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How to Get Your Shoulders to Progress


Q: I’ve been using the workout you suggested, and it’s working really well. I’m doing chest and arms on Monday, legs on Wednesday and back and shoulders on Friday. I have been doing it for about three months, and I’m making gains in almost everything. My squat, bench press, deadlift, straight-legged deadlift and bent-over row have all increased significantly. I’m also doing well with the smaller muscles, but the big ones have increased significantly and I’m gaining muscle and weight. The only issue I have is that I can’t seem to get my delts to lift any more weight. I have been pressing 75 pounds for the entire three months and can’t do three sets of eight reps; it’s usually five reps. I thought I was progressing, but maybe not. The other delt exercise I’m doing is lateral raises. I can use 15-pound dumbbells and that’s it. I can do eight to 10 reps, but if I move up to 20-pound dumbbells, I can only get about three reps. In addition, I do shrugs. Any tips on how to get my shoulders to progress?

A: On the day that you train back and shoulders, always make sure to do your shoulder workout first. That will give you more energy to put into your delts and enable you to lift heavier. If you train back first, because the back is such a big muscle group that it takes a lot of energy to train it hard, you won’t be able to give your all to your shoulders.

You may want to change the pressing exercise you do for the shoulders as well. Instead of standing presses, maybe switch to seated military presses or even seated dumbbell presses. The standing press uses the muscles in the back more just to balance and stabilize the weight, which may take away from your pressing power. By doing presses in the seated position, you may find that you’re much stronger because you don’t have to worry about your lower back.

I’m surprised at how far the reps drop when you try to go heavier on lateral raises. To go from eight to 10 reps all the way down to three with only a five-pound increase seems like too much. It could be in the way you perform the exercise.

When you do lateral raises, the sticking point comes at the beginning of the movement. The side delts work to bring the weight up to parallel to the floor. The trick is to get it moving at the beginning of the exercise so the side delts can take over.

I like to do my lateral raises with the dumbbells in front of my body instead of at the sides when I start. That way I can cheat the weights up from the dead start to get the movement going. From there I use the side deltoids exclusively to muscle up the weights until my arms are straight out to the sides. Always focus on keeping your arms as straight as possible so you work the side delts to the fullest extent.

By doing the exercise that way, you should be able to use much more weight on it very quickly. The strict method of doing laterals makes it very difficult to use any substantial weight unless you have very strong delts. In order to make your shoulders stronger and bigger, use the modified version instead, and I think you’ll make progress much more quickly.


Editor’s note: John Hansen has won the Mr. Natural Olympia and is a three-time Natural Mr. Universe winner. For information on his exciting new program, The MP6 Cycle Training, check out his Web site at www and become a memeber. To attend the Natural Olympia Fitness Getaway, go to Send questions or comments to John@NaturalOlympia
.com. Look for John’s DVD, “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competitions,” along with his book, Natural Bodybuilding, and his training DVD, “Real Muscle,” as well as his new DVD “Natural Bodybuilding Seminar and Competition” at his Web site or at Home Gym Warehouse,  IM


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