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You, Sir, the Muscular Guy in the Third Row

Sounds like you have a problem with structure, most likely genetic, so little can be done to alter it. I’d be doing the popular basics for shoulder and back advancement.


I just plain did not want to go to the gym today. It was cold and gray, not common experiences as of late, and I wanted to stay home and mope. The iron would be cold and heavy, the music would be the same—thump, thump, boom, boom—and the same clang of the metal would be piercing. Add the same faces and the same nods and the same mirrors and the same reflections and the same aches and the same pains—I wanted to stick my head in the refrigerator and scream.

Then I thought about not going. I don’t have to go. I’m a free man. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. I felt good, relieved for an instant. Then I thought, What if I don’t go? I’ll feel like crap. And as the day grows longer, I’ll feel like more crap. I’ll feel crappier.

Next thing you know, I’m off to the bedroom to dig out my training rags to head for the gym—gotta mix a Bomber Blend, take my six caps of Ageless Growth and a dose of creatine...grab my new Jack Stein gym bag, get water and a can of tuna in case I get lost. Suddenly I’m missing the faces and can’t wait to hear the thump, thump, boom and clang—a few clinks and clanks as well. Yo, what’s happening, man? Hey! 

Phew! That was a close encounter of the worst kind.

Now it’s time to answer the questions that frequently pop up.

Q: I’m 45 years old and have been training for decades. My problem is I have very sloped shoulders. It looks like I have none. The rest of my upper body is fine and reacts to the training. I also have no front delts. What I want is nice round shoulders. Can you help?

A: Sounds like you have a problem with structure, most likely genetic, so little can be done to alter it. I’d be doing the popular basics for shoulder and back advancement. That’s the best you can do, and it can do wonders for a unique and powerful build.

Shoulders (primarily): Incline dumbbell presses (45 and 75 degree), carefully executed medium-weight press-behind-necks (can be problematic if aggressive), front presses, lateral raises

Back (primarily): Wide-grip bent-over rows (pull bar to chest), wide-grip pulldowns in front of and behind the neck

I like the following supersets:

Barbell presses and wide-grip pulldowns in front of or behind the neck, 4 x 12, 10, 8, 6
Dumbbell incline presses and lateral raises, 4 x 6-10
Bent-over rows (heavy) and straight-arm dumbbell pullovers, 4 x 6-8

Posture might be a contributing factor, and as a consequence incomplete development of the totality of muscles involved.

For more, review the question of our fellow bomber below, whose problem and resolution are not unlike yours.

Q: I’m 49 years old. Been lifting since I was 17. I’m up to 420 pounds on the bench. But how in the world do you get those lats to explode?

A: They shoulda done that by now if V-shape lats are in your structure. I suspect you prioritized bench-pressing at an early age, a common miscalculation, and created an imbalance in muscle engagement, development and structuring.

You’re so strong and predominantly developed in the chest and front shoulders that it’s possible the muscles making up the lat region don’t kick in as they would if the development were more balanced.

I’d give the bench a rest—good for the health of the shoulder region—and bring on the dumbbells, low inclines to steep. Safer, more powerful and more complete shoulder and chest development.

Relax. The bench will always be there. Nobody’s taking it out the back door. About the lats, try these twice a week:

Wide-grip pulldowns in front and behind the neck, mixed or done separately, 4-5 x 8-12
Wide-grip barbell rows, pulling the bar to the pec line, 4 x 6, 8, 10
Seated cable rows, full range of motion with a tight arched-back contraction, 4 x 6, 8, 10
One-arm dumbbell rows, full range of motion, 4 x 6, 8, 10 
Straight-arm dumbbell pullovers, 3 x 8-10

Design a routine around those and blast away. I combine chest, back and shoulders on the same day, supersetting often. For example:

Bench presses—as a focused muscle builder in deference to power builder—and pulldowns to the front
Behind-the-neck presses (dangerous, but I like it—bad Dave) and behind-the-neck pulldowns
Dumbbell incline presses and straight-arm pullovers
One-arm dumbbell rows and dips (to mix up the upper-body muscle action)
Wide-grip barbell rows; go heavy and single set, or throw in pullovers

It’s all good at 49, son.

Incidentally, the game we play, the road we travel, the voyage we’re on is a good one. It’s also, at times, very hard and frustrating. Like every worthy endeavor, it’s fulfilling, rewarding and beneficial. But it gets old, inconvenient and tedious. It hurts and gets lonely every now and then. Sometimes we quit, and when we quit, slowly but surely we fall apart. We have more time but less strength. We sleep later but have less energy. We have Sunday brunch at the Chaminade, but we become fleshy. Frustration is replaced by guilt, and we suddenly miss the frustration. The easy chair is soft, yet we miss the hard bench and the hard push. And the last time we were fulfilled and rewarded was when the Broncos beat the Stallions 21 to nothing and we raked in 60 bucks at the office pool.

Don’t you just love to lift weights and build muscle and hear the clank of iron against iron? It’s like getting high. See ya at that foamy cloud formation just this side of heaven, Iron Eagles. IM

Editor’s note: For more from Dave Draper, visit www.DaveDraper.com and sign up for his free newsletter. You can also check out his amazing Top Squat training tool, classic photos, workout Q&A and forum.

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