Here is a brutal workout that is high intensity shoulder annihilation, and it will push you beyond your limits. This workout is not for beginners – there’s another awesome workout available on The Zone you can follow if you’re just starting out.
Anatomy of the Shoulder
1. Anterior Delts: Usually referred as front delts (red). Exercises like shoulder presses, military presses, dumbbell /plate front raises are for anterior delts.
2. Medial Delts: Usually referred as middle delts (green). Exercises like seated side laterals, standing side laterals, Arnold presses as well as shoulder presses help bringing up the medial delts.
3. Posterior Delts: Usually referred as rear delts (blue). Exercises like face pull, bent over lateral raises, barbell rows help in bringing up the rear delts
The workout chart below trains each shoulder muscle group along with the traps & hits them really hard. Its been observed that rear delts lag as they are often neglected. To make the rear delts grow, we would do a superset, which will help to bring them up very well.
Points To Remember
1. Warm up, stretch, then stretch some more
2. Start with compound exercises
3. Lift heavy in presses
4. Go for the kill – feel the burn!
5. Maintain proper posture
6. Do controlled reps
7. Minimize the rest in between sets
The following workout chart aims at pushing hard at all the three deltoid muscles. For the sake of simplicity, I have divided the workouts in categories as stated below.
A. For Overall Deltoid Development
The first thing is to go with presses – in this case it’s standing barbell press/overhead press/military press. The exercise targets front and middle delts and involves the rear delt too. Overhead presses are a great mass adding exercise which can be performed with a set of dumbbells.
The idea of performing front presses in the start of the workout is to utilize the energy in the lifts and to increase the blood flow in the muscles.
Exercise 1: Standing Barbell Front Press
Barbell front press is a compound exercise as it involves more than one joint. Compound lifts should be done first in the workout, as they require strength. This exercise involves all the three delts but it’s more about front and middle delts.
How to do Standing Barbell Front Press
1. Grab a long bar, put it in a squat rack keeping it around your head level for ease in lifting. Add some light weight by which you can manage some 15 reps.
2. Lock the bar for added protection
3. Take shoulder width grip on the bar.
4. Slowly push the bar up, try to keep elbows locked. This will be your starting position.
5. Try not to fully extend the elbows. Keep them a bit bent for more tension.
6. Lower the barbell slowly. Lower it till you reach your nose height. This will be your finishing position.
7. Repeat the moment for the prescribed set of reps.
B. For Medial Deltoid Development
Nothing can beat side laterals when it’s about medial deltoid development. Side laterals can be performed seated as well as standing or on a machine also. My recommendation is to do it standing as the core gets involved – there can a bit of cheating when doing it standing but that’s OK. The sole reason to do it standing is that the last reps of final set might need assistance from your body to finish them off! Be cautious not to cheat throughout the whole exercise.
Exercise 2: Standing Side Laterals
Your delts should be burning post barbell front raises. Standing side laterals is followed by front press. This will be a pyramid set. A pyramid set is a series of sets in which the weight increases and the rep range decreases as the exercise progresses. A typical pyramid set includes warm up sets and is very efficient in getting mass on the desired region.
The standing side laterals will have 8 sets and the rep range would differ based on the weight you lift. The first set will be the lightest weight you can lift for 20 reps and the weight should keep on increasing till you finish the fifth set. The last two sets will aim to push you till failure as you will be lifting the lightest and the second lightest weight one after the another, until you reach failure.
Example: Let’s assume that the heaviest you lift on side laterals is 15 kg dumbbells each side, the ideal first set should be 20 reps of 5kg, 18 reps of 7.5kg, 15 reps of 10kg, 12 reps of 12.5kg, 10 reps of 15kg, then 5 kg and 7.5 kg until failure. Note: The rest period between the sets shouldn’t be more than 30 seconds.
Side lateral targets the front as well as middle delts and will create a burning sensation if you have survived the previous exercises’ burn!
How to do Standing Side Laterals
1. Pick a pair of dumbbells which you think are heavy enough to do 12 reps. Hold them by your side as shown in the image below.
2. Maintain shoulder level distance between both the feet and with a straight torso, lift both the dumbbells together by your sides.
3. Lift the dumbbells till both the hands reach the shoulder level.
4. You can always bend your elbow for more tension on the delts. Refer the image below.
5. Lower the dumbbells but don’t come to rest position. Hold them away from your sides to keep the tension on the delts.
6. Repeat the above steps to perform more reps.
C. For Anterior/Front Deltoid Development
It is always advisable to train a single muscle group by using one compound exercise and one isolation exercise. Military presses being a compound exercise, train the front delt and now its time to train them using an isolation movement.
Exercise 3: Dumbbell Front Raise
Dumbbell front raise involves anterior (front) delts. When done with a bent elbow & controlled movement, the burn is real, and the exercise works best when the movement is slow and controlled. If it’s hard with dumbbells consider opting for plates or a loaded EZ bar.
How to do Dumbbell Front Raise
1. Select a pair of dumbbells, which you think would be able to do 12 reps with, hold them in from of your thighs at shoulder width. Maintain a straight posture at the start of workout.
2. With a strict form, slowly lift the dumbbells until they reach above your shoulders.
3. You can bend your elbow when going up. That’s perfectly alright!
4. Hold for a second at the top position and slowly lower the dumbbell.
D. For Posterior Deltoid Development
Our rear delts are never trained well so the overall goal of shoulder development is undone – rear delts need to be trained equally. The deltoid training would finish up with hitting the rear deltoid with some supersets.
Exercise 4: Reverse Machine Flyes
Reverse Machine Flyes is an isolation exercise and helps in bringing up the lagging rear delts. Machine flyes can be replaced with cable flyes. The elbows play very important role – keep the elbows locked and the arms should go behind.
How to do Reverse Machine Flyes
1. Locate a pec dec machine as shown in the figure below.
2. The machine has levels to adjust the handles. Make sure you adjust them to the last one.
3. Select weight on the machine accordingly. You might not be able to go heavy.
4. Hold the machine’s handles and make sure they are at your shoulder level. You can always adjust the seat for this.
5. With your chest touching the pad, maintain a straight spine position. Always remember, your head and your chest shouldn’t be moving.
6. Push the handles towards your back. Make sure that the elbows are locked.
7. Push it until your hands go behind you back. Refer the figure below.
8. You would feel contraction on your rear delt. Hold for one second and return to the starting position.
Exercise 5: Bent Over Low-Pulley Side Lateral
Bent over side laterals is again an isolation exercise for the rear delts. This can be done using dumbbell also. Please make sure that your body is parallel to the floor.
How to do Bent Over Low Pulley Side Laterals
1. Find a low pulley and adjust a handle to it as shown in the figure below.
2. Adjust the weight on the pulley according to your requirements.
3. Stand some feet away from the pulley.
4. Bend forward, with your chest out and make sure your body is almost parallel to the floor. The back shouldn’t be arched.
5. Keep your left arm on your thighs. With a slight bent on the right elbow hold the handle.
6. Raise your arm, bend your knees for better support and keep rising until your hand has reached your ear level.
7. Hold at the top position for one second and slowly lower it back to the originating position.
8. Do required reps from one hand and then move forward with the other hand
E. Trapezius Development (Optional)
If your overall goal is to train delts only, you might like to skip this exercise. The majority of guys train traps on back day though you can always club traps with shoulders for overall development.
Exercise 6: Barbell Shrugs
Shrugs will be very helpful in growing the traps – I usually do it at the end of my workout and try to go heavy if I have energy left.
How to do Barbell Shrugs
1. Grab a barbell and put on some heavy plates.
2. Lock the bar. Get a pair of lifting straps for better hold if necessary.
3. Hold the bar with both hands maintaining shoulder level grip, whilst maintaining a strict straight torso.
4. Raise your shoulders without bending your elbows.
5. Hold for one second and lower the shoulders.
6. Do the required number of reps to complete the exercise.
Complete Shoulder Workout Routine
This routine is brutal even for Panda…
This has been designed to hit all the three delts well and the above shoulder workout routine will give you explosive gains. Whilst doing supersets, there is no rest. Once you finish both sets, a 2 minute rest is allowed. Use that rest period for recovery. Sip in some water with a mix of BCAA and dextrose to keep fueling the muscles intra-workout.
Follow this schedule for the next 6 weeks and you won’t be disappointed!