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Recent Bodybuilding Articles

Cutting Vs Bulking Diets

There are two basic phases to a bodybuilder’s diet; the bulk phase and the cutting phase. Bodybuilder’s are never satisfied with their physique, so there is no real maintenance diet. A bodybuilder is either trying to gain more muscle or refine the muscle already gained. So, at anytime the average bodybuilder is either on a cutting diet or bulking diet of some form.

All cutting phases and bulking phases may not be at the extreme ends of the spectrum. They may be a modified version just to continue to lose body fat or build muscle, while giving the body a break. A true cutting diet will take the body into a slightly catabolic state, so it can not be sustained for long periods without losing muscle. On the other side of the coin, a true bulking diet will result in the addition of some body fat. The two diets must offset each other to achieve absolute bodybuilding success.

A good cutting diet should help the bodybuilder slowly lose body fat, while minimizing muscle loss. This requires a close focus on nutrient, as well as calorie, intake. It also requires close inspection of the body each day in the mirror. Calorie reduction should be done slowly to keep the metabolism working and enhance fat loss.

Severe calorie restriction will lead to the metabolism slowing down which means fewer calories burned each day. Dropping below 1800 calories for an extended period of time is never a good idea for the hard working bodybuilder. Many people increase cardiovascular exercise to offset this, the problem, however, is that the body doesn’t like to use the fat stores for energy in this state. The body will try to preserve its energy stores for future needs so it will use glycogen stores from the muscles and liver first. The body will also rob the muscles of much needed protein to repair and build messengers and hormones if enough protein is not taken in through the diet. It is important to make sure enough protein is ingested to support the needs of the body and muscle maintenance. This will reduce the catabolism so often associated with cutting diets.

A bulking diet is used when it is time to build more mass. A good bulking diet is one that provides enough calories to support muscular repair and growth. Some bodybuilders require as many as 8000 to 10,000 calories to increase muscular size. When the muscles are worked they break down and require protein to repair, and then a little extra to build new muscles fibers to make the muscle stronger. The muscle stores of carbohydrates (glycogen) are also depleted and require replenishing through the diet. These stores can be built up and increased just like muscle fibers. Just like a cutting diet, this diet requires watching your progress closely and using the mirror to make sure you are not gaining too much fat.

To recap, the major difference between the cutting and bulking diets is the amount of calories taken in. A good cutting diet requires slow, even calorie reduction. A bulking diet requires increasing the calories slowly to reach a point of muscle gain. Both diets require focus on the gains (or losses) to make sure the calorie content is at the optimum level to meet your goals. The cutting diet will be required to lose some of the body fat gained during the bulking phase. Conversely, the bulk diet will be needed to offset the catabolism of the cutting phase and push the body into an anabolic state again.

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Building Muscle At Home

building muscle at home

Gyms are great for a lot of people. Some people like all the equipment available. The motivation provided by the people around them helps drive others. There are some people who use the gym as place to get away from everything and concentrate on gaining muscle mass. But that does not mean the gym is for everyone. There are a lot of people who aren't working out in gyms, for a variety of reasons; the cost may not be practical, you may not have the time, or you may not be comfortable working out in a fishbowl. No matter your reasons they can all be overcome while still gaining muscle mass at home.

One of the downsides of training at home is that you won't have all the equipment available at the gym. Don't let that bother you. People have gotten real results from home equipment. You can too. If you can afford all the equipment you need that is great. If you can't there are always alternatives. I have heard of coffee tables used as flat benches, and kitchen chairs as the place to do shoulder presses. The bottom line is there is almost always a way to work out. Remember though, no amount of muscle is worth an injury. If you can't do an exercise safely, then don't do it. Often times the safety issues can be addressed by having another person or even two there to spot for you and help lift weights into awkward starting positions.

One of the best ways to work out at home is using dumbbells. They can be easily dropped to your sides if you reach a fail point in your lifting. They are also a lot easier to get into a good starting position than a barbell.

Here are a few exercises that you can do to build muscle at home:
  • Push-ups - These are a stand-by of most home workout routines. They are perfect for building muscle. They can also be adjusted into an infinite amount of positions. In order to change the portion of the muscle that is being worked you can move your hands closer together or farther apart. You can also change the angle that you work from by elevating your feet on a chair, a step, or even a coffee table.
  • Curls - Hope fully you have dumbbells, if you do not you can use anything that can be held securely in your hand. Even a filled grocery bag. By keeping your elbows close to your side, you can curl from your hip up to a spot directly in front of your shoulder.
  • Tricep Press - Place a chair 3-4 feet in front of you and hold the top of the chair-back with both hands. Your body should be leaning at a 50°-60° angle with your arms against your chess. Press yourself up from the chair-back by straightening your arms. The intensity of this exercise can be adjusted by how far over you are leaning in order to reach the chair.
  • Lunges – You can use a set of dumbbells to do lunges in your house. You can either do them in place or if you have enough room like a hallway, you can do them walking. Hold the dumbbells down by your waist as you lunge in place or a walking lunge.
  • Calf raises - These are one of the easier exercises to do at home. Sitting in a chair, with your feet on a block, place your free weights on top of a board laid across your knees. You can now perform the calf raises against the weight that is resting on your legs.

There are limits to the amount of wweight training you can do at home. But the weight training you do at home is a lot more effective than anything else you choose to do at home. Until you are comfortable or able to go to a gym, building muscle at home is the best option. Remember that the same things apply at home that would apply at a gym. Always warm up and cool down. Never put yourself or others into danger with risky exercises.

What is a Keto Diet?

keto diet

The Ketogenic diet is based on ketogenesis, which is the process in which ketones are produced by the liver during the break down of fatty acids. When the body does not have adequate carbohydrates for energy it must turn to fats for energy, this prompts the liver to break fatty acids into ketones which are used for energy in place of the glucose.

The Ketogenic diet was used in the early 20th century as a treatment for epilepsy. The ketotic state causes an anticonvulsant effect reducing the severity and occurrence of seizures. With the advent of anti-seizure medications the ketogenic diet fell out of favor.

So, is the keto diet just another name for a low-carb diet?
Yes and no. The low carbohydrate diet popular today uses a moderate level of protein and fat to lower carbohydrate intake. The keto diet increases fat intake to replace carbohydrates and does not alter protein levels, keeping them at just what is needed for maintenance. The traditional keto diet uses a 4 to 1 ratio of fat to other nutrients. It uses just enough protein to maintain growth and repair and keeps overall caloric intake at a level sufficient to maintain the proper weight for height and age.

The theory behind the use of the keto diet for fat loss is that once the body is in a state of ketosis it will continue to burn fat for energy and when the fatty acids in the blood are used up the body will turn to fat stores. Carbohydrates are kept to a minimum to reduce their availability for energy. The body uses the available carbohydrates first for energy, which is usually used up in the digestion process, and then shifts to ketosis for the rest of the energy needs.

Many people who use this diet use some form of testing to make sure they are in a ketogenic state. There are test strips that use urinalysis to determine the amount of ketone bodies present. This serves a two part purpose. First, it tells the dieter whether they are in a state of ketosis. Second, it helps the dieter monitor overall ketone levels to avoid the metabolic condition, ketoacidosis. This is when the ketone bodies build up in the blood stream and decrease blood pH substantially, leading to many other medical issues. Although a severe condition, and it must be taken seriously, it is rare on a regular keto diet.

A keto diet can be enhanced by endurance training using long slow exercises like walking, jogging, biking, swimming, etc. The body kicks into ketosis when long term energy is needed. The body uses up the available glucose, and glycogen stores, fairly quickly and then must turn to fat for energy. If the body is already using its fat burning furnace it does not have to switch over for the long term needs of endurance training.

Some people use medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) on the keto diet due to their more ketogenic properties. Most food has long chain triglycerides (LCTs) but 30 to 60% of the total calories may be replaced with MCTs on an MCT Keto diet. MCTs can be bought in supplement form to add to the diet.

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Building Bigger Calf Muscles

Do you have trouble getting your calf muscles to grow? Calf muscles seem to be a more difficult muscle to build and require a different training philosophy than most muscles.

Tips to growing bigger calf muscles:
  • Make sure you have incorporated squats and deadlift into your routine.   These are great core exercises for the legs that also hit the calf muscles.
  • Lift heavy and hard. Make sure you are lifting heavy and getting at least 8 reps. Aim for 4 sets on each exercise.
  • Hit the calf from different angles. Make sure when doing calf raises that you vary the angle of your feet. Vary your toes inward and outward to hit different muscles in the calf.
  • Do 2-3 exercises directly hitting the calf muscles. Some good ideas of exercises include: standing calf raises, seated calf raises, donkey calf raises, and calf raises on the leg press machine.
  • Vary your routine from week to week. Change the exercises, reps, or weight from week to week.
  • Last but not least – make sure you are eating enough calories and protein to help your muscles grow!

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20 Simple Ways to Lose Fat and Live Healthier

lose fat
Here is a list I put together of 20 simple daily ways you can become more fit.

Feel free to leave a comment and add other ideas.
  1. Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  2. Always leave extra food on your plate when finished eating
  3. Don’t always park so close to a store entrance, leave a little walking distance
  4. Take you pet for a walk instead of letting them run free
  5. Eat 6 small meals instead of 3 large ones a day
  6. Do your own yard or housework
  7. Drink a glass of water before your meals
  8. Opt for mustard instead of mayo
  9. Choose wheat over white bread
  10. Eat pretzels instead of potato chips
  11. Hand wash your car every week
  12. Eat slow not fast
  13. Get up and walk around at work or home
  14. Get outside instead of watching tv
  15. Skip that one going out meal and eat at home
  16. Write down what you eat everyday
  17. Eat breakfast everyday
  18. Drink a glass of water instead of that soda
  19. Substitute whole milk for 2% or skim milk
  20. Write down your fitness goals on paper

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Weighted Dips - The Best Chest Exercise

So what is the best chest exercise? I am willing to bet most of you will think of bench press or flys when thinking of the best chest exercises.

Have you tired to dips lately? Dips really hit your chest muscles hard and it seems to stretch the muscle. If they seem too easy try doing weighted dips. There are a couple ways you can do weighted dips. The easiest way is to buy a dip belt and hang the width from the belt. You can also put a dumbbell in between your ankles while doing the dips. This will limit the amount you can add however.

When should you start adding weight to dips?
I would say once you are able to do 15-20 reps easily, then you should start adding weight.

How much weight should you add?
I like to start with 25 and workup to 45 then 90. Try to work you way up with the weights as your able to do more reps. Stick to about 8-10 reps.

So try doing some weighted dips today. You will be amazed how your chest feels after a few sets of them!!

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Examination Of Core Exercises

core exercises

In the repertoire of any bodybuilder should be several exercises known as core movements. These movements are most effectively used to directly stimulate all of the major muscle groups, i.e. arms, legs, chest, shoulders, and back, while providing indirect stimulation to the supportive muscle groups at the same time.

Core movements should make up the foundation of any training plan. These exercises, or variations of them, should be the basis on which you develop your daily workout routine. When used with proper form and appropriate weight, core exercises offer the bodybuilder diverse benefits, such as even or symmetric development, rapid strength gains, and both direct and indirect muscle stimulation.

Generally speaking core exercises target the largest clusters of muscle within the major muscle groups and stimulate them all at once. For instance, the pectoralis major is split into three sections, upper, mid and lower pectorals. While there are exercises that target each of those three pectoral sections individually, a core chest exercise will sufficiently stimulate all three zones in one movement. As a result more weight can be moved at one time, providing greater stimulation to the group as a whole, as well as the minor or supportive muscle groups surrounding the pectorals.

The same is true for every core exercise and major muscle group, thus the benefits of core movements are apparent. Below is an examination of some common core movements, pertaining to the five major muscle groups of the body.

Chest (Pectoralis Major (clavicular, middle and lower parts)) – Flat Bench Press

Remaining the most effective and popular core exercise for chest, flat barbell bench press is a highly effective movement allowing rapid strength gains, excellent incidental stimulation of supportive muscle groups and as most bodybuilders will attest, offers the only acceptable measure of a strong man’s true worth. The bottom line is if you want your chest to grow, flat bench press is the movement that will get you there.

Flat bench press is performed by lying back on a bench and pressing a weighted bar or dumbbells straight up over your chest.

Proper form for flat bench press requires an arc from beginning point (low point at chest, even with lower pectorals) to end point (arms extended with bar over face, directly above eyes). It is recommended to perform flat bench press with a free-weight barbell rather than dumbbells, until your pectoral and supportive muscle strength is capable of allowing proper form for flat bench dumbbell press at increased weight. It is also recommended to avoid the use of cable or mechanical bench press machines (when speaking of core exercises), because a great deal of the incidental benefit of the bench press movement will be lost to the range of motion restrictions offered by those apparatus.

When beginning this movement, be sure to place your hands just wider than shoulder width apart on the bar. Most will tell you that wider is better, though at the very least, once you place your hands any closer than shoulder width apart, you have effectively moved the stimulation focus from your pectorals to your triceps. So for most bodybuilders, your hands will be approximately two and one half feet apart. With few exceptions, most gyms use Olympic bars and benches for their free-weight areas; Olympic bars typically have a knurled surface with two smooth (non-knurled) rings at the approximate width of the typical bodybuilders grip location. Use those rings as a guide for where your grip should be, adjusting position slightly for individual comfort.

When performing flat bench press, do not arch your lower back off of the bench as you struggle to lift the weight. Doing so will eventually result in moderate to severe lower back injury. If you feel the need to arch your back, it may be because you are attempting to lift more weight than you can handle. Remember, good form may require some ego sacrifice until you are able to perform the movement properly. A tip for curbing back arch is to place both of your feet flat on the end of the bench as you perform the movement (instead of on the floor). Having your feet in this position with your knees bent will stop you from arching and in fact will help you to drive your pelvis into the bench. Just be careful not to press down with your feet, lifting your hips and lower back off of the bench. Also be aware that you will need to maintain balance of the bar while your feet are off of the floor.

Shoulders (Deltoideus (anterior, lateral and posterior), Trapezius (superior, middle and inferior)) – Military Press, Shrugs

Deltoideus or deltoids are typically a difficult muscle to stimulate directly; the nature and placement of the deltoid muscle make it highly versatile and in fact many people wrongly consider them to be a supportive muscle group for pectorals and various back muscles. The function of the deltoid is, of course, to raise and/or manipulate abduction (raising) of the arm. With the shoulder socket being articulated as it is, there are many movements that can be used to effectively stimulate one or two of the three deltoid muscle separations (anterior, lateral and posterior). The vast majority of those movements are intended to target the muscles in an assistive pushing or pulling movement, i.e. incline bench press or rows. In order to isolate and stimulate all three separations at once, while at the same time offering indirect stimulation to your back and clavicular pectorals, there is only one movement that will do: Military Press.

Similar to bench press, the military press is best performed with a barbell, until the supportive muscles around the deltoid are strong enough to accommodate dumbbells. Again, form is very important with the military press, especially so when you consider the fragile nature of the shoulder socket.

There are many variations of this movement, from standing presses, to seated dumbbell presses and even the clean and jerk, though as a core exercise, seated military presses are about as effective a movement as you’ll find for developing your deltoids.

There is some argument about the proper form for this movement; clearly is it important to maintain good straight posture throughout the movement, keeping your back laid flat against the backrest of the bench, though the argument comes in the proper position for the lower point or bottom of the movement. Many bodybuilders are strict in their interpretation of this exercise, demanding that the bar come to rest on or at the nape of the neck, behind your head; while others assert that it is safer for the shoulder joint if the bar is brought to the collarbone, in front of the head; while still others choose to alternate the movement, using both techniques in the same set. Whichever way you decide is better for your training, simply remember to focus on balancing the weight evenly and keeping your back straight. As with flat bench press, grip the bar at just more than shoulder width apart. Your grip width should be nearly identical to that of your flat bench press.

In addition to deltoids, the shoulder muscle group includes the trapezius muscles, or traps. Some bodybuilders prefer to think of the traps as a part of the back, since both the middle and inferior traps reside between the shoulder blades, part way down the middle of the back, but they are considered a part of the shoulder. Semantics aside, the trapezius is a very dense and strong muscle group. Their function is similar to a shock absorber in a car; they carry the weight of the arms, shoulders and back, and serve to stabilize the head in support of the neck muscles. Contrary to most other muscle groups, there really is only one way to properly stimulate the trapezius, though there is more than one way to go about doing it.

Shrugs are the one movement that will stimulate growth in your traps, and while shrugs can be done by way of an upright barbell row, a standing barbell or dumbbell shrug is going to give you the best results.

As with every other exercise form is important, and because the basis of this movement requires extra stress be put on the spine through the shoulders, straight posture is critical to avoiding injury.

Simply grip the dumbbells at your sides and lift your shoulders, keeping your arms straight at your sides (as though shrugging in response to a question you don’t know the answer to), then lower them back to the bottom position. Be sure to perform this movement slowly and with control of the weight. Do not jerk the weight or bend, lean or otherwise manipulate the weight up, as this will result in injury.

Some bodybuilders will perform this movement in a rotating fashion, moving the shoulders up in a hunched position and down with the shoulders pushed backward. Performing this movement with a rotation may provide some ancillary benefit, but can be damaging to the rotator cuff and shoulder cartilage. When done correctly this movement will offer not only direct stimulation to the trapezius, but will also indirectly stimulate the deltoids, lumbar, quads, biceps and forearm flexors.

Back (Latissimus dorsi, Teres Major/Minor, Rhomboideus, and Lumbar) – Bent Over Rows

The human back is a complex and vast grouping of several strong and dense muscles, all working with or against each other to keep us erect and moving. Some of the back muscles are the largest muscles in the body and as such are capable of moving more weight than most others. Due to the number of muscles included in the back, there are an equally large number of movements or exercises used to stimulate the back muscles; from pull downs or pull ups, to dead lifts, to many variations of rows.

For the purposes of a core exercise, bent over rows (a.k.a. heavy rows) may be the way to go. The bent over row gives you the opportunity to stimulate nearly all of the back muscles directly at various points of the movement, as well as the quads, biceps and traps, while lifting more weight than possible through other exercises.

Though the movement is relatively simple, the prone position it requires exposes your spine to the possibility of severe injury if proper form is not observed. Contrary to instinct, it is not proper form to arch your back during this movement; doing so will stretch your lumbar muscles and put them in a position of over extension. Proper form for this exercise involves bent legs and a stiff straight back throughout the movement.

Bending at the waist with your knees bent beneath you, grip the bar at or just wider than shoulder width, and without extending your lower back (remain bent over), lift the weight from its bottom position to your chest. As you lift, squeeze the muscles of your back and try to avoid using your biceps to lift the weight. Do not bounce the weight at the top or bottom of the movement and avoid releasing or resting the weight on the floor between reps (maintain tension on the muscles through out the movement). You can also try close grip rows in the same fashion by moving your grip from shoulder width to the centre of the bar or T-bar, lifting the weight the same way.

Bent over rows can be done using an Olympic bar and plates, or a T-bar rack (as pictured). It is not appropriate to use dumbbells for this exercise as the independent movement of your arms will again open your up for severe injury. Dumbbells are more appropriate for single arm rows, with the use of a bench for stabilization.

Performing this exercise correctly will offer direct stimulation to your lats, rhomboids, middle and inferior traps and teres’, it will also offer indirect or isometric stimulation to your lumbar. As with flat bench press, experiment with grip width until you find a position that is both comfortable and effective.

Legs (Gluteus (maximus and medius), Quadriceps femoris, Adductors, Hamstrings, and Calves (Gastrocnemius and Soleus)) – Squats

Once again, given the articulate nature of the legs and the number of joints involved, there are many exercises available to stimulate the various muscles involved in the leg, though none, perhaps, are as effective as squats. Squats allow the use of much heavier weight than most other exercises, with the possible exception of seated leg press. Incidental to the muscles of the legs, squats also provide stimulation to the back and abdominal muscles, the shoulders and the arms.

Due to the nature of this movement and the amount of weight generally involved, safety and form are paramount to performing this exercise effectively. It is important to maintain good straight posture through the range of this movement. Place your feet shoulder width apart and bend deeply, keeping your knees straight and steady above your feet (do not bow your legs out when bending). Keep the weight balanced in a line above the knees for the duration of the movement without bending forward at the waist. Be careful not to dip past an 85 or 80 degree knee bend, and do not lock your knees at the top of the movement.

If this movement is executed properly, nearly all of the muscles of the leg will be stimulated directly, including the glutes, hamstrings and calves and you will have indirectly stimulated your shoulders, back, arms and even your chest.

Arms (Biceps brachii, Brachialis, Triceps brachii (lateral head, long head, and medial head), forearm extensor, forearm flexor) – Standing Barbell Curl, Close Grip Flat Bench Press

The muscles of the arm are some of the smallest muscles of the entire body; they aren’t particularly dense and have much smaller attachments to the bones than other muscles do. This means that typically the muscles in your arms will be weaker or less capable of lifting heavy weight than your other major muscle groups. The arms are used to stabilise and assist with virtually all other core movements and will receive a great deal of incidental stimulation from the rest of your workout. Some people find it difficult to adequately stimulate the muscles of the arm directly, though much like flat bench press, the bicep and tricep are known as the measure of a bodybuilder success.

As with most muscle groups, there are several exercises available to target the bicep, though the most effective for direct stimulation of the arms and indirect stimulation of the back, shoulders and legs (isometrically) throughout the entire movement would be standing barbell curls. This movement is quite simple, gripping the bar evenly with your palms facing away from you, at a point just wider than shoulder width and standing straight; lift the bar from the lowest point to the top of the movement so your arms are fully bent. It’s important to lift slowly and not to jerk or swing the weight to the top using your hips. Control the weight during the down movement or negative portion of the movement, again moving slowly and not letting the bar simply fall.

As with all other exercises, form and posture is important, and if done properly, standing barbell curls will be effective in stimulating all of the muscles in the front of the arm, including the forearm flexors, as well as the deltoids, traps, lumbar and pectorals.

The remaining arm muscles work in opposition to the bicep, acting to extend the arm rather than bend it. Many bodybuilders don’t realise that the tricep actually makes up more of the arm than the bicep. Hence there being two brachii for the bicep (bi = two) and three for the tricep (tri = three). For this reason many people will find (eventually) that their triceps are capable of moving more weight than the bicep.

As the biceps assist in pulling weight toward the body, the triceps assist in pushing weight away from the body. For this reason, probably the best core exercise for triceps is close grip flat bench press. Even with this simple movement there are several variations, from lying barbell raises to incorporated pullovers. For the purpose of core exercises, a straight close grip flat bench press is most appropriate.

As with standard flat bench press this movement is simple; raise the weighted barbell from your chest to a straight arm position above your face. The difference being that your grip is much closer together, as indicated by the movement name. As a result of the close grip it is advised that you use a shorter bent bar (preacher curl bar) for this movement, to make balancing the weight easier and to position your wrist joint for less stress.

When done properly, this movement will not only stimulate your tricep nicely, but will also provide indirect stimulation to your pectorals and shoulders as well.

When you think of your body as a collection of large muscle groups, rather than individual body parts, you recognise that each group will function to support and assist all the others. This provides you with an opportunity to take advantage of your natural make up and use your body the way it was intended.

As mentioned earlier, the key factor in any core movement is both the direct and indirect stimulation provided by heavy movements. The benefit of heavy core movements is to provide more stimulation than other more isolated exercises and in turn provide better and more even development. While there is a time and place for isolative movements, lower weights and more direct focus, populate your training plan with as many core movements as possible and you will experience fast gains in strength and size.

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Shoulders Make The Man

The first thing anyone notices when they see a bodybuilder for the first time is their shoulders. It doesn’t matter if it’s a face-to-face meeting or just a glimpse from across the gym. The shoulders cap the arms and frame the chest, they are the mark of power and ability and well developed shoulders command attention and admiration.

For some reason many bodybuilders don’t give their shoulders the attention they deserve. A great many bodybuilders get stuck in a pattern of focus on their chest and biceps, ending up with uneven and non-symmetrical development in their other major muscle groups.

One reason for that may be that some people think shoulders are difficult to stimulate properly. When with proper kinetic understanding, the shoulders can be developed to be a winning attribute of any physique.

Seated Military Shoulder Press

seated military shoulder press
Being a core movement and one of the only shoulder movements affording the skeletal position and leverage to lift large amounts of weight, Seated Military Shoulder Press is one of the most effective deltoid movements around. Performed properly, the military press will allow you to build powerful, round and well defined deltoids.

There is some argument about the proper form for military press; some demand that the bar be brought down to the nape of the neck, behind the head, stating that this is the proper bottom position of the movement. While other claim the correct bottom position is at the collarbone in front of the head. There may be advantage to both positions; the rear position afford a deep stretch to the muscles of the shoulder and puts the shoulder socket in a desirable position for providing ample stimulation to the anterior and lateral deltoids. The front position puts more focus on the anterior deltoid and offers indirect stimulation of the upper or clavicle pectoral, but it also offers a potentially safer position for the shoulder socket itself.

The bones of the shoulder are relatively fragile on their own, but when coupled with the dense and encompassing deltoid muscles, it makes for a very well-built joint. However, when the joint is overextended backward (beyond the lateral plane of the body) it is at risk of separation, and the rear position of the military press brings that joint dangerously close to that overextended position.

Lateral Dumbbell Raises

lateral dumbbell raises
Many bodybuilders reserve lateral raises for the shaping phases of their training plans, to be used during periods of cutting where the goals is developing further definition in their muscles. As such lateral raises are often sold short as a method for developing size and strength in the deltoid.

At first, this movement may be difficult to perform with weight that is heavy enough to provide deep stimulation, but over a small amount of time and when done properly Lateral Dumbbell Raises are highly effective for providing good stimulation to the lateral and posterior deltoids.

As always, form is if paramount importance with this movement; it can be performed while standing or seated, it can be done single arm or with both arms at once. It can be done with dumbbells (as the name implies) or with the use of a cable crossover or cable row machine.

Whichever method is used, the basics of the movement are the same, starting with the weight at you hip, gripping the dumbbell normally with your palm facing in toward your body; raise the weight, straight out, away from your hip until your hand (and the dumbbell) is perpendicular to the floor and even with your shoulder. Do not raise the weight higher than the horizontal plane of your shoulder and be sure to control both the negative and positive parts of the movement.

Quite often it is helpful to perform this exercise in front of a mirror, so that you can monitor your form during the movement and identify if you are inadvertently swinging, tilting or otherwise helping the weight up rather than lifting it with strict form.

Upright Rows

upright rows
A familiar sight in most gyms, Upright Rows are an old stand-by for many bodybuilders, used as a good movement for stimulating not only the lateral and posterior deltoids, but also the trapezius major. This is a highly effective movement that is easy to perform and for most of us, is one that allows a good mix of heavy weight and strict form.

Upright rows can be performed using a barbell, dumbbells or cable machines, and the movement is quite simple. Begin with an over grip on the barbell, held at the waist; lift the bar straight up, holding the weight tight against your abdomen and chest. The top of the movement should have the bar resting just below your chin and your bent elbows extended above the horizontal plane of your shoulders.

Because of the pulling nature of this exercise, there is a tendency among beginners to improperly swing their upper back when lifting the weight. Proper form dictates that the body should be held rigid and straight throughout this movement, forcing the shoulders to carry the weight load. For this reason, it is likely more effective for beginners to use a barbell rather than dumbbells or a cable machine, as both of these other methods change the angle of the movement and lend to improper form.

Heavy Barbell Shrugs

heavy barbell shrugs
As previously mentioned, many bodybuilders will treat their traps (superior, middle and inferior) as a part of their back routine, though for reasons of scheduling and efficiency, it may be better to combine traps with the rest of your shoulder routine.

Perhaps the most effective exercise for developing large, sloping traps is heavy barbell shrugs. Due to the basic nature of the trapezius muscles, it is important to use relatively heavy weight to stimulate the muscle group.

Using an Olympic barbell and either a squatters rack, a smith rack or a standing barbell rack, grip the loaded bar with an overhand or alternate grip (one hand over, one hand under), stand straight up lifting the weight off of the rack and shrug the weight using your traps to lift.

Some people suggest that it’s desirable to rotate the shoulder forward through the movement, while others suggest it’s better to shrug straight up and down. It may be a simple matter of comfort and you should chose a method based on your own preferences, though it is important to note that rotating your shoulders through a heavy movement such as shrugs can put undue stress on the joint and cause cartilage problems if done incorrectly.

Ultimately, the shoulders are a key element of anyone’s physique and should be given a due amount of focus. The above are recommended movements that are highly effective for stimulating the muscles of the shoulders, though there are many variations of these exercises and even several movements that have not been discussed. It’s important, as with all other aspects of your training, to gain an understanding of all the available exercises and movements, to better populate your training plan with the most appropriate tools there are for your situation.

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