They’re two of the most complex and hard-working joints in your body, but how much time do you spend on your shoulders outside of making them look bigger? To maximise your strength and size gains, you need shoulders that are functional and stable, because with stability comes greater range of motion, more strength, it’s a cycle.
Here are three great shoulder exercises to help improve your strength, stability and range of motion.
Barbell Strict Press
You can do this one seated or standing, but the key is to isolate your shoulders and eliminate any help from your legs. Strict press is one of the best ways of building raw strength through your shoulders and a completely objective way of measuring where you’re at in terms of strength.
How to perform a strict press
- Start with the barbell across the front of your shoulders in a front rack position
- Brace butt, back and core and drive using only your shoulders
- Do not lean back or arch your back, stay tight
- As soon as you’re able, shoot your head through your shoulders to keep the weight centred
- Work up to a heavy single, then do 5 sets of 4 reps at 80%
(Variation: If using dumbbells, lower the weight, you’ll be less stable.)
One of the best exercises for building strength, speed and coordination, cleans involve movement of your entire shoulder and trap region.
How to perform a power clean (hang version)
- Hold the barbell at waist height (hands shoulder-width)
- Dip with your legs and as you stand, aggressively shrug your shoulders
- Bend your elbows as the bar comes up
- Rotate your elbows underneath the bar as quickly as possible, catching in a front rack
- Find a weight that’s heavy enough so that you don’t simply bicep curl the bar, then work technique
We’re so used to getting a weight overhead, only to bring it immediately back down. You’ll build strength that way, but not so much stability. Static holds, either with weight, or in the variation mentioned, will help to bulletproof your shoulders.
How to perform static holds
- Find a reasonably heavy weight (something that’ll challenge you after 20-30 seconds)
- Barbell or dumbbell, press overhead and get full lock-out
- Engage your shoulders, push them up towards your ears
- Hold for 30 seconds, rest, repeat
(Variation: Kick up into a handstand against a wall, lock out, pushing your shoulders into your ears, and hold as before.)
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