I just bought a suit. What’s this have to do with shoulders? Well, by the time I found a jacket that fit the width of my shoulders, the pants were nearly 10 inches too big! The salesman said they base the designs on “composite or average builds.” I guess most people out there don’t have a nice v-shape like those of us who train hard!
After he finished measuring me and marking the pants to be fitted correctly, I started thinking about what has provided the most results in my shoulder training. The answer: Giant Sets! More than just a super set, a giant set consists of taking every exercise you do for a body part and going through them back to back before resting. For shoulders I pick 4 to 5 exercises.
The “Arnold” Press:
Named after the one and only, Arnold presses are a modified dumbbell shoulder press. A military chair or an adjustable incline bench set straight up is perfect for this exercise – it is typically performed in a seated position. The only difference is the starting and ending position. Start by holding both dumbbells side by side near the top of your chest with your palms facing your body. Now, rotate your palms outward as you begin to lift the dumbbells. By the time your elbows are at shoulder level, your palms should be facing entirely outward, your arms should form a perfect “L” on both sides, and you will be in the traditional shoulder press position. The rest of the movement is like a traditional shoulder press. Simply continue to raise the dumbbells up until you make them meet overhead. Then lower them in “reverse” until you are back in the starting position. Arnold presses are a great variation of the shoulder press and work the entire delt quite well. Until you get the hang of these use a lighter weight than usual. Soon, you will be able to use as much as you do for a traditional shoulder press.
Start standing with dumbbells in hand and your palms facing each other near your waist (depending on how long your arms are). Slowly raise your arms to the side until they are at an even level with your shoulders. At this point your palms should be facing the ground. Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position. Note: keep your arms slightly bent. It pains me to see anyone perform this exercise with their elbows locked – and improper form will eventually result in pain for the athlete as well.
Start in the same position as side raises except have your palms facing your body. Also, alternate arms rather than lifting both at the same time. Lift the arm straight out in front of your body until it is at the level of your shoulder and slowly lower it back to the starting position. Now do the other arm. Again, keep your arms slightly bent. Do not lock out your elbows.
Rear Delt Flyes:
Set an incline bench at a 45 degree angle. Now get on it backwards so your chest is against the pad where your back would be if you were doing incline presses. Start with a dumbbell in each hand, your arms hanging down below the bench, and your palms facing each other. Now, basically perform a “reverse fly”. Bring your arms out to the sides until they are at the same level as your shoulders. Feel the squeeze in your rear delts and back. Now, slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
Hey, traps and shoulders go together so throw these in, too. Grab some heavy dumbbells and shrug your shoulders. At the top (or peak contraction) hold it and count one-thousand-one and then lowere the weight. Do not roll your shoulders on this exercise! This is a common mistake and misconception, but it could easily result in injury. A simple straight up and down shrug is perfect.
Ok, there’s your giant set. After 8 to 10 reps of each exercise, you’ve performed 40 to 50 reps in one giant set. Take a couple of minutes to catch your breathe and start in again. I typically do 4 giant sets during a shoulder workout. This is a quick and efficient way to obliterate your muscles and supercharge growth. You may also want to apply this technique to break a plateau in your training or growth on any other body part.