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The Master Trainer: Developing Dynamic Delts

Gene Mozee on Vince Gironda Style.


Vince Gironda believed that completely developed deltoids are the foundation for a great upper body. When most people start working out, their main goals are to build big arms, a huge chest and wide lats. They fail to understand that enhancing shoulder width is essential to a well-proportioned and impressive physique.

Vince always stressed that bodybuilders need to attain maximum shoulder width. How much width you can obtain depends on the width of your clavicles, but building massive delts will help. Steve Reeves and Don ‘the Duke of Deltoids’ Howorth exhibited perfectly developed delts on wide clavicles.

Lack of clavicle width didn’t stop two-time Mr. Olympia Larry Scott. He used Gironda’s special training techniques to build outstanding delts. When Arnold Schwarzenegger first came to the United States in 1968, Vince told him that his rear delts were underdeveloped and that if he was ever going to beat Sergio Olivia, he’d better start correcting the weakness. Arnold took his advice and made dramatic improvements.

The deltoids crown the shoulder girdle with a cap of muscle that can be both majestic and powerful. The muscle consists of three parts, or heads: the anterior, or front; the lateral, or side; and the posterior, or rear. The front and side portions are very powerful; the middle is markedly less strong. It’s attached along the anterior surface of the lateral third of the clavicle, the top of the acromium process and the outside edge of the spine. It extends across the front, top and back of the shoulder joint and attaches on the lateral side of the middle of the humerus.

The front part of the delt enables shoulder flexion, abduction and medial rotation. The middle enables shoulder abduction. The posterior produces shoulder extension, abduction and lateral rotation. The delts rely heavily on the trapezius to provide strength and stability. As a result, it can be a challenge to develop the delts without involving the traps.

Vince devised his delt exercises to work all three heads while minimizing trap involvement. In his opinion, big traps were essential for Olympic lifters but not for bodybuilders.

The following exercises indicate which delt heads are being worked in each movement. Beginners can choose one exercise for the general shoulder area’the clean and press’but more advanced trainees should choose one exercise for each of the three heads and do four sets of each.

1) Clean and presses (side and front deltoids), eight reps

Stand with your feet about 14 inches apart. Using an overhand grip, hold a barbell across the fronts of your thighs. Clean the weight to your shoulders and immediately press it overhead, moving the bar slightly to the rear when it’s overhead. Lower to the starting position and repeat. Not only does this movement build delt mass, but it’s also an excellent warmup for the entire shoulder.

2) High pulls (side delts), eight reps

Hold a barbell at your thighs, using a shoulder-width grip. Pull the bar up until it’s level with the top of your head. Keep the bar about 12 inches from your body throughout the exercise. Lower slowly and repeat.

3) Seated alternate front and back presses (front and side delts), eight reps

Sit on a sturdy bench and hold a barbell at about lower-pec level, using a medium-wide grip. Press the bar overhead and lower it to the backs of your shoulders, below your delts. Alternate lowering it to the front and the back, with the bar just clearing your head. Each time you lower the bar and press it back up is one rep.

4) Scott presses (side and front delts), eight reps

Larry Scott devised this unique exercise. Hold a pair of dumbbells in front of your shoulders, palms facing inward. Swing your elbows sideways and to the rear while pressing the dumbbells until they’re level with the top of your head. Your palms will face forward at the top of the movement. Return to the starting position and repeat. (See the illustration on page 221.)

5) Seated lateral raises (side delts), eight reps

Sit at the end of a bench, leaning forward slightly. Hold a pair of dumbbells at arms length, under your thighs. Raise the weights out to the sides, until they’re level with the top of your head. Try to keep the dumbbells level or lower in front, as though you were pouring water from a jug. Lower to the starting position and repeat.

6) Alternate front raises (posterior and anterior delts), eight reps

Hold a pair of dumbbells at the sides of your body, with your knuckles facing forward. Keep your elbows slightly bent and allow your wrists to go limp. Raise first one dumbbell and then the other to where it’s in front of your forehead. Do eight reps with each arm.

7) Dumbbell circles (complete delt), eight reps

Stand with your feet together and hold the dumbbells together in front of your hips. Raise the weights out to the sides and then to the front. Keep your arms slightly bent at all times. The movement is out to the sides at ear level, then to the front with the dumbbells almost touching, then back to the starting position. Perform this movement slowly and without swinging the weights. (See the illustration on page 224.)

9) High bench lateral (posterior delt), eight reps

Lie face down on a bench that’s high enough so the dumbbells don’t touch the floor. Keep your arms slightly bent and raise the weights out to the side. Relax your hands at the bottom of the movement. Repeat, using strict form. IM

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