Who’s asked, “Why Do Shoulders Never Get Sore?”
It’s a given that after leg day your legs are sore.
Following back day you get DOMS in your lats, biceps, and forearms.
And even your pecs and triceps are on fire following chest day.
In fact, you can even feel your front delts after benching and your rear delts and traps after pulling.
However, you never seem to get sore shoulders following a shoulder workout.
So, what exactly is going on here?
Why Do Shoulders Never Get Sore?
Your shoulders never getting sore doesn’t mean the muscles aren’t working properly. Different muscles react in different ways. The shoulders are typically used in most pushing and pulling movements. So, you’ll often feel soreness in the front delts or rear delts following a push and pull day respectively. To work the side delts you should try a wide variety of dumbbell raises and look to increase your overall time-under-tension.
Feeling “Sore” is Not An Indication of a Good Workout
I think it’s important to point out that soreness isn’t indicative of a great workout.
Okay, I know this can be hard to imagine, as we all pretty experience DOMS at one time or another.
And I guess when you train pretty much every other body part you experience some type of soreness.
However, you’ll typically find that the vast majority of people feel exactly the same about shoulders.
You can hit the shoulders hard during your workout.
Perhaps, you have a fairly common type of shoulder workout.
- Overhead press
- Seated dumbbell shoulder press
- Lateral raises
- Front raises
- Bent-over lateral raises
- Upright rows
So, you’ve pretty much hit the shoulders from all angles, and yet still no soreness.
Basically, being sore doesn’t equate to working the muscles fully and correctly.
And obviously, not feeling sore doesn’t mean you’ve had a bad workout either.
With that being said, as long as you perform each exercise, each rep, and each set with good form you will definitely work the shoulders.
Plus, if you stick to the right types of reps, sets, and progressive overload training protocols, the muscles will grow.
So, if you never feel soreness in the shoulders don’t sweat it.
As long as you’re working the muscles correctly, you’re good to go.
Am I Not Growing Muscles if I’m Not Sore?
The Shoulders Are “Used” With Most Upper Body Exercises
I think it’s equally important to remember that the shoulders have some type of role in most upper body exercises.
In fact, I’m sure many of you have felt soreness in the front delts after the bench press.
Plus, after a good pull day, which involves plenty of rows, pull ups and chin ups, you’ll generally feel soreness in the rear delts and traps.
So, in effect the shoulders are one of those muscle groups that get constant work.
I guess it’s fairly similar to the calves.
You walk around every single day, so the calves are being used constantly.
Even when you squat or deadlift, the calves have a role.
And this is generally why it’s so hard to stimulate growth in the calves, as they are constantly being used.
So, as the shoulders are being used in some way during the vast majority of pushing and pulling movements, they’ll need a little something “extra” to feel the same type of soreness.
Try Dumbbell Raise Variations
In reality, you can usually feel soreness in the front and rear delts.
I’ve already mentioned the role that these muscles have in various pushing and pulling exercises.
However, pretty much everyone complains that they never feel any type of soreness in the side delts.
Bill Hartman, renowned Strength Coach and Physical Therapist, has a different take on training shoulders.
In fact, Bill is an advocate of dumbbell raise variations, and very rarely has his athletes do overhead pressing movements.
How many of us can honestly say that we do more raise variations compared to overhead pressing?
Bill stated that if you do wish to perform overhead pressing movements then you should have a completely normal range of motion in the shoulder joint.
This means being able to perfectly press overhead without having to compensate for any weaknesses.
So, you would require completely normal scapular mobility, plus extremely strong rotator cuffs and scapular stabilizers.
Without wishing to put too fine a point on it, not many of us can live up to this ideal of “perfection”.
If you do fit in with the above, then Bill suggests working on overhead pressing instability as progression.
So basically, rotating overhead exercises, much like the Arnie Press.
In the meantime, your shoulder workouts should consist of dumbbell raises in various ranges of motion.
- Lateral raise
- Front raise
- Scaption raise
- Lean away raises
- Telle lateral raises
- Side-lying lateral raise
- Incline side-lying lateral raise
- Standing bent-over lateral raises
- Seated bent-over lateral raises
- Seated incline bent-over lateral raises
Basically, the list could go on-and-on.
You can train the shoulders perfectly well with dumbbell raise variations in a variety of directions.
Plus, you can expect workouts like this to help strengthen the rotator cuffs and improve scapular mobility.
And I can also guarantee that your shoulders will definitely feel sore after this type of workout.
7 Side Lateral Raise Variations
Switch to Extremely High Volume
Going back to never really “feeling it” in the side delts, I’ve found that volume can make a huge difference.
Most of us usually work the side delts with a variety of lateral raises.
I won’t list them again, as you have many to choose from above.
However, I often think that most of us go too heavy with lateral raises.
In effect, the muscle isn’t properly contracted at the top of the movement, as we simply don’t don’t have the strength to keep the weight up there.
So, in reality we are actually missing out on time-under-tension, especially when it comes to contracting the side delt muscle.
Have you ever tried slow-paced leaning lateral raises with one hand, up to 30, 40, or 50 reps?
Plus, at the top of the movement you contract the muscle and hold for a count of 3.
Okay, it may take you over 5 minutes to perform one set on each side, but I can guarantee you’ll feel the burn.
Another great exercise to try this type of technique would be one-hand cable lateral raises, and with the cable behind you.
Once again, go for extremely high volume, and muscle contraction at the top of the movement.
I see nothing wrong with performing a few heavy sets afterwards.
But initially you really want to flood the muscles with blood and get an incredible pump.
The muscles will definitely get a good going over and you’ll certainly “feel it”.
So, hopefully you understand a little better why you never feel sore in the shoulders.
To be honest, this is probably the most common complaint when it comes to a lack of DOMS with a certain muscle.
Who’d ever have thought that we’d be complaining about a “lack” of DOMS?
But, the shoulders are definitely one of the muscle groups that most people struggle to “feel”.
In fact, I know I have often felt my shoulder burn during the workout, and then felt absolutely nothing the following day.
So, if you don’t feel sore, don’t overly worry about it, as long you’re hitting the muscles with good form.
You can of course replace overhead pressing with a variety of raises, as well as high volume, and see how that feels.
But, once again, remember to adhere to strict form and proper muscle contraction.
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Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.