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Is Isolating The Shoulder Muscles Necessary For Growth?

Strong and wide shoulders get you the aesthetic look many people are going for. Or maybe you want better athletic performance or some strength you can use in the real world. What is the best way to go about training your shoulders? Here’s what you want to know. 

For size, athletic performance and strength that’s useful in daily life, a combination of compound and isolation exercises are necessary. Shoulders tend to be relatively small and weak in most people so working them out makes a big difference. 

Let’s go into why this is the case and what is best for your situation.

Is Isolating The Deltiods Necessary?

If training any body part is necessary depends on what your needs/goals are. Everyone has different goals but there are some common ones. 

The most common goals people have is to have bigger arms or shoulders specifically or to perform better in their respective sports. Do you have to train your shoulders to reach either of those goals? 

Diagram of the deltoids

Most upper body exercise that involves any pushing will use the shoulders as well. Bench pressing, punching, and most other upper body pushing exercises use the front of the shoulders. However, the side and rear of the shoulder don’t get that much of a workouts without direct targeted exercises. 

Sure, most sports that use the upper body will use those shoulder muscles to some degree but most people could improve their athletic performance by separately training their shoulders. It doesn’t have to be done with isolation exercises though. Compound exercises that also involve more other muscles work great to train the shoulders although a few isolation exercises are also good to add in. There aren’t too many isolation exercises that target the side and rear of the muscle though so there are more options if you include compound movement. Compound movements train your different muscles to work together as a system which is a benefit. 

Suggested: Is training shoulders twice a week enough for growth?

That’s for athletic performance. However, many people want to have bigger shoulders for aesthetic reasons. This changes things a little bit (but not too much, the biggest changes would be in the amount of sets, reps and resistance to focus more on size than strength and endurance). 

To get bigger shoulders, it’s absolutely necessary to put quite a lot of time and effort into working them out. The shoulders are relatively small muscles and need quite a lot of work to get them to grow. They can get stronger and more endurance with a lot of use but to get them to grow, you need to target them hard. A combination of both isolation and compound exercises that work the shoulders is the way to get them bigger. 

Isolation exercises are exercises that only target a single muscle. Compound exercises use more muscles in a single movement. That means they use more muscle mass and you can move more weight with them. This helps your body work as a system and also helps strengthen all the smaller muscles around the joints. 

To get bigger shoulders, doing some direct isolation workouts on top of your compound exercises will help quite a lot. Especially if you want them to grow faster in comparison to your triceps.

Is Training Shoulders Useful In The Real World? 

So if you want bigger shoulders or better athletic performance, the best way to get them is to train them directly. But what about normal people? You go to the gym to be in better shape and have some real world strength but don’t care about athletic performance or how big your arms are. Is shoulder training useful for you? 

Man performing a lateral raise

Suggested: How many sets of shoulders is optimal for growth?

The shoulders of most people that don’t train them are surprisingly weak. Hold out your arms to the side with a bottle of water in your hands and see how long it takes for it to start burning. It’s probably not very long. If you want to handle anything that requires you to lift your arms requires your shoulders and getting them stronger will make all those things easier. Think about putting a heavy box on a high shelf, throwing a football and even holding shopping bags and things like that. The shoulders are underused throughout most of the day and then when you need them, they’re absent. That’s why the shoulders are a key muscle to get stronger to gain real world strength. 

Just like for growth and performance, it’s best to use a combination of compound and isolation exercises. Compound exercises are great for building strength that works well in the system that is your body. These exercises mimic movements you would use in real life anyways. However, because the shoulders are so weak in many people, adding a few isolation exercises is a good idea. 

Examples of compound exercises that use the shoulders as one of the muscles are; Barbell overhead press, dumbbell shoulder press, bent over rows (rear shoulder), face pulls (rear shoulder). 

Examples of isolation exercises for the shoulders are; lateral raises (dumbbell or cable), rear delt fly.