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Separate But Equal

Devote one extra workout a week only to your shoulders and watch them grow.

By Jay Ashman


One of the hardest muscle groups to train are your deltoids—not because they are physically demanding, but because they are stubborn to grow for many of us. The aesthetic effect they present in a well-balanced physique is striking. They add width to your upper body and help increase the shoulder-width ratio that is desired by so many.

The shoulders are a muscle that can be trained frequently. Oftentimes you will see them paired up with chest day because chest exercises pre-fatigue the shoulders already. Doing so has its benefits but also presents a disadvantage because you cannot devote as much energy to specifically training the delts because of the energy demands of the chest workout. In order to give the delts their just due, a separate day is highly recommended in addition in order to properly stimulate them to grow.

Your delts consist of three distinct heads: anterior (front delts), medial (side delts), and posterior (rear delts). In most cases, your anterior delts have plenty of stimulus from benching pressing and overhead pressing exercises, which leaves us with the medial and posterior delts. The medial delts add width from the front and back view while the posterior delts add depth from the side view. Of those three muscles, the most neglected one is the posterior delt. Why is that? One opinion is that people try to show their strength rather than focus on form, and thus recruit the muscles in their back and traps instead of activating the posterior delts. Another one is simply that they do not train the rear delts with enough reps. The deltoid muscles all respond favorably to higher reps, being that your upper-body pressing consists of numerous reps over the course of a month training, the rear delts may lag far behind. If you want to have balance in your physique, you need to give all three heads the proper training.

The workout coming up is designed to be on a separate shoulder day and will take 45 minutes to one hour to complete fully. It will be difficult, but it will give you a solid taste of what it really means to train your shoulders for results. You’ll notice that this workout saves the heaviest exercise for last. By saving the heavy work until the end, you are pre-exhausted and adequately warmed up. You could do more weight if you did the last exercise first, but this is bodybuilding. The idea is to build muscle first and foremost.

This shoulder workout will be difficult, and it will leave your delts incredibly fatigued. All three heads will be worked, and you will end up with an insane shoulder pump afterward. For those who need to bring up their deltoids to match their physique, this is one workout that will help you on that path. IM


Rear Delt Flye

Start off your workout with the weakest link, your rear delts. Lie face-down on an incline bench set to a 25-degree incline. With a dumbbell in each hand, let your arms hang below you. It’s important to focus on solid form with these and not try to force them up with the muscles in your back. Let your arms dangle while moving the weight from the hang to a “T” and pause at the top for a split second. Lower them under control and repeat for 15 to 18 reps per set.

On the third set you will go for broke and hit complete failure. Complete full reps until they get almost impossible, then do half reps. Once the half reps approach failure, start doing quarter reps. Do not do forced reps and engage in sloppy form. The partial reps, about a quarter of the range of motion, will resemble a slight swing of the dumbbell. These partial reps are fine because you are still stimulating the posterior delt. Once you hit total failure you are finished with this exercise and you will feel it. Picking your arms up will be a little difficult.

Superset: Seated Dumbbell Laterals and Seated Dumbbell Press

Grab a pair of dumbbells that you can perform for 20 reps and a set you can press overhead for 15 reps. For this sequence we will introduce tempo to the equation. This tempo is ironclad, it increases time under tension and it will make a lighter weight feel heavier because you are forcing yourself to maintain control throughout the entire rep scheme.

Start off with seated laterals and raise them from a hang to a “T” position. Use the tempo 2-0-2-1 for these. This notation is simple. The first number in the sequence is always eccentric (lowering weight/lengthening muscle under tension), the second one is the pause after the eccentric motion (0 means no pause, just transition into concentric), the third number is concentric movement (moving weight/contracting muscle under load), and the last number is the pause after concentric (in this case it is 1, so pause for a 1 count at the top of the movement). After performing 15 reps of laterals, immediately move into the seated press for 12 reps with the tempo 2-1-2-1. Rest after each superset before starting again.


Iron Man Magazine shoulders_seateddumbbelllateral_01  Iron Man Magazine shoulders_seateddumbbelllateral_02


Cable Upright Row

Use a handle for these that you can grip at shoulder width. These will finish off your medial delt isolation work while adding some extra stimulus to your traps. Grab the bar from a full hang and row it until your upper arms are parallel to the floor—be sure to keep those elbows up to keep the focus on the delts. Use the tempo 2-0-2-1 for this exercise. Control the weight and keep your form pristine.

Seated Behind-The-Neck Barbell Press

You will need a good spotter for this exercise. Work up to a moderately heavy eight reps and repeat that for two sets. On your third set you will perform forced reps. Be sure your spotter understands that they will be assisting you until you reach complete muscular failure. Lower the bar behind your neck as far as you can with your mobility. I know some people can lower it to their necks while others have to stop at ear level. Either one is perfectly fine. You don’t have to force a position if you can’t reach it. Simply work within your conditions until they improve. Keep pressing the weight, with their assistance, until you can’t press anymore. Once that third set is finished, the day is finished.


Iron Man Magazine shoulders_behindneckpress_01  Iron Man Magazine shoulders_behindneckpress_02

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