by Tony Gjokaj March 01, 2020 9 min read
The Shoulders are one of the more intricate sets of muscle groups that we have... and it’s also a pretty commonly imbalanced area as a result of our daily lives!
In this blog post, we are going to discuss the Shoulders (the Deltoids), AND our Rotator Cuffs: both play a huge part in upper body posture and health!
This is a chapter in our Muscle Compendium eBook.
The Deltoids consist of three main muscle fibers: the anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids. Each provides a specific function for the deltoids:
Each of these muscle fibers assist the shoulder joint through its full range of motion. Our shoulders are the most mobile of our body parts as they can move through various planes of movement. This is a good thing, yet if there is any imbalance, instability can occur. This could then lead to shoulder impingement issues.
As we’ve mentioned in previous chapters, a tight trapezius and upper back muscles could lead to our shoulders rounding, which then leads to weaker rotator cuffs. Add that with a “Bench Mondays” and “all I do is bench press” kind of lifting lifestyle… a shoulder injury becomes more of a matter of “when”. It is imperative that we strategize on minimizing too much work on the anterior deltoids and maximize lateral and posterior deltoid work.
To build some boulder/bolder shoulders, view the following section on Deltoid strategies.
When it comes to the anterior deltoid, we tend to overemphasize the development of this muscle group. If you do various types of chest work (bench press variations), the anterior deltoid is targeted. The following strategies are how to optimize anterior deltoid development:
When it comes to lateral deltoids, we know that we are usually limited to isolated lateral raise variations. This means that we have to get creative when it comes to muscular development in this area.
The strategies we recommend are the following:
There are more posterior deltoid exercises than the lateral raise counterparts. Just like the lateral deltoid, the amount of weight we can do is limited. We must get creative.
As you can gather from the previous section, we tend to overemphasize the anterior (front) deltoid and underemphasize the lateral and posterior deltoids. As there aren’t many variations for each of the three heads, we will provide the exercises that provide the best muscular development.
The Deltoids are a highly mobile area allowing us to move it in many ways. However, the consequence is that this area is more prone to injuries, tightness, and impingement.
In order to train these muscle fibers properly, I want to reiterate AGAIN that you should put less emphasis on the front deltoids and more in the lateral and posterior deltoids. The reason for this is the Chest work we typically implement with frequency. This will reduce the chance of impingement or injury.
For the anterior deltoids, you will experience drastic development from utilizing bench press, incline press, and overhead presses. You don’t necessarily need to utilize front raises for the development of this deltoid head. Anecdotally, my anterior deltoids blew up from Bench pressing and overhead press only!
Since this muscle fiber is utilized while bench pressing, you should shoot for direct work with 4-8 sets per week. In addition, training this muscle fiber 2x per week is perfect. Finally, the anterior deltoid responds best in the 6-10 rep range.
For both the lateral and posterior deltoids, shoot for at least 16 sets per week. Since these muscle fibers recover quickly, you can train the deltoid heads 2-4x weekly. With both the lateral and posterior deltoids, training in the 10-20 rep range is an effective way to train them.
To conclude, understand one more time that due to poor and extended sessions of sitting, the majority of individuals tend to have overactive anterior deltoids. This makes the muscles prone to injury, especially when overemphasizing pressing exercises and underemphasizing pulling exercises.
In addition, understand that since these muscle fibers fall on a ball and socket joint: stabilization is the key to muscular balance in this muscle. Never forget to warm up your rotator cuffs, as they are the most common shoulder injury.
Through overuse and overtraining of our chest and shoulder muscles, it's very common to encounter a problem with the rotator cuff. We tend to focus on our "beach muscles”, making this a common overactive or injured muscle group. This section is going to cover the Rotator Cuffs in their entirety.
The rotator cuff consists of four muscles: The Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, and Subscapularis. These muscles work and function together to provide stability for your shoulder.
As mentioned previously, the shoulder is a muscle group that relies on stability to avoid injury. The rotator cuff also plays a huge part in this: If either the shoulder muscles or rotator cuff muscles lack stability, then the entire area won't function properly.
So here’s how the Rotator Cuff operates:
Now that you understand the functions of these intricate and small muscles, you can strategize on how to properly train them, and even restore stability in the shoulders.
We recommend banded rotator cuff exercises over dumbbell ones, because of the lighter resistance and tension.
We also recommend doing rotator cuff exercises at the end of the workout or one set as a warm-up, and one set as a workout finisher.
The rotator cuff not just affects the shoulders, but it could affect the whole upper body in its entirety. One muscular imbalance can lead to others: For example, you need shoulder stability for total arm health.
Most of the training that is prescribed for the rotator cuff revolves around warm-up and post-workout exercises. These exercises should not be neglected whatsoever, and all of these angles should be trained for proper upper body mobility, and shoulder stability.
This is one of the chapters in our eBook that's probably the longest, and for good reason: I have constantly dealt with shoulder and rotator cuff issues because of my neglect in the smaller intricate muscles inside my shoulder.
Just one issue with these muscles can send other imbalances that your body constantly tries to compensate in its own way.
We hope that in understanding these muscles, you can train them with the respect they deserve: in balance.
Anything you would like to add? Throw them in the comments below!
Until next time legion!
Tony is the Owner of Reforged. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help millions exercise their way out of depression and anxiety.
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In recent years, scientists have started to discover that depression is not just a "chemical imbalance".
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This is where supplements like magnesium glycinate can be helpful.
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