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Unfortunately, most people find that in the course of training their shoulders they experience more pain than gain. If you want gain size and strength in your shoulders there is much more to training those muscles than just your basic military press, lateral raises, front raises, and reverse flyes/rear delt raises.
Your muscular strength and size gains are dependent upon your ability to overload the muscles of the shoulder without doing harm to the shoulder joint. Overloading the muscles of the shoulder primarily becomes possible through stabilization of the shoulder joint. Greater joint stability will allow you to safely perform the exercises, use the weights and do the number of repetitions that will make your shoulders grow.
The safety of the shoulder joint is more dependent on the muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint than the muscles that mobilize it. This means that if you want to decrease your risk for shoulder injuries, training the muscles of the rotator cuff is crucial. The rotator cuff (RTC) is comprised of four muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.
These muscles are all attached to the shoulder blade (scapula) and provide stability for the shoulder in movements such as the military press. The muscles of the deltoid are incapable of flexing the arm without the stabilization that the RTC provides. In fact, in the military press, the RTC as a whole is capable of generating about 50% of the force required to perform that movement. Also for movements like lateral raises, front raises, and reverse flyes/rear delt raises, even greater joint stability is required.
So next time you work your shoulders, just remember that your RTC is a big part of keeping your workout safe.
Here is a quick routine to use to help strengthen your rotator cuff muscles.
More stable shoulders can help you to produce the strength required to get bigger shoulders but, one thing that is often neglected in training is power movements such as push presses and split jerks. Power movements can help you break through strength plateaus. Most people avoid power movements because they don’t understand that loading your shoulders with heavy weight is going to help you move heavy weights in strength movements as well. Although performing push presses and split jerks requires momentum from the legs, these exercises allow you to load the shoulders with weight that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to military press.
When performing strength exercises such as military presses, stay in the 8-12 rep range but when you are doing power exercises you can safely go heavier and drop your reps to 3-5 because you are using your legs to assist in moving the weight. Furthermore, the increased activity of the RTC will assist you in overloading the muscles and not the joint. Combining traditional shoulder strengthening exercises with RTC training and power movements will reduce the pain and increase the gain you are looking for.