A: I know what you mean. No matter how much I improve my shoulders, I still fight at every workout to make my delts look like the melons on guys like Dennis Wolf, Kevin Levrone and Phil Heath. Your question reminds me of Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
I’m amazed at how many trainees are willing to keep pounding away on the same exercises week after week, month after month, with little to no results. Of course the standard dumbbell, cable and machine laterals work extremely well at building the side heads of the delts for many, but you have recognized that in your case they’re not getting the job done. (Kudos to you.)
Before I give you a few new movements to sink your teeth into, I must point out that there may be other areas in your overall program that could also be responsible for holding back your gains. First, make sure your nutrition and supplementation are on point and that you’re getting adequate rest. Also, are you performing laterals correctly and in a way that truly targets the side heads? I’ve witnessed some extremely poor execution in my time, with so much swinging of weights that it’s the lower back that takes a beating, not the shoulders. You can also try training shoulders on their own day, switching up rep schemes, lifting tempos, intensity techniques and more.
Okay, now for a few novel ways you can attack your side delts:
1) Very-wide-grip upright rows. When most people perform upright rows, they use a narrow grip and bring their hands up to about mouth level. That stimulates the midtraps and front delts. If you widen your grip to a little beyond your shoulders and bring the bar no higher than your upper chest, you strongly target the lateral-delt heads.
2) Leaning one-arm dumbbell or cable laterals. This is not so much a unique exercise as a change in the resistance curve for stimulating somewhat different motor unit pools. Grab a dumbbell or low cable with one hand, and with the other grasp some type of sturdy support. Position your feet close to the support so that when you allow your nonworking arm to straighten, you will be “leaning away” at a significant angle. That will increase the resistance at the top of the strength curve and force a deeper contraction than you get with basic laterals.
3) Incline one-arm laterals. This is the opposite of exercise 2. Again, you will be altering the resistance curve of the exercise; however, this time you will need greater force to get the dumbbell moving at the beginning of the movement. The result is a different stress for your central nervous system and the ability to exhaust even more motor unit pools. To perform this exercise, set an incline bench at about 45 degrees. Grab a light dumbbell—15 or 20 pounds—and lie sideways on the bench. Keep the working arm almost completely straight and never let the dumbbell come in contact with your body—think constant tension! Raise the weight slowly until your arm is at a 90 degree angle to your torso, and then fight the weight hard on the way down. Stop when it’s two inches from contacting the side of your thigh-and-hip area..
An awesome superset that will totally trash your side delts is exercise 3 to failure, followed immediately by exercise 2 to failure, about 10 reps each.
Write back to me soon and let me know if you’re having trouble fitting through doorways! —Eric Broser
Editor’s note: Eric Broser’s new DVD “Power/Rep Range/Shock Max-Mass Training System” is available at Home-Gym.com. His e-books, Power/Rep Range/Shock Workout and The FD/FS Mass-Shock Workout, which include complete printable workout templates and Q&A sections, are available at X-Workouts.com.