Who doesn’t want beautifully sculpted shoulders? Sculpted, defined shoulders make your waistline look even smaller than it actually is. Strong, defined shoulders also improve the appearance of your posture. But, those shoulders don’t come for free. You have to work the muscles against resistance to see growth and strength gains! In response to the challenge, they’ll grow in size and become more defined. Just as importantly, they’ll get stronger so you can handle the challenges of everyday life. You use your shoulders a lot to pick things up and for movements that involve swinging your arms, like throwing a ball. Strengthening the muscles in your shoulders will also help protect them against injury. But, it’s important to do a balanced shoulder workout. The reality is most people don’t do a balanced shoulder workout.
The Part of the Deltoids Too Many People Neglect
Your shoulders aren’t a single entity. They actually consist of three different heads – the anterior, medial, and posterior shoulder head. Most of us work the anterior and medial shoulder but spend less time training the posterior head of the deltoid. That’s not surprising since we often work the “vanity” muscles, the parts of our body we can see in a mirror. It might give you great satisfaction to see defined deltoids looking back at you, but the rear view deserves some attention too, not just for aesthetic purposes but because you want symmetrical muscle strength and balance.
As you know, muscle imbalances increase the risk of injury. If you’re working your anterior deltoids. it’s important to devote time to your posterior deltoid muscles as well. If you don’t, overdevelopment of the anterior deltoid can pull your shoulder slightly forward and create rounded shoulders. Besides, developing the posterior heads of the deltoids will make your shoulders look strong and defined when viewed from the side and back. So, there are aesthetic reasons to keep your training balanced.
Exercises that Work the Posterior Deltoids
What’s the best exercise for getting the posterior deltoids to grow and become stronger? One exercise that effectively targets the posterior delts is bent lateral raises. This exercise excels at targeting the posterior portion of the shoulder. If you don’t currently do them, here’s how:
· Hold a dumbbell of appropriate weight in each hand.
· Bend over at the hip until your pelvis is almost parallel with the floor or mat.
· Hang your arms while holding the dumbbells, down in front of you with your elbows slightly bent & palms facing each other.
· Slowly raise your arms with the dumbbells out to each side until they’re about even with your shoulders.
· Hold for a second or two and slowly, and in a controlled manner, lower the dumbbells back to the starting point.
There are some pitfalls to watch out for when you do this exercise. Most people tend to retract or pull their shoulder blades back when they do the movement. Doing this shifts the emphasis of the exercise toward the upper back. That’s not what you want. The goal is to work the back of the shoulders where the posterior head lies. If you tend to retract your shoulder with this exercise, lighten up on the weight until you can keep your shoulders from retracting and placing too much emphasis on the upper back.
Another key to maximizing the benefits is to do rear lateral raises while sitting on a bench rather than standing. Sitting makes it harder to “cheat” and use momentum. Another key to reducing momentum and getting the most out of the exercise is to slow the tempo. The more you slow the movement down, the harder your posterior deltoids will have to work to control the weight. Plus, if you slow the eccentric, or lowering phase of the exercise, you’ll sustain more muscle damage and, potentially, gain more growth. Aim for a two to three-second lowering phase. Slow eccentrics leads to more muscle damage and potentially more growth, but you’re more likely to feel sore as well.
Other Exercises That Target Posterior Deltoids
Another exercise that gives your posterior deltoids a workout are one-arm dumbbell rows. With this exercise, you’re hitting your deltoids, but your upper back muscles also get in on the action. It’s not quite as targeted as the rear deltoid raise, but it’s still a good way to work your posterior delts.
Because your large back muscles assist with this exercise, you should be able to lift substantially more weight than with the rear deltoid raise. Be careful not to use a weight so heavy that you have to contort your pelvis to row the weight. Unfortunately, people tend to get sloppy with this exercise and use momentum or round their back to help get the weight up. There’s also a tendency to jerk the weight. That’s a no-no. As with rear deltoid raises, slow down the tempo of the movement to reduce momentum and jerking.
Grab a Barbell for Stronger Posterior Shoulders
If you have access to barbells, bent-over barbell rows also effectively target the upper back and posterior deltoids. This exercise works the muscles in the upper back and if you use an underhand grip, you’ll also work your biceps as well.
If possible, include all three of these exercises in your deltoid routine. Adding these exercises will help correct muscle imbalances that inevitably occur when you work your anterior and medial deltoids more than the posterior portion.
Keep It Balanced
Now, you know why it’s important to include exercises that specifically target the posterior deltoids to your routine. Most of the common pushing exercises, like military press, hit the anterior deltoids more than the posterior. You need these exercises to prevent unbalanced strength gains. To make sure you’re targeting the too often neglected posterior deltoids, do these exercises first when you do your shoulder routine. That way you’re sure to get them done and will do them before you fatigue your shoulders from other exercises.
The Bottom Line
Keeping your workout balanced is important for symmetrical muscle development and injury prevention. Now, you know why your posterior deltoids might need a little more attention. Make sure you’re showing them a little love.
OrthoInfo. “Rotator Cuff and Shoulder Conditioning Program”
ACE.com. “Dynamite Delts: ACE Research Identifies Top Shoulder Exercises”
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