Your shoulders play a very important role in just about every part of your training. You use your shoulders to press, to pull, and to row—even on some lower-body exercises, like squats (the bar sits on your shoulders, after all). So you want your shoulders big, strong, and free from injury.
If you're new to the iron game, it's all too easy to pick up bad habits in the gym. Here are four common mistakes you might see fellow lifters making on shoulder day. Avoid making them and you can maximize your potential.
1. Trying to Go Instantly from Zero to 150 (Pounds)
Yes, a proper warmup can take a few minutes out of your gym time, but it is time well spent. A warmed-up body does a better job of transporting blood to the muscles, preparing the shoulder joints and rotator cuffs for resistance, as well as improving flexibility and range of motion. It also reinforces the mind-to-muscle connection that helps you really feel each rep as you perform it.
Before you start your next shoulder routine, knock out a few quick sets of external and internal rotations. Next, do shoulder stretches such as arm circles, elbow circles, and side wrist pulls. Then perform a warmup set of each exercise in your program. It shouldn't take more than five minutes, and you'll be fully prepared for delt demolition.
2. Sacrificing Technique for Poundage
Two guys are positioned in front of a dumbbell rack doing lateral raises. One guy is using 25s with strict form. The other is using 50s but swinging the weights up and letting them drop. Who is benefitting more from his efforts? If you said the second guy, we now know why you're asking about lack of shoulders development.
A basic rule of lifting is that you should be able to control the weight, not the other way around. Use your mind-to-muscle connection to isolate the area of the shoulder you're training as best you can. You have to go lighter to keep your form and focus, but that's the smart way to improve your shoulder development and strength.
Believe me, I know how good it feels to stroll down to the heavy end of the dumbbell rack and grab a big pair. And yes, tossing another pair of plates on a bar can make you feel like an iron conqueror. But, as the number of pounds go up, so do your chances of getting hurt. For sustainable long-term gains, focus on dominating the weight you're working with before you add more.
3. Doing Presses, Presses—Nothing but Presses
The most popular lifts to train your chest and shoulders are all presses, whether with a barbell, dumbbells, machines, the Smith, or whatever.
But, there are other ways to train delts that don't involve hoisting the weight over your head. Barbell front raises, for instance, are an awesome way to isolate your front delts. If done correctly, they also take less of a toll on your shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints than overhead pressing.
4. Getting Stuck in A Rut
Doing some shoulder routines can seem like following the same worn path as many other lifters: You have your dumbbell presses, your lateral raises, your bent-over raises, and your shrugs to hit the traps. These movements are popular because they help a lot of people improve their shoulders, but maybe it's time to take your delt game to a whole new level.
This week, start with side delts instead of front delts. Do upright rows with cables to see if you can target your rear delts better. Use kettlebells or weight plates instead of dumbbells. In short, find ways to challenge yourself outside of the basic lifts.
Use these four tips to avoid some of the more common gym mistakes. Yes, people might look at you and wonder why you're working your shoulders like that, but when they see you growing week by week, they just might start doing it that way, too!