Why You Should Pyramid Those Shoulders

Pyramiding your sets is simple, and it can be used to ensure that you are adequately hitting both the slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers.  Not only does this give your joints a rest in avoiding four ultra-heavy sets and ensure you are properly warmed up before attempting heavy weights, but it stimulates as many possible muscle fibers in the targeted muscle group as possible.  Here is a sample shoulder routine, which uses pyramid sets.

Military Barbell Press – Standing Or Seated

12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps

Adding mass is the key with this movement, so you want to go hard and heavy after a nice clean warm-up.  Use a back brace to ensure the lower back doesn’t wear too much strain, and hit this exercise like Arnold used to, 30 years ago – Heavy and intense!

Hammer Strength Shoulder Press

15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps

This is a chance to isolate the deltoids without recruiting too many other muscle groups.  The arc of the machine ensures you cannot cheat very much, and that the deltoids are doing most of the work on this movement.  Complete slow and smooth repetitions, working to feel the shoulders doing the work.

Dumbbell Side Raises

15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps

A little swing is acceptable as you reach the last two sets, but don’t be like many trainers who swing the entire time.  On the first three sets, keep form perfect.  Use a little less weight if you cannot complete the 15 and 12 repetition sets without cheating.  Remember that the goal is to build muscle, not see who can swing the biggest dumbbell.  Leave your ego at the gym door.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Side Raises For Rear Delts

15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps

As with the dumbbell side raises, use very light weight for the first several sets of this movement.  You’ll see that the burn in the muscle group – the pump resulting from flooding the rear deltoids with blood – is much better when good form, lighter weight, and slower repetitions are used.

Upright Rows: 4 Sets

15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps

This can be a dangerous movement when too much weight is used.  Start with a little less weight than you usually use, and work to ensure that the early sets are textbook perfect movements with no back swing to help cheat the weight up.  Only when you arrive at the last two sets – and your shoulders are fried from this workout – can you break good form a bit and employ some cheating.