Workout Routines

Your Perfect Body Game Plan: Shoulders

Top off your physique with big, bold shoulders.

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Shoulders
Marius Bugge

Sculpting the perfect V-taper physique starts at the shoulders, which means training your deltoids and traps. “Shoulders that are round and powerful-looking give the impression that your body is built for performance,” says Zach Even-Esh. But getting there can be difficult, he contends, especially if you’re doing the same old lifts day in and day out. “The body adapts and doesn’t feel challenged, limiting new muscle growth.” For a fresh set of shoulder exercises, try these three exercises that attack the delts from all angles, and build strength and endurance both concentrically and isometrically. (Note: Once a week is plenty.)

First, there’s running the rack side raises, a simple way to overload the deltoids. Start with a light pair of dumbbells and perform three reps of side raises. Go to the next pair of dumbbells for three reps and continue “running the rack,” climbing up in weight until you can no longer perform three reps with perfect form. From there, reverse order and work your way back down the rack to where you started. If you can do more than two sets, Even-Esh says, then you didn’t push hard enough.

Then he suggests the dumbbell overhead carry, which challenges your shoulders, abs, and upper back isometrically. Lock the dumbbells (or kettlebells) overhead with arms completely straight, engage your abs, and walk slowly for 50 feet. Start off with three or four sets at this length, and slowly increase the distance to 75 and 100 feet per set. It’s great for adding size and strength to your shoulders and traps.

Lastly, you should do the dumbbell press 21s, which hit the shoulders through various angles while maintaining constant muscle tension. To do it, perform seven reps at a time from each of these ranges of motion—bottom half, top half, and full range. Start with very light weights, and press seven reps from your shoulders to the midway of full extension. Then press seven reps from midway to full lockout. Then do seven reps of full-range overhead presses. Two or three sets should be enough to blast your shoulders.

Pro tip: One of the best things you can use to build size and strength anywhere, Murphy says, is a pair of Grip4orce grip sleeves. They increase bar thickness and force you to squeeze the bar throughout each exercise, which causes targeted muscles to contract harder and recruit surrounding muscles for a better workout. 

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