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Carl1174 02-07-2011 12:31 PM

How much shoulder work should you do...
This topic has come up in a different thread and i thought it would be a good discussion topic.

A lot of people recommend for shoulders

OH Press
Side Laterals
Rear Delt Flys.

and thats the staple weekly shoulder routine. However there isnt really much compound work in there (the oh press is, but it is normally done slightly infront of the body which primarily hits the anterior delt). I have been training just OH Press three times a week, but having the dumbbells quite far back so as it hits the side delts too and its going well so far.

Trouble is, it is continually perpetuated that the shoulders are a small muscle group and so shoulnt receive much work. I am wondering what the members on here believe to be true.

How much shoulder work do you do and why ??


ricka182 02-07-2011 01:00 PM

Not enough. Mine don't grow for some reason. I'm weak as hell on rear db flyes, but I can do reverse pec deck for for a good amount. Same with Side Lats, but those are getting stronger slowly. I'm on a 2x a week routine for the Chest, Legs, Back and Shoulders. I'll be switching to a 1x a week routine in the next few weeks to allow for better concentration on each group, and more rest.

BendtheBar 02-07-2011 01:51 PM

Here is something I posted on another thread:


Yesterday I had someone take issue with one my shoulder training approaches, so I thought I would start a discussion on the topic and present my philosophy.

I want to start by saying that I believe shoulder workouts to be an afterthought for most. I believe shoulders are one of the least-focused upon, and least thought out muscle groups. Shoulder training just doesn't excite many. It's certainly not on the level of chest, biceps or abs.

Most bodybuilding-style shoulder workouts are derivations of the following standard template:

Overhead press - 3 sets. Usually a Smith press, Hammer Strength press, or even a barbell or dumbbell press. While many of us start with a form of barbell press, I do not feel that's the norm for Average Joe.

Side Laterals - 3 sets.

Rear Laterals - 3 sets.
While I am NOT proclaiming that the above template is ineffective, I DO believe that most (not all, but most Average Joes) stick to it because they really don't care passionately enough about shoulders.

Shoulder workouts tend to be like eating veggies. Guys do it, but they are not passionate about it.

In any case, I'm not here to ramble on about why guys don't care about shoulder workouts. What I do want to discuss is my own personal take on shoulder training. So here it is.

Shoulder Workouts

First let me start with a few observations.

1) Rear Delts. Rear delts are part of the three-headed monster known as the shoulders. They are rarely thought about, and as long as a workout includes rear laterals, most trainees don't think twice about them. They put in their rear lateral work on shoulder day and move on.

It is my opinion that rear delt work fits better (in a bodybuilding workout) with back training. Heavy rowing and pulling motions hit the rear delts hard. In fact, it is my strong belief that heavy rowing and pulling motions are the prime growth stimulus for rear delts.

I believe rows and rear laterals to be in the same family tree, so therefore I general do not structure rear delt work in on shoulder day. This is not to say you can't train rear delts with shoulders - you certainly can.

My greater point is that most trainees and trainers DON'T see the tie-in between rear delts and heavy back work, and therefore keep rear laterals on shoulder day because they know of no other option.

Therefore, when we consider the standard shoulder template above, we are generally looking at only (about) 6 quality sets for shoulders each week. ...which leads me to my next point.

2) Training volume. This is a fascination of mine. I find it curious that trainees and workout designers are satisfied, for the most part, with only 3 heavy weekly working sets for shoulders. Yes, I understand that side laterals are in the mix, but even considering side laterals, weekly shoulder training volume is minimal.

The average bodybuilding-style workout usually features:

--12-16 working sets for chest
--9-12 working sets for biceps
--9-12 working sets for triceps
--12-16 working sets for back
--6-9 working sets for calves
--A mountain of work for abs


But for shoulders most workouts stick with 3 heavy sets of presses and an isolation exercise as a finisher. (And then rear laterals)

Again, I am not stating this is ineffective. If it works for you, great. My reason for mentioning the previous 2 points was to help you understand why I structure shoulder workouts as I do.

My Shoulder Training Structure

When structuring a shoulder workout, I use the following guidelines:

I use 2 heavy, compound lifts. I don't feel satisfied with a minimal amount of heavy working sets for shoulders.

I add to this a side and/or front lateral.

I generally train rear delts with back because I feel they are best trained after a rowing session.

I like to use 2 of the following, usually for 6 total sets:

--BTN Presses
--Military Presses
--Seated DB Presses
--Arnold Presses
--Upright Rows

Some of these lifts have a greater front delt focus than others. I don't obsess about front to side delt training balance.


Because I believe that front delts are hit hardest on your chest day, with a battery or dumbbell and barbell presses, and dips (if you use them). I have always had the greatest amount of front delt soreness from chest workouts.

Of course, your mileage may vary.

This is not to say that front delt work on shoulder training days isn't important. It is, of course. My greater point is this:

Too many guys worry about doing "too much" front delt work on shoulder day while they completely ignore the beat down they are giving their front delts while benching.
See my point? I will bet you that 9 times out of 10, if you structure a shoulder workout with 2 heavy compound lifts, or you add in a front lateral raise to the generic shoulder template, some forum poster will attack you because you have too much front delt work.

So it has become completely acceptable to bomb your front delts on chest with 3 heavy bench-style exercises, but it is also completely unacceptable (for most) to structure a shoulder workout with 2 compounds lifts, and maybe a set of front laterals.

(When doing a split) My shoulder workouts tend to be something like this:

--Seated BTN Press
--Upright Rows or Dumbbell Press
--Side Laterals (or bulldozer laterals, which are more explosive)
--Front Laterals (sometimes...not always)

/End Long Post

This has been a whopper of a long ramble, and I am sorry if I wasted your time.

Day in and day out I see young lifters on bodybuilding forums doing 9 to 12 heavy and intense sets for biceps, etc., yet they have a minimal shoulder workout.

More than this, they attack (or a better word might be parrot) the thought that one compound lift is enough, and any additional front delt work on shoulder day is dangerous in some way.

Anyone who knows me knows that I generally structure workouts with with a hit and run approach. I prefer hard, brutal sessions that take about one hour. I am not one to use or advise high volume. It's not that I fear high volume, nor do I feel high volume is useless. Some CAN use it.

One thing I don't want to do is to teach high volume to young trainees. I believe they should start slow and add in volume if needed over time as they learn their bodies.

I don't believe two heavy compound lifts for shoulders is too much. I don't believe two compound lifts AND the addition of a front raise is too much. I believe in training the shoulders with a slightly lower heavy compound stress than the chest.

I know my shoulder workout approach goes against the grain, but I can live with it. In my prime in 1997, as a small-boned lifter, my (natural) strict seated BTN press 1RM was 275+. I was also doing seated (strict) dumbbell presses with 120 pound dumbbells. Even this year at the age of 42 I was able to perform a strict seated BTN press of 225 for 5 reps. No e-stats here, the video is on Youtube.

If you want to use the standard shoulder training template, have at it. I would never try to tell you that there is a magic workout for everyone, or that the standard template stinks. I know many bodybuilders that thrive on 3 sets of presses, 3 sets of side laterals and 3 sets of rear delts.

My point in writing this tome was to explain my shoulder training philosophy, and to get you to think long and hard about your shoulder training workout.

There simply aren't many heavy compound lifts for shoulders, and this is a sticking point for many.

At the end of the day there is only one question I ask myself:

Why am I doing 6-10 heavy sets for chest each week and only 3 heavy sets for shoulders?

gaspers04 02-07-2011 01:56 PM

Broken up between two days as Assistance Work.
-Seated DB Presses
-Side laterals
-Prone laterals
-Upright rows

dmaipa 02-07-2011 04:06 PM

I do a split routine, sometimes I work delts with my chest, sometimes I do shoulders alone with triceps or biceps. I usually do two compound lifts and the usual raises. Shoulders is one of my favorite bodyparts to train

big_swede 02-07-2011 04:48 PM

My staple for shoulders are the OH press. I do laterals and raises as finisher sometimes and mostly FST-7 or burn sets (1x40 reps or so).

I cycle between...

Seated MP's (great for front delt developement)
Standing or Seated DB press (also arnold presses)
BHN Push Press (this is the exercise that boosted my shoulder growth and strength real good! Highly reccomended, i do heavy singles, doubles or 3's, or sets of 10 as a finisher)
Olympic press (like a push press from chest)

The heavy rows (bb in particular) smashes my rear delts enough so i rarely isolate them, but when i do i throw in some heavy DB rear delt raises (im doing them seated and bent forward, very explosive, and i choose heavy weight before strict form here most of the time)

As for all my lifts i work in different rep range in the same workout, i usually pyramid up to workset weight doing 1's, 2's or 3's and finishes of with 5x5 or 3x8 with lighter weight, but i sometimes skip the high-rep work - it depends on daily form and how i feel.

recarp82 02-08-2011 06:24 AM

as the wise man lee haney said "stimulate,dont annihilate the delts".

bigtim27 02-08-2011 06:25 AM


Originally Posted by recarp82 (Post 114079)
as the wise man lee haney said "stimulate,dont annihilate the delts".

Thats an awesome line!!

Abaddon 02-08-2011 11:09 AM

Of course you know where I stand on this one Carl - you helped me design a routine specifically to avoid over using the shoulders!

A dedicated shoulder routine, performed weekly and comprising 15 working sets caused me to feel pain, so I dropped it.

The indirect way I train my shoulders now is resulting in PRs across the board, and I'm very happy with it.

blackdove 02-09-2011 05:56 PM

The shoulder joints are unstable and thus susceptible to injuries. My suggestion (though I'm not a medical professional) is to strengthen the rotator cuff (tendons) on a regular basis. The rotator cuff strengthening exercises like internal and external shoulder rotation do NOT use heavy weights, but just enough resistance (around 3 to 5 lbs) and plenty of reps to make your shoulder "tired" and NOT pumped.

By doing these, you'll likely prevent injuries when working out shoulders with heavy weight.

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