There’s no such thing as an impressive V taper without a big, wide, and strong set of shoulders.
When it comes to building up the shoulders, simply pushing to get stronger each week with standing or seated overhead presses with either a barbell or dumbbells will take you far.. actually really far on their own, building size and strength as well as muscle hardness and density. There are times however, at least for me, that my inner bodybuilder craves a little pump work, kicking my workout into a bit of overtime to knock out a few sets of relatively higher rep isolation exercise.
As a rule of thumb I’ll always hit my compound lifts first and save any isolation work for last in the form of a finisher. Sometimes it’s as simple of a few sets of lateral, front, and rear felt raises (usually rest pause fashion), but other times the day calls for going all out on one of the workout finishers that I and other training buddies have come up with over the years to bring on the pump. So the three of these are all tried, tested, and true.
Now of course if I don’t do these workouts every week. If I’m feeling beat up after my strength training I’ll omit the finisher sets and go home to eat, but if I’m feeling good and in the mood for a marathon I’ll throw in one of these shoulder workout finishers to change things up.
1. The 1234321 Method
The 1234321 method is one of my favorite ways to destroy my deltoids when I have a little juice left in the tank after an upper body workout day. The movement is simple enough, going back and forth between two shoulder exercises burning them out until you can’t lift your arms.
Simply grab a light pair of dumbbells and perform 1 side lateral raise followed by alternating front raises. Without setting the weights down, perform 2 reps on the side and then again on the front. Follow up with 3 reps and then 4… then drop back down to 3.. 2.. 1.. and rest. For maybe a minute before hitting another set or two.
Leave your ego at the door with this one. It’ll be tempting to grab a heavy weight and swing your way through these, but this finisher is all about pumping the muscles full of blood and glycogen. And keeping your muscles under tension with 32 brutal reps per arm per set, this one is sure to have you feeling wide and full.
With the extra work on the side and front delts, don’t neglect the rears. Finish up with a few light sets of rear delt flyes whether machine or dumbbell. It’s easy to get carried away with the muscles you can see in the mirror and forget all about the stuff you can’t. Balanced muscles are key to a healthy aesthetic physique.
2. Alternating standing Arnold presses
Another great way to finish up an upper body or push day and add more volume to your delt training is the alternating standing Arnold presses.
With these grab a weight that you can 12 slow and controlled reps with. Start with the weight at your shoulders and alternate pushing one arm at a time. The pump is great. For these I like to use the rest pause method so after my first set, I’ll rest for 20-30 seconds and hit another set. With so little rest, obviously the reps will go down with each set but I’ll go anywhere between 3 and 5 sets to pump up the volume.
An added benefit to these is the core activation used to stabilize the weight shifting from side to side. A strong core carries over big time as a stabilizer for the big lifts such as squats and military presses, as well as everyday household tasks. Our ancestors all had strong cores from manual labor, but in this modern age of technology and 9-5 office jobs anything that’s going to add strength to the core is a big plus in my book.
3. Weight plate steering wheels
This one burns.
Grab a moderately heavy weight plate and hold at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions as if holding a cold heavy steering wheel. Hold weight straight out in front of you and rotate it as far as you can comfortably go. Then reverse the motion all the way to the opposite side then back and forth until set is complete. Keep core engaged to ensure back and abs are kept stable throughout the entire exercise.
With this exercise I really don’t count reps, I simply rotate back and forth until I can’t hold my arms straight anymore. 2-3 sets is good with 15-20 second rest periods rest pause style for a sick burn that’ll ensure the shoulders have been tenderized.
Incorporating a shoulder workout finisher on an upper body workout day
As of late I’ve been taking more of an upper/lower split approach to my training, so this is an example of how I incorporated a shoulder workout finisher to an upper body day. My main lift was heavy overhead presses for my main lift, followed by pull-ups, bench training, and rows as assistance work. I’d usually stop here but I was only 45 minutes deep and had a bit left in the tank, so I busted out some extra work for the shoulders.
- Heavy overhead press* 3×4
- Weighted pull ups RPT 3×5,6,8
- Flat dumbbell bench press RPT 3×5,6,8
- Machine lat rows 3×10-12
- 1234321’s for two sets
- Machine rear delt fly 3×12,8,5 rest pause style
Remember, the shoulder has a BIG range of motion making them easy to strain or injure so a proper warmup is necessary for any upper body exercise!
Train hard, eat big, and get swole!
Check with a physician or qualified healthcare provider before embarking on any changes made to lifestyle, training, supplementation, or eating.