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How Should You Strengthen Your Upper Body

May 20, 2008
The sight of well-built and even wide shoulders on men and women imparts an impression of strength and even confidence. It actually is one of the parts of our upper body that we want to build and strengthen, and fortunately, there are many ways to do that.

The shoulder is actually made up to three deltoids or muscles: the front, middle and the back. Fortunately, each of the three heads are involved in many of the compound weight lifting or bodybuilding exercises:

* Benchpress works the front deltoid aside from the pectoral (chest) muscles
* Closegrip benchpress also works the front deltoids, aside from the chest and triceps
* Overhead shoulder press targeted primarily to build and strengthen the triceps and middle deltoids
* Bentover rows primarily performed to build the back muscles (lassitimus dorsi) and works out the rear deltoids

If you have a program that has the following exercises, there may be no need to do additional exercises for the shoulder, as this can lead to overtraining of that bodypart, and even injury to the shoulder joint. In fact, the shoulder joint also takes a lot of stress and beating when exercises like the deadlift are performed (especially with heavy poundages).

When doing the compound exercises, all the muscles of the shoulders are actually getting stimulated, albeit in varying degrees. For example, when doing the benchpress, the rear and middle deltoids also act as stabilizers. So it's easy to understand how the deltoid can get overtrained.

However, there may be a need to build more shoulder mass and strength even if the compound exercises mentioned can give a good workout. That's when we can go into specialization.

During the phase of specialization, a target muscle or group of muscles are targeted for a period ranging from 2 months to 6 months (depending on rate of progress or goals). During specialization, the progression of the poundages of other exercises affecting the part to be targeted are lightened, or the volume reduced. In the case of shoulders, lightening up or reducing the volume of work on the benchpress and bentover rows may be necessary.

The reason for this is not to tax too much a persons recuperative abilities, and to avoid overtraining of the body part from the performance of other exercises.

Shoulder specialization exercises that can be considered are:

* Front dumbbell raises - works more of the front deltoid
* Lateral raises works more of the middle deltoid
* Bent lateral raises works more of the rear deltoid

You can also include barbell presses in your specialization program, especially if mass and power are part of your goals.

If your workout is mostly composed of bodyweight exercises, the shoulder may need additional stimulus from lifting weights. Please take note, however, that bodyweight exercises like pushups also work the shoulder.

Since the shoulder muscles and the joint can be easily overtrained and stressed during exercise (especially during heavy weight training), care must be taken not to pull any muscle in the area or the joints.

While the shoulder joint is actually very sturdy (just watch how much weight strongmen can lift overhead), you can actually strain it easily by making light flicking (like shadow boxing) or jerking movements if it is not warmed up properly. Nonetheless, the shoulder joints will also give in if is it is subjected to too much stress (from heavy weights, for example).

So we cannot underestimate the need to warm up properly when working out your shoulders. Violent, jerky or flicking movements when warming up the shoulders are discouraged. Better to go slow first when warming up your shoulders.

If you feel any pain in the shoulder joint, better to stop those heavy workouts before things get worse. For sure, nobody wants to undergo an operation to repair that part.
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