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Superhero Shoulder Width

To get that full development, you need to train the deltoid complex through its full range of motion as well as from a number of different angles.


Q: How can I get my shoulders as wide as possible? I want more of a bodybuilder/superhero look.

A: Broad shoulders will definitely give you a more commanding appearance, but so will wearing a cape. Seriously, your shoulder width is limited by your clavicle, or collarbone, width. The good news is that you can look a lot wider even if your collarbone’s short, as long as you’ve got full, round delts. Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia, had narrow clavicles, but he packed a lot of meat on his delts, and that created the illusion of width. It helped him become the best bodybuilder in the world in the early ’60s.

To get that full development, you need to train the deltoid complex through its full range of motion as well as from a number of different angles. The fibers wrap around from back to front in bundles. To attack all of those bundles from their strongest leverage points, you have to do laterals at a few different torso positions as well as multijoint, or compound, work to generate maximum force. That makes a solid delt routine a bit more complex than, say, biceps or triceps. Here’s a good full-range Positions-of-Flexion delt workout:

Midrange (front-delt emphasis)
Overhead presses 2 x 8-10
Midrange (side-delt emphasis)
Dumbbell upright rows 2 x 8-10
Stretch (side-delt emphasis)
Incline one-arm laterals 2 x 8-10
Contracted (side-delt emphasis)
Seated forward-lean laterals 2 x 12-15
Contracted (rear-delt emphasis)
Bent-over laterals 1 x 7-9, 1 x 12-15

Notice that your torso is at various angles, depending on the exercise, which is key to getting max-force output from all of the delt-fiber bundles that wrap around the joint. Angle of pull, or leverage, should change slightly on each exercise to get at as many delt fibers as possible, putting them in their optimal position to fire.
You also may want to try de-emphasizing the presses by moving them later in the workout. For example, in the 3D Power Pyramid Program outlined in the e-guide X-traordinary Muscle-Building Workouts, dumbbell upright rows are first, using a progressively heavier weight on each of the three work sets—that’s the power pyramid. Then you do one or two sets of the other exercises, with presses last.

But aren’t presses the most important? Well, most trainees get plenty of front-delt emphasis from chest work, especially in the Power Pyramid Program; however, it’s good to include some type of overhead press to cover that position of flexion for the shoulders. Training it last will give priority to the imporant medial heads for width, as you’ll train upright rows and laterals first.

POF is very flexible, so you can see why I continually recommend it as a core mass-building concept—and it works. In the early ’90s it was the key stimulus that helped my training partner, Jonathan Lawson, gain 20 pounds of muscle in 10 weeks. I’ve run his before and after photos numerous times in this column, so if you haven’t seen them, you can go to 3DMuscleBuilding.com. [Note: 3D Muscle Building is the new Positions-of-Flexion e-workout guide.]

My apologies if I’m starting to sound like a Sham-Wow commercial, but I get excited when I can help someone discover and try POF training. I want you to know that POF works and that I believe in its mass-building power. I want you to be as motivated as possible to try it. That can make all the difference in the level of your success.

Here’s a statement from a user that I recently received:

“I’ve been using the 3D POF routine for over four months and have gotten the best results I’ve ever had. I’m 18, and have seriously added to my measurements while losing bodyfat at the same time. My arms are now at 17 inches, while my waist has gone down to 29 inches! X Reps have changed my life forever also, and they will always be in my workouts. I plan on staying drug-free and competing soon, as I feel like I’ve stumbled upon the Holy Grail of muscle building. Thank you!”
—Sage Natvig, via Internet

Q: I’ve heard that I should eat a slow-digesting protein before going to bed. However, if I’m trying to burn through some fat, shouldn’t I just stop eating a few hours before bed?

A: As a hardgainer, I know it’s important to get protein before hitting the sack to fend off catabolism during sleep. That’s why during the fall and winter I have one or two scoops of a whey-casein protein powder, usually Muscle-Link’s Pro-Fusion, in water. Whey is fast digesting, while casein is slow, providing a trickle feed of aminos throughout the night.

When spring rolls around, however, and I begin my ripping phase, I can’t afford the extra calories. My solution is to take about five branched-chain amino acid caps before bed instead. The BCAAs are the key to muscle growth, doing an excellent job of curbing overnight catabolism while enhancing fat burning.

Q: I need to lose fat quickly, and I’ve been reading about interval cardio training. I want to try it, so how would you suggest I work it into my program? I’m using the Heavy/Light 10x10 Workout [from The Ultimate 10x10 Mass Workout].

A: As I’ve said on a number of occasions, high-intensity interval cardio is like doing another leg workout, so you must be cautious. For those who don’t know what HIIT is, a good example is sprinting the straightaways and walking the curves on a running track.

You’re alternating anaerobic work, all-out sprints, with active rest, walking. Studies show that it’s an exceptional way to burn bodyfat for a number of reasons.

The anaerobic sprints burn glycogen from your bloodstream and lower-body muscles while triggering muscle damage for postworkout fat burning. The active rest—walking the curves—helps your muscles recover between sprints and can burn some bodyfat as well. Here are a few tips to follow when incorporating HIIT:

1) Do interval cardio as far away from your leg workout as possible. For example, if you do legs on Wednesday, do your interval cardio on the weekends—or if you want to do two HIIT sessions, do one on Friday and one on Sunday.

2) Don’t get carried away; sprint-based HIIT is very traumatic to joints and tendons as well as your lower-body muscles. Four to six all-out sprints should be your limit, and you should do only one or two interval sessions a week. For your other cardio workouts, use low-intensity, steady-state walking, usually after your weight workout. No glycogen in your bloodstream means you tap into bodyfat almost immediately.

3) After you’ve done all of your sprints alternated with walks, continue to walk for another 10 to 15 minutes to burn even more fat. Because the sprints have eliminated all the glycogen from your bloodstream, just as with a weight workout, you’ll tap into fat stores more quickly with low-intensity postworkout walking.

4) If you can’t handle sprinting, you can perform a less traumatic form of HIIT on an exercise bike. Pedal as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then slowly for one minute. Alternate six to 10 times (remember, it’s less traumatic, so you should be able to handle a few more bouts than you can with running, which pounds your joints).
Keep in mind that any type of all-out training raises cortisol and adds to catabolism, or muscle cannibalism. Doing cardio on a completely empty stomach can compound that negative effect, so have a small protein drink or at least swallow some branched-chain amino acid caps before your HIIT sessions.

It’s all worth the effort because the leaner you get, the bigger you look. Jonathan leans out at about 205, but he looks like he weighs 225 with all that crazy muscle detail and vascularity. Eye-popping muscle detail grabs attention like nothing else.

Note: For more on interval cardio as well as fast fat-loss training, diets and eating strategies, see the e-book X-treme Lean, available at X-tremeLean.com. It also includes Becky Holman’s transformation story, diet and workouts.

Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF videos and Size Surge programs, see the ad sections beginning on pages 198 and 248, respectively. Also visit www.X-Rep.com for information on X-Rep and 3D POF methods and e-books. IM

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