Thursday, July 28, 2016

Do or Don't: Separate Shoulder days?

Should you have a separate shoulder day dedicated to training shoulders, since they are already being trained on chest and back days? This is often debated among weight lifters, trainers, physiologists and sportsmen alike. Here are the most common arguments raised for both sides. Read on about the benefits and downsides and decide what is best for you.

You should have a separate shoulder day

This is why some say that you should have a separate shoulder day dedicated to training shoulders:

By neglecting shoulders, you are limiting your other lifts

By neglecting to do shoulders on their own, they are dependent on other lifts to be stimulated to grow. An example would be the front shoulders (anterior deltoids) that work with the chest muscles (pectorals) during a bench press, primarily used as a chest exercise. Since shoulders are not trained on their own to be stronger, they might grow at a slower rate than the chest. This means that your bench press will be limited to the amount of weight and volume that your shoulders can handle instead of the weight and volume that your chest can handle, limiting their growth. This can be so for other muscle groups as well like triceps, biceps and back.

Not having a shoulder day could cause injury

Similar to the point above, by not training shoulders on their own they won't be as strong as the other muscles. This means that they will probably get injured during lifts where other muscles are capable of handling weight that the shoulders aren't able to. Using the bench press example again, when the chest muscles can lift a heavy weight but the shoulder muscles can't stabilize the movement properly, injury can occur within the shoulder joint.

Shoulder size won't be in proportion

Just like calves that need to be worked separately to have legs that look in proportion, shoulders need to be worked separately to have the best looking upper body. By ignoring this muscle group (or by stimulating it indirectly only), it is not given the chance it deserves to grow in proportion to the rest of the body.

You should not have a separate shoulder day

Already convinced you should have a separate shoulder day? Take a look at the other side of the argument before you decide for yourself:

Overuse: Working the shoulder too much can cause injury

Overuse is one of the most common causes of shoulder injury. They are already used during almost all compound exercises like the bench press, dumbbell fly, dip, pull up and the dead lift; and during many isolated exercises like elbow extension and contraction exercises. Overuse can not only damage the shoulder joint directly, but indirectly as well because constant, strenuous use of the shoulder muscle will make it weaker. Weaker shoulder joints will therefore not be able to support their joint counterparts, leading to further injury.

When are shoulders supposed to rest?

The bench press (which does stimulate the shoulder muscle) works the shoulder really well already. Most chest exercises work the front shoulders and most back exercises work the back shoulders (posterior deltoids). Since shoulders are already being worked twice per typical program cycle (on chest days and on back days), they are not getting enough time to rest and fully recover if they are being worked again in isolation, when the chest and back muscles are resting. If other muscle groups are only being stimulated once a week, for example, and shoulders are being worked more than once, then the rest they get to recover will be a fraction of the other muscle groups. Without sufficient rest, they will not be able to grow and strengthen the best they could and will inevitably lead to weakness and injury.

They get enough stimulation

Shoulders don't need a day dedicated to them because they get all the stimulation they need from other exercises like chest and back movements, as discussed in the previous points above.

So should you have a separate shoulder day or not?

The answer to this question varies from person to person. Some people need an extra shoulder day because their shoulders are not getting enough stimulation from other exercises that involve them. On the other hand, some people do not need to dedicate a day specifically for shoulders because they are already being stimulated enough. The genetic makeup of everybody is different. Some people are chest dominant during the bench press (meaning that their chest does most of the work), whilst others are shoulder dominant (their shoulders take on most of the work). A dedicated shoulder day will help some to get further towards their physical goals, but will limit others. It depends greatly on your body type, genetics and training style.

The best way to figure out whether or not you should have a separate shoulder day is through trial and error. Try adding a shoulder day and see how your body feels. Try subtracting it and see how that feels (you will definitely see the difference and know what is best for you). For example, I have found that not having a separate shoulder day, but isolating front shoulders after chest exercises on chest day and isolating back shoulders after back exercises on back day works best for me. STAY STRONG!