Shoulders can be tough to train, but that doesn't mean that you have to stick to the same stale exercises again and again. The joints might be more delicate than you think, but there are more moves than just strict barbell presses and raises to safely grow your shoulders.
Jeff Cavaliere, C.S.C.S. has made a point to highlight some of his favourite exercises that he doesn't often see people doing at the gym. In this video, he covers the shoulders, giving 5 examples of solid movements to kickstart your gains and build boulder shoulders.
First up is the Z-press, so get ready to take a seat. The exercise, which Cavaliere says he's "absolutely in love with," takes an overhead press and puts your butt on the ground. That seated position will force your core to stabilise more than pressing from a standing position, which helps to keep you from slacking off. "There's no better exercise when it comes to reinforcing and demanding that you learn how to keep that core tight during the overhead press," he says.
Although Cavaliere uses a barbell in the video, consider doing the Z-press with dumbbells. If you use a barbell, you have to work extra-hard to keep your elbows in and create external rotation at the shoulder joint to protect your shoulders. It's much easier to manage to do that with dumbbells.
Next up, take on the dumbbell scoop press. Cavaliere loves this exercise because it allows you to move within a greater range of motion, putting your shoulders into extension and giving the front delt a chance to stretch as you move up into the press. Just be careful not to use that scoop motion to create too much momentum—which combined with overly heavy weights could put you at risk.
The Jammer, which Cavaliere suggests as a bonus exercise, is something that you might not have access to in your local chain gym. If that's the case, try the push press or thrusters (and if you can use dumbbells, all the better). But if you do have one of the machines handy, the Jammer is a great option to build power, especially since your can really pack on the plates and work with heavy weight.
When you take on the Jammer, you'll use your lower body to generate power to explode into the press, but you need to be smart with your movements to keep yourself healthy. Be cautious of your core; keep your abs tight and don't arch your back as you explode upwards.
Cavaliere offers up dumbbell cheat laterals as an option for guys who are impatient with the lighter weights they've been stuck using for traditional side lateral raises. For this exercise, you'll be able to pick up a heavier dumbbell to target your delts, since you're fudging the standard raise form to use momentum and cheat. "The goal is not to strict form raise it up out to the side, that's what the lighter dumbbell is for," he says.
If you're new to training or you have any shoulder issues, though, we suggest that you stick to lighter weights and the traditional form of the exercise. You might be able to work your way up to the cheat form of the movement eventually, but it might not be worth the risk.
NFL football legend Brian Urlacher inspired the penultimate exercise, dumbbell Urlachers. The movement brings the rear delt and rotator cuff into the equation, which Cavaliere says is ultimately a key to healthy, mobile shoulders. "With the elbows elevated and behind the body, you are placing direct tension on the rear delt, something that isn’t done with traditional shoulder exercises," he says.
We wrap up with the wrap-around rear delt row, an exercise that uses a cable machine to light up the rear delts. You'll use a cross-arm position to get a stretch on the rear delt to start, then pull back to get your shoulders into external rotation. "This is an awesome way to hit those shoulder muscles you might’ve been neglecting all this time," Cavaliere says.
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