Use a 360-degree approach to shoulder training

April 25, 2015

In most gyms today, there is a lot of emphasis on overhead movements, like the clean and jerk, overhead dumbbell press and push press, and although these are very cool exercises, too much of these movements could cause you to be a statistic in an orthopedic surgeon's office, so you should learn to get stronger while improving posture, shoulder joint integrity and, most importantly, prevent injury.

When training shoulders, it's important to understand that the shoulder joint is made up of three individual muscles that work together as a team, and each must be trained equally or you could be creating an imbalance and putting the shoulder joint under great stress. Learn to assess your strengths and weaknesses, and put a plan in place that will keep you in the gym and out of the doctor’s office.

Front deltoid

Have you ever had trouble keeping your shoulders back, or had a tendency to slouch? If so, it’s probably the result of an unbalanced shoulder. This happens to most people naturally because life forces us to constantly use the muscles in front of the body while neglecting the muscles in the back.

One of the most common areas for this to happen is the front deltoid. The anterior deltoids or front shoulder muscles are located above the chest between the biceps and shoulder blades and are worked when doing all pressing and overhead movements. To make matters worse, the front of the shoulders is one of the most popular areas to train and can quickly become a problem if you constantly do a large volume of chest pressing and overhead movements without working the back and side of the shoulders equally.

Side deltoid

The medial deltoid or side of the shoulder is sandwiched between the front and rear deltoids and is an important piece of the puzzle because it stabilizes the shoulder to add balance. It can be targeted with side lateral raises and should not be dismissed because it helps encircle the shoulder to keep the joint tight and protected. It also gives the shoulder a very full look when developed properly, so be sure to include it in your routine.

Rear deltoid

These little muscles are located in the back of the shoulders between the trapezius muscles and the triceps at the back of the shoulder, and they are some of the most neglected muscles in the human body. Don't be fooled, these muscles have a very important job to do, and failure to include them in your training could be a big mistake. Strengthening these muscles will pull the shoulders back and will keep the joint free of impingement, allowing the ball-and-socket joint to work properly to keep you healthy, happy and able to continue working out and making gains. The only problem is most gyms don’t have equipment to work these muscles, so you have to be very creative. Exercises like face pulls, or a 45-degree incline lateral raise work well for strengthening the rear delts. It also makes good sense to work these muscles at the beginning of the shoulder workout, because the rear deltoids are usually the weakest muscles in the shoulder.

Dangers of overtraining

The front deltoids are members of what I like to call the mirror muscle club, because they are some of the first muscles you see when looking in the mirror. Nothing accents your body better than a nice wide set of front deltoids and a tiny waistline, but there’s a lot more to a book than just the cover. You must not overtrain the anteriors, or the shoulder joint will be pulled forward, causing grinding and damage to the shoulder. Be sure to add an equal amount of exercises for the side and back of the shoulder as well.

Remember, the secret to shoulder training is to train all three shoulder muscles proportionately so the ball-and-socket joint in the shoulder is in place and can function properly. Failure to do so can cause an imbalance that will put dangerous stress and friction on the shoulder joint and could result in serious injury.

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