12-Week Shoulder Workout for Mass
Nothing commands respect like a huge set of boulder shoulders. You know… the kind that makes shirts fit funny.
It doesn’t matter how hard you train your chest, arms, calves, or back… If you don’t have a decent set of shoulders, you look funny.
If you stand in front of the mirror and you feel something is missing, chances are your shoulders need some work. Massive shoulders help create the appearance of a smaller waist due to your upper body being larger.
Related - Best Shoulder Workout for Mass
Now that you’re sold on wanting to build bigger shoulders, we need to learn a little bit about how our shoulders work.
Your shoulders are part of a complex ball and socket joint. They are comprised of three major muscles — your lateral deltoid, posterior deltoid, and anterior deltoid.
These three heads of your shoulder need to be trained equally. Many lifters completely overtrain their anterior delts, while completely ignoring your lateral delts.
This is your front delt. Any pressing exercise works these, which can cause an overdevelopment of the anterior deltoid.
Your lateral deltoids are the boulders in the middle of your shoulder. Overhead pressing and lateral raises trains this muscle.
Your posterior delt — or rear delt — is commonly underdeveloped and often ignored.
Improving strength in your rear delt can improve your shoulder mechanics, provide an amazing physique, and creates a well-balanced shoulder.
Shoulder Training Mistakes
Training shoulders can be difficult, especially if you make one of these mistakes.
#1 - Using Bad Exercises
Focusing on machines and isolation exercises is all fine and dandy, but if you want real growth, you need heavy compound lifts.
Building bigger, stronger, rounder delts means you will need to stimulate them more. Our bodies are built so that we can’t safely move much weight with an isolation exercise as you can an overhead barbell press.
It’s not uncommon to see a gym noob come in and struggle to overhead press the bar, but one year later he is repping 135.
You aren’t going to see someone add 100 pounds to their front lateral raise.
While there aren’t a lot of scientific studies on which exercises are the best to train your shoulders, one study found front delts respond more to overhead presses over a front lateral raise. They also found side lateral raises to activate the most muscle on the front delts, and the machine reverse fly produced the highest levels of muscle activation for your posterior delts.
While the review only provides anecdotal evidence, it can confirm that we need to stimulate our shoulders with heavy compound lifts and follow them up with isolation work. Performing only isolation work will only get you so far.
#2 - Using High Rep Training
It’s well-known if you want to make a muscle grow; you need to use heavier weights. While high-rep work is great, some studies suggest utilizing heavier weights over a high-rep scheme. This study was conducted by scientists at Lehman College where they took 24 physically active men who have previously resistance-trained.
They split these men into two groups:
#1 - Group one performed three workouts per week that consisted of 21 sets per workout. They performed exercises in the 8 to 12 rep range, using 70 to 80 percent of their one rep max.
#2 - Group two performed three workouts per week also consisting of 21 sets per workout. They performed exercises in the 25 to 35 rep range, using 30 to 50 percent of their one rep max.
What did they find?
Both groups performed the same exercises which include the barbell bench press, barbell overhead press, wide-grip lat pulldown, seated cable rows, barbell back squat, leg press, and machine leg extensions. Both groups were instructed to continue their normal eating habits and maintain a food log.
After eight weeks of training, researchers tested both groups for muscle growth and strength. The scientists found both groups of men gained around the same amount of muscle, but group one gained significantly more strength than group two.
Group two did not improve their one rep max on the bench, but group one increased their bench press one rep max by around 10 pounds. While this doesn’t sound like a lot, this is a lot for an intermediate lifter.
So they gained the same amount of muscle?
Both groups gained around the same amount of muscle, but it is much more likely that group one would gain more than group two if the study lasted longer. That is, there’s a genetic limit for muscle growth.
As we get closer to this genetic limit, it is important to gain more and more strength to build more muscle.
If you want to utilize high-rep sets, you’re going to need to train to muscular failure to the point you can’t perform any more reps safely. This is pretty difficult.
#3 - You Don’t Progressively Overload
If you want bigger and stronger muscles, you’re going to have to force them to grow and get stronger. Progressively overloading your muscles is the only way to get them to grow.
Progressive overload is simply increasing the amount of tension your muscles produce over time. The most effective way to do this is by adding more weight to the bar.
Progressively overloading isn’t trying to balance on a bosu ball or seeing how much sweat you can work up — it’s about making your muscles work harder.
You should strive to add more weight to the bar every time you go into the gym. Buy yourself a couple of 2.5-pound plates and leave them in your gym bag.
Train Shoulders More Effectively
In order to train your shoulder more effectively, you’re going to need to follow a few tips.
- You’ll need to target the front, side, and rear delts.
- You need to perform heavy compound lifts.
- You’ll need to train shoulders at least once per week.
So let’s jump into the details.
Target All Three Heads of the Shoulder
We’ve gone over the composition of your shoulder.
Chances are, if you bench press once or twice per week, your front delts get plenty of love. This is why focusing on adding volume with your side and rear delts is a good start.
Here are a few tactics to use to target all three heads of your shoulder:
Your front delts are trained through bench and incline presses — if you already perform these two or three times per week, that’s enough for your front delt.
You’ll need to include exercises that involve shoulder extension, like a side lateral raise, and a shoulder rotation, like a reverse fly.
Research suggests lifting heavy compound lifts increases muscle activation in all three heads.
Perform Heavy Compound Lifts
Lower-rep heavy lifts build strength, but they also build muscle. As a natural lifter, your long-term goal needs to be increasing your overall body strength.
When you make getting stronger part of your long-term goal, the gains will come.
Beginner lifters can build a significant amount of muscle quickly without gaining much strength (beginner gains), but once they have been lifting for around two years, muscle strength and muscle size become closely correlated.
So once your honeymoon phase of lifting is over, it’s time to get to work. This applies to all muscles — lift heavy compound lifts to build strength and muscle.
Working with weights in the range of 70 to 80 percent of your one rep max is a good start. For four to six rep sets you should aim for 80% of your one rep max, while an eight to 10 rep set should use 70% of your one rep max.
Basically, this is using a weight you can barely finish the set safely. You want to have a couple more reps in the tank.
12-Week Shoulder Workout for Mass
This shoulder routine should be run for a full 12 weeks before jumping to another program. If this routine has yielded great results, don’t be afraid to keep going — if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
- Barbell Bench Press - three sets of four to six reps using 80% of your one rep max.
- Arnold Press - three sets of four to six reps using 80% of your one rep max.
- Side Lateral Raise - three sets of eight to 10 reps using 70% of your one rep max.
- Face Pulls - three sets of eight to 10 reps using 70% of your one rep max.
- Military Press - three sets of four to six reps using 80% of your one rep max.
- Dumbbell Overhead Press - three sets of four to six reps using 80% of your one rep max.
- Reverse Fly - three sets of eight to 10 reps using 70% of your one rep max.
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press - three sets of four to six reps using 80% of your one rep max.