Shoulder muscles are often taken for granted by many fitness fanatics. They are usually given a glancing set or two just to fill a super set. However, their importance is underestimated and developing them is something everyone needs to do.
Shoulders are used in almost every upper body workout, but treated as a secondary muscle. These muscles help to push the bar off your chest during bench presses, they give you more oomph during curls, and they support almost every upper body exercise, not to mention strong shoulders are important to maintaining a healthy posture. If that is not motivation enough for you, by focusing on my shoulders more I was able to conquer a bench pressing plateau that was holding me hostage.
The good news is that dedicating the time to building these muscles is not too intrusive or even that difficult. Shoulders are used so often there are not many exercises that you need to do and can often get a great workout for them while doing another muscle group. I like to do back, biceps, and shoulders.
Most of us do a form of the military press and call it a day. This is a great shoulder workout and hits all the vital points. However, it is not really practical. By that I mean how often do we use our shoulders to mimic the motion we do while doing this military press shoulder exercise.
I like to do a couple of more practical exercises that I adopted from my martial arts days. One of these is the weighted punch. When you break down the movements completed while throwing a punch you are actually seeing the motions the shoulder is capable of. For instance, starting with your hand in a fist at your side and then thrusting it forward while rotating the hand to an optimal striking angle you get to experience many things. First, the little muscles in the shoulder that help it to guide its motion are used as is the rotational muscles.
Putting this knowledge to use, I like to take a dumbbell and hold it in my fist. Start with a very light one and gradually go heavier over time. Then I slowly throw a punch. Avoid doing the snapping motion at the end. You are simply going through the motions. Then throw a punch with the other arm. I do about 20 reps per hand in a set and then repeat.
The other exercise I do is a little less practical but builds the major shoulder muscles just t like the military press does. This exercise I take a heavier dumbbell in each hand and extend my arms out to my sides and parallel to the floor. Once I reach the point where my arms are level, I hold them there until my muscles fail. I do my best to guide them back to my sides without dropping them and then repeat.
Shoulders are often overlooked, but they can truly add to your fitness success when developed.