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Great shoulders give you the width at the top of your frame that shows the unmistakable and highly sought-after V-taper. So many people who train rely on poor technique resulting in over-developed traps and badly under-developed delts making that ‘V’ look a little more like the sloping shape of a sad pear. Fear not! We have the technology! We can rebuild them… in 3D!

When we think of the term three-dimensional, we think of objects having the dimension of depth as well as width and height.  The greater these dimensions are, the greater the visual effect of the object popping out and coming toward you. Building deltoids that are well-developed from the front, middle, and back will give that 3D effect and will serve notice that you are a serious athlete no matter what your sport of choice. Furthermore, strong shoulders can help improve speed, strength, and overall power!

Wide and powerful shoulders are the quintessential cornerstone of power, strength, and the oft-forgotten, symmetrical form.  You can build up your chest, back, and biceps, but you’ll never get that picture-perfect, top-to-bottom V-taper without great delts. The wider the shoulders, the narrower the appearance of the waist! Whether you’re on the beach or in a dress shirt, well-developed, detailed delts will get you noticed and respected.

The deltoid region is the first area the eye is drawn to on a physique, whether on a stage or on the street.  First impressions are critical and at first glance, the development of the shoulders can give the impression of a bookworm, an athlete, or a superhero incarnate.

Computer graphic artists strive to create the best and most impressive 3D images to come at you from the silver screen. Whether your goal is to sculpt shoulders to appease the judges or everyone else around you, we’re going to give you the tools to create the kind of shoulders that’ll appear to jump right out at you.

Symmetry is the balance and harmony between parts. The deltoids have three heads-anterior (front), medial (middle), and posterior (rear).  The delts also flank the upper chest/pectorals from the front and the trapezius from the rear.  To create a harmonious flow from front to back, all three heads of the deltoids need to be developed in proportion to one another.  The way to do this is to give an equal amount of attention to each head by isolating and pre-exhausting individual muscles. Then, fully fatigue the entire deltoid complex, by employing compound exercises, to tie them all together.


More often than not, the posterior deltoids are underdeveloped when contrasted with the medial and anterior deltoids.  The front and, to some extent, mid-delts are secondary and tertiary muscles used when performing pressing exercises for the chest.  Therefore, these areas may already have significant development, since most trainers begin their regimens with the bench press.  However, the rear delts, although used during several rowing exercises for the back, are not as easily developed from rowing alone and require isolation exercises.

An easy method to bring any lagging area up to speed with the others is to pre-exhaust.  Pre-exhausting is the isolation (involving a single muscle group) and exhaustion of a muscle before involving it in a compound lift (involving several muscle groups). For example, you can perform three sets of bent lateral raises in order to pre-exhaust your rear delts which will be forced to work much harder during wide grip upright rows, thereby facilitating more stimulation and growth. The same can be done with performing side lateral raises to pre-exhaust the medial deltoids before seated dumbbell presses.

Don’t get caught in a trap
It is extremely common during isolation exercises for the deltoids that the more powerful trapezius muscles are recruited and perform the majority of the workload. This results in over-developed traps and underdeveloped delts, achieving the aforementioned sloping pear look. Common causes of this are due to too heavy a weight being used, incorrect form, and sloppy, fast repetitions.

Make the Connection
You have surely heard of the Mind and Muscle connection. Creating this connection between the mind and the target muscle is paramount in order to stimulate hypertrophy. This is simply done by selecting a lightweight to begin an exercise. If for example you are working your medial deltoids and performing side lateral raises, use only the medial deltoids to extend the dumbbells out to the sides. Feel the target muscles engage from the bottom and work through both the concentric and eccentric parts of the motion. Squeeze out hard contractions and bring the weight all the way back down to the starting position. Don’t use momentum or weak form and rush through a set. If you cannot achieve at least 10 repetitions with perfect form, you should select a lighter weight. Once you have achieved the desired number of repetitions with textbook form, you should then increase the weight accordingly.


Tension is the key to Hypertrophy! 
In the quest for mass, engaging and applying appropriate tension to the target muscle and working it through a full range of motion, is essential. The more time under tension, the higher degree of muscle tissue microtrauma. The more microtrauma, the more your muscles will adapt by growing larger and stronger after each grueling session!

Maximizing Tension
There are several ways to increase the amount of tension placed on a muscle – increasing the time under tension by changing tempo and optimizing tension by incorporating bands or cables.
In my last article – Status Issue 24- Powerband training 101, I discussed tempo and how to incorporate bands to maximize tension and increase peak contractions.
In this article, I will discuss how to incorporate cables into some of the dumbbell lateral raise exercises to create tension at the bottom of the motion, where it is typically very little or none. By doing this, one can stimulate the deltoid throughout the entire range of motion, thereby engaging and fatiguing the maximum amount of muscle fibers – which equates to bigger stronger delts!

Variety is the spice of life. This holds true for growth as well.  All muscle groups respond extremely well to varying not only your order of exercises but also variations to these exercises.  Below I have included several different variations of each exercise.  Each is equally effective and should be shuffled into your routine.  There is such a large number of combinations to select that you could theoretically design a unique shoulder session each time you enter the gym.  However, one thing that should remain consistent at each training session is 100% intensity, commitment to working the muscles to failure and trying to increase the workload from that of the last, either in terms of increased poundages or number of repetitions per heavy working set.

You’ve decided to get Cable
As mentioned above, cable tension can be added to all the dumbbell side, front, bent and wide upright row exercises. Simply add a carabiner or strong D ring to your lifting straps and you can hook yourself up to a cable machine while performing these exercises. A very small amount of weight is all you need to create tension at the bottom of the motion. Keep in mind that you will still be performing the same lift, but with added tension at the bottom, so start a little lighter than you normally would, so that you can become accustomed to the addition of the cable.

Posterior Deltoids (Rear)- Bent lateral raises/reverse flye
There are several variations of a reverse flye or bent lateral raise. All focus on the posterior deltoid and can be performed either:
– Standing bent lateral raise- stand with feet shoulder width apart, slightly bend at the knee and lean forward.  Maintain an arch in the back and have the upper body almost parallel with the floor.

– Seated bent lateral raise- sit on the end of a bench, with feet far in front on the floor, (so that the dumbbells can descend under the legs during the motion) leaning forward and maintaining an arch in the lower back.

-Lying bent lateral raise-lie face down on an incline bench set at a 15 degree angle, with feet on the floor.

– Standing unilateral bent lateral raise with dumbbell and cable- attach a cable to your wrist. stand with feet shoulder width apart, slightly bend at the knee and lean forward.  Maintain an arch in the back and have the upper body almost parallel with the floor. Grasp one dumbbell and have the cable come across your body ie: if your right arm is working, the cable should come from the bottom left.

Grasp the dumbbell(s), with the palms together and facing each other.  Begin to do a reverse flye, in an arcing motion,  arms straight, while simultaneously twisting the palms so that they face behind you at the top of the motion and squeeze your rear delt(s) in a peak contraction.
**Note- By keeping the arms straight and triceps shortened (flexed) you can fully isolate the posterior deltoids and minimize the use of secondary muscles.

High Rope posterior delt rows on cable machine:

Position: Facing a cable stack, grasp a rope (at high tower position) with an overhand grip and step back until tension has been placed on the cable.

Movement: Row the arms back, with elbows high and arms parallel with the ground until you have achieved a peak contraction in the posterior deltoids.
** This can be an excellent exercise for isolating and etching in detail to the posterior delts. Furthermore, with a slight upward rotation of the arm, the medial deltoids can also be contracted.

Medial (Middle) Deltoids- Side lateral raises
The only way to widen the shoulders is to increase the size and shape of the medial deltoids.  The best way to isolate this muscle group is to perform side lateral raises

Three variations to the side lateral raise include:

-Standing side lateral raises- Stand upright, with feet shoulder width apart. Begin with dumbbells either against the thighs, palms up in front of the thighs or neutral grip in front of the thighs. Vary your grips between sets or workouts to completely activate all of the medial deltoid fibers.

-Seated side lateral raises- Sit at the end of a bench, with feet together on the floor in front of you. Begin with the dumbbells underneath the legs.

Raise the dumbbells laterally, but slightly to the front, in an arcing motion, with arms slightly bent. The palms will face down and arms will be parallel with the floor at the top of the motion.

**Note** it is important to create a slight twist of the wrist at the top of the motion to gain a peak contraction in the medial deltoids. Duplicate the motion one would use to pour out two pitchers of water simultaneously.

-Standing unilateral side lateral raises with dumbbell and cable-  attach the cable to your wrist and have it coming from behind the body. Stand upright, with feet shoulder-width apart. Begin with a dumbbell slightly behind the body.

Although the movement is similar to the above side lateral raise, the arm will come out to the side of the body given the cable tension from behind the back.

**Note- lean away from the weight stack holding onto the vertical bar to build a ‘nowhere to run or hide’ amount of tension on the delts. This will have your shoulders screaming from top to bottom!

Try this:
Ascending set for dumbbell side laterals (25, 20, 15, 10, 8 reps) Select a weight and perform 25 repetitions. Immediately pick up a heavier set of dumbbells (select increments based on strength level) and perform 20 reps. Continue to follow this format until you have reached your fifth and final set of 8 reps.  Do this for 3 sets to really shock your medial deltoids into growth.

Anterior (Front) Deltoids- Front raises-
An excellent way to isolate and develop the anterior deltoids is to employ front raises.

Below are five different variations of the front raise:

-Lying front raises- take an incline bench and set it to a 75 degree angle.  Lie with your chest against the bench and feet flat on the floor. Grasp dumbbells or a barbell at a shoulder width grip.

-Barbell front raises- Stand upright with feet shoulder width apart.  Grasp the bar with a shoulder width overhad grip.

-Dumbbell hammer- Begin the motion with the dumbbells at the sides, with palms facing eachother, in a neutral position.

-Dumbbell palms down- Begin the motion with the dumbbells against the front of the quads, palms facing down.

-Unilateral Dumbbell palms down with cable- Attach a cable to the wrist and turn away from the weight stack. Begin the motion with the dumbbell against the front of the quads and the cable coming from behind the body.

 Raise the weight in front of the body, keeping the arm straight, until the arms are parallel with the floor and a peak contraction is achieved in the anterior deltoids.

**Note** When using dumbbells for front raises, a greater peak contraction can be achieved if the dumbbells are directed to the center of the body, at the top of the motion. Furthermore, this can also activate and stimulate the upper chest.

**Try to alternate between one rep palms down and one rep in the hammer position to stimulate a maximum number of muscle fibers.

Shoulder Press
 A great mass building exercise, primarily working the medial and  anterior deltoids.  These can be performed in any order during your shoulder session. However, as mentioned above, if there is a lagging area of the deltoids that needs to be prioritized and brought into proportion with the others, it is beneficial to pre-exhaust that area first, so it will work harder during the shoulder presses.

To minimize risk of injury to the joints of the shoulders, (rotator cuffs) set a bench to a very steep incline 75 degrees to maintain arm movement in front of the face.  Pressing to the side of the head and behind, decreases the tension on the muscles and increases the stress on the joints. Shoulder injuries are very common from beginner through to intermediate. This typically occurs when there is a lack of adherence to strict form or excessive weights are used.

Three variations of the seated shoulder press include: 

Seated dumbbell press-
Position: Set an incline bench to 80 degrees, lean back and start with the dumbbells at ear level.
Movement: Press the dumbbells straight up, keeping the forearms vertical, until reaching full extension and a peak contraction is achieved in the anterior and medial delts. Return the weight to the starting position, always keeping the dumbbells above ear level to avoid undue stress to the joints.

Seated Arnold press-

With the same bench setting as above, lean back and begin with the dumbbells at the top of the chest, with palms facing the body.

Press the dumbbells up, while twisting the palms away from the body into a fully extended position. The positioning of the palms facing the body at the begining, allows for a greater range of motion, as the elbows can drop to the sides of the body and increase stimulation to the anterior deltoids, in addition to the upper pectorals.

Note** When pressing with dumbbells, the alternating isometric hold press/technique can be employed, where one dumbbell remains in the extended/contracted position, while the other is working through a full range of motion and returns to the fully extended position. This method can drastically increase the amount of time under tension and assist in carving in granite hard detail!

Seated Barbell Press-

Sit in a shoulder press or power rack and use a seat with a high back support, but not supporting the head.

Begin the motion by removing the bar from the rack and lowering it to chin level in front of the face. Press the bar vertically, until the arms are fully extended over head and a peak contraction is achieved.
** Add power bands to create more tension at the top of the motion. The bands will dynamically/ progressively increase the load at the top of the motion and really assist with maximizing peak contractions!

-Upright rows
This exercise primarily works the anterior and medial deltoids and the trapezius muscles. They can be performed with a narrow or wide grip and with dumbbells, rope and cable or with a barbell.
Standing upright rows- Position: Stand upright, with the weight against the quads.

Row the weight in an upright motion, keeping the elbows slightly higher than the hands. Pause at the top of the motion to engage the anterior and medial deltoids.

Lying cable upright rows- Lie on your back on a mat with your feet at the end of the stack. Using a cambered bar or rope, row upwards towards the forehead, (keeping the elbows higher than the hands) until you have achieved a peak contraction in the anterior and medial delts.

**Bands can be incorporated in the cable upright rows to assist in creating more tension at the top of the motion.

Note** The narrower the grip, the more stress will be placed on the anterior deltoids and trapezius.  A wider grip will engage the medial, trapezius and even posterior deltoids to some extent at peak contraction.

Try super setting upright rows immediately following a set of seated shoulder press, to bring some extra detail to the anterior delts.

-Dre rows or leaning wide upright row- An exercise I created several years ago, which is a cross between an upright row and a bent lateral raise. This motion is fantastic for adding mass to the medial and posterior delts.

Three variations to this leaning wide upright row include:
Dumbbell Dre rows – Grasp two dumbbells and hold at the sides of the body with palms facing behind you.  Lean forward about 5 degrees.

Cambered bar Dre rows: Take a wider than shoulder width, overhand grip on a cambered bar and lean forward 5 degrees.

Unilateral dumbbell and cable Dre rows: attach a cable to the wrist and grasp a dumbbell. Lean forward 5 degrees. The cable should come across your body ie: if the right hand is working, the cable will come from the bottom left.

Row the weight up and wide, keeping the forearms vertical and the elbows at the highest point, until you have achieved a peak contraction in the medial and posterior deltoids.

Try this:
A triset of side lateral raises, bent lateral raises and finally Dre rows, to really add mass and definition to the medial and posterior delts.

Plate Steering wheel: 
The ultimate finishing exercise for the anterior and medial delts.

Stand with feet shoulder width apart and grasp a plate.

Extend the arms out in front of the body and parallel with the floor, using the anterior delts in a front raise motion. Maintain this position and rotate the plate like a steering wheel from left to right. Pause for a second in each contracted position (when right hand is over left and then when left hand is over right)

**Note- do not use a weight that is too heavy as you will not attain the full benefits of this motion. This exercise should be used to help carve in definition, which is done by performing hard peak contractions.

**Drop sets are very effective here. Begin with a 35 LB plate for 20 rotations, drop to a 25 LB plate for 20 rotations and then a 10 LB plate for 20 rotations.

This is an excellent isolation exercise for the upper and middle trapezius (traps). The rhomboids are also engaged when performing shrugs from behind the body and the scapulae are squeezed together.

This exercise can be performed with Dumbbells from the front and side. Or with a barbell, from the front or from behind the body.

Begin the motion with arms straight and fully extended toward the floor with a maximum stretch in the trapezius. Keep the arms straight and shrug the shoulders in an upward motion in the direction of the ears, until you have achieved a peak contraction in the trapezius.

**Avoid bending at the arm, as this will decrease tension on the traps and involve the biceps.

**Do not roll shoulders forward and back, as this can cause stress to the shoulder joint.

Just like the name implies, this 6 exercise, 90 rep superset is an incredible combination to really put the nail in the coffin. Even though you have performed one or a few of these exercises in your session already, this combo is a shock technique you will want to try out.

Use the same weight for the first three exercises and then increase the weight slightly for the next 3. Perform 15 reps for each exercise and immediately move on to the next.

Eg: Using 15LB dumbbells-
Side lateral raises
Front raises
Bent lateral raises
Next take 20 LB dumbbells and perform –
Upright rows
Dre rows
Standing Arnold presses.

Optimizing pump and Intensity
Several pre-workout supplements can aid in optimizing your pump and intensity during training. These “pre-workout” supplements typically include a highly potent combination of L-Arginine, Ginko biloba, Ginseng, Creatine Monohydrate, Caffeine, Green tea and Beta Alanine, just to name a few. Although not necessary to achieve a pump, adding a pre-workout supplement 20 minutes before your training session can yield you noticeable improvements in intensity, vascularity, overall pump and endurance. After training with a pre-workout stack you probably won’t ever train without one again!

Furthermore, the meals you eat before and after your training are both key in not only achieving maximum pump and performance, but also will assist you in recovery and growth. Timing is extremely important and can be the difference between using carbs to replenish depleted muscle glycogen and to help you grow or being stored as unwanted body fat. Diligence to backing up your session with properly timed nutrients will pay huge dividends in the form of new mass!

Here is my favourite pre, intra and post-workout combination for sleeve stretching pumps, roadmap vascularity and optimum recovery and growth!

10 OZ chicken or turkey breast, 10 Asparagus spears.
2 ALLMAX digestive enzymes
1 Hour before 1L H2o
20 min nap

ALLMAX MUSCLEPRIME (1 to 2 scoops)
2 Ginkgo Biloba (60 mg)
500 mg ALLMAX Yerba Mate green tea extract
1000 mg Vitamin C
B50 complex
Coenzyme Q10 60 mg
ALLMAX- R+ALA- 150 mg
10 gm L-Glutamine

1 scoop Aminocore BCAA powder
2 scoops CARBION+
10 gm L-Glutamine
1.5 L H2o

POST WORKOUT- within 15 min
10 gm L-Glutamine
1 serving ALLMAX CytoGreens or 1 tsp Spirulina, 1 tsp Wheatgrass
1000mg Garlic
2 Grape Seed Extract
ALLMAX- R+ALA- 150 mg

Within 45-60 Min Post workout Meal
10 oz Chicken breast, 12 oz Yams, 10 Asparagus spears
2 ALLMAX Digestive Enzymes

**Please assess your sensitivity to stimulants and arginine before use. Always start with less and add more if necessary.

A beginner should try 2-3 exercises per shoulder session and pair the delts with another muscle group like chest or back. An intermediate to advanced level trainer (3-5 years of consistent training), may chose to devote an entire session to the shoulders, should aim for 5 exercises and a total of 3-4 sets per exercise.

Now that you have read through a plethora of variations to each exercise, it is time to take this theory and apply it to your training sessions.  It would have been much simpler to give you, the reader, five of my favorite shoulder exercises and send you on your way.  However, the truth is, I don’t really have any favorites, as I feel that each of the above is highly effective and I rotate them week to week and month to month.  Each person will likely respond differently to each exercise.  It will be through the sampling each of these motions that you chose which works best for your physique.  Then over time, you should repeat the more effective motions and discard the lesser.  This is how you will form your own ultimate shoulder routine one day, consistently make gains and packing on the mass!





**Limit rest to 45-60 seconds between sets, so that you maximize intensity and you do not let the muscles fully recover.

Sample Shoulder routine:

-Seated dumbbell presses
-Standing dumbbell side lateral raises
-Front barbell raises
-Dumbbell shrugs

-Standing unilateral bent lateral raises with cable and dumbbell (4 sets alternating back to back 12-15 reps per arm)
-Seated barbell presses
-Unilateral standing Side lateral raises with cable and dumbbell (4 sets alternating back to back 12-15 reps per arm)
-Upright cambered bar rows supersetted with dumbbell Dre rows
-Plate steering wheel
-Barbell shrugs (behind back)
– Finisher superset (see above detail)

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