WSBB Blog: Westside Shoulder Training

WSBB Education
Tue Jan 12, 2021

Tags: Shoulders, Max Effort, Strength

Time To Read: 5min

Whether you are a powerlifter, a strongman, a Crossfit competitor, or an athlete, having strong and healthy shoulders is necessary to fully realize your athletic potential. Many athletes avoid heavy or strenuous shoulder exercises for a variety of reasons. Coaches and trainers often worry that heavy overhead pressing or direct shoulder work increases the likelihood of injury, fearing sport performance will decrease due to overuse of the shoulder joint.

As it goes with many fears surrounding strength training, this myth is perpetuated by those who do not fully understand barbell strength training. As a matter of fact, properly strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint will greatly reduce the likelihood of a shoulder injury, and will increase the resiliency of an athlete if injury occurs. Put simply, if you want to become the strongest lifter you can possibly be you must take your shoulder training seriously.

Below, we will go over a few shoulder exercises we use at Westside Barbell to build elite bench and overhead presses.

Standing Overhead Press

This is the king of all shoulder exercises, and one of the most effective pressing movements you can do. It’s real simple, you grab the bar, walk out of the rack, and press the barbell overhead. We recommend overhead pressing with a neutral or close grip, using a variety of barbells. At Westside, we typically press with an olympic bar, an axle bar, or a swiss bar.

For max effort work, we will work up to a max single, or a triple. When used as an accessory exercise, we will typically do three to six sets of five to eight reps.

bench press manual

Clean and Press

One of the best exercises to use for developing explosiveness and bar speed off of the floor, and a strong overhead press, you can add this exercise to both your upper and lower max effort and accessory exercise rotation. If used as a max effort exercise we will typically work up to a heavy top set single, taking smaller jumps between sets to increase the overall poundage lifted for the exercise. We generally avoid multi-rep sets when doing max effort clean and press, considering the increase in injury risk due to fatigue when cleaning and pressing 90%+ weights.

When used as an accessory exercise, we will perform two to five sets of three to five reps. There isn’t a percentage guideline for accessory work, our lifters will use the heaviest weight possible while still being able to complete the sets and reps with proper form.

Standing Dumbbell Press

As far as shoulder accessory exercises go, this is one of the best. The movement is real simple, you’re going to stand up, grab some heavy dumbbells, and press them overhead. We will do these using the heaviest set of dumbbells possible, while still successfully completing the prescribed sets and reps safely.

This exercise can be done with a pronated or neutral grip, performed for three to five sets of five to eight reps.

Front and Lateral Raises

Finally, the most commonly used exercises to end the shoulder training day are front and lateral raises. Focus on keeping your form as strict as possible, using your shoulders to lift the dumbbells or plate. Avoid any excess body english, with this exercise form is more important than the amount of weight lifted.

We recommend doing these for three to five sets of ten to fifteen reps.

When you are on the quest to become the strongest athlete you can possibly be, you must leave no stone unturned in your training. Having strong shoulders will not only make you a better bench presser, overhead presser, and strength athlete, you will also have healthier, more resilient shoulders. The exercises listed above can be immediately implemented into your training program, offering new exercise options for both max effort and accessory training. Just like The Reaper, don’t fear the overhead press.