Go Beyond Full Range Of Motion

Full range of motion is important for building muscle. Stop the presses with that one, but honestly it does bare repeating. For optimal muscle engagement we need to use our stretch reflex.

For shoulders more than almost any other muscle we want to focus on not only getting full range of motion, but also getting a stretch through the entire muscle head. That means finding ways to add extra range of motion through each exercise we are going through. The problem with getting extra range of motion for shoulders is that our torso limits us, but there are some ways around this by setting our body up in different angles.

Let’s start with the Lateral Raise. Standing straight up, we can only go so far through a range of motion, however, if we position ourselves into an angled position (about 45 degrees) we can get more of a stretch through the lateral head of the Deltoid. We can angle ourselves by leaning on an incline bench, pole or wall when using a dumbbell, or use the cable machine if we are using the cables. This allows for a great recruitment of muscle fibers and a more effective lift.

Using a similar mindset, we can apply this to Front Raises as well. By sitting on an incline bench we can allow are arms to come behind our body getting more of a stretch through the front head of the deltoid.

Lower The Weight

Lateral Raises might be one of the most bastardized exercises we end up seeing at the gym. I think we’ve all seen our fair share of individuals throwing there whole body to get the 40ilbs dumbbells up to the side and letting them drop down with very little control. Sure, cheat reps can help, but only after fatiguing the muscle, and we should be able to do the majority of the set with proper engagement.

Surprisingly to some, the Deltoid itself isn’t a strong muscle. It’s usually used as more of an accessory in our other movements like Bench Press and Pullups, so we don’t need to utilize a ton of weight to effectively get a workout it.  Where we see the struggle is usually people are using too much weight, too quickly to get proper muscle engagement, which in turn effects how we see the results we should.

Activating the muscle should be priority number one. By dropping the weight, and focusing on form above everything else (it is slightly humbling) we can grow our shoulders much more effectively, keep them safe from injury and build functional strength. 

Slow Down and Pause

To play off the last point of lowering the amount of weight we are working with to increase muscle engagement, we should also try to slow down the movement as a whole. Particularly, slowing down the Isometric Phase (Pausing at the top), and the Eccentric Phase (the lowering phase).

By pausing slightly at the top of our movements it allows us to engage the muscle we are looking to work properly. We can feel if we are doing the exercise properly or not. This added pause for most shoulder exercises will be incredibly difficult as it is in a very mechanically inefficient position, meaning, your arm is typically as far away from your body as it can be while holding up weight. This position gets the muscle firing and will fatigue it quickly. By also lowering the weight in a slow controlled movement, we are again fatiguing the muscle more effectively than during our concentric, or lifting, phase. This adds extra time under tension for the muscle, increasing the effectiveness of the exercise when it comes to building bigger, stronger muscles.

Exercise efficiency is really what we are looking for here, and it doesn’t take much weight to do it.

Super Secret Bonus Tip

I’ll let you in on a little secret here, this one is just between us though, ok? This might be the biggest secret to building bigger shoulders…

What if I told you that you could get bigger shoulders, without really having to lift weight, or focus on shoulder exercises? You’d probably say I’m crazy but I’m not.

To build bigger shoulders, all you have to do, is focus on your posture. Yup, posture. The thing our parents have been telling us to think about since we were children. By building a better posture, our shoulders are naturally drawn back in to a bigger, taller position than they normally would be. This makes us stand tall, with bigger shoulders.

One of the biggest detriments to our training is that we typically focus so much on our chest, and our daily lives are so much based in the anterior plane that our shoulders end up suffering as the round forwards into a poor position. By focusing on our posture and taking unneeded tension out of our chest, strengthening the posterior position of our upper body, and focusing on proper mobilization we can naturally have bigger, more aesthetically pleasing shoulders.

Don’t believe me? 

Go look in a mirror and stand normally, then adjust to pull your shoulders back and stand in a proper posture position, and notice the difference.

Now that we’ve gotten those tips, we can effectively start working on our building stronger, more defined shoulders, that also have the functional strength and ability to assist with other movements. These tips can be implemented for pretty much any muscle group. Obviously programming is important part of this, as is muscle stimulation, but these will be based off each individual depending on experience and prior strength. 

Rich Hill

CSEP – Certified Personal Trainer

RK Athleticshttps://linktr.ee/RK_Athletics