Six Shocking Approaches to Shoulder Training

Re-energize your shoulder training and revitalize your growth.

Six Shocking Approaches to Shoulder Training

It’s ironic that the shoulder joint is capable of such a wide range of motion and, yet, shoulder training almost always focuses on the same few exercises performed in the same fashion and even the same order: overhead presses, side laterals, rear laterals. Bodybuilders often incorporate a variety of machines and exercises into their back training (which also relies on shoulder joints); however, imagination and innovation frequently fail when it comes to deltoids. If you can’t remember the last time your delts were sore after a workout, the following six approaches will re-energize your shoulder training and revitalize your growth. 


Many people attempt to pre-exhaust their shoulders by doing side laterals (an isolation exercise) before overhead presses (a compound exercise). There’s nothing wrong with that sequence, but, because side laterals target lateral delts and presses target anterior delts, it won’t pre-exhaust all the muscles of the shoulders. Even preceding presses with front raises targets only the anterior heads. Our workout pre-exhausts all three delt heads. You can boost the intensity of this routine by supersetting the pressing and rowing exercises with the isolation lifts that precede them.


  • Barbell Front Raises | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12
  • Dumbbell Presses | SETS: 3 | REPS: 8-10
  • Dumbbell Side Laterals | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12
  • Wide-Grip Upright Rows | SETS: 3 | REPS: 8-10
  • Bent Rear Laterals | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12
  • Wide-Grip Smith Machine Rows* | SETS: 3 | REPS: 8-10

*Limit your motion to the top half of this back exercise, and focus on getting a strong contraction for each rep.


Because shoulders are so effectively trained with dumbbells, they easily lend themselves to descending sets. Simply go down the rack, moving to progressively lighter dumbbells each time you reach failure. Using a machine, you can also conveniently set the pin at a progressively lighter weight.


  • Machine Presses | SETS*: 2 X 4 | REPS: 6-10
  • Dumbbell Side Laterals | SETS*: 2 X 4 | REPS: 6-10
  • Machine Rear Laterals | SETS*: 2 X 4 | REPS: 6-10
  • Dumbbells Shrugs | SETS*: 2 X 4 | REPS: 6-10

*A descending set consists of four consecutive sets of six to 10 reps each, with progressively lighter weights. 


More than any other bodypart, shoulders received the most workout attention in the pre-Schwarzenegger era. Many of the exercises of decades past have slipped into history — some justifiably so, others not. Here are the best of the old-school shoulder lifts. 

Clean and Presses: By combining a cleaning movement with a pressing movement, you can work both your trapezius (clean) and front delts (press). Lower the bar only to your waist between reps, as a floor-to-waist cleaning motion works mostly the back and legs. 

Scott Presses: This exercise was named for its proponent, Larry Scott, 1965-66 Mr. Olympia. Start by holding two dumbbells together in front of your face, palms toward you, elbows directly under your hands. Then — while keeping your arms in the same position, forearms vertical to the floor — rotate your elbows outward. When your arms are out in the double-biceps position, press the dumbbells up. Return them to the starting position. This lift works two deltoid heads by combining rear laterals (posterior delts) with dumbbell presses (anterior delts). 

Side Upright Rows: Unlike a typical upright row, where you raise a barbell in front of your body, this exercise is performed by raising two dumbbells along your sides to a position just under your armpits. Keep your palms facing your body throughout the lift. Limit shoulder shrugging, and hold at the top of each rep for a count of two. This will work your side delts with a secondary emphasis on your trapezius.


  • Clean and Presses | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-10
  • Scott Presses | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-10
  • Side Upright Rows | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-10


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