Shoulders Make The Man (or, Yes, Woman)

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I’ve got some cool stuff for you this week—a series of workouts that I’ve used with my clients and myself.

More to the point, these workouts are so effective that they’ve been published in a series in Men’s Fitness.

I’m publishing them here on the blog so that you can enjoy and benefit, whether or not you read the magazine.  (But you should!)

Each one of these workouts focuses on a single body part…which is why each of these workouts only takes 15 minutes.


I’m going to hook you up with bad ass workouts that you can use to train and progress, even when time is an issue.

To start off the week, I’m going to get us going with my favorite body part: shoulders.

Now, we’ve all heard the expression, ‘shoulders make the man,’ and to some extent that old standby still applies. Although big arms and a great midsection are often lauded as the hallmarks of an ideal body, the simple fact of the matter is that you spend most of your time in clothes, and no one can see those body parts all covered up.

Not so with shoulders. A good set of wide, dense, well-developed shoulders is visible through any article of clothing.

For guys, such development stretches your t-shirts dangerously across your upper body at the bar, and makes you stand out in the boardroom even in the most mundane of suits.
For women, developed shoulders help facilitate the look you’re going for—after all, shoulders are the top half of the lauded hourglass. Bringing up the top will make your waist look smaller, and create symmetry with your hips.

If you only have 15 minutes to train your shoulders, the following workout is exactly what you need.

Consisting of four of the best deltoid exercises in the world, this training program will target all facets of shoulder development: strength, size, stability and even overall shoulder health.


1) Push Press – the ‘big daddy’ of shoulder movements, the push press is a standing overhead press where you use leg drive to propel the weight explosively upwards.  Explosive exercises are incredible for developing strength and speed; in addition, they allow you to use more weight than with a non-explosive movement.  In the specific case of the push press, this will allow for greater mass development of the entire deltoid muscle group.

This video show me doing it with dumbbells (and sweaty armpits), but in an ideal world, you’ll do this with a barbell.  And make sure you load it up with some weight, dammit!

2) Half-Bent Lateral Raise – This exercise is a cross between a traditional lateral raise (which is intended to target the medial delts) and bent over lateral raises (which target the rear deltoid).  With this variation, you bend at the waist to an angle of 45 degrees—this will place maximal stress on the medial deltoid while taking the anterior (front) out of the movement.  As you fatigue, the oft-neglected rear deltoid will kick in to assist, making for a much more effective variation of the exercise.

3) Y-Press – Using dumbbells, press the weights up and out at a 45 degree angle—at the end of the rep, you’ll resemble the letter Y.  Doing so requires a lot of the unsung heroes of shoulder training to fire and develop.

Unlike a traditional dumbbell overhead press, a Y-Press forces a good number of posterior muscles to fire in an attempt to stabilize the weight.  Over time, this will increase both strength and stability, helping to prevent injury as well as add to flexibility.

4) Overhead Barbell Pass – Also known as the alternating javelin press, this is one of the most technically and innovative shoulder exercises I’ve come across.  Perform it by holding a barbell lengthwise (see ‘javelin press’) and pressing upwards, passing the barbell from one hand to the other while it is directly over your head.

Much like the Y-Press, the Overhead Barbell Pass will depend heavily on the engagement of stabilizer muscles surrounding the shoulder to be successful.  In addition, because you are holding the barbell in this fashion, the Overhead Pass also increases balance, stability, and grip strength.  Finally, because this qualifies as a unilateral exercise, the Overhead Barbell Pass recruits a tremendous amount of High Threshold Motor Units (HTMUs) which have exceptional potential for growth—meaning that the Overhead Barbell Pass is also great for increasing size in a hurry. 

Here’s the workout:

A) Push Press
Sets: 3
Reps: 8
Rest: 60 seconds between sets

B1) Half-Bent Lateral Raise
Sets: 2
Reps: 12
Rest: 30 seconds, then proceed to B2

B2) Y-Press
Sets: 2
Reps: 15
Rest: 30 seconds, then return to B1. After your second set, rest 90 seconds and proceed to C

C) Overhead Barbell Pass
Sets: 2
Reps: 6-8
Rest: 60 seconds between sets.

There you have it: your key to bigger, stronger and healthier shoulders—all in just 15 minutes!  Try this workout if you’re crunched for time, or if you just need to shake things up a bit. 

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

Comments for This Entry

  • Caitlin Stephens

    This Blog is really nice and informative. Shoulders play a role in almost every upper-body activity, so making sure you train them is important. 15-Minute Giant Shoulder Sets Standing Overhead Press -15 reps Lateral Raise - 15 reps Rear Lateral Raise - 15 reps Wide Grip Upright Row - 15 reps. No rest between exercises. One minute rest between giant sets. Perform three giant sets.

    July 7, 2016 at 2:42 am

  • John Fawkes

    I've been using this for 2 months- have gained half an inch on my shoulders, and that's with a small drop in overall weight. This is the only shoulder-specific routine that's ever worked for me. Thanks John!

    February 14, 2015 at 3:22 am

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    December 19, 2012 at 2:12 am

  • Calebharid

    Hi John. My names Caleb. First off I just want to say that you are a beasttttttttttttttttttt !!!. I mean I want to get deised like you bro. You definitely inspire me to want to workout more and just live a healthier lifestyle. I was watching some of your videos about stretching, what time is the best time to workout etc. They were very helpful. I have a question. I have a dumbbell set at home and the biggest weights I have are 4.5ibs (10pounds). Not very heavy but they give me a good workout. What I wanted to know is that with these shoulder workouts that you were showing would I grow stronger and bigger shoulders even though i'm using 10 pound weights?, or would I need to up the anti  and buy bigger weights?, which i'm going to do eventually. Also I have one last question. The calf exercises that you were showing, do you know of any other calf exercises that I could do to build bigger calf muscles. Thanks = ) !!!.

    February 12, 2012 at 3:25 am

  • Ross

    Hi John, can you just confirm for me that i should end up doing 4 sets of B1 and not 1 set then B2 and back for the 2nd B1. Thanks

    January 26, 2012 at 3:51 am

  • Ross

    Hi John, can you just confirm for me that i should end up doing 4 sets of B1 and not 1 set then B2 and back for the 2nd B1. Thanks

    January 26, 2012 at 3:15 am

  • Per

    I used to use a shoulder circuit finisher that I got from Vince Delmonte, 12-15 reps with the same dumbbells on each exercise, done without rest. Front raise, side raise, bent over rear delt raise, upright rows, military press (but I sub:ed the later for arnold presses for a more complete shoulder activation). 2 -3 rounds of that in the end of my workout. My last 3-4 kettlebell workouts I've done your shoulder routine above as a finisher, it's quite humbling with the Y-presses acctually, I keep lowering my weights acctually to find the perfect form before increasing them again. Come on guys, chip in, I really need that 15 minute arm-workout!

    December 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm

  • Ben

    My favorite shoulder exercises have to be handstand holds and handstand walks. Once I get handstand pushups down they will be up there too

    December 14, 2011 at 5:25 am

  • Shawna Brown

    Ive been doing facepulls on back day, program made up by a trainer. Do you recommend them for shoulder day only??

    November 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

  • Rudolph K.

    I came across your site recently and I have to say -  I am enjoying my stay. I'm just starting working out so I don't know practically anything. I also don't have much time on my hands. This will hopefully help me out a bunch! I have a few Qs too: 1) How do you recommend warming up for such workouts, because I have had a couple of mishaps the last few times I tried a shoulder workout (I mostly hurt my neck somehow. Might be because I have no idea how to warm up for which exercise/muscle group e.t.c). 2) Assuming there are more of these short workouts (like for my pecs, arms and abdomen), when are you thinking of posting them and is it okay if I do a different one each day? Circulate between them, if you will. 3) How often do you recommend for a fitness-dummy to work out (a week, assuming I want to get toned and possibly quite buff for the summer)? Thanks for your time! -Rudy (I'm sixteen by the way)

    November 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    • Kedric

      For a simple and quick shoulder warm up I like to do internal and external rotations for the rotators cuffs. If you just started working out and wanna get buff for summer read this series,its a 4 part training series for gaining  size.Great stuff All the best bru

      November 23, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    • Kedric

      Forget the link,here it is

      November 23, 2011 at 9:27 pm

  • Chris

    Sorry, but that push-press is dangerous! You're almost pulling the shoulders out of their sockets at the top of the movement. I can see a lot of ligament/tendon damage for anyone who is not experienced trying to copy that move.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:25 am

  • Ylwa Falk

    Towards the end of my contest prep when energy and motivation was low shoulder days were my favourite because I had it done in 30 min when set up right, including warm up. Warm up with cable rotator cuff exercises 2x20/arm Three supersets, one for front/medial head paired with one for rear head. No rest in between and - BAM - 18 sets of shoulders (not including warm up) in 20 min. A new favourite exercise I just learnt: lying lateral raise, in drop set. Lie on your side on the floor, with a DB in the top facing hand (duh!). Perform a 1-arm lateral raise, stopping when your arm is vertical towards the floor, not all the way over your head. Bring it all the way down in front of you, keeping your arm straight throughout the motion. Since you are on the floor, you won't be able to use your trunk to swing up the dumbells as you fatigue and will really hit that medial head. Expect to drop weights with at least 30 % and feel it BURN

    November 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm

  • Frank

    what do you think about holding handstands, progressing into sets of presses as strength improves? i imagine similar to push press, with perhaps some additional benefit from recruitment as a result of balancing?

    November 16, 2011 at 10:12 am

  • mattias sørensen

    Nice workout Roman. I was wondering why you only got pushing exercises but no pulling exercises. Why is this? You're telling us that this is just one of three of the body part trainings, then you cannot return to this ^^  but still a fine workout, I'll do it tomorrow. Goodnight here from Denmark. 

    November 16, 2011 at 1:35 am

    • John Romaniello

      Good question!  Mainly, I just feel that most "pulling" exercises for shoulders, most people turn them into trap exercises.  The exception here would be face pulls, but I'd include that in a longer workout.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:24 am

  • Alex

    awesome post! How legit is rampage 2.0 though? I visited the site and there is not a lot of information there on the program. If i'm just coming off a shoulder injury (got released by my ortho a few days ago), is this something that will help me out? PS. heard you're working on a book right now and i am psyched! Any news on when its coming out or what it will be about?

    November 15, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    • John Romaniello

      Rampage is great.  Lots of focus on strengthening posterior stuff.  Lots of face pulls, pull aparts, etc. That said, for coming off a shoulder injury, be careful and get everything cleared by your doc.  You may also want to look into this: Regarding my book, I can't talk too much about it right now, unfortunately, but I imagine late 2012 or early 2013.  Traditional publishing is a slow moving machine.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:28 am

  • guest

    cool! how many times a week?

    November 15, 2011 at 8:40 pm

  • Karin

    I really like the seated Arnold Press. Thanks Roman!!!!!

    November 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm

  • Paulydee

    Awesome. I'm working some crazy hours right now, and these 15 min workouts will be perfect. I can't air to give this one a shot tonight. Thank you, Paul

    November 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm

  • Josh Eflin

    My favorite has got to be hand stand push ups. never thought of the barbell pass though, I'll have to try it. Thanks

    November 15, 2011 at 11:29 am

  • Bill X

    Awesome Stuff Bro. Definitely trying this out today. Do you have a workout routine for building muscle laid out on a weekly basis? Like Mon-Chest n Shoulders, etc? That would be great cause I want to have muscles like you do. ;) keep up the great work.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:03 am

  • Kedric

    If i'm short of time I like to kill shoulders with the overhead press superset with front plate raises followed by javelin presses and end it with external and internal cable rotations

    November 15, 2011 at 8:44 am

  • Dean Leach

    These shorter workouts are the way to go for me.  Knowing that my workout is going to be over pretty quickly is a big help for getting them in & doing them week in & week out.  Going into a workout with a lot of volume is just plain dreadful.  I've yet to finish SHW phase 3 becuase of this.  Hopefully I can break-thru this in time.  Maybe I could cut down on rest inbetween sets or cut back on sets? 

    November 15, 2011 at 8:22 am

  • Rog Law

    Time crunched workouts - they're a thing of beauty. I have to try this Barbell Pass out soon as it just sounds too badass not to.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:01 am

  • Esther

    Thank for the workout. Will try it :)

    November 15, 2011 at 7:59 am

  • Lisa

    I appreciate the explanations you give on what muscles are recruited for each particular exercise! Nothing like learning while getting workouts to try too!

    November 15, 2011 at 7:12 am

  • Andrew Edwards

    For shoulder exercises, I vote for the BB Push Press, Lumberjack Press and Face pull

    November 15, 2011 at 6:57 am

  • Jan P

    cool workou. My favourite exercise for shoulders is bradford press - sets deltoids on fire like nothing else. And of course, there is the press!

    November 15, 2011 at 5:01 am

  • Marie

    Thanks for blogging short workouts, they're really awesome when time is of the essence! My favorite is definitely the Y-press.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:59 am

  • Craig O'Connell

    Also - Def like the comments section better now

    November 15, 2011 at 12:43 am

  • Craig O'Connell

    Great post! Definitely trying this out on the weekend!!

    November 15, 2011 at 12:43 am

  • Tyler Carter


    November 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm

  • Sky Gal

    Will try it tomorrow morning. :)

    November 14, 2011 at 11:20 pm

  • Jorma

    Thanks Roman. I'm going to add this in to tonight's workout. I was just telling a friend that I wanted to bring up my shoulders. My favorite shoulder exercise is handstand pushups because 1) I can bang those out anywhere I happen to have a free minute and a wall to kick my feet up on; 2) body weight exercises are my old standards, always reliable, there when I need them and never let me down exercises and 3) when I knock a few sets of HSPU out at the gym people stop and watch. I also like working out on rings, which demand a lot of shoulder activation just to stabilize other movement patters.

    November 14, 2011 at 11:09 pm

  • Chris

    Has to be the shoulder press. Thanks for the workout

    November 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm

  • Mike

    Are you at a planet fitness? - Westy

    November 14, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    • John Romaniello

      I am indeed. I know I know, they hate "real" lifters and trainers like us. That may be true as a corp, but in practice the owners aren't bad and usually let ya deadlift =) More to the point, they have always been very helpful and never gave me a problem filming videos. Unlike some OTHER gyms I could mention. (I'm looking at you, Equinox.) Thanks for stopping by, Westy.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:23 am

  • Jonathan Goodman

    Nice timely post. I just launched my personal page and that, in combination with the PTDC has made for a verrry busy week. I've gotten in 3 15-30min workouts this past week. Thanks for the ideas John.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    • John Romaniello

      You, sir, are definitely going to be busy between those two sites. You're gonna love the leg workout =)

      November 15, 2011 at 7:25 am

      • Jonathan Goodman

        80/20 rule to the max my friend.  I outsource a lot and concentrate purely on not only writing bomb content but finding the best writers in the biz to provide amazing content.  Give me a shout if you're ever interested in doing up a guest post. And I'm not looking forward to the leg workout...

        November 15, 2011 at 10:39 am

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