“I fear not a man who neglects his shoulder caps, as he must lack conviction and truthful dedication to his craft” – George Washington
Ok, you got me. Maybe George Washington didn’t say that, but any serious weightlifter will tell you how important your shoulders are to your overall strength and physique.
The delts are the caps to your frame and have a huge impact on the way your silhouette is viewed from afar.
The wider your shoulders are, the narrower your waist will appear. A wide shoulder to waist ratio gives off an appearance of health, vitality, and strength.
I have always given my shoulders priority on their own day rather than training them after either a chest or back workout.
My reasoning is that after doing heavy chest presses your front delts will be fatigued and not capable of performing to their true capacity.
However, due to the delicate nature of the joint and the many small muscles involved in stabilizing it, I never go max effort weight wise on military press or any other shoulder exercise. I have had the best luck with high volume workouts that utilize heavy weight with low reps in addition to drop sets and marathon timed sets.
Today I am going to teach you one of my favorites that I have named Deltoid Doomsday…for obvious reasons.
The basic set up for this workout is 4 heavy exercises, followed by a timed burnout circuit and a handstand challenge. Sounds simple, right? Of course there is a catch. On the first 4 exercises you will utilize a 5 x 5 rep scheme but also add a 60 second drop set to the 5th set of each exercise.
Let me explain, using the first exercise, dumbbell shoulder press as the example. Use the first set of 5 as a warm up set. A good gauge to use is to use roughly 60% of the weight for max reps of 5.
So let’s say my weight for max reps 5 (WMR5) is 50lb DBs then I would use a set of 30lb DBs for my warm up. Resting only 45-60 seconds, I would then attempt to go to my WMR5 of 50lb DBs on my second set, and stay at that weight for the remaining sets.
"This workout is seriously killer. It's starts out fairly tame with the strength sets at 5x5, which is slightly under the rep range I've been training. Still no biggie, felt great to throw some heavy weight around! As the workout proceeded and the slow twitch fibers fatigued I felt a pretty standard pump." -Brett Kahn, Team Dymatize
Immediately following the 5th set there is a 60 second drop set, so you will need to have another 2 or 3 sets of dumbbells ready and waiting once the clock starts.
So let’s proceed with the above example – as soon as you finish your 5th and final set of 5 shoulder presses with the 50lb dumbbells, set them down and grab a set of 40s and begin the 1 minute clock as you press your first rep with them. Due to fatigue from the preceding heavy set you get 4 reps. Immediately lower the weight and pick up a set of 30lb dumbbells as the clock continues to tick.
Let’s say you manage 10 reps with the 30s before setting them down and grabbing a set of 20lb dumbbells and repping out a quick 12 presses as time expires. Following the drop set you will rest 2 minutes before starting with the next exercise. You will repeat the same pattern – 1 x 5 warm up, 3 x 5 heavy, 1 x 5 heavy + a 60 second drop set – on the next 4 exercises.
The actual number of reps you do with each weight during the drop set is less important than making sure you go to failure before dropping to the next weight, and taking no rest during the 60 second time frame.
Here is an example of weights and reps for this section of the workout:
1. Dumbbells Shoulder Press – example weights:
- 1 x 5: 30lb dumbbells
- 3 x 5: 50lb dumbbells
- 1 x 5: 50lb dumbbells + 4 reps 40s, 10 reps 30s, 12 reps 20s
2. Shoulder Flys – example weights:
- 1 x 5: 20lb dumbbells
- 3 x 5: 35lb dumbbells
- 1 x 5: 35lbs + 8 reps 25s, 10 reps 15s, 5 reps 10s
3. Iron Cross – example weights:
- 1 x 5: 15lb dumbbells
- 3 x 5: 25lb dumbbells
- 1 x 5: 25lbs, + 10 reps 20s, 12 reps 15s
4. Barbell Shrugs – example weights:
- 1 x 5: 225
- 3 x 5: 315
- 1 x 5: 315 + 12 reps 225, 25 reps 135
Before you begin your 5th set make sure to have all of your weights lined up and ready for the drop set. If you have to search around for a set of dumbbells it negates the impact of the 60 second time under tension.
Following your last set of shrugs, your delts and traps will be on fire and you could easily end it there and call shoulder day a success…but now is the time to dig deep and find out how this workout came to be known as the “delt destroyer”.
"Now where things really got serious was incorporating all the upper body cardio intensive moves for a minute at a time. I took some NO prior to the workout and WOW, talk about a crazy pump. The combination of strength sets with high intensity reps for time gave me a muscle tearing pump." -Brett Kahn, Team Dymatize
The Delt Destroyer Circuit
Up next is 5 stations for 1 minute each performed back to back with no rest for a 5 minute block. You’ve already done all of the heavy lifting, so think of these as more like activities of your arms that just happen to involve your shoulders.
Start with 1 minute of jump rope, with the goal being not to “miss” for the entire minute. Keep your arms out and stiff as you rotate slightly in the shoulder joint. When jumping rope, less is more, meaning that the wider range of motion of your arms the more likely you are to fall out of rhythm and miss the rope.
Next grab a light (2-3lb) set of dumbbells and perform 1 minute of continuous punches. If you have a little Tae Bo or heavy bag experience you can throw some combos, or just stick to a constant good old 1-2-1-2 left/right/left/right. Keep your hands high, rotate your shoulders and throw them straight down the pipe.
For the third minute, grab a set of dumbbells roughly equal to your body weight and just…hold them. As simple as that sounds, a 60 second weight hold is a grueling test of trap and grip strength endurance.
Once you have completed the weight holds (without setting them down of course), grab a mini or medium band and hold out at arms length with an over hand grip. Pull your hands away from each other to activate the rear delts and control the speed as you let the band retract.
After 1 minute of pull aparts, close out the circuit with another minute of jump rope.
"It felt great to switch up my rep range and try this variance. I'd say at the end of the workout it was extremely difficult to raise my arms overhead...... and that was a great feeling. Oh and the vascularity was nice as well!"-Brett Kahn, Team Dymatize
Your Delts - Finish Them
Now we have put your strength and endurance to the test, so why not wrap it up with a challenge that requires both of those elements in addition to a healthy helping of mental toughness? Get against a wall and pop up into a handstand, holding it for as long as possible.
This is a great challenge to do post workout, and doing it after this shoulder routine makes it that much tougher. This is best done with a group or workout partner to bring out your competitive side and give you a time to shoot for.
The first few times I did it I failed around the 1:30 mark, but my current PR is 3:40. Impressive, but one of my college wrestlers, Bo Jordan, consistently gets 4+ minutes post workout and has gotten 5 minutes when fresh. Challenge yourself and try to beat your previous time each time you complete this workout!
Deltoid Doomsday Workout
|1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press||5*||5|
|2. Lateral Raise||5*||5|
|3. Iron Cross||5*||5|
|4. Barbell Shrugs||5*||5|
|5a. Jump Rope||1||1 min|
|5b. Dumbbell Punches||1||1min|
|5c. Weight Holds||1||1min|
|5d. Band Pull Aparts||1||1min|
|5e. Jump Rope||1||1min|
*Each exercise is 5 x 5, first 5 is warm up, next 3x5 are as heavy as possible, last 5 is followed by a 60 second drop set.
Hope you enjoyed suffering through that one…rest up, refuel and get ready to hit the gym again tomorrow!
For more of my unique workouts stay tuned to Muscle & Strength and make sure to follow me on Instagram for daily motivation @coachmyers_gutcheck.