1. Don’t shy away from machine work if you’re a beginner or coming back from a break.
This helps you re-establish that important mind-muscle connection so you can be stronger when you return to your bread-and-butter free-weight lifts.
2. Never skip your warm-up.
Besides always using strict form, getting blood flowing to your shoulders before your heavy work is the absolute best way to avoid injury. Mofe than that, you can use more weight – substantially more weight – if you’re well warmed up first. For me, I start with a whole-body warm-up followed by lighter isolation exercises before moving on to presses.
3. Ego doesn’t belong in shoulder training because of the nature of the joints, and pre-exhausting your delts is a good way to take ego out of the equation.
I frontload my workout with single-joint moves so that I don’t need – and couldn’t handle – as much weight when I get to my presses. It’s about breaking down muscle, not how much weight you can move.
4. Higher rep ranges seem to work best for me.
Most of the exercises I do are in the 12-15-rep range. In my opinion, the higher-volume approach allows you to achieve a greater pump, which has been shown to lead to greater muscle gains. Still you can do a fewer lower-rep sets with your presses.
5. If possible, train your shoulders and chest on different days, ideally separated by an extra day off.
If you train both on the same day, strength is sure to be compromised on one or the other. Plus, that’s a high degree of stress on your shoulder joint for one workout, not to mention your front delts in particular. Better to let your shoulders recover, then go at them again when your muscles, tendons and ligaments are fresh.
6. At contest time, I increase reps on the last set for every exercise.
Sometimes, my training partners and I will pick a crazy number to aim for and rep until the shoulder can’t go anymore. It’s a shock to the brain and body just to hear the number called. With shoulder pressing, we might do some drop sets where we do 8-10 reps and peel off some 10- or 25-pound plates and just continue on.
Joel’s Shoulder Routin
Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise 4 Sets x 15-12 Reps
Cable Front Raise 4 Sets x 15-12 Reps
Seated Bent-Over Lateral Raise 4 Sets x 15-12 Reps
Seated Barbell Overhead Press 4 Sets x 8-10 Reps
Wide-Grip Barbell Upright Row 3 Sets x 10-12 Reps
Dumbbell Shrug 4 Sets x 20-25 Reps
*Joel increases the weight each set and always aims for 15 reps but will never do fewer than 10.
*Joel pyramids up in weight each set, training in a slightly lower rep range.
*Joel uses his Versa Gripps when doing shurgs and grabs the heaviest weights the gym has to offer. His home gym goes up to 125 pounds.