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[Workout Plans] The Cannonball Shoulder Workout

dwight howard, dwight howard shoulders, shoulders, broad shoulders

Whenever you see Dwight Howard doing anything, it’s impossible to miss his shoulders. They’re MAMMOTH cannonballs. Not only are they immense, but they’re extremely uncommon.

Shoulders are one of most oft-neglected body parts by both gym novices and vets alike. Why? Probably because they’re not typically thought of as one of the “glamour” muscles like the biceps, chest, or abs. People crave washboard abs, sleeve-bursting biceps, and a hulking chest — but what about broad, defined shoulders? Not so much.

And I don’t get it.

Delts absolutely have to be a focal point in every workout routine. They add SO much value. Broad shoulders accentuate the biceps and triceps; complete any ripped up pair of arms; add massive width to the back; and boost strength on the bench press, deadlift, squat, and row. Bottom line — stronger shoulders unlock the potential for insane full-body growth.

That said, calculated, adept, well-rounded training is absolutely critical; moreso than for most other muscle groups. The shoulders are extremely delicate and multi-faceted, and imbalanced training can lead directly to devastating injuries (read: torn rotator cuff), poor posture (e.g. slouching and hunching), and less-than-ideal aesthetics.

 

The Anatomy of the Shoulder


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The shoulders are primarily made up of three deltoid heads and the upper section of the traps. The rotator cuff muscles also play a role.

  • Anterior/Front Deltoid — the anterior deltoid sits on the front half of your shoulders and connects to the upper part of the chest. A well-developed front head creates sharp, visible definition between the shoulder and chest. It’ll also give the shoulders height and add a full, circular look in the front.
  • Lateral/Middle Deltoid — the lateral deltoid connects to the biceps and triceps, and plunges down the side of the arm. If you’re looking at someone head-on, a person with well-developed lateral delts will have cut-up definition AND width at the upper portion of their arms; often looking like natural shoulder pads.
  • Posterior/Rear Deltoid — The rear deltoid rests on the back half of the shoulder. Strong posterior delts add width to the back and upper body, preserve posture, and create a well-developed “V” from the rear. People that are perpetually hunched forward — usually from a desk job and texting — and have slouched posture can always benefit from rear delt work. The same goes for anyone with a dominant chest or front deltoids; a condition that usually comes from prioritizing pushing over pulling movements (think bench press vs. high row). Strong rear delts keep your shoulders drawn back and your chest up.
  • Upper Trapezius (Traps) — The upper traps run down from the neck and line the shoulders like a muscular mantlepiece. They look like meat mounds. Well-developed traps add significant size to the upper body, accentuate the deltoids, and make the chest look about 4x bigger than it actually is.

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In order to build broad, well-rounded, spherical shoulders, effectively hitting all 4 muscles is absolutely essential. That means doing more than a few sets of dumbbell shoulder presses. Diversification is key.

And because the shoulders are lined with a jigsaw puzzle of smaller muscles, developing a little bit of mass can ultimately payoff with MAJOR cuts, separation, and definition (assuming you’re lean enough). When it all comes together, it’s rather glorious.

We’ve locked and loaded The Cannonball Shoulder Workout with a circuit of exercises that hits the entire shoulder spectrum. It’s designed to crank up the intensity and demolish the shoulders with larger compound exercises, and then slowly dig in and excavate individual regions one-by-one. Get ready for a caustic burn — your shoulders are about to get wrecked.


 

The Cannonball Shoulder Workout


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Image: Muscle And Fitness

You can download a printable recap here. Rest for 1 minute in between sets.

   

1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press — 4 sets, 12 reps


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How to:

Video Demo — Dumbbell Shoulder Press

 

  • (1) Sit on a short bench with your back straight.
  • (2) Powerfully lift the dumbbells and press them directly overhead. Keep your core tight and don’t let your lower back arch backwards.
  • (3) Slowly lower your arms until your triceps are slightly below parallel. Repeat for 12 total reps.

 

 

2. Clean & Press — 3 sets, 10 reps


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How to:

Video Demo — Clean & Press

 

  • (1) Stand tall with a loaded barbell on your thighs. Tighten your core, dip down slightly, and powerfully pull the barbell up on top of your collarbone.
  • (2) Dip your legs slightly and explosively press the barbell overhead.
  • (3) Hold for 1s, slowly lower the bar back to your collarbone, then down to your thighs, and repeat for a set of 10. Complete each clean & press in one fluid motion. You can also use dumbbells.

 

 

3. [SUPERSET] Upright Rows + Front Plate Raises — 3 sets, 10 reps each


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How To:

Video Demo — Barbell Upright RowsFront Plate Raise

 

Complete 12 upright rows immediately followed by 12 front plate raises. 

  • Upright Rows — hold the bar slightly narrower than shoulder width and pull it up to your chin. Keep your core tight and shoulders back throughout.
  • Front Plate Raises — make sure to keep your core tight and body steady. Raise the plate up to eye height and hold it for 1 second. Resist the pull to fall forward.

 

 

4. Reverse Dumbbell Flies — 2 sets, 15 reps


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How to:

Video Demo — Reverse Dumbbell Flies

 

  • (1) Grab two dumbbells and bend over so that your torso is at a 45º angle.
  • (2) Squeeze your shoulder blades together, tighten your core and lower back, and raise both arms directly out to the side.
  • (3) Hold the contraction for .5 seconds at the top and slowly return to starting position. Repeat for 15 reps.

 

 

5. Dumbbell Shoulder Shrugs — 2 sets, 15 reps


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How to:

Video Demo — Dumbbell Shoulder Shrugs

 

  • (1) Stand tall with 2 dumbbells.
  • (2) Tighten your core, puff your chest up, and powerfully shrug your shoulders up into your neck.
  • (3) Hold the squeeze for 1s and slowly lower all the way down. Repeat for 15 reps.

 

 

6. Cable Face Pulls — 2 sets, 12 reps


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How to:

Video Demo — Cable Face Pulls

 

  • (1) Stand at a cable station with a rope attachment. Adjust it as high as possible.
  • (2) Tighten your core, raise your arms, draw your shoulders back, and pull the rope in towards your mouth. Flare it and pull your rear deltoids as far back as possible. Your elbows should stay high throughout.
  • (3) Hold the contraction for 1s and slowly release it back to start. Repeat for 12 reps.

 

 

7. [SUPERSET] Push Press + Lateral Raises — 2 sets, 10 reps each


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How to:

Video Demo — Push PressLateral Raises

 

Complete 12 push presses immediately followed by 12 lateral raises. 

  • Push Press — tighten your core and stand with two dumbbells raised at shoulder height (neutral grip). Dip your knees, powerfully explode upwards, and press the dumbbells overhead. Hold for 1s and return back down to the bottom.
  • Lateral Raise — while keeping your core tight and back straight, raise both arms directly out to the side. They should reach neck height and form a “T” with your body. Hold for .5s and return to the bottom.


Pages: Workout | Printable Recap


Bryan DiSanto

Owner & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
Bryan DiSanto is the Owner & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, ACE-CPT & CSN, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness/nutrition nutjob.

When he’s not working on his (or somebody else’s) abs, whipping up Eggocados, or running a Tough Mudder, he’s probably off yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

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  • monkeybutler

    17 sets on shoulders a bit much …..

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  • Tea Partiers are Obese Racists

    Way too many exercises and way too many pressing movements. This routine will screw up your shoulders. Here’s a better one, in order of exercise:

    Rear Delt Fly

    Lateral Raise

    Standing Military Press

    2 rotator cuff exercises

    3-4 sets each of 10-15 reps.

    • http://LeanItUP.com/ Bryan DiSanto

      That’s bad information — I’ve done variations of this routine (typically more intense than what’s laid out) myself and with clients for years and it’s consistently produced strength and size gains.

      And that’s with absolutely no injuries. If you don’t use junk form and smart, manageable weight, there won’t be damage (people tear RC’s from over-loading their delts with bad technique).

      Plus you’re only looking at 7 sets of pressing movements (C&P, seated military, Arnold); that’s a standard shoulder protocol and nothing out of the ordinary.

      • Tea Partiers are Obese Racists

        “And that’s with absolutely no injuries.”

        That’s because you’re still young. I don’t know, you have the experience, I don’t. But it seems to me most guys are front heavy already, and there should be more pulling and rear delt work than front delt work, esp. with heavy the benchpressing guys do already. The lack of rotator cuff exercises is also problematic. 11 sets of front delt work and 2 sets of rear-delt work seem very imbalanced to me.

        • http://LeanItUP.com/ Bryan DiSanto

          Injuries go beyond me, but with older clients (male and female).

          Don’t mistake this for any sort of full-body routine, it’s just one component specific to shoulders. A heavy back regimen/pulling routine is insanely critical to complement this — that’ll hit the rear delts/upper back/traps/teres/rhomboids/etc.

          To your point, though, this should NOT be the only workout XYZ person does. That would lead to major imbalances, bad posture, and an awkward looking physique.

        • Bill Thrower

          now why would anyone take anything and obvious moron like you says seriously.
          Liberals are the dumbest people on earth and by far the most hateful.

          • Tea Partiers are Obese Racists

            Hey, I don’t belong to the party that denies evolution and thinks Sarah Palin is the shit. Dumbass.

  • Shilly

    Why did you change workout I was using the old routine dude

    • http://LeanItUP.com/ Bryan DiSanto

      Feel free to do the old routine if it’s working for you, but I revisited it and it wasn’t balanced enough for my liking.

      This is much more comprehensive — consider switching (and then sprinkle in any extra exercises you personally like).

      • Shilly

        Can you post the old routine for me as I don’t remember it I had the page bookmarked and just used it off my phone

        Just one question though you said the old one wasn’t balanced enough, apart from the actual exercises how does this differ ie are there any particular muscle groups which are targeted more o. This one compared to the old version?

        • http://LeanItUP.com/ Bryan DiSanto

          It’s a little bit harder and it specifically puts more emphasis on the rear deltoids and traps.

          Here’s the old routine:

          1. Clean and presses – 3 sets, 10 reps
          2. Lateral raise – 2 sets, 12 reps
          2a. [SUPERSET] Front plate raise – 2 sets, 12 reps
          3. Seated barbell military press – 3 sets, 10 reps
          4. 1-arm dumbbell snatch – 2 sets, 10 reps per arm
          5. Reverse flies – 2 sets, 12 reps
          6. Upright rows – 2 sets, 12 reps
          7. Arnold press – 1 burnout set

      • Sulaiman Lalani

        hey bryan thats was really ausome & effective workout i did in my life, well im looking forward for biceps-tricpes exercises in one workout as well as chest & back indivisual workouts, so please post these workouts asap
        thanks alot :)

  • strive to thrive

    found this workout today and it is fantastic. my shoulder day has been seriously lacking so i was after a good solid shoulder blaster. read it , liked it and went straight to the gym to give it a try. loved it! brutal but in a good way . liked it so. much in fact that i couldnt resist throwing in a drop set on the shrugs :) shoulders felt seriously pumped after this workout

    • http://LeanItUP.com/ Bryan DiSanto

      Oh, you’re more than welcome to throw in as many drop sets as you want :). Glad you liked it!

  • thims85

    as a female, people are always giving me strange looks when i say i want shoulders. lol. I must say i did this workout and loved it! i followed it to a T and was wasted!

    • http://LeanItUP.com/ Bryan DiSanto

      Haha that’s ridiculous, defined shoulders are one of the most aesthetic body parts — they completely complement the arms and back. Keep on rocking it!!!

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