The chase for big, broad shoulders very often involves heavy overhead presses and plenty of overload for your deltoids. But very often, your shoulders have already gotten plenty of work from other training.
That’s the largest issue with direct shoulder training: Very often, it’s too much for your poor shoulders. Shoulders play a key role in chest and back workouts, and they work harder than you think when you squat and deadlift too, helping stabilize bars and kettlebells and dumbbells. And that means they don’t always need the extra stimulus that comes with constant overhead pressing, especially if you want to stay healthy over the long haul.
Lightweight shoulder training, however, can help drive blood to your shoulders without leaving them wildly fatigued. And that’s the name of the game with this simple kettlebell shoulder pump move from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “Our goal here,” says Samuel, “is to stimulate our shoulders without crushing them with titanic weights. We’re going to isolate the lateral head of our shoulders, though, and push it to its limit.”
You’ll need lighter kettlebells than you’ve ever used for a shoulder exercise for this one; in fact Samuel filmed this with a mere set of 10-pound bells. But the movement still will set your shoulders on fire. “That’s because you’re creating a more challenging lever for your shoulders early on,” says Samuel, “then making that leverage easier as you go.”
- Stand holding kettlebells at your sides. Grip the kettlebells tightly, and make sure the weight of the bell is in line with your forearm.
- Tighten your abs, squeeze your shoulder blades, and do a lateral raise, making sure to keep the weights slightly in front of your torso. Pause at the top, then lower with control. When doing these raises, grip the bells tightly, so the resistance is out beyond your hands, not below it. Do 8 to 10 reps.
- Loosen your grip on the bells, and begin doing lateral raises again, lettling the weight stay below your wrists. Do as many reps as you can.
- That’s 1 set. Do 3 to 5 sets.
This lightweight kettlebell shoulder finisher can be used in a variety of different ways in your workouts, but definitely keep it at the end of your sessions. You can use it at the end of a total-body session, or at the end of a push-day workout. “Don’t underestimate it on back day either,” says Samuel. “Your shoulders can be trained on back day in general.” You can also use it during an arm day, and because the resistance is so light it can be used multiple days in a training split. However you use it, remember to keep the weights light; because it presents a challenge for your forearms as well, you won’t be able to attack it with your heaviest loads.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
Ebenzer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men’s Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience.
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