We’re often so obsessed with training chest and back that we don’t give our shoulders adequate attention. The thing is, performing shoulder exercises is crucial for so many reasons, including the obvious – having a solid looking set of shoulder boulders!
To help you give your shoulders the love, albeit tough love, they deserve, I have put together the ultimate shoulder superset workout for you! Read on for a structured superset workout for you to try out, as well as important information about your shoulders and the benefits of superset workouts.
- The Ultimate Shoulder Superset Workout Instructions
- SUPERSET 1
- SUPERSET 2
- SUPERSET 3
- SUPERSET 4
- An Overview of Your Shoulders
- The Benefits of Shoulder Superset Workouts
- Final Words
The Ultimate Shoulder Superset Workout Instructions
Below you will find each superset that needs to be completed as part of this workout, as well as the reps, sets and rest times required to get the most out of it!
It’s a great idea to start this workout off with some shoulder mobility work and sub-scapular warm up exercises such as:
|Exercise||Repetitions||Rest||Number of Sets|
|Military Press||10||30 seconds||4|
|Barbell Upright Row||10||60 seconds|
|Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press||12||30 seconds||4|
|Alternating Front Raises||24||45 seconds|
|Kettlebell Push Press||12||30 seconds||3|
|Half Kneeling Landmine Press||12||45 seconds|
|Single Arm Cable Lateral Raises||15||30 seconds||3|
|Rear Delt Fly Machine||15||30 seconds|
Standing Military Press
Why this exercise: it activates all 3 sections of your deltoids (anterior, medial, posterior) and is great for fixing push exercise imbalances.
The standing military press is probably one of the greatest shoulder exercises of all time. As with all classic exercises, if they have been done for generations and never seem to ‘get old’, there’s a good reason. And the reason is usually that they, undeniably, work wonders!
How to: have a barbell racked at chest height in a power rack. Grip the bar with a pronated grip, over shoulder-width apart. Hold the bar close to you, just above your collar bones. Keeping your core engaged and hips tucked under, push the barbell up overhead. Return to starting position slowly.
Pro tip: squeeze your glutes to discourage hyperflexion through your lumber spine as you push up overhead. This will also load your shoulders more without you leaning back through your thoracic and utilizing your chest for assistance.
Barbell Upright Row
Why this exercise: it’s great for adding shape and size to your shoulders, particularly the rear and top parts of your deltoids.
Upright rows, though a fantastic exercise, aren’t (biomechanically fit) for everyone. To make sure the upright row is safe for you to be doing, ensure you can lift your hands up whilst keeping them close to your body, without causing any pain through your shoulders. It is advised you do this prior to performing a loaded upright row.
How to: hold an appropriately loaded Olympic bar on extended arms hanging in front of your body. Your grip will depend on you, but ultimately, you want your hands no wider than shoulder-width apart. From here, pull the bar upwards towards your collar bones, sending your elbows out wide and lifting your shoulders.
You should finish with your elbows roughly in line with your ears and the barbell close to your body. Lower back down to full extension of the arms before going into your next repetition.
Pro tip: get into the mental motion of pulling the bar up with your shoulders rather than your biceps and forearms.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Why this exercise: dumbbells allow for equal output through your left and right sides without your dominant side taking over, as with a barbell. The seated dumbbell shoulder press is a push exercise that develops all areas of your shoulders, but also allows you to draw in on certain areas by making slight changes in the angles and/or grip used in your execution.
The dumbbell shoulder press has been around for ages. Like the military press, it has a place in almost everyone’s shoulder workout for a reason! It works! Having said this though, simple errors in technique can significantly decrease the effectiveness for your shoulders.
How to: Sit on a bench that is set up just over 90-degrees. Your upper back and hips should have contact with the backrest. A natural arch through your lower back is advised. Have a dumbbell in each hand. Start with your elbows bent and the dumbbells in line with your ears. Push up overhead, hold for a second and return to starting position.
Pro tip: push up to 80 or 90% extension of the arms to maintain the load of the dumbbells on your shoulders. Drive your feet into the ground for extra push power.
Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises
Why this exercise: it defines and strengthens the front of your shoulders, which is hard to otherwise target with shoulder isolation exercises.
As previously mentioned in this article, using dumbbells creates the need for equal output from your left and right sides. I like to do my front raises alternating from left to right side to further increase the equal effort of and mind to muscle connection on each shoulder.
How to: stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Start with the dumbbells on extended arms, hanging down in neutral position in front of your body. Lift your left arm upwards through the shoulder joint until it is parallel to the ground. Hold for a second and return to starting position before repeating with the right side.
Pro tip: avoid any swinging through the hips to create momentum to lift the dumbbells – rather concentrate the weight of the lift solely on your front deltoids.
Kettlebell Push Press
Why this exercise: it’s a great power exercise in which you can develop your stabilizers and carry extra load without placing too much direct pressure on the shoulder joint.
The kettlebell push press combines speed and power into an exercise that is sure to get your shoulders burning and your heart pumping! The beauty of kettlebell push presses (over barbell push presses) is that you can utilize a unilateral method, or do both sides at the same time, yet still requiring equal output.
How to: for the purpose of this workout, we’re discussing the double kettlebell push press. Clean the kettlebells to your shoulders, at which stage your elbows should be bent, forming a ‘V’ between your biceps and forearms. Your hand should be gripping the kettlebells with your palms facing 45-degrees inwards.
Dip through the hips, then push back up to full extension through the hips, thrusting the kettlebells up overhead in the process. It’s a quick and sharp movement before returning to starting position.
Pro tips: keep your heels grounded throughout the push press for maximum explosive power. Ensure that you hold your press at the top for a second or 2 before returning to starting position – this will increase your shoulder stability most effectively.
Half-Kneeling Landmine Press
Why this exercise: it’s a perfect unilateral strength exercise for your shoulders.
The half-kneeling landmine press is an advanced upper body strength exercise, with favorable asymmetrical loading. It is great for developing balanced strength and mass through your left and right sides. This exercise also increases the dynamic stability of your scapular, unlike any other push exercise.
How to: go into half-kneeling position in front of a barbell that is set up in a landmine attachment. If starting with your left arm, kneel on your left knee. Have the barbell in your hand and your elbow bent, by your side.
Push the barbell away from you, resisting twisting through your core, until your arm is fully extended. Lower back down to starting position, keeping the load on your shoulder and avoiding coming into internal rotation through the shoulder joint.
Pro tip: press the barbell away from you with power over 1 to 2 seconds and lower back down to starting position slowly, over 3 or 4 seconds.
Cable Single Arm Lateral Raises
Why this exercise: the unilateral aspect of it allows you to focus on your left and right sides individually, whilst using the cable machine creates constant tension on your shoulders throughout your rep range.
The single-arm cable lateral raise is an isolation exercise for your shoulders, specifically the lateral part of your deltoid. As with any isolation exercise, technique trumps weight. If you’re maintaining perfect form throughout this exercise, it will reward you adequately.
How to: attach a single handle to the bottom end of the cable tower and stand side on to the machine with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the handle in your hand that is furthest away from the machine and stabilize yourself by holding the cable tower with your non-working hand.
With a small bend in your elbow, lift your arm through the shoulder joint until it is parallel to the ground. Don’t allow the weight of the cable to yank your arm back down, it should be a slow and controlled movement, both ways.
Pro tip: hold for the count of 2 at the top of the movement for maximum time under maximum tension.
Rear Delt Fly Machine
Why this exercise: an excellent exercise for targeting your rear deltoids with the use of a machine, whereby the stability provided allows you to load the exercise more significantly. The scapular retraction is great for postural improvements too!
This is the only machine-based exercise that you will find in this superset shoulder workout. I tend to stay away from machine exercises for the most part, being the lesser contributors to overall functional strength. However, when it comes to hitting your rear deltoids, you can’t overlook these machine-based flies.
How to: they are easy to get right if you can be strict with these two things: always keep your chest on the chest plate and maintain a small bend in your elbows throughout. Observing these two key elements, open your arms to form a 180-degree line across your chest before returning to starting position.
Pro tips: sit on the seat in a way that allows you to lean forward into the chest plate. Keep tension on your rear deltoids by not letting the weight plates on the machine touch when you return to ‘starting position’.
An Overview of Your Shoulders
They say people find it easier to learn to drive when they understand the mechanics of a car. Similarly, people get a lot more out of their training when they have some insight into their biomechanics and anatomy. Let’s talk shoulders for a minute.
Our shoulders are complex. They comprise of lots of smaller muscles that attach to our shoulder joint. Some of our shoulder muscles aid wide ranges of movement, whereas others are responsible for stabilizing the shoulder joint.
The largest and most frequently discussed shoulder muscle is the deltoid. This is the muscle that gives us the rounded shape around the side, front and back of our shoulders that we love so much. The muscle we all aspire to have, but usually, don’t do enough of the right things to achieve.
Our deltoid muscle is split into three parts:
Another important part of your shoulder anatomy that is great to understand is your rotator cuff.
The rotator cuff is a bunch of little muscles and tendons that give your shoulder joint a constant ‘group hug’. They are responsible for maintaining the safe and stable positioning of your upper arm bone in the socket of your shoulder joint and the upward movement and internal/external rotation of your arm.
As mentioned previously, shoulders are responsible for a lot of our everyday movements. It’s, therefore, important to strengthen and condition your shoulders, as well as maintain their mobility, to avoid shoulder injuries that we so commonly hear about.
The Benefits of Shoulder Superset Workouts
A superset is a way of training that has you doing two exercises back to back, effectively, in their own set. Two for one if you like. Supersets are normally performed with no rest or minimal rest in between, unlike the standard ‘set and rest’ method.
In case you’re wondering why the ultimate shoulder workout is one that consists of supersets, I’m going to let you in on some facts!
Besides the fact that shoulders respond well to voluminous training and supersets are one sure-fire way of adding volume to a workout, there are plenty of other benefits of superset workouts to be enjoyed.
No Need to Unnecessarily Load The Shoulder Joint
I guess you’re wondering why this is a benefit. Let me explain. With supersets, you will be unable to lift the amount of weight you would otherwise in a standard set and rest exercise approach. This is due to the lack of rest time between exercises.
However, due to the volume of superset workouts, you get to effectively fatigue your shoulders and stimulate your muscle fibers without having to significantly load your shoulder joint.
Supersets Will Save You Time
Who isn’t busy these days? By putting exercises back to back with minimal rest, you’re effectively cutting your workout time down by at least 35%. And this is without comprising on the effectiveness of your workout or output required!
For people who like training a muscle group split and find themselves in the gym 5 or 6 days a week – this is super helpful!
Experience Increased Muscle Growth Stimulation
If you’re looking to gain mass through your shoulders, or anywhere else, supersets are for you.
The intensity of superset workouts, which normally consist of higher rep ranges and little rest, result in the build-up of metabolic by-products. This build-up encourages our muscles to enter an anabolic state, optimal for muscle growth.
Enhance Your Cardiovascular Fitness
I am, by no means suggesting that you ditch your cardio workouts for superset workouts. However, the minimal rest periods observed in superset style training allows for your heart rate to stay at a higher level throughout your workout.
This will both help you burn more calories and work on your fitness whilst you’re getting your pump on and kicking some mass gains goals. A rare combination of affairs!
Great shoulders, from a functional and aesthetic perspective, can be achieved through using a structured regime and being consistent with it. Whilst I can’t keep you accountable for your consistency, you now have a structured shoulder workout to get started on!
By utilizing this superset method, the time under tension is increased and you are provided with the best opportunity to develop strength and size whilst being kind on your shoulder joints. Remember to keep switching things up to keep your shoulders guessing and avoid hitting a training plateau – this workout will serve you well for 4 to 6 weeks.
A strong and supple set of shoulders makes everyday life a lot easier and taking preventative measures against shoulder injury will be of major benefit to you over the long-term.