The shoulder halo is one of the most underrated ways you can train your delts, taking your shoulders through a vast range of motion and challenging them to move from a variety of angles.
But it’s easy to get the halo wrong, too. If your abs relax for even a few seconds, it can cost you the shoulder tension that you crave, and take emphasis off the muscle you’re training. Thankfully, there’s a fix for that, says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. That fix is the V-Sit Halo, a halo variation that never gives your core a break. “The great problem with halos,” says Samuel, “is that you can ‘borrow’ motion from everywhere but your shoulders. When done right, all the movement is coming from your shoulders, and that challenges both shoulder mobility and shoulder strength. That’s not easy, though, so sometimes we cheat.”
The V-Sit Halo restricts you from cheating simply by virtue of body position. When you do a classic halo, whether you’re standing, kneeling, or in a half-kneeling stance, you can easily relax your abs, allowing your ribcage to open up and letting your back arch.
All that extra freedom of motion means your shoulders don’t necessarily get to focus on moving the weight around your head. Instead your torso starts changing its position relative to the weight. And that means your shoulders aren’t getting the workout they deserve. “Essentially, you start stealing mobility from other areas of the body,” says Samuel. “You want this to be a shoulder movement that uses some thoracic mobility through your mid-back. Once you start drawing from your lower back and hips, you’re no longer achieving what you want for your shoulders.”
By shifting into a V-sit position, straight legs slightly up in the air, your abs can never lose tension. Your entire body stays on as you battle to balance in the V-sit position. And as you move the weight around your head, your abs constantly change and adjust to the situation, constantly pushing themselves to stay taut. “It’s a better shoulder workout,” says Samuel, “and a sneaky-good ab workout too.”
The best part: It works with just about any load. A kettlelbell or dumbbell is ideal, but a large rock outside, a brick, a gallon of water, or a backpack full of books can work, too.
- Start seated on the ground, legs straight, a kettlebell or dumbbel held at your chest.
- Keeping your legs straight, tighten your abs, lifting your legs an inch or two from the ground. Maintain this position.
- Begin to circle the weight around our head, keeping it close to your head the whole time. As you do this, tighten your abs extra-hard. “This will help keep your torso upright the whole time,” says Samuel. “That’s the challenge of the V-Sit halo. If you don’t tighten your abs, you’ll tip back. That may happen, but your goal is to fight that.”
- Do two full revolutions clockwise, then two full revolutions counterclockwise. Repeat this sequence 2 or 3 times, or aim to do 8 to 10 total reps. Do 3 sets.
The V-Sit Halo can serve a variety of roles in your workouts. If you’re about to take on a heavy total-body workout, use it as a general warmup move that primes midback muscles, shoulders, and abs. You can also use it as a core finisher at the end of an upper-body day, maybe even working for time instead of reps (think: 40 seconds on, 20 off for 3 sets). Additionally, it can fit in as a shoulder exercise in a full-on shoulder blast; try it as your lead exercise in those instances.
For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts.
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