Look up the word angling in the dictionary, and you'll likely find something pertaining to the art or sport of fishing. Since most of us are 'fishing' for shocking shoulders, I guess, in a way, it kind of makes sense. Still, angling, as I'm using it, means attacking the muscle from a variety of angles and/or planes of movement with different grips to generate new muscle growth.
If you're new to weight training, using a very standard program and repeating the same exercises week in and week out for months will be highly effective at stimulating hypertrophy. As time goes on, however, the body makes it increasingly difficult for you to make steady gains. Most trainees respond by adding some fresh exercises or simply adding more sets to existing exercises, and that can set the muscles on the path to new growth. Keep in mind, though, that the human body is highly adaptive'eventually it will fight against even your best efforts in the gym.
Lots of techniques can be helpful once you reach a plateau, but most of them are designed to make you work harder in the gym. Forced reps, negatives, drop sets, partials and so on are all certainly going to raise your intensity level'and perhaps that's exactly what you need to get on the road to progress; however, those same techniques also make greater inroads into your recovery ability and could end up backfiring on you by pushing you into an overtrained state. In other words, you may actually be working hard enough in the gym, but your central nervous system and muscles might just be, well, bored.
Though most trainees change exercises occasionally, they usually have a core of five to six movements per muscle group that they use most of the time. Unfortunately, your body can get tired of doing the same exercises in the same manner, over and over, and your muscles may be firing off fewer and fewer fibers each time you perform the movement, even if you increase the weight. You may also find that you're having a problem getting a pump from your workouts and that your joints are starting to bug you. That's because doing the same exercises from workout to workout can, over time, cause what's known as an overuse injury.
On the other hand, what if it's not your muscles that are bored but your brain? Perhaps you're simply looking for a way to make your workouts more interesting, which will help to keep your enthusiasm higher and your time in the gym more productive. Either way, angling is the answer.
As mentioned above, angling is my system of using various angles, grips and planes of movement to better stimulate a muscle to grow. My guess is that right about now you're probably saying, 'But I already do that'I use three or four different exercises for each bodypart, hitting the muscle from different angles.' And I am sure you do, but I'm talking about taking the concept a step further, performing each exercise from several different angles.
We're applying the technique to shoulder training here. Very, very few trainees build complete deltoids from front to back'most usually lack development in one or two of the delt heads. In my years of training clients, I've found angling to be an excellent way of overcoming the problem. The deltoids seem to thrive on this technique, probably because of the nature of the shoulder joint and the many planes of movement it allows.
Let's look at a typical workout for shoulders that has probably been performed thousands of times by trainees all over the world:
Seated dumbbell presses 3 x 8-10
Lateral raises 3 x 8-10
Upright rows 2 x 8-10
Seated bent-over laterals 2 x 8-10
Now, let's look at the same workout for shoulders with angling added to the mix.
Seated dumbbell presses
'Perform the first set in the standard manner, with your palms facing forward; simply press upward from just above your shoulders to just before lockout.
'Perform the second set with your palms facing in toward your head at the beginning of the rep. Press upward with an arcing motion, driving the dumbbells overhead and toward each other to a point just short of where they would touch. Make sure the dumbbells follow the same arced path on the way down as well.
Perform the third set with your palms facing toward your chest and your elbows tucked into your body in front of you. As you press upward, rotate your palms inward so that just as you get to the top of the movement, they are facing away from you, as in a standard dumbbell press. Reverse the rotation of the palms on the way down.
This exercise is also know as the Arnold press, as it was popularized by Governor Schwarzenegger during his bodybuilding years. Lateral raises
Perform the first set in the standard manner, standing or seated, with your torso erect, raising the dumbbells out to the sides to shoulder height with your palms down.
For the second set grab an adjustable incline bench and set it up with the pad facing you. The angle of the bench should be about 75 to 80 degrees. Grab a set of dumbbells and, while standing, lean into the bench so that your chest is on the pad and your head is just over the top of the bench. Holding that position, raise the dumbbells out to the sides without allowing your chest to leave the bench at any point. These are harder than standard laterals, so go with only about two-thirds of the weights you'd normally use.
On the final set turn the incline bench around and drop the angle back maybe another hole or two. Sit on the bench and lean back on the pad. Perform a strict set of lateral raises.
Perform the first set with a shoulder-width grip and raise the bar in a plane just a few inches away from your body.
Perform the second set with your hands just a few inches apart and raise the bar while keeping it very close to your body. Seated bent-over lateral raises
For the first set lean over and hold the dumbbells with your palms facing in under your thighs.
For the second set lean over far enough that you can start with the dumbbells in front of your shins. Instead of your palms facing in, however, they should be facing back, so that the inside plates of the dumbbells are actually touching at the beginning of the movement. Doing bent-over laterals in this manner is very difficult, so be prepared to go very light if you expect to use a full range of motion.
There you have it, my fellow hypertrophy hounds! A run-of-the-mill delt routine is morphed into a cannonball-creating, melon-making, deltoid-demolishing workout with four different exercises and 10 different angles. It's guaranteed to smash your shoulders from front to back, top to bottom, inside and out. Give angling for delts a try, then go home and get in a good meal'maybe a nice piece of fish.
Editor's note: For individualized programs, online personal training, nutritional guidance or contest-prep coaching, contact Eric Broser at [email protected] IM