Why is it that so many people train their shoulders the wrong way? Would you do half movements on your biceps? How about on your chest or triceps?

Do you stop when you are pulling your pull-downs at the top of your head? Then why are you training shoulders and doing partial movements? It is the single most common thing that I see in both men and women when they train shoulders. Partial movements seem to be the norm. Who started this trend? Stop it! Then see your shoulders bloom into amazing reproductions of Greek statues. The shoulder has more flexibility than any other joint. It moves about 2.5 times faster than any other joint. To train the shoulder properly, you need to first use the whole range of motion and also vary the speed of the movements.

Consider the common lateral raise. The dumbbell is commonly held in a position that is similar to pouring coffee/tea into a glass from a pitcher. The usual mistake is to raise the dumbbell to the height of the chest and then lower it. The difference here is that the shoulder can elevate the movement all the way until your arms are over your head. Combinations of muscles associated with the shoulders provide this ability. The supraspinatus starts the movement and raises the lateral arm to a 15 degree angle. Then the deltoid takes over and allows for the movement.

The final part of the movement from the shoulder height to full extension over the head is associated with the front of the deltoid muscle. Stabilization is provided by the assistance muscles of the shoulder including the coracobrachialis, biceps, teres major and minor, subscapularis and even parts of the pectorals and trapezius. The shoulder can elevate the arm directly in the front plane. The shoulder works in the frontal, posterior and lateral planes. Shoulders can even perform circumduction, which is only available in a limited capacity only from the hip, wrist, fingers and ankle joints.

To build a great routine you have to first warm up the area and then move to some strength movements, followed by some simple speed movements. This starts with an exercise called “around-the-worlds.” Grab two very light dumbbells, start with the hands down and next to your legs, palms facing forward, slowly raise your arms keeping the palms facing forward and ending the movement with the dumbbells touching over the head, with arms still in full extension for 25-50 reps.


The next two exercises are similar to common swimming strokes. This exercise will use very light dumbbells (2-10 lbs). Just like the swimming stroke, called the “crawl,” start with one arm down and the other elevated straight up over your head. As one arm lowers, the opposite arm raises, to the rear, just as in the swimming stroke. Try to keep both arms mirroring the opposite arm.


The next exercise is the same, only backwards. Reverse the exercise direction as to imitate the backstroke in swimming. Remember to keep the arms mirrored in relationship to one another. This exercise is extremely difficult so move slowly to coordinate the movements.


The hang clean is a simple exercise that is going to be performed with dumbbells or a barbell. Hang cleans start with the bar or dumbbells at the level of the upper thigh. Then pull the weight upwards, until it reaches the upper chest and then quickly rotate the arms from a pulling movement, to a pushing movement to complete the lift with both arms extending directly over-head.


This exercise will help round out your shoulders. Place the barbell at about chest hight on your squat rack. With your palms-up (pronated) grip the bar wider than your shoulders. Lift and place the barbell onto your collar bone. Then lift the bar up over your head. Lower the bar down to the collarbone slowly as you inhale, and repeat.


Bent-over raises are similar to the movements associated with the butterfly stroke in swimming. With your knees bent slightly and bent forward, start with your hands down and raise using the little finger to lead the movement. Extend and elevate the arms forward until they point to an area in front of your head, slightly separating the hands as you end the movements.


Ropes offer a training that is geared towards speed training. The best position is in a partial seated position and then the arms holding the rope are raised fully and lowered in a quick repetitive motion. Use a timer to train this exercise.


Another common mistake with shoulders is not training them as a major muscle group. Begin with the warm up and follow the rest of the routine as written.

Exercise             Sets     Reps
Front crawls      5     20-15-10-8
Back stroke        5     20-15-10-8
Hang cleans       5     20-15-10-8
Military Press   5     20-15-10-8
Rope raises       3     20-30-60 seconds

Using this plan will result in some intense shoulder workouts. You will need to start light on your weight, but within a few weeks you will quickly add shape and form to your shoulders that rivals some of the best athletic builds.


About the Author
DrDavidRyanDr. David Ryan has an extensive background in both coaching and playing professional sports, and has been the team physician for several highly ranked teams. Dr. Ryan now serves as the current Co-Chairman of the Arnold Sports Festival ( and is a former Medical Director of this internationally acclaimed event.

Dr. Ryans numerous articles have been published in International Medical Journals, Muscle & Fitness Magazine as well as on the popular website. Visit Dr. Ryans home page on here: and his YouTube page here.