing you to stay conscious of your back muscles and shoulder blade positioning.
Mixed-Style Incline Shoulder Raise
Finish off your shoulders with 3 sets of mixed-style incline shoulder raises. Aim for 3-4 clusters of reps per set. You’ll hammer the lateral and anterior heads of your delts and get a deep burn, and the bench will help keep your form tight.