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Ultimate Shoulder Workout

Ultimate Shoulder Workout For Bodybuilding. A complete and athletic body is absolutely not complete without broad shoulder muscles. When training the shoulder muscles, it is important to take into account the fact that the shoulders exercise consists of three different heads.

Each head of the shoulder muscle requires an individual approach requiring specific shoulder exercises. Below you will find an overview of the most effective exercises. We also treat the anatomy of the shoulder and tell you what the best combination of exercises is for complete training -  Ultimate Shoulder Workout.

  1. military press
  2. shoulder press
  3. Lateral raises
  4. face pulls

Military press

Shoulder Workout. The military press is a must-do exercise for both strength training and bodybuilding, but are you sure you’re doing the exercise right?

To get the most out of this fitness exercise, we’ll deconstruct the entire exercise and describe each step. In addition, we give a number of useful tips that ensure that you do not acquire bad habits so that you can perform the military press effectively and safely. Shoulder Workout

The military press is an exercise that has lost some popularity, we don’t understand why this is. Similar press exercises, such as the bench press or dumbbell chest press are often preferred. This may partly be due to the fact that the military press is simply a very difficult exercise to perform. Shoulder Workout

Now, thankfully, you’re not someone who is afraid of the military press and ignores it, otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.

military shoulder press

Which muscles do you train with the military press?

Ultimate Shoulder Workout. A compound exercise like the military press gives you a lot of benefits. In addition to increasing strength, you also train your chest, shoulders, upper back, and triceps, all while putting a lot of strain on your core by balancing the weight overhead.

The exercise gives you all the benefits of strength training and bodybuilding for almost all muscles in your upper body and core.

For these reasons, the military press should have an important place in any training plan for anyone serious about strength training and bodybuilding- Shoulder Workout For Bodybuilding

Military press or overhead press?

The military press or overhead press, what exactly is the difference? Or are these just the exact same exercises?

In fact, it’s the same exercise, but if we look at it very officially, there are minor differences. In the military press, your feet should be a little closer together.

Shoulder Workout - The name of the exercise comes from the American army, where the military press was the standard for various training sessions for a long time. In practice, the same exercise is almost always meant by the two different names. We simply call it the military press in this case.

Different variations

There are several variations of the military press. The most well-known variations can be divided into the standing and seated variant of the fitness exercise. These are also called the standing military press and seated military press.

The standing and seated military press are normally performed with a barbell. The variant with dumbbells is usually called the shoulder press.

The shoulder press can also be performed standing and sitting and can therefore also be divided into the seated shoulder press and standing shoulder press - Shoulder Workout

Military Press: Guide to Technique and Execution

  1. To get the most out of the exercise, it is recommended to perform the exercise in a squat rack. This way you don’t have to move the weight from the ground up first, which will only cost extra energy. Start the exercise with the barbell at chest level - shoulder exercises
  2. Grab the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and your palms pointing toward the floor.
  3. Position yourself under the bar with a slight bend in your legs. With the barbell resting on your chest, extend your legs, lifting the weight off the rack. Take one step back with both feet so that there is enough space between you and the squat rack. Place your feet straight on the floor about the same width as your shoulders-Shoulder Workout For Bodybuilding.
  4. Constantly tighten your core and glutes as you rest the weight on the top of your chest. By doing this, you protect the lower back and reduce the risk of nasty injuries.
  5. Make sure your elbows are constantly pointing forward and avoid pointing them out. By doing this, the muscle fibers in the shoulder muscles are loaded as much as possible.
  6. Now that you have a strong and stable base, you are ready to push the weight. Inhale deeply, contract your core and glutes and press the barbell straight up as you exhale. When your arms are almost fully extended, push your head forward so that your biceps are directly next to your ears.
  7. While lowering the weight in a controlled manner, move your head back slightly so that the barbell doesn’t hit your head. Keep your core and glutes engaged as you slowly lower the weight until the barbell is level with your chin.
  8. Repeat this movement until the desired number of reps of the set is reached. Then take another step forward and carefully place the barbell back into the squat rack - shoulder exercises

Tips for a good performance

We have gone through the shoulder exercises step by step and you now know how to perform the military press with perfect form. Ultimate Shoulder Workout

Now we know that it can be difficult to be constantly aware of all these steps while you are doing the exercise. For this reason, we have listed a few more tips that will help you maintain the correct form and execution.

  • Your breathing is very important in the military press. By inhaling deeply, you automatically stabilize your core and shoulder blades. Exhale as you push the weight up and inhale as you lower the weight in a controlled manner.
  • Place your grip on the barbell just outside shoulder width, no wider than that. When you grip the barbell too wide, it becomes more difficult to generate power upwards.
  • Make sure that your elbow is positioned in a straight line under your wrist and thus the barbell. By doing this, the pressure will be mainly on the elbow and not on the wrist.
  • Press the weight up in a straight line above your head. By moving your head forwards and backward at the right moments, it is possible to press the weight straight up - Ultimate Shoulder Workout.

Most common mistakes

You now know what to do, but it is also important to know what not to do. We often see the following errors. Be aware of this and avoid making them too.

1. Going too heavy (egolifting)

The military press is a very difficult and technical fitness exercise. Of course, with a good amount of weight right over your head, there isn’t much room for error.

It’s important to leave your ego at home when you try your hand at the military press.

Make sure you can always perform the shoulder exercises in a controlled manner with good posture. When you notice that this is no longer possible, reduce the weight.

2. Not tightening the abdominal muscles

When you press the barbell up, don’t forget to tighten your abs. Doing this will prevent your lower back from being overloaded. Not only is it safer, but it’s also essential if you want to effectively push the weight upwards.

3. Neglecting the rear delt

The military press, like many other press exercises, focuses on the front and side delts. The third head of the shoulder is at the back, this is the rear delt.

It is important to compensate for all these press exercises with direct exercises that focus on rear delts, with exercises such as the face pull. This prevents shoulders from turning inward because the heads in the shoulder are not trained equally.

Precautions and Safety Precautions - Ultimate Shoulder Workout

A compound exercise like the military press does not come without risks. To ensure that you can perform the exercise safely and eliminate the risk of injury, we have collected the most important safety measures.

Don’t bend your lower back

Bending your lower back can happen without you realizing it. This usually happens when the weight is actually too heavy for the shoulders. Because there is a bend in the lower back, it is possible to lean more back. This changes the exercise from a shoulder exercise to a chest exercise. Wearing a power lift belt can be very helpful in preventing lower back flexion and help tighten your abs.

Good warm-up

A good warm-up is always important with any exercise, but especially with the military press.

By doing stretching exercises beforehand, you temporarily increase the mobility in your shoulders. This helps to perform the exercise correctly but also reduces the chance of injuries or other aches.

Build up to a heavier weight

It’s actually part of the warm-up, building up to a heavier weight. As with all compound exercises, it is important to increase the weight in steps. This prevents you from being suddenly surprised by the weight and losing control.

Shoulder press (dumbbell)-Shoulder Workout For Bodybuilding

The dumbbell shoulder press is an exercise that focuses on increasing strength and muscle growth in the muscles of the shoulder. The exercise can be performed sitting or standing, both variations have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Either way, the shoulder press is an indispensable exercise for anyone who is serious about their training. We are going to tell you why this is the case and how you can use the dumbbell shoulder press in the most effective way to work towards those big shoulders as quickly as possible!

dumbbell shoulder press


The dumbbell shoulder press is a favorite for many when it comes to shoulder training and we understand why. Shoulder presses come in all shapes and sizes. For example, the exercise can be performed with a barbell or machine, but using dumbbells offers a number of unique advantages.

By using dumbbells, both shoulders will have to do the same work and one side will not be able to compensate for the other. This way you will quickly notice if there are inequalities in strength between your right and left shoulder. By doing shoulder exercises such as the dumbbell shoulder press, you will reduce these inequalities in the long run.

Which muscles do you train with the shoulder press?

The shoulder press mainly focuses on all three heads of the shoulder: the anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid, and posterior deltoid. The shoulder is not the only muscle group that is put to work when doing the shoulder press. Multiple muscle groups are highly activated and stimulated during the exercise. The muscles you train when doing the shoulder press:

  • Shoulders (anterior, lateral, and posterior)
  • Triceps
  • trapezius
  • top chest

Different variations

There are many different variations of the shoulder press. We will go through the variations that we believe are the most effective with you. We therefore definitely recommend experimenting with these variations. 

Creating enough variety in your practice is not only good for speeding up your progression, it also keeps your workouts fun and exciting - Ultimate Shoulder Workout

Seated dumbbell press vs. standing dumbbell press

Do the dumbbell press standing or sitting? You can call it a variation of the exercise, or just a completely different exercise. The variants are completely different and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

The main benefit of the standing dumbbell press is the entire lower body activation required during the exercise. This is of course very useful when training with the focus on the whole body.

The advantage of the seated dumbbell press is also the disadvantage of the standing dumbbell press. By squeezing into a bench, you maintain a greater focus on shifting the weight from the shoulders. Because your lower body plays a less important role during the exercise, you can probably also use a heavier weight.

Arnold press

The Arnold Press, named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a variant where the focus is shifted even more to the anterior deltoid (front head). The exercise is often used for bodybuilding purposes with a relatively lower weight and a higher number of repetitions.

If you want to better isolate the anterior delt, the Arnold Press is a very effective exercise for doing this. The Arnold Press can also be performed standing or sitting.

Execution of the shoulder press

Now you know which alternatives there are, but the basis is the seated dumbbell shoulder press. If you are new to any form of shoulder pressing, start with this variant. When you feel that you have sufficiently mastered the movement and technique, you can experiment with other variants such as the military press.

  1. Raise the backrest of the bench straight up and sit straight up on the bench with the dumbbells resting on your thighs.
  2. Move the dumbbells from your thighs next to your head in one smooth motion. Push your legs up one at a time to launch the dumbbells off your legs with momentum.
  3. Keep the dumbbells level with the bottom of the dumbbell aligned with your chin.
  4. Turn your elbows in slightly at an angle of about 30 to 45 degrees. From this starting position, push the weight up and stop just before your arms are fully extended.
  5. Then lower the weight in a controlled manner until the dumbbells are back in the same position as in the starting position.
  6. Repeat the movement until the desired number of reps of the set is achieved.

Tips for a good performance

  • A slight bend in your lower back is fine, but don’t go too far. It should not be that the shoulder press turns into a chest press. Keep your back in a straight position.
  • Just don’t fully extend your arms when you push the dumbbells up. Stopping just before the arms are fully extended keeps the tension on your shoulders and prevents the tension from being transferred to your joints.
  • Do not move during the exercise and avoid changing your position. If you notice that all kinds of movements are needed from your body to get the weight up, lower the weight.

Avoid these mistakes

Now you know how to perform the dumbbell press in a safe and effective way based on the explanation and some useful tips. In addition, it is very important that you are aware of a number of common mistakes so that you can always avoid them.

1. Insufficient heating

Many people have limited shoulder mobility. Do you spend a large part of your day sitting at a desk? Then there is a good chance that you have limited mobility in the shoulders to some extent.

Because you sit in a chair for a large part of the day, your shoulders automatically hang forward. When doing a shoulder press, your shoulders do just the opposite. So if you want to perform the shoulder press effectively, warming up the shoulders is very important.

2. Make Elbows Point Out

Probably the most common mistake when doing the shoulder press. You may feel stronger if you point your elbows out. It’s just not a healthy and safe position for your shoulder joints. By letting your shoulders come in at an angle of about 30 to 45 degrees, you keep the shoulders in a stable and safe position.

3. Bending the lower back

We’ve already mentioned it, but because it’s so important, we’ll repeat it again. It is very attractive to let yourself sink into the sofa, creating a bend in your lower back. In this position, you are most likely a lot stronger, because this ensures that muscles in the chest can assist with doing the shoulder press.

Besides the fact that this position is simply not safe for your lower back and can cause injury, you don’t want to take the strain off your shoulders. The shoulder press is an exercise that mainly focuses on stimulating the muscle fibers in the anterior and side deltoid. The greater the bend in your lower back, the more tension is transferred from the shoulder to the chest.

Lateral shoulder workout

The lateral raise seems so easy, but it is an exercise that is performed incorrectly so often. The focus when doing the lateral raise is on the side of the shoulder (lateral deltoid). This is generally more difficult to isolate than the anterior shoulder head, which often suffers enough.

All “press” exercises, such as the bench press, military press, and shoulder press, mainly load the anterior deltoid (anterior shoulder head). Also with all forms of chest presses, the muscle fibers in the anterior delt are strongly stimulated. The lateral and posterior deltoids generally receive a lot less attention from most weightlifters and bodybuilders. As a result, we see that the anterior delt is often much more developed in proportion.

Why is the lateral raise so important?

This question is quite easy to answer. The shoulder exercise is so important because there are virtually no other fitness exercises that directly stimulate the lateral deltoid. In addition to the lateral raise, there are exercises such as the upright row where the side deltoids are stimulated somewhat directly, but not like the lateral raise.

From this, we can conclude that an exercise such as the lateral raise is indispensable if you want to train the shoulders in their entirety. In addition to giving you the most beautiful physique optically, it is also extremely important for the health of your shoulders.

Variations of the lateral raise

The lateral raise itself is an exercise that can be performed in several ways. This way you can do the exercise while standing upright or hanging at an angle. The exercise can be performed with both arms at the same time or with one arm at a time.

As far as we are concerned, there are actually two real variations of the lateral raise that we would recommend. This is the dumbbell lateral raise (FLR) and the cable lateral raise (CLR).

Research by Medicina Sportiva shows that these two variants provide the most activation in the lateral deltoid. In third and fourth place we see the reverse peck deck fly and the seated row. However, as you can see in the diagram, these exercises are a lot less effective than the lateral raise variations themselves.

Execution and technique

Okay, now you know just like us how important the lateral raise is for healthy and complete shoulders. Performing the exercise correctly and effectively is another story. The lateral raise looks like a fairly simple move at first glance, but looks can be deceiving.

Isolate the lateral deltoid, don’t go too heavy!

The lateral deltoid is a small muscle and you, therefore, want to isolate it as well as possible so that the muscle fibers in the muscle can be stimulated.

A good way to do this is to use a lightweight, where only the lateral deltoid is put to work when moving the weight. If you go too heavy, larger muscles in the back such as the rhomboids and trapezius will (partially) take over.

Don’t make it a shrug

Many people tend to shrug their shoulders up at the end of the rep when the arms are in the highest position. By doing this, the trapezius takes over a large part of the load.

It is of course not possible to completely sideline muscles in your upper back such as the traps while doing the lateral raise. It is possible to minimize the role of these muscles by keeping your shoulders down as much as possible.

lateral shoulder workout

Implementation in 6 clear steps

To give you a good overview of how you can best do the dumbbell lateral raise, we have described the execution of the exercise in a number of clear steps.

  • Take two relatively light dumbbells in your hands and place them next to your body. Hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  • Maintain minimal bending in your elbow and lean your torso forward slightly. At this point, you are in the starting position of the exercise.
  • Bring the arms out and then up while keeping the slight bend in your elbows. Go as high as your mobility allows. If you notice that you are making a ‘shrug’ movement with your shoulders, then you are probably going a little too high.
  • Then lower the weight back in a controlled manner. Avoid using momentum and don’t let the weight bounce, but maintain full control over the weight.
  • Stop just before you reach the starting position. By stopping just before this, you prevent the tension from being completely removed from the lateral deltoid and you prevent a moment of rest from being created.
  • Repeat the movement until the desired number of reps of the set is achieved.

Tips for the lateral raise

  • Use as little momentum as possible during the lateral raise. Now a little bit of momentum can be effective when at the end of your set you want to do a few extra reps that you wouldn’t have squeezed out without momentum. This way you can make smart use of momentum to increase the intensity of the exercise.
  • Isolating the lateral deltoid can be very difficult. Try to imagine yourself pushing the dumbbells out. Keep pushing them out until you can’t anymore, then you can push them up a little more.
  • Keep dumbbells next to your body and don’t let the exercise turn into the front raise. This ensures that the tension remains on the lateral deltoid as much as possible and is not transferred to the anterior deltoid.

How much training volume do you need?

A question we understand all too well. How many sets and repetitions do you actually need to do to optimally train a small muscle such as the lateral deltoid?

MV (Minimum Volume)

The MV stands for the minimum training volume that you want to perform for a certain muscle group to maintain muscle mass and strength within this muscle group. Now it is difficult for some muscles to determine how much volume they actually get because many compound exercises indirectly load all kinds of different muscles.

In the case of the lateral deltoid, this is a lot easier. As we know, this muscle is not loaded enough in any other exercise to be considered as direct training volume for the lateral deltoid.

The MV for the lateral deltoid is about 6 sets per week for the advanced weightlifter. This applies to exercises with a direct focus on the lateral delt such as the lateral raise.

MEV (Minimum Effective Volume)

The MEV stands for minimal effective volume. This indicates the minimum training volume for a particular muscle group to achieve muscle growth.

Most advanced weightlifters need a minimum of about 8 sets per week to grow the lateral deltoid.

MRV (Maximum Recoverable Volume)

The MRV stands for the maximum recoverable volume. This says something about the maximum number of sets that can be performed in a week without overtraining the muscle. Overtraining a muscle has a proven negative effect on muscle growth and the increase in strength.

Because the lateral delts have to do little to no work in almost all other fitness exercises out there, they have a higher MRV than most muscle groups. With an MRV of 25 sets per week, you don’t have to worry about overtraining the lateral delts.

Face pulls

Broad and rounded shoulders, who wouldn’t want that? Avid weightlifters often pay enough attention to the anterior and lateral shoulder heads, but that often does not apply to the posterior deltoid (back shoulder head).

It is a smaller muscle located at the back of the deltoid. A muscle that is often forgotten because you don’t see it directly. The face pull is one of the most effective exercises for this muscle and we’ll tell you why!

Most pressing exercises, such as the bench press, military press, and incline dumbbell press, primarily load the anterior deltoid (anterior shoulder head). Also in all forms of chest presses, the muscle fibers in the anterior deltoids and partly in the lateral deltoids are strongly stimulated. The posterior deltoids, also called the rear delts, on the other hand, generally get a lot less love.

If you want to have fully developed shoulders and keep your rotator cuffs healthy, the face pull is an essential exercise that you should definitely give a chance.

The advantages

We just mentioned that the face pull is extremely effective when it comes to muscle activation of the posterior deltoid and keeping the rotator cuffs healthy. In addition to the posterior deltoids, the trapezius and other muscles in the upper back are put to work.

The face pull also has many advantages for your posture. If you do too many exercises for the chest and the front of your shoulders, you should compensate with the same amount of work and intensity for the muscles in the back. If you don’t do this, your shoulders will move forward more and more, which can cause nasty injuries.

The face pull is therefore a very useful shoulder exercise for overall shoulder health and good posture.

How do you perform the face pull?

We now know why the face pull is such an important exercise. Now it is still important to perform the face pull in the correct way. By constantly adhering to these six simple steps, you too can reap all the benefits of the face pull.

  • The face pull is best performed with the rope accessory hanging from a cable station.
  • Place the pulley at the same height as your shoulders, not above your head or at the level of your chest.
  • Grab the rope with an underhand grip and take two steps back so that there is constant tension on the rope. Keep your arms fully extended, this is your starting position.
  • Pull the center of the rope toward your face with your elbows pointing out. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the rope toward you. The rope should almost touch your face, at the level of your forehead.
  • During this move, external rotation takes place in the shoulders, but your forearms remain constantly parallel to the floor.
  • Repeat the movement until the desired number of reps of the set is achieved.

Tips for a perfect shape

  • External rotation of the shoulders is important in the face pull. Make sure you pull the rope back with your hands and don’t suffer from your elbows. This way you avoid turning the exercise into a row where internal rotation of the shoulder occurs.
  • The face pull is mainly effective in keeping the rotator cuffs healthy. Therefore, do not go too heavy with the exercise. This can prevent full external rotation in the shoulder and prevent you from getting all the health benefits from the exercise.
  • The face pull is a very useful exercise for isolating the posterior deltoid. Remember that the posterior delt is one of the smallest muscles in your body. Do you want to isolate the muscle as well as possible? Keep the weight relatively light. When you go overweight, bigger muscles will take over some of the work.
  • Remember that the exercise is a “face” pull. So don’t make it a chest pull or overhead pull. Bring the rope to your face, between your forehead and nose.

Foot position

We can be brief about this. Ideally, you place your feet straight next to each other at the width of your shoulders. This way you are in the most athletic position and you are sure that your body is completely straight.

By adopting this position, there is a limit to the weight you can use for the face pull. Do you find yourself being pulled forward? Then this is a good indicator that you are using a weight that is too heavy.

If you have poor balance, you can choose to adopt a stance with one leg forward.


Your grip is the most important factor when performing the face pull!

The face pull is very often performed with an overhand grip. This creates internal shoulder rotation, which is harmful to the health of your shoulders in the long term.

When using an underhand grip (palms facing each other) you immediately create the possibility to apply external rotation in the rotator cuffs.

How can I do face pulls at home?

In the example of the net, we discussed how best to perform the face pull using a cable station. Don’t have access to this or do you just want to do the face pull at home? No problem! The face pull is a fitness exercise that you can also do at home. Shoulder Workout For Bodybuilding

If you want to perform the face pull at home, you will need a resistance band or other type of fitness band that makes this possible. Where the resistance of a cable machine is constantly gradual, the resistance of a resistance band increases the further you stretch the band. This can make performing the exercise with a full range of motion a lot more difficult.

By attaching the resistance band at the same height as your face, you can perform the exercise in exactly the same way. By using resistance bands with different resistances you can make the exercise lighter or heavier. 

Do you only have one resistance band? By taking a step forward or back, you can change the resistance and thus the intensity of the exercise - Shoulder Workout For Bodybuilding

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