In Part 1 Chris Zaremba introduced us to a superb half dozen shoulder building and shaping exercises. Here he concludes his great workout…
4 Reverse Cable Crossover
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This exercise obviously needs a cable machine – it’s difficult to reproduce with other equipment. Specifically focussing on the posterior head, this exercise is also good for the rotator cuff muscles as three members of this group perform a stabilisation role throughout.
How to Perform:
Face the machine with legs about shoulder-width apart, stand the same distance away from the machine and grip the right cable with your left hand and vice versa. From this point, pull the cables downwards and toward you until your wrists are crossed over in front of your upper chest. This is the starting position. From here, pull your upper arms back so that your elbows are as far back as possible – rearward of the shoulder blades.
This pull can be relatively quick – it’s the power stroke of the movement and can be done sharply. At the end of the pull, your upper arms can be parallel to the floor or slightly pointing down. Re the latter: aim for the upper arms to drop away by an angle of no more than 30-degrees to parallel to the floor. Any lower and too much of the back gets involved.
Hold this position for a second, emphasising the pull on the posterior deltoids, then return the weight more slowly to the starting position. There can be a temptation to pull the cables further apart at the end position by straightening the arms, but this moves the reverse fly to more of a triceps exercise adding nothing to the shoulders. Equally nothing is added by leaning backward and forward – so keep your body and head in the same position throughout.
5 Rear Delt Fly Machine
Not many gyms have a dedicated seated machine for the posterior delts, but many have a pectoral (chest) fly machine that can also be used for the rear delts. It needs to be one with a setting that allows the arms to be placed alongside the vertical stand – an impossible position from which to do the chest fly, but ideal for the rear delts!
How to Perform:
Sit in the opposite direction to that required for a pec fly – face the machine with your chest against the backrest. Your legs should be placed either side of the vertical stand and the seat should be adjusted so that holding the handles, positions your arms parallel to the floor.
There may be somewhere to position your chin – not that it needs a rest, but if there is one this will focus your mind on keeping your body still for the duration of the exercise. From this position, grip the handles. Some machines have a choice of handle positions – if so, choose the overhand, horizontal grip.
Pull backwards with your arms in a large arc until maximum pull-back position is reached, then return the weights to the starting position with the handles in front of you. Your arms should be straight at the rearmost position, but may bend at the elbows as you come forwards – this will depend on the design of the machine. Don’t lean backward to extend the movement and keep that chin where it is!
6 Lying Dumbbell Lateral Rotation
This exercise focuses on the rotator cuff group of muscles.
How to Perform:
Lie on the floor with your arms out, a dumbbell in each hand and elbows tucked into your sides. Lift your forearms to the vertical and slowly lower the dumbbells toward each other – keeping your elbows on the floor and near your sides as far as possible.
This is the internal rotation phase of the exercise. The elbows will want to move outwards, but resist this as much as practicable. Control the dumbbells to let them touch your chest then reverse the movement and continue past the vertical mark until the dumbbells touch the floor (the external rotation phase), again trying to maintain the elbows in the same place on the floor.
Don’t let the dumbbells rest either on your chest or floor and keep your shoulder blades on the floor throughout. A full rep comprises one inward and one outward movement.
Shoulder Workout Numbers
I perform this workout as a dedicated session in the gym once or twice per week. I do three sets of each of the exercises, with a target of 10 reps per set, plus there’s a single initial warm up set up-front.
The warm up set comprises of a single set of whichever exercise I am going to perform first, done for 20 reps but with half the weight I intend to start with on that exercise. After the warm up, I start on the six exercises. I leave a minute between each set, as well as before the next exercise once I’ve finished all three sets of an exercise.
My weight for the first set on any exercise (not the warm up) is the weight I last used for that exercise where I achieved ten reps – I always write down my key workout stats so I can find the starting weight easily next time.
If I achieve ten reps in a set, then I move the weight up by one increment for the next set. If I fail to achieve ten, then I’ll note the number I failed on and perform the next set with the same weight, trying to getting closer to the ten. In this situation, I will also drop to a lighter weight just to complete the ten, remembering of course where I failed, as that will be the target to beat next set/workout.
This all works out to a total of 200 shoulder reps including the warm up (20 + (6 x 3 x 10)), which takes me about 45 minutes. I then add five minutes of static stretching at the end to make a total of about 50 minutes for the workout.
Chris welcomes comments and questions.