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This explosive shoulder workout will help you build greater strength and size

June 15, 2018

My shoulders were one of the first muscle groups I began to focus on growing. Looking at all of the fitness and muscle mags in my early years of training, it was the big shoulders that tied beautifully into the chest, arms, and back, and was literally the icing on the cake.

The shoulder joint is one of the most free-range joints on the body, allowing for a great range of motion involving the three deltoid muscles that wrap over the joint like powerful fingers (there’s actually 7 different insertions at the shoulder, mostly at the front, anterior deltoid). I wanted to develop each one of these muscles, showing clear separation and plenty of detail, but I also wanted them to be powerful and to provide a strong foundation and support the growth of the rest of my upper body. This routine focuses on that goal.

explosive shoulder workout by rob riches

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Curl & Press

You’ll find the first exercise that’s shown on the routine below is a seated curl & dumbbell press. I started performing these a few years back after finding them to be a fantastic warm-up movement for the shoulders. Sat upright on a bench, and performing one arm at a time, start by curling a dumbbell up towards your shoulder, and as it nears the top of the rep – drive your elbow forwards as you rotate your wrist 180-degrees inwards so that your grip is pointing forwards (as you would hold a weight during a shoulder press). You’re now at the start position of a dumbbell shoulder press, in which you should keep the momentum going, and continue directly into pressing the dumbbell upwards (not locking out at the elbow), and focus on flexing the delts hard at the top of the movement. Slowly return back to the starting position and repeat with the other arm. You really don’t need much weight for the first few sets, as the movement alone requires a lot of involvement with all three deltoid heads.

Upright Row-To-Press

Take a look at the second exercise below. Look familiar? I’ve found this combination of an upright barbell row, into an overhead shoulder press, to be a powerful exercise for strength and muscle gain. It’s one where your form needs to be good, but can allow for a slight bend at the knees as you clean and jerk the barbell up your torso and flick the wrists at the top, bringing your elbows under the bar and bar resting at the very top of your chest. Continue the motion by  immediately driving your arms upwards (forearms should at this point be vertical to the floor), keeping the elbows angled inwards and remaining under the forearms. This keeps the tension firmly on the shoulder muscles and allows you to really get under some decent weight.

This is big prime muscle mover exercise, so as you feel more comfortable with the movement, progressively increase the poundages so that you’re really having to put everything into those final few repetitions, all the time remaining conscious about the involvement of the shoulders and trying to flex them at the top of each movement. Once you’ve reached your threshold, try simply pressing the barbell overhead for several more reps (without the upright row part), and even enlist the help of a spotter to be close behind you, ready to help assist push out 1-2 additional reps beyond failure.

Mobility Is Key

It’s worth nothing that the shoulder joint is one of the most common areas for people to feel discomfort and even some pain. If you can relate to this, and it’s causing you a real issue in your training (and day-to-day living), then I highly recommend going to see a licensed and highly rated sports massage practitioner, who can really help you sort out such issues before they worsen. I’ve had to do this several times throughout my years of training, and am all the better for doing so.

It was because of such issues that lead me to get a better understanding of shoulder health, and especially mobility and warm up prep. My gym bag now has an assortment of resistant bands, massage balls, and rollers, all of which get used during my warm ups (of any muscle group trained). Even if you may not have any of these (again, I would recommend that you do look at adding some within your usual training gear), by simply committing to 5-10 minutes of shoulder prep before training could make a big difference in your workout, and how you feel after.

As simple and effective shoulder warm up routine might include a few kettlebell or dumbbell rotations (position yourself as if about to perform a dumbbell row, with your legs spread further apart, and one arm holding you steady against a machine or upright bench), and holding a weight in the free arm, allow it to rotate in increasingly bigger circles (like a circular pendulum). Perform 15-20 rotations on each shoulder, followed by some light lateral arm raises and finished with some cross-body shoulder stretches. You can even test how the shoulders are feeling by performing a few push ups.


rob riches shoulder workout

Exercise 1

4 sets of 15-12 reps (perform alternative arms)

Exercise 2

3 sets of 12-10 reps

Exercise 3

2 sets of 15-12 reps

Exercise 4

2 sets of 15-12 reps

Exercise 5

2 sets of 15-12 reps

*(Perform as superset with next exercise)

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