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by Antoine Vaillant
Everybody has genetically strong body parts. For me it was always my legs. The first time I leg pressed I used seven plates a side. At my first competition, I had legs of a heavyweight and the upper body of a middleweight. So when someone asks me what I do for legs, I tell them I could do anything and they would still grow. Hell, they could probably grow from pilates. In the off-season I can go weeks without training them and they stay the same size. But, my shoulders have not always been a strong point. I was more the narrow type when I started bodybuilding, but with a specific type of deltoid training they are now another strong body part of mine. In this article I will explain to you how you can turn your deltoids into boulder shoulders!
First of all, you need to know that the shoulder is divided in three different “heads.” The front head, side head, and rear head. What makes beautiful spherical shoulders is equality in all three heads, resulting in a cannonball-like look. Take a look in the mirror, maybe even take pictures from all different angles (front, side, and back), and see what is missing to complete a round shoulder. If you have been doing a lot of pressing, I can bet that your front deltoid is overpowering. This results in bad posture and lack of side and rear deltoids.
My principle is to start your workout with exercises targeting your weakest part of the shoulder. If width is your problem, start with two side raise movements. If the rear is your weakest part, start with some reverse pec deck and bent over flies. I advise you to stay away from the heavy presses first into the workout for a while. Maybe hit an 8-week program targeting your weakest deltoid head first, then do a 3-4 week period with pressing first and rotate. Here are examples of different workouts depending on the weak shoulder head:
WEAKPOINT: Width (Side Deltoid)
• Standing Side Lateral: 6 X 12
• Behind the Back Low Pulley One Arm Side Lateral: 4 X 15
• Seated Barbell Press: 4 X 12
• Bent-Over Fly: 3 X 12
• Reverse Pec Deck: 5 X 12
• Seated Side Lateral: 2 X 15 then do 4 X 8 with he avyweight with drop sets
• Wide Grip Upright Row: 4 X 12
• Bent-Over Fly: 4 X 12
• Reverse Pec Deck: 4 X 12
• Smith Machine Military Press: 15-12-8-20
WEAKPOINT: Thickness (Rear Deltoid)
• Reverse Pec Deck: 10 X 10
• Seated Side Lateral supersetted with Seated Bent-Over Fly: 5 X 12 (for each exercise)
• Upright Row: 3 X 12
• Seated Dumbbell Press: 15-12-8-20
• Bent-Over Fly with Hammer Grip: 5 X 15
• Low Pulley One Arm Bent-Over Fly: 3 X 12
• Side Lateral: 4 X 10
• Machine Side Raise: 3 X 12
• Arnold Press: 4 X 12
WEAKPOINT: One Dimensionality (Front Deltoid)
• Clean and Press: 5 X 5
• Alternate Front Raise: 4 X 8
• Seated Side Lateral: 4 X 12
• Reverse Pec Deck: 4 X 12
• Seated Dumbbell Press: 15-12-10-8-6-20
• Smith Machine Behind-the-Neck Press: 3 X 15
• One Arm Low Pulley Cable Side Raise: 4 X 12
• Seated bent over Fly: 5 X 10
If you want to use these workouts, use the 8 week/4 week pattern I just explained, alternating between the workouts. For example, if width is the problem, use the Width Workout #1 for 8 weeks, then use Front or Rear Deltoid Workout #1 for 4 weeks, then use Width Workout #2 for 8 weeks. You must also make sure that you are working your targeted deltoids correctly. I know I worked the right part of the deltoid going with how pumped it is. If your weakest shoulder head is the rear deltoid, it has to be pumped out of this world at the end of its specific exercises. If it’s not, you did something wrong. You either didn’t do the exercises with proper form or didn’t use enough intensity on them. Let’s talk about form first.
I often see bodybuilders with strong front delts having a really hard time targeting the other parts of the shoulder because the body will always use the strongest part to do a movement. The body does it automatically, especially when using heavy weights or when you get tired. So you always need to check your form on each repetition to make sure you are not working the wrong head. For example, when you do side raises, your palms should always face parallel to the floor. It you turn your palms toward the mirror (if you are standing in front of a mirror doing the exercise) the front delt will take all the work.
Make sure for side raises you are pulling up with yourelbow with your pinky always higher than your thumb, and your hand lower than your elbow. I always keep a slight bend in my elbows, and when I go heavy on side raises I bend them even more. The goal is to pull with your elbows and feel your side delts. The same goes for bent-over raises...the best way to target the rear deltoid is to have the palms face backward with a hammer grip. If the elbows point backward and the palms face the floor, you are not targeting the rear deltoid correctly. I know it’s kind of hard to understand on paper, but if there is ever a UBC in your area and I’m there, show up and ask me to show you. I’d be more than happy to spread proper technique.
Now let’s talk about the pump. When I work out I havetwo goals: push good weights and have the best pump possible. For shoulders, I use a lot of volume. I do many sets and make sure I jam a lot of blood in there. So don’t be afraid to use a lot of sets, supersets, and drop sets when training delts. The deltoids are a muscle group with great endurance, so it can take a lot of work. In the past when width was a problem for me, I would start my workout with 10 sets of side laterals going up the rack, and I would do 10 drop sets going down the rack using all the weights of my previous 10 sets. I believe this is what kick started my side deltoid development.
Tips & Reminders
• If width is your problem, don’t do too much trap work as it could make you look narrow.
• Use a good supplement pre workout to increase the “pump” – I use Shock Therapy.
• Use a lot of volume.
• Focus a lot on form, not only pushing big weights.
• Start the workout with your weakest deltoid head.
• Do traps on back day and have shoulders on their ownday.
• Use pictures to determine what your shoulders are lacking.
• Do not train deltoids twice a week – that’s too much work for them to recuperate.
• If not on a specific contest diet, increase carbohydrate intake on shoulder day.
• Use a huge post workout shake with a lot of amino acids and fast-digesting carbs (there’s nothing better than Universal’s Torrent in my opinion), then eat a big meal an hour later.
I guarantee your shoulders will increase in size if you follow my advice. My delts were not a strong point at all in the past. I learned all of this over the span of my 8 years of training and I condensed it in one article, so take advantage of my experience and turn those shoulders into dome-like muscular melons. Train hard!