Build the Shoulders Without Sacrificing Joint Health Using This Superset

If you are following any competent strength training program, you should be performing a variety of heavy compound movements such as bench press, overhead press, rows and pulldowns/pull-ups for the upper body.  If you aren’t, it’s time to bail on your current program and start from scratch.  Those are the basic movements of which there are a million different variations but including them in some fashion is required for gains in size or strength.  My holiday analogy would be to think of these movements as the turkey and mashed potatoes of your training program, everything else is a side dish.  Unfortunately, you can only handle so much training volume at heavy loads or you risk frying your central nervous system or creating too much wear and tear on your joints, ligaments, and tendons.  Either issue has the potential to put a serious dent in your ability to progress with your training or worse yet, could sideline you from training all together.  Because of its role in the major upper body compound movements, no joint takes as much punishment as the glenohumeral joint (shoulder).  Regardless if its pushing or pulling, the shoulder is a big player in supporting the primary movers for every upper body compound lift.


Be Kind to Your Joints


The shoulder is made up of the anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids.  While heavy compound lifts are great at strengthening each of these muscles, some accessory isolation movements are helpful for making sure you specifically exhaust each one.  This will make sure each muscle reaches its max potential in terms of size, strength, and ability to stabilize during the heavier lifts.  When trying to isolate these muscles, keeping the loads light to reduce the amount of overall stress on both the CNS and your shoulder joint is a smart move.  Give this superset a try to include some extra shoulder volume without risking your shoulder health.

I fell in love with this superset when following a program from Mountain Dog Training written by John Meadows a few years back.  I still sprinkle it into my training from time to time and use it with my clients frequently. 

The Movements

Shoulder 6-ways:  Use a light pair of dumbbells, more weight is not necessarily better, control is the goal.  Lift the dumbbells out to your sides until you have a 90-degree angle at the armpit, then move the dumbbells straight out in front of you while keeping the same angle at the armpit.  Next, raise the dumbbells above your head.  Bring the dumbbells back down in front, then out to the side and then down to the starting position.  Each movement should be done with control and a nice easy tempo.  If this doesn’t create a nice fire in the anterior and medial deltoids, either you moved too fast or used a weight that was too light.  Move directly to the next exercise after each set.

Perform 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps

Targeted Muscles: Anterior and Medial Deltoids


Spider Crawl:  Find a versa loop or band like the one shown in the video (if you don’t have access to a similar band, you can purchase one through the Amazon link at the bottom of this page).  Place the band around your wrists and stretch it as far as you can.  Start with your fingertips on the wall at hip level.  Slowly walk your hands up the wall with just your fingertips in contact with the wall.  Keep “crawling” up the wall until your arms are fully extended.  After you reach full extension, go back down the wall to the starting position.  You must keep tension on the band for the duration of the exercise to hit the muscles with the intensity required to maximize the benefits (read: it should burn something awful). Each set is 3 trips up and down the wall.  Take a :60-:90 rest period before starting the next set.

Perform 3-4 sets of 3 reps    

Targeted Muscles: Rear Deltoids

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