Chris Hemsworth emphasized shoulder training over chest training when preparing for the movie Thor.
Well built, muscular shoulders are a true sign of strength, power and masculinity. When building a fit, capable and stunning physique shoulder strength and development is absolutely critical. Unfortunately in this day and age, shoulder development is more often than not a weakness. People are obsessed with building huge chests and impressive bench press numbers.
When was the last time someone asked you how much you could overhead press? Or how many full range handstand pushups can you do? Probably never!!! As a result shoulder training becomes an afterthought. Some people are even content with a few sets of half assed lateral raises for their shoulder training.
If you want to build a truly impressive and highly capable physique you need to do a complete 180 and re-evaluate your strength training routine.
Handstand Push Ups – The Holy Grail of Shoulder Training
From my experience full range handstand pushups are the single most effective exercise for building sheer shoulder strength and muscle! When your body is free moving and your hand are fixed (closed chain movements) there seems to be greater muscle recruitment and less stress on the joints.
Squats, handstand push ups, dips, chin ups, dead lifts are all closed chain movements. Leg press, shoulder press, bench press and lat pull down are all open chain movements. Aside from chest training I have always had the best gains sticking mostly with closed chain movements.
I have spent several months using full range handstand pushups almost exclusively and my shoulders have increased in strength and size. As well this carried over to seated dumbbell presses as I was noticeably stronger on this movement even without training it.
Progressing to the Handstand Push Up
Progression #1 – Pike Push ups
Build up to 3 sets of 15 reps before moving to the next variation
Progression #2 – Elevated Pike Push ups
Build up to 3 sets of 10 reps before moving to the next variation
Progression #3 – Handstand Pushups against wall
Build up to 3 sets of 8 reps before moving to the next variation
Progression #4 – Full Range Handstand Pushups against wall
Start with a slightly lower range of motion and perform 3 sets of 5 reps. Every workout try to increase the range of motion until you are going all the way down. Once you can perform 3 sets of 5 reps with a complete full range of motion then try building up to 3 sets of 10 reps.
Progression #5 – Weighted Full Range Handstand Push ups
Get a weighted vest and perform sets of 5-8 reps! This level of strength is quite extreme and not necessary. However if you can build up to weighted full range handstand pushups you will be a god among men.
Programming Handstand Pushups
For maximum results I recommend performing handstand pushups as the first part of your workout for 3 sets while stopping a rep shy of failure.
Rest at-least 2-3 minutes between sets. Ideally train this movement one to two times per week.