Any kind of muscle growing endeavor takes time to accomplish – growth doesn't just happen overnight. Well, it does, in the sense that your muscles build and repair when you rest and recover, but you know exactly what I mean. Growing your muscles is a commitment to fitness, not a shortcut to looking good. When you think of big muscles, the first image that pops in mind is that of big shoulders - delts that demand respect, so that's where most people try to grow in size and strength.
There are plenty of exercises for shoulder hypertrophy out there, but not all of them explain the small details that make the big movement effective. It's important to understand the biomechanics behind the exercise so that you can check your form and perform your exercises with proper technique. Mike Thurston, who is an athlete and an online coach, does a great job of explaining this in a very easy and efficient way in his shoulder exercises video.
Front Delt – Seated Dumbbell Press
If you are someone who's been lifting heavy for a while, you probably already have a developed front delt. That's why you should focus on developing your mid and rear delts. But just in case, this exercise is great to help you develop and shape your front delt.
- Sit on a bench with back support and set your bench angle. The incline will protect your spine and prevent your back from arching too much while keeping the tension on your front delt.
- Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and raise them to shoulder height.
- Rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing forward.
- Push the dumbbells up, but make sure that you don't elevate them too much, otherwise, the tension will move from your front delts to your traps.
- Slowly come back down into your starting position, but don't bring your hands directly onto your shoulders, because that again shifts tension down your forearm and elbow.
Mid Delt - Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise
This exercise is meant to place the tension on your mid delts, so don't over-engage your traps by lifting too heavy. Keep the weight light, so that you can do higher rep ranges. Keep the tension constant by immediately going into your next rep once you reach the bottom of your movement. Also, once you start to fatigue, don't rotate your wrist. Keep it flat so that the tension stays on your mid dealt and doesn't move to your front delt.
- Sit upright at the edge of a bench with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the dumbbells down at your sides and make sure your palms are facing in, about 4 inches away from your body.
- Keep your spine neutral as you slowly raise your dumbbells at shoulder height, or lower if you prefer a shorter range of motion.
- Hold at a top of the movement and then slowly lower the weights back into starting position.
- Immediately move to your next rep.
Mid Delt - Cable Lateral Raise
This exercise is maximizing the tension in the weak point (biceps brachii) of your lateral raise where gravity pulls your raise down. So the point is to maximize the tension of the strength curve.
- Stand in between two low pulleys and grasp one in each hand.
- With slightly bent elbows, raise your arms to your sides until your elbows are at shoulder height.
- Hold for a second at the top of the movement and lower your arms.
Rear Delt - Dumbbell Lying Rear Lateral Raise
You can vary your hand position with this exercise to recruit slightly different muscle fibers. Make sure you push your shoulders down and forward, and your hands as far away from your body as you can. A great tip from Mike with this exercise is to check yourself every now and then, every 5 reps, for example, to check your form and reset if you must. He also suggests filming your performance, since you can't really see your position from the perspective you're performing this exercise in.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lay on your chest on a slightly inclined bench.
- Make sure your palms are facing your torso and keep your arms extended, with elbows slightly bent.
- Raise your arms to the sides until your elbows are at shoulder height and your arms are parallel to the floor.
- Keep the contraction at the top of the movement for a second, and then lower the dumbbells back into your starting position.
Rear Delt - Reverse Machine Fly
Again, Mike has some really good tips for this exercise: start with lighter weights until you are confident that you've mastered the exercise with proper technique and form. Don't bring your hands out in the back too much because that will shift the tension away from your rear delts. And remember to push your shoulders forward and keep your arms out at all times.
- Select a lighter way and adjust your seat height so that the handles are at your shoulder level. Grasp the handles so that your hands are facing inwards.
- Pull your hands out to your side in a semicircular motion, while squeezing your rear delts.
- Make sure you keep your arms slightly bend throughout the movement and only allow the motion to occur at your shoulder joints.
- Hold at the rear of the movement for a second, then slowly return to starting position.
Remember to focus on your mid and rear delts for shoulder hypertrophy. You should perform these exercises with a weight that allows you to do a wider range of sets and reps. Another great tip from Mike is to hit your shoulders twice a week and combine these exercises with other muscle groups. Back and rowing movements will get you a hint of rear delt stimulation, but not enough for hypertrophy. So implement these exercises into your routine for better results.
You can watch Mike Thurston’s video for more reinforcement on the matter of these shoulder exercises and why they work so well for shoulder hypertrophy, especially when you focus on your mid and rear delts. You’ll also get a little bit of visual aid, which is excellent for your understanding of these shoulder exercises.
Implement this into your routine and remember to check yourself every few reps to reset, and you’ll get amazing results!