Written by Sandra Sorgini, PTS, Strong Formula Certified Body Transformation Coach

Photography by Paul Buceta

Having capped shoulders is a crucial component to achieving the coveted X-Frame—the balanced look that peak performers are after. This 5-phase upper body workout will help ensure you set the stage to achieve your lofty physique goals. Remember to balance out your training program with a lower body workout designed to complete the look.


 PHASE 1: Warm-Up 

Complete each stretch for 30 seconds

1. Arm Circles, Forward and Backward (each direction)

2. Arm Flyes

3. Shoulder Circles Forwards and Backwards (each direction)


 PHASE 2: Activate 

Superset E1, E2, E3. Complete each exercise for 10 reps, 2 sets, and rest 30 seconds between supersets.

E1: Resistance Band Overhead Press (3 second hold)

E2: Incline Dumbbell T Raise

E3: Incline Dumbbell A Raise


 PHASE 3: Build 

Exercise Combo A

Superset A1, A2 for 10-12 reps, 3 sets, and rest 1 minute between sets.

A1: Barbell Military Press

Set Up: Grab the barbell using a pronated (palms facing forward) grip. Make sure to grip the bar wider than shoulder-width apart from each other. Position your feet shoulder-width apart (or split stance) from each other. Hold at about shoulder level and slightly in front of your head. This is your starting position. 

Lift the bar up over your head by locking your arms, and breathe out. Lower the bar down to the collarbone slowly as you inhale.

TIP: Make sure to pull towards your nose, as it is a face pull. And thumbs, not elbows, should be the furthest body part past your head.

A2: Face Pulls

Set Up: Place rope attachment on a cable in a high position. Attach two rope attachments for increased range. Stand in a square stance, holding the rope’s cable attachment (or two rope attachments) in each hand with palms facing each other and thumbs pointed toward your face. 

Begin pulling the rope with elbows leading the hands as you pull backward. Squeeze the shoulder blades as you get to the end of the movement, breathe out. 


Exercise Combo B

Delt Stretch Triset 21’s

Triset B1, B2, B3, for 7 reps each, 2 sets, and rest 1 minute between sets. Complete both arms.

TIP: Keep the thumb higher than the pinkie to avoid the “pour the pitcher” position that puts extra stress on the shoulder due to internal rotation. Keeping thumbs higher than pinkies keeps your shoulder in external rotation which is better for rotator cuff tendon health.

B1: Bent Over Single-Arm Low Cable Rear Delt Flyes

Set Up: Attach the handle to the cable. Stand sideways next to the machine and reach across your body to grab the handle. Hold the handle of the low pulley with one hand. Bend at the waist until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Your legs should be slightly bent and your head is down. Your arm should be hanging from your shoulder in front of you and with a slight bend at the elbow. This will be your starting position.  

Raise your arm, elbow slightly bent, to the side until the arm is parallel to the floor and in line with your right ear. Turn the handle slightly so your thumb is up and breathe out. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position as you breathe in. 

B2: Cable Single-Arm Lean Away Lateral Raise

Set Up: Attach the handle to a low pulley. Stand sideways next to the machine, reach across your body, and grab the cable handle. The side you are going to work should be facing away from the pulley. Hold on to the upright and lean away from the support. 

Using only the strength of your deltoid (no swinging or heaving the weight up), raise your arm out to the side until it is parallel to the ground, breathe out. Keep a slight bend in your elbow and keep your palm facing down. Hold for a split second at the top of the movement to get a peak contraction. Lower the weight under control, and breathe in.

TIP: Using cables as opposed to dumbbells for B1, B2, B3 exercises allows for improved range of motion at the shoulder joint and an added stretch.

B3: Cable Single Arm Front Raise

Set Up: Attach a single grip handle to a low pulley cable machine, and select the weight you want to use. Stand facing away from the machine (back to the pulley) and grip the handle using an overhand grip (palm facing down). Stand up straight with your eyes forward, holding the handle just off your thighs, pulling weight off the stack. This is the starting position. 

To execute, slowly raise the handle up to around shoulder height while keeping your arm straight and your body fixed, breathe out. Pause, and then slowly lower the weight to the starting position, breathe in.


Exercise Combo C

Superset C1, C2 for 10-12 reps, 3 sets, and rest 1 minute between sets.

C1: EZ Bar (or Dumbbell Bicep Curls)

Set Up: Hold the bar (or dumbbells) using an underhand grip (palms facing up) with your arms extended. Keep elbows in.

Curl the weight up until your forearms are vertical, breathe out. Pause for a second at the top of the curl, then slowly lower the weight until your arms are fully extended once again, breathe in. 

TIP: Complete this using a split stance in which your weight shifts from front foot to back. By standing close to start the rep, the tension is heightened, and then by stepping away during the movement the tension is also heightened at the bottom of the rep.

C2: Triceps Push Down with Rope

Set Up: Stand close to the weight stack and take a neutral grip on a rope attachment. Pull your elbows tight to your sides (like a T-Rex), they will remain here for the rest of the set (A). Set up in a split stance position and press the rope down, extending the arm straight (B)

Split the ropes apart and squeeze the triceps hard. Breathe out. Bring the ropes back together and up towards your elbows and breathe in. 


 PHASE 4: Finisher 

Complete each exercise to failure then rest 30 seconds between sets. Drop your weight lower on the second set, for 2 sets in total.

E1: DB Arnold Press 

Set Up: Start standing with your feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height, with elbows bent and tucked in and palms facing your body (A)

In one motion, bring elbows out wide to the side while rotating hands so palms face forward and pressing the dumbbells overhead until arms are straight and biceps are by your ears, breathe out (B). Pause, then reverse the movement to return to the start, breathe in.

E2: Dumbbell Shoulder Raise Combo (Front Raise to Lateral Raise) 

Set Up: Start with your feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at your thighs, slight bend in the elbow. 

Raise both arms in a front raise. As you raise them breathe out, hold, then breathe in (A). From the top of the front raise, spread your arms apart into a lateral position, body forming the letter T, then breathe out (B). Bring your arms down to your sides and breathe in (C). Perform a lateral raise, and breathe out. Bring your arms together straight out in front of your body at shoulder height (D). Lower back down towards your thighs, and breathe in. This counts as one repetition. 


 PHASE 5: Static Stretching 

Complete each stretch for 30 seconds

Need more on these moves? Reach out to Coach Sandra @get_fitss

1. Wall Angels   2. Overhead Reach    3. Pretzel    

4. Deltoid Stretch    5. Biceps Stretch   6. Triceps Stretch 

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