Most training coaches will tell you that if you want to develop your shoulders, you need to add some big, heavy presses to make them pop. While that’s generally a good rule, some of us have trouble pressing overhead without pain, whether due to previous injury or poor movement patterns. And while you should always try to work your way back to the land of the press, there are certainly ways to round out a great set of delts while minimizing the wear and tear on the shoulder capsule.
First, your shoulders are used in almost every upper-body exercise, so the less chest and upper-back work you do, the quicker the shoulder capsule can recover. That strategy alone may cure your shoulder woes. But if you’re still press-phobic or you just need a break from your press-heavy routine, these three programs are just what the doctor ordered.
Do these three straightforward movements on their own, taking at least 90 seconds of rest between sets. Use good form and an appropriate weight. The first eight-rep strength set is designed to be heavier, while the sets that follow hover at the top of the hypertrophy range without adding undue stress to the shoulders. The seated lateral raise allows you to target the middle delt head without the benefit of body English. Front raises and bent-over lateral raises can be performed standing or seated.
This routine mimics the first but is done with a cable machine. This allows you to focus the resistance on the muscles in action and concentrate on form. Cables permit a smooth, shoulder-friendly range of motion and constant tension for a different stimulus.
Advanced Pump Routine
This next-level workout forces you to grind out tough sets while keeping your form in check. Be careful: You’ll fatigue quickly and unnecessary form deviations could be worse for your shoulders than a million heavy presses. Start each set at 15 reps, then drop the weight and do 10 reps, then drop again and do five more reps. Rest 90 to 120 seconds between total completed drop sets; otherwise, the only rest during the drops is the time it takes to make the drop. This is an advanced, high-volume routine that should be used sparingly.