The importance of keeping your shoulders at peak performance will make all the difference in strengthening your upper body. Weakness in any part of your shoulder area, rotator cuff, or muscles surrounding the scapula (shoulder bone) will keep you from lifting weights on the bench press or result in ripping your triceps with a dumbbell. Your shoulder is essentially the gateway to weightlifting.
CrossFit training recognizes the importance of keeping your shoulder mobility at top levels. The varied training style has incorporated many of its core exercises with the shoulders in mind. There are also many shoulder-specific workouts that will turn your shoulders into behemoths, so we have put together a blueprint of CrossFit shoulder exercises that will do the job.
Single Arm Trap 3 Raise
Many CrossFitters utilize this workout to give their shoulder joints strength and control. This specific workout focuses on the lower trap, aka trap 3. It’s simple to perform and will result with broad shoulders and larger shoulder width. The start position begins with you in a bent over or isometric row stance, and you raise a dumbbell with one arm. The key here is to make sure your scapula is doing the raise and not the upper trap.
Half Kneeling Dumbbell Press with Band Rope
The great thing with CrossFit is that you are performing exercises that are out of the ordinary — it’s more like CrossFit games than CrossFit exercises. And this exercise is a perfect example as the workout plays out more like a challenge than an ordinary shoulder lift. You will begin kneeling with one hand grasping on a dumbbell. The other hand pulls on a stationary band rope. Then you lift the dumbbell up (Arnold Press) to perform a shoulder lift. The idea is you will be training your brain’s motor control as well as fine-tuning various movement patterns. The unorthodox exercise also acts as a superior core and upper body workouts.
Single Arm Kettlebell Squat
The best CrossFit coach will encourage a fusion of workouts that will engage various parts of your body that will shed weight and build muscle. It’s another one of those CrossFit games that break the ordinary. The single arm kettlebell squat is the perfect example of breaking the ordinary. This workout is all about proper form and concentration. The start position is standing with a kettlebell held straight up and then slowly progressed into a squat. The kettlebell remains in the same spot until you reach the bottom of the squat and that’s when you will perform a Sotts Press. You will repeat with each arm. Again, this about mobility, but you will also build muscle in your rear deltoids. The squat, of course, will strengthen your quads, glutes, and core. Typically perform this exercise for ten reps over the course of three sets to achieve maximum engagement.
Incline Dual Kettlebell Row
To better attack the shoulder muscle group you will have to try varied positions. This workout places you on an incline bench in the reversed position. Then you grab on two kettlebells and perform a prone row with your palms facing perpendicular to your body. After about five to seven reps, you should reposition the incline to different degrees so you are reaching other spots of the scapula. This is a terrific and dynamic way give you broad shoulders and stabilize your upper body strength.
Shoulder Raise with Plates
Strong shoulders begin with maintaining slow and controlled movements during your workouts. This shoulder exercise forces you to have a more deliberate approach to sculpting your scapula. Popular amongst Chinese weightlifters and trainers, this style involves grabbing two weight plates with both hands and being bent over slightly (the grip is a doozy with grasping the holes of the plate). Then lift the plates away from your body slowly. The trick is to make sure you don’t touch your body with the weights. Form and position is also a big factor with this shoulder raise as you MUST keep your spine straight and knees slightly bent. You should perform about two to three sets of eight to feel in the burn. The slow lateral movements will also strengthen your shoulder joints.
Overhead Press with Banded Weights
Advance CrossFitters have been mastering this exercise for some time now. But you should slowly work yourself into this one. You need to grab a barbell with two banded weights at each end so they dangle. Now you need to have a wide grip so you could perform a simple overhead press — make sure to perform the exercise slowly so the weights don’t crash into your body. Similarly to performing a bench press, the challenge here is to be balanced and stable so you develop strong shoulders over time. That being said, start with small weights and gradually build with each set. You must make sure to maintain a consistent wide grip in order to properly reach your muscle group and rear delts.
Seated Single Arm Kettlebell Press
In the style of the overhead press, this seated exercise will blast your shoulders and upper body strength. The key here has rack hold, which means to have your palms facing inwards and the kettlebell leaning on the outside of your hand. You simply lift upwards for about seven reps. Then you will repeat to the other shoulder. After three sets you will see a distinct change in your shoulder width. The exercise will give you shoulders endurance and even improve your upper body strength.
Single Arm Dumbbell Push Press
The ultimate goal with the dumbbell push press is to pack on the weight and shock your scapula. You will be standing with a very heavy dumbbell and push feverishly upwards. The movement is a challenge to perfect and it will take time to build the stamina and strength to perform, but a seasoned CrossFit coach will tell you it’s worth all the pain and time since your shoulder will gain maximum mobility. That will result in better performance with all other shoulder exercises. The push press will also increase better results with many other upper body workouts such as the bench press.