Building Strong Shoulder Muscles

Building Strong Shoulder Muscles

How does personal training work? Why bother going to a personal trainer when you can do all of the exercises by yourself? One reason might be to stay accountable. But for our purposes here, I want to show you how we build programs for folks, to obtain very specific goals. Whether you’re a guy and want to build muscle mass, or a gal who is looking to tone up and look sleeker for summer, working on building shapely shoulder muscles should be in your mix.

Remember for gals, it’s actually quite difficult to add mass, so even with “heavy” weight, you will get moderate gains but typically not be “big.” The plan below is based on a 5RM (repetition maximum), which is a building program.  If that’s still scary for you, then you can try going with less weight for more reps to ease into the program.  If you are looking for great shoulder muscles, check out the workout below.

Set-up: Building Shoulder Muscles

  • Goal: Build shoulder muscles
  • Workout type:  Single muscle group—to be added into an existing program.
  • Days per week: 1
  • Equipment needed: bands, barbells, dumbbells
  • Target gender: male and female
  • Weight selection: variable!

If you are trying to make solid gains in mass, then you start with 60% of your 5 repetition maximum for your warm up set, then go to the full 5RM for subsequent sets.

So, let’s say you’re a woman working on building strong shoulder muscles. If your regular 5RM is 20#. You would warm up with 60% of that, or 12# for the first set. Got it?

Workout: Building Shoulder Muscles

Let’s start with a some shoulder opening. How is your shoulder mobility? Start with some shoulder circles, give yourself a hug with your right arm on top, and then your left arm on top, and maybe even add some stick stretches (see below).

Shoulder opening stretches:

shoulder circles
shoulder stretch hug

Stick stretches:

shoulder stretch stick

Here’s the pattern. Warm up set at 60%. 5 reps, rest 45-60 seconds. Sets 2-5, 5RM weight, 5 reps, resting 45-60 seconds as needed. Drop set: set a 1 minute clock. Go down slightly lower in your weight, do as many reps as you can. Drop down to an even lower weight, and repeat. Keep going until the minute is done, but be sure you can’t do any more before dropping to the next lower weight.

Looks like this in practice:

Shoulder overhead press:

  • Set 1, 12#, 5 reps
  • Sets 2-5, 20#, 5 reps each
  • Drop set, 15#—12#—10#—8# as many reps as you can to failure before dropping to the next weight, 1 minute.

Repeat that program with the subsequent exercises.

1. Overhead press:

2. Shoulder side raise:

3. Shoulder front raise:

4. Shoulder rear deltoid raise:

Repeat those shoulder stretches when you are done with your workout!

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Written by Melissa Abramovich, ACE CPT, NASM CGT, AAHFRP Medical Exercise Specialist at Elite Sports Club-River Glen

Melissa Abramovich went into Personal Training and Group Exercise instruction after successfully losing 140 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. Her desire to help others drove her forward into a career helping others to make healthier choices. She is an ACE certified personal trainer and now also a Medical Exercise Specialist (AAHFRP), helping clients with a myriad of health issues at Elite Sports Clubs. She holds a Bachelor’s degree, and many group exercise related certifications as well.