Whether you’re talking about someone “shouldering” the load, rubbing “shoulders” with the rich and famous, or having a chip on your “shoulder”, it’s obvious that shoulders make an impression that lasts.
This applies to bodybuilding, sports, or just walking into a room. If you have wide and round delts, you’ll get some attention.
If you’re someone who considers your delts a problem, then this routine may be the solution. This workout will target the front, side, and rear heads of the shoulders as well as the traps.
The great thing about this program is that it’s not only effective but efficient and convenient as well.
Getting Giant With Giant Sets
Training shoulders like any other body part requires serious effort and intensity. This is why we'll be using giant sets.
For those of you that don’t know or are new to the lifting game, giant sets are performing four or more exercises consecutively without resting between any exercises until you’ve completed the last one.
The intensity of the consecutive exercises will really fatigue the muscles you’re training and pump a lot of blood to the targeted area. Doing so many sets without rest or with minimal rest also adds a cardiovascular benefit to your training. Your heart will pump faster and you should be breathing harder as well.
Another perk of giant sets is it saves time so you will be in and out of the gym faster than you would be performing traditional straight sets.
Barbells and Dumbbells
Normally there is one potential downside to giant sets and that is using many different stations which can result in a lot of moving and upsetting other lifters or having a station taken from you while you’re working somewhere else. For this workout, you will only need a barbell, one pair of dumbbells, and open space to operate. You won’t have to move from station to station because everything is right where you are. You also won’t have as much time to rest between exercises which will make giant sets even tougher.
Exercise #1: Standing Overhead Barbell Press
This is the most basic exercise there is for the anterior head of the shoulder but it’s also the most effective.
Use a weight that’s light enough that you can pick it up off the floor and clean it to shoulder level. As you press the bar overhead, focus on using your shoulders only.
Don’t use the legs to get it started or for momentum as the set gets tougher.
Once you feel the triceps start to take over the exercise, stop and pause the weight for a second before lowering the bar back to the starting position below your chin.
Stop the bar again once it goes beneath the chin to stop any momentum. This keeps the delts under constant tension and makes the exercise more challenging which is what we both want and need to achieve growth.
Exercise #2: Alternating Standing Lateral Raise
This is the number one exercise to blast the medial, or side, head of the deltoid.
Most trainers and lifters are used to doing these with both arms at the same time but if you’re reading this then you’re probably looking for a different approach. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.
Alternating each side will help you maximize the benefit that dumbbells offer. You can focus on one side at a time and incorporate the fibers that help stabilize the weight that may not be used with a barbell or machines.
You can either perform the movements in the traditional pattern of left, right, repeat, or you can do a few with one side before performing the same number with the other side. This is a technique that is used by many bodybuilders including 4x Mr. Olympia Phil Heath.
Exercise #3: Bent-Over Rear Lateral Raise
Bodybuilding contests are won and lost from the rear. The rear (posterior) heads of the shoulders need to show detail and thickness if you want to contend for the win onstage.
You would think that bodybuilders would make it a point to focus on this area when preparing for the show but all too often that isn’t the case. That’s why for this workout there are two exercises that will help you focus on this often neglected muscle group.
Make sure you are bent over as close to 90 degrees as possible. Bend at the hips and try to keep your chest out so your back stays straight. Don’t try to set personal records here. There’s never been a world record for a rear lateral raise so don’t try to set one.
Make your goal to squeeze the muscles with as good of a contraction as you can before lowering the weight to the starting position. Don’t let the weights touch at the bottom either. Stop the weights before they touch and pause before completing the next rep.
Exercise #4: Behind The Back Upright Row
This is the second rear delt exercise and was a favorite of 8 Time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.
Stand in front of the bar and pick it up behind you like you would a traditional behind the back shrug. Use a grip that is a couple of inches wider than shoulder width. Stand straight and tall while holding the weight at arms’ length behind you. This is your starting position.
With a shrug you would lift the weight up with your shoulders only and squeeze the traps before lowering the bar back down. This is a little different because you’ll lift the weight up with the shoulders but then bend your elbows as well and squeeze as hard as you can before lowering the weight back down. Don’t lower the bar to the floor until you’ve done the recommended reps.
Haney felt this helped him effectively focus on the rear delts as well as the traps. You won’t need much weight for this so don’t load up the bar with a bunch of plates.
The four exercises above are the only exercises you will perform during this program but you won’t be performing them in the same order.
The order of exercises will rotate each week so you will do a different workout each week for four weeks. Then the cycle repeats one more time for a total of eight weeks.
This allows each head of the deltoid to get the most attention when your energy is at its highest at the beginning of the workout. The program will go as follows below:
Weeks 1 and 5
|Standing Overhead Barbell Press||1||10|
|Alternating Standing Lateral Raise||1||10|
|Bent-Over Rear Lateral Raise||1||10|
|Behind the Back Upright Row||1||10|
Weeks 2 and 6
|Alternating Standing Lateral Raise||1||12|
|Bent-Over Rear Lateral Raise||1||12|
|Behind the Back Upright Row||1||12|
|Standing Overhead Barbell Press||1||12|
Weeks 3 and 7
|Bent-Over Rear Lateral Raise||1||15|
|Behind the Back Upright Row||1||15|
|Standing Overhead Barbell Press||1||15|
|Alternating Standing Lateral Raise||1||15|
Weeks 4 and 8
|Behind the Back Upright Row||1||20|
|Standing Overhead Barbell Press||1||20|
|Alternating Standing Lateral Raise||1||20|
|Bent-Over Rear Lateral Raise||1||20|
You should use resistance on the barbell that allows you to complete barbell exercises without having to change weight. You should also use a pair of dumbbells that you can use on both dumbbell movements. This is so you won’t have to waste time switching dumbbells or adjusting plates on a bar.
This can be a program that any lifter can perform but it would be different for a beginner than it would for an advanced lifter.
Beginners who aren’t familiar with giant sets so do only two working giant sets with two minutes rest between the giant sets. You should also warm up with one or two light sets of each movement so you’re familiar with them.
Intermediate lifters should be able to handle three giant sets with 90 seconds rest between each giant set. Perform one warm up set of each exercise in giant set fashion before beginning your work sets.
After a light warm up giant set, advanced athletes and lifters can go for four giant sets with a minute rest in between each set.
Depending on your level of experience, this workout can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to complete so you can either train something else or get out of the gym early so you can start the all-important recovery process. After eight weeks, you should notice some significant changes that you will appreciate.