Exercise of the Week: “Shoulder Vanity Circuit”

Shoulders are one of my favorite muscle groups to train. With summer and tank top season approaching, I thought I’d share with you my famous (well among my clients, at least) “shoulder vanity circuit”.

We don’t specify enough that what it takes to build muscle is slightly different than what it takes to maintain muscle.

When building muscle, we must rid ourselves of the temptation to do a bunch of new and different exercises and stick to a plan. Stick to a set of exercises and work on getting stronger at them over time. This stimulus, progressive overload, is what effectively makes a muscle bigger (presuming you are in a calorie surplus).

So back when I had little baby noodle arms, I desperately dreamed of having shoulder definition like the Jennifers (Gardner and Biel). So I picked up a barbell and chose four exercises, put them in a circuit and did it 3-4 times a week for months.

Spoiler alert: it worked.

As an added bonus, the circuit is simple and kind of fun because you think it’s going fine and then all the sudden your arms are dead. Sounds miserable, but the clients who have dared to try it are fans.

The Exercises

I love that this circuit has some of the least ground breaking exercises and is essentially quite #basic.

  1. Bench Press
  2. Bent Over Row
  3. Military Press (Push Press when fatigued)
  4. Upright Row

All the exercises are to be done with the same barbell weight.

A preloaded barbell like this is the preferred choice, but you could also do this with dumbbells.

The Protocol

The weight that you choose for the barbell is going to be limited mostly by how much you can military (overhead) press. Choose a weight that you can military press for at least 5 reps. This weight will feel almost too easy for the bench press and bent over row, but that’s okay.

Lay down on a bench and do 10-15 reps of the bench press. Then stand up in a bent over position and do 10-15 bent over rows. Then go into military presses for as many as you can, up to 10. If you can’t get to 10 reps, do a push press (using your legs to help get the bar overhead) for the remaining reps. Then do upright rows for as many reps as you can, max of 10.

Phew! Rest for 2-3 minutes and repeat 2 more times. If by the last set you can’t make it to 10 reps with all the exercises, just do as many as you can with good form. Never sacrifice form for reps.

Are you going to give this a try? Tag @hellostrength1 when you do!

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