Shoulder Building Circuits

I’m building strong sexy shoulders – or at least trying to.

Did you know there are a lot of advantages of having strong shoulders, over the look of them (although I would argue that’s an important point, too)?  Strong healthy shoulders reduces my chance of injury, and as we know, shoulder injuries are high – probably the highest of all injuries.  Keep them strong, and sexy, not only will you keep yourself healthy, but you will feel good about wearing tank tops, bathing suits, and the like!

And before you rip on me about being vain, self-confidence means everything.  If you are confident about how you look: you feel better, your outlook is better, and you are better able to deal with the trials and tribulations of life.

Personally speaking, the world is a lot more colorful.


My Approach to my Slow to Grow Upper Body

Shoulder strength is something I have been working on for a long time.  It seems that I have a hard time building my upper body, and getting it to “go” requires effort, discipline and a lot of serious volume.  Typically, I have to hit the upper body with two intense workouts a week – minimum – and they have to be filled with super sets, giant sets, tri-sets…a lot of sets and reps.  My diet also has to be eagle eye on target.  If my training and diet are on target.


Plus, I have to hit it during a cut (it seems), as it appears that I am only able to build when I am cutting calories (but that’s another interesting story all together).

During this cut, I am really focused on fat loss – I know that sounds weird, but every time I cut, I seem to build muscle (recomp).  I want to focus on fat loss only, if I can, so I can better estimate my fat loss and change my eating accordingly.  I just want this fat loss time over so that I can move on to building.

Not sure it’s gonna work for me.  I might build muscle anyway.  I re-worked ALL of my workouts in circuit  form.  I took out all of the volume and progressive overload (adding additional weight week after week).  I lessened the weight (you will see why), and I put the lifting in circuit form where I am doing 3-4 exercises back to back with no rest.  I’m combining weight lifting (light to moderate weights) with  bursts of cardio.  In conjunction with eating the correct amount of protein (1g/lbs of body weight) the majority of days, I am hoping that is enough to maintain the muscle mass I have and not build any more.

If I lose some, 1 or 2 lbs, I will be okay with that.

I don’t know.  I just have to see.  My body loves building during fat loss stages, so…only time will tell.

I wanted to share with you one circuit that is a lot of fun for me.  It’s the right combo of body weight, weight and jump rope work.  There is some good ab work and a small bit  (very small bit) of leg work included.  It’s a good overall shoulder burn that I always feel the next day!  It’s also the perfect accompaniment to my overall shoulder workout that I do on Monday’s.


Shoulder Circuits


Warm up

It’s important to warm up before performing any exercises.  With my shoulders, I do a simple 5-minute warm up.

Using light weights (3-5 lbs), I do 3 rounds of the following exercises.

5 reps military presses

5 reps of lateral raises

5 reps of front raises

5 reps of bent over back

To warm up the rest of the body, I do an active warm-up

20 air squats

Butt kickers (20 seconds)

High knees (20 seconds)

toy soldiers (20 seconds)

Ab twisters (20 seconds)


Circuit 1



I’m doing 3 exercises here.  For the weight work, I’m doing 4 sets of 12, 12, 10 and 10 reps.  These exercises are performed back-to-back with a 1-minute rest between circuits.

Behind the back barbell presses – I’m doing these on the Smith Machine, but you don’t have to.  I don’t know if there really is a difference, but you could use a barbell or whatever.  Basically you want something lightly weighted so that you can last through the entire circuit.  I happen to like the smith machine for these.  I only have 15 lbs weighted on the bar here.  If you don’t like the way it feels to go behind the back, you can go in the front.  To get the behind the back to work, your arms have to be wide.

You press up for one count and slowly lower down in 3 counts.  No pauses on the top or bottom of the lift.


Jump Rope – Then I do 30-seconds of jump rope .  Here I’m doing just the simple bounce step, but next time I will do double unders.  The rope I’m using has a little weight behind it.  If you rotate your wrists, like you are drawing circles on a nickel, you will feel the shoulder burn in 20-seconds.  Make sure that you are not swinging your entire arm.  It’s the wrist action that gets the rope around fast, and gives you the shoulder burn.


Lateral Raises – I follow-up immediately with lateral raises.  You want to raise up 1-count and slowly lower down for 3-counts.  Make sure you only go up as far as your shoulder.  You want to work the middle delt, here and not the traps.  Go higher, and it’s all trap.


Tabata 1

You will rest two-minutes and go directly into a tabata.  Tabata is a 4 minute interval.  I love them!  You set the timer, 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for a total of 8-rounds.

This tabata, I’m working my abs and shoulders!

I flip-flop between the following two exercises…


Burpee with a push-up

Hallow hold

Circuit 2


In this circuit, you will work the rear delts, the front and middle delts, and the abs.  This circuit is like the first.  you will do four sets – 12, 12, 10, and 10 reps.  You will perform all 3-exercises back to back, with 1-minute break between.


Cable Crossover – You need a tower or a machine like I’m using.  The weight should be set at the lightest.  You cross your arms, so you will grab the opposite cable (right arm grabs left cable).  The pully’s should be set at the highest position.  You want to pull wide, and concentrate on feeling the rear shoulders doing the work.  It’s really important that you feel it  Go slow.  Pull out 1-count and back 3-counts.


Leg Raises – down 3-counts, up 1-countYour head can be up or down.  up gives more work down the 6-pack.  If you keep your hands under your butt, it will provide with more lower back support.


Lateral Raise with slide – With the lateral raises, always shoulders blades together.  You raise them up to the side, 1-count, bring them in front of you, 1-count, and then bring them down in front of your body 3-counts.  You do that again for the prescribed reps.


Tabata 2

You know the drill.  Wait two-minutes and set up your stuff.  This is going to be two tabata with 1 minute rest between – for a total of 9-minutes.  I got this tabata from the 101 best Buddy Lee workouts!  It’s a fabulous book with workouts for bodybuilders, cross fitters, normal people just starting out!  I love it, and use workouts from it often.


20 seconds on/10 seconds off.


High step (jump rope)

low plank

Weighted forward lunges (I used 15 lbs)

push ups

double unders (jump rope)

bicycle crunches

weighted side lunges (I used 15 lbs)

wide grip push ups.

Rest 1-minute

High step (jump rope)

plank up and down

jumping lunges

spider man push ups

double unders (jump rope)


weighted rear lunges (I used 15 lbs)

decline push ups (off swiss ball, bench or plyo box)


Circuit 3



Wait two-minutes and begin this circuit.  This circuit is done as the same, except there are only 2-exercises.  The cable lateral raises, you will do the sets first on the left and then on the right, immediately followed by the second exercise.  Like the last circuits, we are doing 4 sets of 12, 12, 10, and 10.  The battle ropes will be done in 30-second intervals.

Cable Lateral Raises – You will start with the right arm and immediately move to the left.  Make sure the pully is at the lowest point.  The weight should be light.  These are small muscles we are working, and you have to last through all the sets.

Battle Rope – This is hard.  Go at it and don’t give up.  I’m only now working to be able to do it for 30-seconds.  It’s a tough one.  If your gym doesn’t have a battle rope, you can use light weights.


Tabata 3

You think I’m going to let you get away without a final tabata.

In this 20 seconds on/10 seconds off 4-minute burst, we are going to flip-flop the following exercises.


Kettlebell high pull

American Kettlebell swings.


On the high pull, make sure your elbows are higher than your wrists.  Make it a strict pull.  No body swinging will ensure we are using only the shoulders to lift the weight.  If you are using body English, then it’s time to decrease the weight.

On the kettlebell swings, keep your eyes looking forward.  Use the hip contracting to get the weight up and over your head.


I hope these circuits help you with your shoulder building routine.  If you try one or all, come back and let me know how it goes.

BTW, this can certainly be done at home with dumbbells, a barbell and a resistance band (anchored to the door). My husband always complains of the smell when I work at home, so I try to keep my workouts at the gym. To help with the smell, I started using an odor-remover candle in my workout area after seeing it in this article. I like to light it after my workouts to keep the room fresh and my husband happy!

About Lisa

Hey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm Lisa - a homeschool mom of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). I care about the strength of the family in America, and often blog about babies/kids, natural parenting, homeschool, and marriage. Before you leave, please sign up for my monthly newsletter (on the top right). If you do, you will be well rewarded with notification of all giveaways and sales - which will not be announced on the blog. Google+ Profile

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