Exercise, Progress

Spooky Shoulders

There’s a muscle in your upper body, one that assists with almost every movement your upper body makes, but is overall very weak unless focused on. What muscle is this? This magic, widely underactive muscle is your deltoid muscle! Also known as your shoulders, your delts are responsible for a multiple of movements, and assist in almost every movement. (It’s also October so we should talk about pumpkin shaped muscles, right?) Not only is strengthening your delts essential to proper (and pain free!) movement, but strong shoulders also give an illusion of toned and athletic arms, no matter the degree they actually are. That bump at the top of your upper arm sets you up for more shapely arms than just working arms, while also increasing your overall strength and stability.

Anatomy:

Your shoulders are actually composed of three different sections of the deltoid muscle, each performing different actions.

Anterior Deltoid: This is the front portion of your shoulder, attaching at the clavicle (collarbone) and inserting into the mid-upper portion of your humerus bone. The anterior deltoid is in charge of flexing your shoulder (or moving your arm forward, in front of your body), and, with the help of the pecs and lats, shoulder adduction (pulling the humerus towards your body). The anterior delt also assists in almost every chest movement, as it is the closest part of the shoulder to the pec muscles. Movements that target the anterior deltoids include front raises, overhead press, upright row, and chest flys.

Medial Deltoid: This is the middle portion of your shoulder, originating at the acromium process (where your shoulder joint is) and inserting into that same mid-upper portion of the humerus. The medial deltoid is in charge of shoulder abduction (pulling the humerus away from the body). Movements that work the medial delt include those that involve the humerus moving away from the body, such as lateral raises and upright rows.

Rear Deltoid: This is the back portion of your shoulder, originating at the spine of the scapula (top of the shoulder blade) and inserting in, you guessed it, that same mid-upper portion of the humerus. The rear delt is mainly in charge of extending your shoulder, or bringing your arm back away from the body. The rear delt is the most underexercised portion of the shoulder, which leads to upper back muscular imbalances. Having weak rear delts, and stronger front and mid delts, will lead to rounded forward shoulders, with a tight chest and anterior delt. Strong rear delts help with proper posture, and help to counteract the common tightness that accompanies a mostly sedentary lifestyle. This can lead to upper back pain, along with shoulder and neck pain. Exercises that work the rear delt include rear delt flys, face pulls, and wide grip rows.

Exercises

Your shoulders can be easily worked, either in their own workout day or mixed in with other push muscles, such as chest and triceps. Below are two sample workouts, one push focused and one shoulder focused. Your delts respond easily to volume and intensity, and grow best with a mixture of heavy compound movements, as well as isolation movements with higher volume (3-4 sets, 10-15 reps).

Shoulder focused:

A1: Overhead Press 4 Sets, 6-8 Reps

B1: Incline Press 4 Sets, 8 Reps

C1: Upright Row 4 Sets, 10-12 Reps

C2: Lateral Raises 4 Sets, 10-12 Reps

D1: Face Pulls 4 Sets, 12-15 Reps

D2: Single Arm Overhead Press 4 Sets, 10 Reps/arm

Push:

Warm Up: 10 minutes cardio, 1 set incline pushups, 1 set light overhead press

A1: Dumbbell Chest Press 4 Sets, 6-8 Reps

B1: Overhead Shoulder Press 4 Sets, 8-10 reps

C1: Incline Chest Press 4 sets, 8-10 reps

C2: Lateral DB Raises 4 Sets, 10-12 reps

D1: Upright Row 4 Sets, 10 reps

D2: Face Pulls 4 Sets, 12-15 reps

Exercise

Chest Day Best Day

If you have been following me, or know me, at all, you would know I do not believe “chest day best day.” Historically, chest day has always been my least favorite. My chest, like most women’s, has always been weak. My upper body in general has always been weaker than my lower body, so it’s really not as much fun to train. Even as I started to train upper body more, I avoided chest movements. I avoided bench press, chest flys, pushups, anything chest. In my mind, I didn’t want a “manly chest,” and thought lifting chest more than once every two months would give me pecs that could dance, ala Terry Crews. However, who would’ve guessed that I was wrong and went through a dumb, painful experience that could’ve been prevented if I just worked chest? (Everyone raise your hands)

My years of avoiding chest, and only working arms, shoulders, and back, had caught up to me, leaving me incredibly imbalanced. My upper back was so tight, with no chest to counterbalance that tightness, that it ended up causing my ribs to dislocate. Months of chiropractic care and recovery techniques later, I was back in action. But now, I was more aware as to what encompasses “health,” and it was more than just things that I like doing. I know, just like myself, many people avoid movements and exercises that they don’t like. Along with myself, many women tend to avoid chest, for the same reasons I did. Well Ladies, we need to train chest.

ANATOMY

Your chest muscle group is composed of two muscles, the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is the big muscle in your chest, with the pectoralis minor lying underneath of the major.

The pec major originates from your humerus (upper arm) bone, fans across your chest, attaching to both your clavicle and your sternum. The pec major is in charge of keeping your humerus close to your body. As well, the pec major is in charge of flexing the humerus, or moving the humerus in front of the body, along with horizontal adduction, which is moving the humerus across the front of the body.

The pec minor originates from the top of your scapula (shoulder blade) and attaches to your ribs. The pec minor does not have as much responsibility when it comes to motion, like the pec major does, but it is equally important. The pec minor is in charge of keeping your shoulder blades depressed and retracted (close to the body and flat). As well, the pec minor can be the difference between good posture and rounded shoulders if it is too tight.

Why do we train chest?

If we train every other aspect of our bodies, but neglect chest, our bodies will obviously be unbalanced. The most basic and important reason to train chest as a woman, is for muscular balance. I’ve harped on this plenty, but muscular balance has many benefits in both training and a healthy life. In training, muscular balance helps to reduce the risk of injury greatly, while also allowing for optimal muscle movements and contractions. In life, muscular balance will help to allow pain free movement, as well as helping with posture and proper movement patterns. The more balanced you are, the more overall stability your body will have.

Just because you have to train chest doesn’t mean that you have to have a full day of bench press though. Since it is a larger muscle group, it should not be paired with other larger muscle groups, such as back. I recommend adding chest movements into your shoulder training days, or your arm days. A nice way to incorporate chest into your training would be to have a “push” training day. Your chest muscles main action is to push, and incorporate other “push” muscles, such as triceps and shoulders. Combining all of these muscles into one day can help to strengthen the overall pushing movement, without needing to give each muscle group involved its own day, especially if you are not a fan of one of the components.

The main point I am trying to make is that chest day is important. Especially for women, it may not be fun, and it may not be the muscles you are looking to define and exaggerate, but chest day is important. It is important for muscular balance, and overall strength and stability. Below I have included two sample chest training days, one full chest day and one push day. Try them out!

Sample Chest Day:

Warm Up: 10 minutes cardio, 1 set incline pushups

A1: Dumbbell Chest Press 10 reps

B1: Incline Dumbbell Chest Press 10 reps

C1: Pec Fly Machine 10 reps

C2: Push-ups (full or modified) 10 reps

D1: Front Raise 12 reps

Sample “Push” Day:

Warm Up: 10 minutes cardio, 1 set incline pushups, 1 set light overhead press

A1: Dumbbell Chest Press 10 reps

B1: Overhead Shoulder Press 10 reps

C1: Incline Chest Press 10 reps

C2: Lateral DB Raises 10-12 reps

D1: Upright Row 10 reps

D2: Face Pulls 10-12 reps

(Unfortunately, this video had a glitch so stop watching after the face pulls 🙈)