A New Way To Train Shoulders


In the lead up to my latest comp, I changed up my shoulder training to focus more on posterior (rear) and medial (side) deltoids as opposed to anterior (front).

Why make the change?

Most shoulder training has you starting with compound movements, which mainly focus on the anterior head of deltoids: Any pressing movement (dumbbell presses, military presses etc.), and/or isolation raises with thumbs pointing up (‘thumbs to ceiling’).

So, my shoulder workout used to be: seated dumbbell press, side lateral raises, and reverse pec-deck, hitting all heads of the shoulder.

Recently, however, I changed it up and did a few more isolation exercises focusing on posterior and medial deltoids before doing the compounds.

This is a form of pre-exhaustion training with isolation exercises preceding compound exercises in order to obtain greater adaptations in strength and size. Current research on this principle is very limited, and one study found no greater benefit of performing exercises in this order as opposed to prioritizing compound movements when it comes to full-body training.

My aim, on the other hand, is to stimulate the deltoid heads that often get neglected and I hope the principle gets some more attention soon as I’m thirsty for more research! Anyway, my shoulder training looks a bit like this.

My current shoulder training

Reverse Pec-Deck/Rear Delt Flies *pyramid sets 20/15/12/10 4
Straight-arm Lateral Raises (‘pinkie to ceiling’) 12 3
Standing Military Press 6-8 4
Upright Rows (wide grip – barbell) 8-10 3
Cable Face-Pulls (rope attachment) 10-12 3

Some things to note

  • Pyramid sets go a bit like this: 20 reps, rest, increase weight, 15 reps, rest, increase weight, 12 reps, rest, increase weight, 10 reps.
  • ‘Pinkie to Ceiling’ : Slightly tilt your wrist so thumbs point to ground and pinkies to ceiling and don’t bend at the elbows too much. Weight here doesn’t have to be very heavy, hold the contraction for 2-3 seconds.
  • Wide-grip Upright Rows: Keep elbows high, aim for 90 degree angle at elbows. Don’t row backwards, but upwards, keep an eye on your elbow position and try to keep it in line with your shoulders. Don’t jerk the weight up. Maintain slow reps.
  • Face-Pulls: I usually attach the rope attachment to the cable row machine for better posture and form during the exercise. Keep elbows high!

I hope you've enjoyed this session!