The No-press Shoulder Workout


As long as men have lifted weights, “press at all costs” has been the name of the playbook for boulder shoulders. But every now and then, it’s helpful to set it aside and try another approach. Temporarily suspending your use of the press will benefit you in two significant ways: It gives your joints a break from the heavy stuff, and it allows you to broaden your horizons with some fresh moves.

While undoubtedly effective, pressing can take a toll on the connective tissues of the shoulder joints. This is even more of an issue if you’re using a barbell, which tends to leave you fighting your body’s desired range of motion. Besides that, it can get a little dull after a while.

In this program, you’ll use moderate to heavy upright rows with a rope attachment at a cable station, which hold plenty of the same benefits but with a smoother, more natural range of motion. Then, after those more traditional sets, you’ll do high-volume, HIIT-inspired shoulder work using light dumbbells and battling ropes. The result is a complete, sweat-soaked routine that heavily taxes each of the three deltoid heads while also helping you get diced.


The Fortune raise is a frequent go-to for fighters in the stable of boxer Manny Pacquiao’s trainer and strength and conditioning coach, Justin Fortune ( Shadowbox for 30 seconds holding dumbbells, focusing on throwing brisk, straight punches. Alternate with 30 seconds’ worth of dumbbell raises. Choose from this menu for the Fortune raise to keep things fresh in each round.

Straight to 45 degrees

Front Raise
Lateral Raise
Rear-delt Raise

*Keeping your back flat, lean forward at the waist and throw alternating punches at the ground.
**Hold a pair of dumbbells at full extension out to your sides, palms facing forward, arms forming a T with your torso. Elevate your arms overhead in a wide arc until the dumbbells touch, and then lower them along the same path, coming back to a T.

Exercise 1: Dumbbell Upright Row

Sets: 4
Reps: 10-12
Rest: 1 min

Choose a weight that brings about failure at the rep range listed. Grab a pair of dumbbells overhand and hold them in front of your thighs. Your palms should be facing your body. Pull the dumbbells up toward your chest, making sure to keep the weights as close to your body as possible. When the dumbbells reach chest-level, pause for a second, and then lower the dumbbells back to starting position.

Exercise 2: “Fortune” Raise

Sets: 3
Reps: 3 min
Rest: 1 min

Set a timer for 6 consecutive 30-second segments. Alternate between shadowboxing and dumbbell raise variations for 30 seconds each for what amounts to 3 straight minutes of work. Use 3- to 5-lb. dumbbells, and focus on constant, controlled movement.

Exercise 3: Battling Ropes

Sets: 3
Reps: Tabata

Using your timer, perform each set Tabata-style: Complete 8 20-second segments of all-out work, each followed by 10 seconds of rest. Alternate between 2-handed slams and alternating waves in each work segment.

Exercise 4: Face Pull

Sets: 3
Reps: 15

Attach a rope extension to the high pulley of a cable station. Grab the rope overhand, so your palms are facing away from you. While you’re standing up, brace your core, and pull the cable to your nose. Pause, then slowly return to the start position.

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