When maximally developed, there are few things more impressive on a lifter’s physique than thick, dense, and freakishly-rounded delts! Many own a pair of big arms or have big, chiseled chests, but it is far rarer to witness a couple of “cannonballs” hanging off the clavicles of your fellow gym rats.
Some of the most dramatic physiques of our time (on the big screen, on stage, or even on the beach) are ones that show incredible shoulder mass and development spread evenly amongst all three deltoid heads (anterior, lateral, and posterior).
And while genetics do help determine the overall shape and width of the shoulders, if one utilizes a carefully designed exercise protocol, coupled with the proper hypertrophy-igniting intensity techniques, you can certainly manifest your own pair of jaw-dropping delts!
This training protocol utilizes various rep ranges, lifting tempos, and intensity techniques to blast all of your muscle fibers, manifest a massive pump, and shock the system into igniting growth.
-SEATED BB OR SMITH MILITARY PRESS…3 x 4-6 (tempo = 5/1/1)
-SUPERSET: SEATED BENT OVER REAR DB LATERAL (tempo = 2/1/1)/ WG BB UPRIGHT ROW (tempo = 2/1/1/1) …2 x 7-9 EACH
-SINGLE ARM INCLINE CABLE SIDE LATERAL * …1 x 13-15, 1 x 10-12, 1 X 7-9 (tempo = 3/0/1/1)
This training protocol helps set up maximum fast twitch muscle fiber firing through the use of high reps (to exhaust slow twitch fibers) and heavy explosive lifts (to excite the central nervous system).
-CABLE INCLINE FRONT RAISE** …2 x 21-25 (tempo = 2/0/1)
-SEATED DB PRESS…3 x 4-6 (tempo = 4/1/1)
-SEATED REAR DELT FLYE MACHINE …2 x 10-12 (tempo = 3/1/1)
-STANDING DB SIDE LATERAL…3 x 10-12 (tempo = 2/1/1/1)
This training protocol utilizes four distinct rep tempos (one for each movement), each emphasizing a different “section” of the range of motion. This forces the muscle to withstand a unique form of tension with each exercise, allowing one to tap into several growth pathways.
-SEATED INCLINE DB SIDE LATERAL ***…3 x 10-12 (tempo = 2/4/1/1)
-WG CABLE UPRIGHT ROW …2 x 7-9 (tempo = 2/1/1/4)
-MACHINE SHOULDER PRESS WITH PALMS FACING INWARD…2 x 4-6 (tempo = 5/0/1)
-SINGLE-ARM REVERSE CABLE FLYE****…3 x 7-9 (tempo = 2/1/4/1)
*Single Arm Incline Cable Side Lateral
How To: Set an incline bench to between 35 and 45 degrees and place a few feet in front of a low pulley (fixed with a “D” handle attachment). Grab the handle and lay sideways on the bench (while finding a comfortable, “out of the way,” position for your legs and non-working arm). Begin with the arm almost straight, held a few inches above the side of your thigh. Slowly raise, keeping your arm in line with your torso, until the lateral deltoid is fully contracted. Hold this position for a second before lowering under control back to the starting position.
Why: The unique angle of this movement will tap into new motor pool units and exhaust muscle fibers previously untouched by basic laterals. Additionally, the increased tension at both the beginning and completion of each rep will force the medial delts to work harder than ever, which equals GROWTH.
**Cable Incline Front Raise
How To: Set an incline bench to between 45 and 60 degrees and place it a few feet in front of a low cable. Attach a short straight bar, or rope, to the pulley. Grab the bar (or rope) and sit back on the incline bench. (Note: You can vary the width of your hands on the bar from narrow to wide. When using the rope, grasp with a “hammer” grip). At the beginning of every rep, the arms should be ALMOST completely straight with hands held a few inches above the thighs. Moving only at the shoulder joint, slowly raise to a point just over your head, making sure to hold this (fully contracted) position for a second before slowly lowering back to the starting position.
Why: This unique angle allows for max tension at both the beginning and contracted position of each rep, which is excellent for shocking the anterior shoulders into new growth.
***Seated Incline DB Side Lateral
How To: Grab a pair of DBs (I suggest about 2/3 the weight that you would use for standard side laterals) and sit down on an incline bench set to about 45 degrees. While keeping your arms just slightly bent, chest high, and shoulders back, raise the DBs out to your sides until your palms are facing directly toward the floor. Lower under control until the arms are again hanging at your sides.
Why: This unique angle will torch your lateral delts in a manner they are not used to and hit a different set of previously untouched muscle fibers (hopefully making you too wide to fit through most doorways!).
****Single Arm Reverse Cable Flye
How To: Sit sideways on the bench or in the machine and grasp the pulley with the working arm. Rather than holding an attachment/handle, simply grab the end of the cable so that your palm is facing the floor. The arm holding the pulley should be held at shoulder height (throughout the set) and across your torso so that your forearm is in front of your face. Keeping a slight bend at the elbow, slowly abduct the arm in a reverse fly motion until the rear/posterior deltoid is fully contracted. The only movement should be at the shoulder, with no twisting of the torso. Additionally, make sure not to pull back so far that you begin to engage the muscles of the trapezius to an unnecessary degree.
Why: Quite often the posterior delts lag behind the lateral and anterior heads, which gives the shoulders an incomplete appearance from the sides and back. This movement strongly isolates the rear deltoid and creates tension from the beginning to the end of every rep. The fact that it is performed unilaterally only adds to its growth potential.
Author’s Note: Lifting Tempo is the phrase used to describe how fast you lower, lift, and pause with the weight in each phase of a repetition. It is expressed in seconds and begins with the negative (lowering) portion of an exercise, then the midpoint (stretch) portion, then the positive (lifting) portion, and if there is a fourth number used it will be the peak contraction (squeeze) portion. So, there you have it! Give this 3-week shoulder-shocker a try and see if your shirts start fitting just a bit tighter on top. Implement this program every couple of months but switch the movements around to keep things fresh. After a time, you may just need a whole new wardrobe (sorry – not sorry!).