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Your shoulder joints offer an advanced degree of mobility. Three distinct delt heads move your arms over 180-degree arcs. This great complexity leads to heightened risks of errors and injuries. So take careful notes as we tackle the five most common delt-training blunders and explain how to shoulder on correctly. Class is in session.
MISTAKE #1: OVEREMPHASIZING FRONT DELTS
All delt heads do not work equally, and the one that typically carries the heaviest load is the anterior. Your front delts are not only primary movers during overhead presses, they’re also secondary movers during chest and triceps workouts, helping during presses and dips. If you’re doing front raises in addition to a lot of shoulder, chest and tri compound lifts, you’re likely overworking your front delts. This is especially true if you train chest and shoulders in the same workout or on consecutive days.
MISTAKE #2: UNDEREMPHASIZING REAR DELTS
Just as anterior delts tend to get too much emphasis, posterior delts tend to get too little. Rear delts assist during lat exercises, such as rows and pulldowns; but if you’re targeting your lats correctly, it’s unlikely that your rear delts are receiving enough work on back or shoulder day to reach their full potential. Most bodybuilders relegate rear laterals to last place in their shoulder routines, and then go through the paces for four sets of minimal intensity. It’s no wonder posterior delts are so frequently your shoulders’ weakest links.
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MISTAKE #3: TOO FAST AND FURIOUS
Especially when it comes to side laterals and front raises, trainers tend to go too heavy and use too much momentum. Each delt head is relatively small, and to isolate them, you need to minimize both momentum and assistance from other muscles. You may not want to be seen holding 20-pound dumbbells, but if that’s what it takes to best isolate your medial delts, then those are the weights you should be grabbing.
MISTAKE #4: IMPROPER FORM
This mistake usually runs in concert with #3. The main culprit is emphasizing the weight and not focusing on muscle stimulation. Thus, the weight is raised by any means necessary. Other times, trainers simply develop bad habits; some never learn how to do lifts in the manner that best stimulates muscle gains. Correct form is especially important on shoulder day, because of the ball-and-socket joints’ vulnerability to injury.
MISTAKE #5: LACK OF EXERCISE VARIETY
Shoulders may be the only bodypart you train with just free weights. It’s true that barbells and dumbbells are the most effective training tools, but you can too easily fall into a rut of doing the same three or four free-weight exercises the same way, workout after workout. Variety is also an effective tool.
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✔ Work your front delts less and middle delts more.
✔ Train rear delts after back or don’t leave them for last in your shoulder routine.
✔ Sit down and slow down to remove momentum from lifts.
✔ Use strict form and avoid cheating, even if only to extend a set beyond failure.
✔ Do a wide variety of shoulder exercises.