Shoulder training

Q: "Just wanted to say thanks for the article. My shoulders are my weakest point. I started in the gym 4 months ago, but I'm working them hard and keen to make progress.

"So your article was very interesting for me. Thanks! By the way what do u think of the standing military press for shoulders? I've heard that it's bad for your back, compared to the seated one. I also saw a guy doing behind-the-head seated military press. Is the idea that this one is better for the middle/rear delts, compared to in-front? Cheers"

My Answer: The military press is not inherently bad for your back. I prefer the standing military press as opposed to the seated version, because the standing version will engage your whole entire body. The problem is that people use crappy form and start overarching their backs. They don't know how to tighten their abs and lats and push the barbell up in a straight line with their torsos. Form and posture are very important for the standing MP. If you don't maintain them, then you'll stress the lower back. Posture is so important for strength and looks, that I devote a whole chapter to it in Strength and Physique, Volume One.

Nevertheless, the standing MP develops far greater "real world strength" than the seated. The seated version teaches you poor form. You can rely on the back support, and in doing so you arch your back. There is also a tendency to relax your abs.

You should ask yourself what your goal is in training. Do you want to develop the look of your shoulders or is it for an athletic reason? If it's for looks, then I wouldn't worry about the MP. It develops the front deltoids, but does absolutely nothing for your lateral or posterior heads. It doesn't matter if you perform with the bar behind your neck. You're better off doing a combination of incline presses and laterals.

Q: "I had one quick question for you. I read your article on on shoulder training and really liked it. Why do you suggest starting with a higher weight for high reps and decreasing the reps and the weight on the rest of the giant set? Thanks for your time."

My Answer: The reps and weight shown in the descending sets of lean away laterals is simply an example of a possible rep and weight breakdown. When it comes down to it, you can have any rep and weight breakdown you want. The key thing is to choose an initial weight, do as many reps as you can in good form, set that weight down, pick up a lower weight, eke out some more reps and keep repeating the process until you're at a minimal weight.

I've chosen the rep scheme of "10-12, 8-10, 6-8, 6-8," because the lactic acid that accumulates as you're repping out starts interfering with your performance. So even though you're picking up lighter and lighter weights, the lactic acid is limiting the number of reps each time. Of course, it will depend on how much you're dropping in weight, but your rep breakdown from set to set will closely resemble the above. But if you can go beyond 6-8 reps in good form, then by all means do so.

Q: "Hi, I enjoyed your shoulder article on I have a question as I usually devote a full 45 minute workout to shoulders. Would one workout consist of the lean away laterals, the shoulder triset and overhead dumbbell press, or are these each separate workouts? Thanks!" 

My Answer: Each are separate workouts. I know a lot of lifters use bodybuilding splits where you devote an entire workout to one body part, but this really is not the best way to build muscle. You gain muscle at a faster rate if you spread the volume across the week.

Here's what you can do: Do a mini deltoid workout at the beginning of each workout. So for your Monday workout, start out with some lean away laterals and then do a full body workout. On Wednesday, start out with the shoulder triset and follow that with a completely different full body workout. Then on Friday, do descending sets of the overhead dumbbell press and follow that with the 3rd and final full body workout. 

Don't go over 45 minutes for each workout, so choose your exercises carefully. A higher frequency of training packs on the muscle much faster, especially when you're talking about the deltoids. Just look at basketball players. They do lots of "workouts" (a.k.a. games) where they're working the shoulders, and they have incredible delt development despite all that cardio.

Q: "I checked your web site. It is great. I love it.  I have another question and hope that it won't bother your time. Can I use this idea (descending sets) for other parts of body like chest, back, arm etc?"

My Answer: Descending sets are great for any body part. It's really the logistics that you have to think about when you do them. In other words, use machines and dumbbell racks, since it allows you to drop weight quickly.
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