How to build shoulder workouts that will make you big and athletic (as featured in STACK)

Photo credit: STACK
Photo credit: STACK

Most people train for one of two reasons—to perform better in athletics or to look good. Who doesn’t want the perfect blend of style and performance? However, there is an area where both goals can be obtained. People often perceive performing shoulder workouts as a means to achieve one or the other. That notion couldn’t be further from the truth.

As someone who comes from a strength and conditioning background but who also has an affinity for competitive physique events (e.g., bodybuilding, figure), I offer my clients the best of both worlds. The sought-after “V-taper” physique literally starts from the top down. The V-taper creates the illusion of more size with a smaller waist; you not only look bigger, you also appear leaner.

Furthermore, shoulder workouts that create strength and mobility are essential to every lift andevery athletic movement. The Bench Press requires strong delts; lineman exploding off the line require strong delts; and swimmers require strong and mobile delts. Even my hairstylist, who holds her arms at eye-level for eight-plus hours a day, requires functional delts. Whether your goal is to be more athletic or look more aesthetically pleasing—or if you’re a mechanic who lifts all day—training your delts should be a high priority.

The central piece of designing shoulder workouts that achieve both function and aesthetics is the primary lift (or compound lift). The primary lift should be done at the beginning of the workout when your muscles are fresh. Since your goal is to use a multi-joint, compound movement, being fresh is essential to moving the most weight possible.

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