Should Women Train Their Shoulders?
Training over the last 5 years I’ve listened to hundreds of client goals. Many different goals and many similar goals. A common goal that most of us can relate to or want is a smaller waist.
So what does training shoulders have to do with a smaller waist?
Most women do not want big broad shoulders with the fear of looking manly. Before we dive into the shoulders let’s look at the anatomy of the waist.
The midsection is comprised from the hips to the bottom of the ribs. Depending on each individual their midsection will look different. The width of your hips is dictated by your genetics and cannot be changed. We cannot manipulate bone without a surgical procedure, which I do not recommend.
The ribs are just like the hips, bones that we cannot change the structure or shape of. Our organs are underneath the ribs, hips, and the muscles of the core.
Our core is made up of the rectus abdominis which makes up the 6 pack. Other common muscles of the core are the transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques as well as many other smaller muscles.
On top of the muscle is body fat.
Knowing we cannot change our bone structure or organs we are left with muscle and fat. These two we do have control over!
The muscles of the core are very thin in nature. The rectus abdominis (the 6 pack muscles) are extremely thin in design.
There are a couple factors to growing muscle. The size of the muscle and the muscle type. You’ve might have heard of slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers.
A simple analogy is a marathon runner and a sprinter. One is fast, explosive and carries more muscle: fast twitch. The other is smaller, more endurant, and carries less muscle: slow twitch.
The fast twitch muscles have the ability to grow more in size and strength. This is why you can train for a bigger butt, the muscles of the glutes are predominantly fast twitch.
The muscles of the core, on the other hand, are predominantly slow twitch as well as smaller in size compared to the quads or glutes. Resulting in the potential for growth to be very minimal.
Doing 200 crunches and sit-ups a day will not give you a 6 pack!
The fastest way to a smaller waist is by losing body fat. When you drop down to sub 20 % body fat your waist will be smaller!
Once you’ve lost a significant amount of belly fat the figure you are left with will be dictated by your bone structure at this point. If you have wider or higher hips this can make your midsection more blocky and square.
Now we circle back around to why you should train shoulders.
Taking a page from bodybuilders, it’s all about illusions and making them work for you. The wider your shoulders are the smaller your waist will look.
Not only will your waist look smaller but you will also improve the health of your shoulders if trained properly.
If you enjoy yoga, spin, group fitness classes, or find yourself at a computer desk job chances are you have a muscular imbalance in your shoulders. A forward rounding posture can be the result of overactive anterior delts, pecs, and lats.
Training the shoulders properly can help improve posture and shoulder health to avoid overuse injuries down the road and keep you enjoying the classes you enjoy for many more years to come.
Muscles Of The Shoulders
The shoulder, known as the deltoid, is made up of three primary muscles. The anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoid. The anterior delt gets used frequently in everyday life and commonly when we exercise, so we will focus on the lateral and posterior head as these are often neglected.
The combination of better posture as well as increased muscle in the shoulders will improve our shoulder to waist ratio. The greater the ratio the smaller your waist will look.
Don’t worry, the shoulders are similar to the core and are predominantly slow twitch so they won’t get huge and you will not look manly!
How To Train The Shoulders
There are 4 exercises that I recommend beginning with. Prior to training your shoulders always perform a thorough warm-up to avoid injury and improve health and performance. Click here to learn how to properly warm-up.
The lateral raise isolates the lateral head of the deltoid as only one joint is moving. Commonly people feel these in their upper traps. This can come from using a weight that is too heavy before you have perfected the form as well as having a poor mind-muscle connection with the lateral deltoid.
If you continue to feel these in your traps then you will not get the benefit from this exercise. Proper execution of all exercises is extremely important!
To place a bit more stress on the lateral deltoid try internally rotating your arms so your pinkies are slightly higher than your thumbs. Think of lifting the weight by shortening the lateral deltoid keeping the arm slightly bent. Ensure your shoulders are depressed as shrugging them up will result in activation in the traps.
Bench Supported Rear Delt Fly:
The bench supported rear delt fly is great for beginners whereas a standing rear delt fly requires a good hip hinge which if you cannot do then click here to learn how.
This variation places no stress on the lower back and you can concentrate on isolating the posterior deltoid. The heavier you weight you use the more you recruit the muscles responsible for retracting the scapula (shoulder blades) which is good for posture and keeping the shoulders back.
The lighter the weight the more you can leave muscles that retract the scapula out of the exercise and primarily use the posterior delts.
A tip to get more out of your posterior delts is to protract your scapula, rounding your upper back around the bench. This keeps your shoulders from retracting and keeps the movement coming from your posterior deltoids.
Both variations should be done.
The face pull is a great exercise for the entire shoulder girdle. It can be used as a warm-up, prehab, or workout. It combines retraction of the scapula with external rotation of the shoulder. The exact thing we want more of with our posture.
We can load it with heavy weight to create more strength and muscle or lighter weight to warm-up.
Two ways to perform the face pull with retraction on each rep or keeping the shoulders retracted the entire time.
The Arnold Press, invented by Arnold Schwarzenegger, works the deltoids in a compound fashion. Meaning more weight can be used and more stress presented to the shoulders. These do incorporate the anterior delt as well as the lateral and posterior heads.
These should be trained fairly heavy with proper form.
These are a few of the exercises I prescribe to my clients when seeking a smaller waist. Based on their posture, work habits, and lifestyle dictate the frequency, exercises prescribed, and intensity of training.