The best shoulder workout would be one which does not cause shoulder pain or damage. One which has the appropriate amount of volume for you, enough weight and can elicit the stimulus for your shoulders to change in the way that you desire. Since we are all different and have different goals I will try to detail the general principles that make for the best shoulder workout.
Form and Range of Motion
Developed Upper back muscles like the traps and Rhomboids prevent rotator cuff (rotary cup) tears.
Form is especially important for shoulders since this is a very easily injured joint. The rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles and tendons and that is what causes your arm to float next to your body; there is no rigid structure holding the shoulder in place like the hip. Because of the flimsy nature of these muscles, use of machines and other fixed plane movements will build up muscles like the pecs and lats but not the delts and rotator cuff muscles. This will in time lead to rotator cuff impingement.
Using perfect form and having your scapula retracted on all presses is the key to avoiding rotator cuff damage. If this occurs you will get pain in your trap, your bicep tendon, even your jaw. Most of the time it starts in your opposite hip, from bad squat or deadlift form. That all being said, Seeing a chiropractor and a massage therapist or lifting correctly and using stretching and myofascial self release is the only way to really train pain/injury free.
Now range of motion is relative to your sport and anatomy. If you're a bodybuilder interested in gaining size and not getting hurt then using the middle 50% of range of motion is fine, this is what handles the heaviest weight best and allows your to grow the muscle the fastest. It’s the beginning and end of a range of motion that a muscle is the weakest and most prone to tearing.
Strength training is just using slightly heavier weight so that your body gets a rest from volume. Or it’s used to slowly increase how strong you are so that the weight you use on your hypertrophy or “growth” sets. If you can do 200 for 4 reps you can get 175 for the reps that count 6-8. But if you can over time work up to 225 for 4 then you’re probably doing 200 for 6-8 and thus since you’re handling more weight in the correct rep range. You’re now bigger and stronger.
Your shoulders make your physique. No other body part is more masculine and is clearly visible no matter what your wearing. Delts and upper traps are the first thing anyone sees at a range and it makes you look taller, larger, and your waist appear smaller. It is the widest point of the V frame, and even in a burlap sack or a business suit it is clear to all who look that you have mass. Shoulders and traps are visible from every angle.
Typically Size training is conducted with a 6-12 rep range, strength with a 3-5 rep range, and pump sets are sets greater than 12.
However the shoulders are equal parts white and red fibers and thusly respond to 12 reps the best. I cover this in the Muscle Fiber Type article
The Best Shoulder Workout
It’s always good to warm a joint up before a major workout and especially a super fragile joint like the shoulder.
Walk on treadmill for 10 minutes, I finish my Fenris' Fury at this time
Arm circles 10 forward 10 backwards
2 sets of 20 not to failure internal and external rotations. This is to activate not exhaust the muscles of the rotator cuff.
Rear Pec Deck
6 x 12
Doing this first activates the middle back muscles to allow you to handle the pressing that is to come without aggravating the rotator cuff. Only the last set is to failure, I try to push my arms out to the sides to really engage the rear delts not use a ton of weight and pull it back. Using too much weight becomes more of a shitty back exercise. I do 2 or 3 grips, thumbs up, thumbs down then thumbs in for 2, 2, 2 sets.
5 x 5
This is pyramiding up in weight each set, each set should be a little heavier or look like this:
60% 1rm, 70%, 80%, 85%, 90%. Now you should not be able to get 5 reps with 90% of your 1 RM. If you can then your now stronger!!
Obviously most people are not skilled enough to do this exercise without hurting their rotator cuff so I ONLY ENDORSE THIS FOR EXPERT LIFTERS. so 10 or 20 years experience minimum.
Here is a video of the T4R Freya week shoulder workout. IT is NOT THE SAME WORKOUT however, I do demonstrate how to do do a proper military press in station 1, and station 2 and station 3 and station 6 are the same as the next three supersets in this workout, and the form of the front raises is the same
4 x 8-10, failure
Use a weight which you fail at 10 reps doing full range of motion arnold presses and when you're failing switch to dumbbell presses with the same weight (basically you're just doing the top 50% of the range of motion)
5 x 8-10
Using the same dumbbells, once you fail at lateral raises you just let your elbows go loose and crank out as many more reps as you can. You're just shortening the lever arm thus creating more of a leverage drop set then a superset.
super set with
4 x 10-12
Great for finishing off this area and tying in the traps
4 x 12-15
Your anterior delts should be cooling off from the pressing earlier. If they are not inflamed you could have paired them with the face pulls.
This is plenty but if you want to burn them out do
Cable Side Laterals alternating from floor.
7 x 12 Alternating Sides
Try to let your delt stretch completely at the bottom and contract the middle delt hard at the top, giving the muscle continuous force across the stretch, and contraction positions with greatest force on the strength position. Making this the perfect middle delt activator!
Nothing in this article or on this site should be considered medical advice or as an endorsement to violate any law of the country in which you reside. The information given is for fun and entertainment purposes only. All statements are 100% dependent upon proper diet and exercise. Please consult a medical practitioner prior to any diet and exercise program.