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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Basic Training For Big, Muscular Shoulders

The web is full of armchair "gurus" promising quick and easy paths to bodybuilding success. With stock "inspirational" photos and canned promises to transform your body in a few days, this worthless hype never tells you the stone cold truth that bodybuilding success requires personal commitment and dedicated training.

In this article, I'll give you the basics of how to build big, muscular shoulders naturally with committed and disciplined training. As a preliminary matter, you must understand the muscles that comprise your shoulders. Your shoulders consist mainly of the trapezius and deltoid muscle groups. The trapezius or "traps" are the two large triangular shaped muscles that run across each shoulder from the back of your neck. Your deltoids or "delts" are the thick, triangular shaped muscles that cover your shoulder joints at the top of each arm. Since space is limited, I won't delve into the kinesiology of these muscle groups. But for a truly awesome physique, ! suffice it to say that you certainly need superior trap and deltoid development.

Warming Up

One of the most important elements of any weight lifting activity is preparing your body for the work ahead. Before starting your shoulder workouts you must make sure that you warm up properly. Given the risk of rotator cuff injury, this portion of your shoulder training is absolutely essential. You should warm up by gently stretching and flexing the deeply embedded muscles and tendons you'll use during your shoulder workouts.

I recommend that you warm up with 1 or 2 sets of front and/or rear military presses prior your shoulder training sessions. For each exercise, the weight should be extremely light so as to provide only minimal resistance. A good rule of thumb for your warm up exercises is to use weight that allows you to complete 15 or 20 repetitions with minimal effort.

Even if you're starting your shoulder training after you've trained other body parts,! don't be fooled into thinking that you're already "warmed up"! and tha t your shoulders are ready for an intense workout. Also, make sure that you warm up slowly and with the same attention to proper training technique that you'll use in your work sets. Remember, a few minutes devoted to warming up is time well spent as this preliminary exercise can prevent muscle pain or serious injury.

The Pyramid Principle

When you begin training your shoulders, you'll need to discover how much weight you must lift to stimulate maximum growth. The absolute amount of weight will vary with each exercise according to your strength and endurance levels. Having said this, there are certain shoulder exercises that you shouldn't perform with heavy weight or use for building mass. These exercises include the various front, side and rear lateral raises that put intensely isolated resistance on the anterior, medial and posterior deltoid heads. This intense isolation is very effective for adding shape and muscularity to your shoulders. But due to the risk o! f injury, you should avoid using these exercises as mass builders for your traps and delts. Moderate poundage with strict technique is sufficient to gain strength and shape from the various lateral raises.

To build shoulder mass you should instead do seated front and rear military presses, seated dumbbell presses, seated dumbbell rows, upright rows and, for additional trap development, deadlifts. As a guideline to the relative amount of weight that you should use to stimulate muscle growth, I've found that 70-85 percent of my "one-rep" maximum with proper technique is best for these purposes. In other words, if your one-rep maximum for the seated front military press is 100 pounds, you should initially complete your work sets with weight ranging from 70 to 85 pounds.

During the mass building phase of your shoulder workouts, the "pyramid principle" requires you to progressively increase the amount of weight lifted during your work sets. As you increase the amount! of weight, you decrease the number of repetitions performed i! n each s et. A sample pyramid set for doing seated front military presses with a one-rep maximum of 100 pounds would be the following:

Set #1 - 10 reps x 70 pounds;
Set #2 - 8 reps x 75-80 pounds;
Set #3 - 6 reps x 80-85 pounds;
1-rep maximum - 100 pounds.

If you can't work with 70-85 percent of your one-rep maximum at the beginning of your mass building program, don't worry about it. Just find an amount of weight that challenges you to complete 10, 8 and 6 repetitions and gradually increase the resistance from that point. You don't need to try a one-rep maximum lift in every workout, but this "power-check" allows you to monitor your strength increases and ensure that you're using enough weight during your work sets.

When your one-rep maximum increases or you find that you can do more than 10, 8 or 6 reps as you pyramid through your work sets, then it's time to increase the amount of weight for each of these sets to continue stimulating muscle growth. Th! e pyramid principle is simple and essential to building big, muscular shoulders. You should apply it throughout the mass building phase of your shoulder training efforts.

Mark G. Winston, "The Master Gunslinger," is author of the ground-breaking training manual, "GO For Your GUNS - 7 Simple Secrets to AWESOME ARMS." He has also created, a bodybuilding and fitness website dedicated entirely to helping you build big, muscular arms. Mark's forthcoming book will be jammed with workouts and training techniques to help you build the big, muscular arms that you deserve! To learn about the GO For Your GUNS bodybuilding system and get free arm training tips that really work, visit

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