5 Shoulder Training Lessons from Johnnie Jackson

Grow a set of shirt-stretching shoulders.


With his full quota of carbs and calories in the off-season, Jackson regularly presses 150-pound dumbbells for 15 reps, uses 100 pound dumbbells for 10 reps of side laterals, and upright rows are 335 for 12 reps. He's hoisted as much as 405 for eight reps for upright rows. In the weeks leading up to a contest, Jackson increases his reps, decreases his rest periods between sets, and does more intensifying techniques, like supersets. "“Off-season I'’ll go down to five or six reps; pre-contest I'’ll go up to 15-20 reps,"” he states, "“so it's a pretty big shock to my body, using a lot more reps and resting a lot less between sets."


Jackson warms up on an Icarian shoulder press machine before proceeding to the dumbbell rack. He pyramids his sets of dumbbell overhead presses and stretches between sets, continuing to make sure his shoulders are properly warmed up before grabbing the heaviest weights. During each rep, he lowers the dumbbells to ear level. He stops just short of lockout at the top.

"Anytime you use a full range of motion, you'’re going to use more of the muscle,"” he explains. "Having said that, I do use a shorter range sometimes. It all depends on how I'’m feeling that day and how achy my shoulders are."”

Although he claims he'’s never been particularly strong in overhead pressing movements, he'’s always made them the cornerstone of his deltoid routines. He believes less advanced bodybuilders should do the same, by starting their workouts with dumbbell overhead presses or military presses using a barbell or Smith machine.

"“The same concept that I have for chest I have for shoulders: focus on a lot of pressing movements,"” Jackson prescribes. "Try to go as heavy as you can for eight to 10 reps. Do a warm-up set and three working sets. If you'’re looking to gain mass, you'll have to lift the heaviest weights possible for eight to 10 reps."


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