The 2015 Mr. Olympia contest is upon us and ready to showcase some of the biggest, leanest and most muscular human beings on the face of the earth. Phil Heath is no stranger to this contest – making his Olympia debut back in 2008 and actually winning the title 4 straight years from 2011-2014 as Mr. Olympia. Phil or “The Gift” has definitely has been gifted with some incredible genetics, but that only takes you so far. The years of hard work, eating and sheer effort is why he’s competing again this year to retain his title.
One of the most crucial aspects of Phil’s physique is the huge set of capped shoulders that accentuate his incredible “X” frame. To develop this illusion, the shoulders must be worked from a variety of angles using various exercises to create the 3-D look of the three heads of the deltoid. Go through one of Phil’s shoulder workouts and you’ll be on the short path to some serious mass for your shoulders.
Exercise #1: Hammer Strength Shoulder Press
Everyone knows that the shoulder press is key developing a great set of shoulders although pressing with the bar can place a tremendous amount of strain on your joints and rotator cuff if you’re not careful. By performing shoulder presses on the hammer strength machine, it provides a smooth range of motion, allowing you isolate the front and middle delt better than you could using the bar or even dumbbells.
- Start exercise on hammer machine by having seat at a slightly less incline than 90 degrees
- Keeping the elbows slightly flared out, press the weight up about ¾ of the way to the top
- Slowly lower the weight back down slightly below starting point, keeping the tension constantly on the delts
Sets and Reps: 4 x 8-12
Top Tip: Phil likes to hit the shoulder press early in his workouts because of the amount of energy needed for a big compound lift. Allow your shoulders squeeze together on the down movement and slightly come apart at the top for the safest route for the scapula to travel.
Exercise #2: Seated Side Lateral Raises
The side lateral raise is known foremost for putting mass on the outside of your delt, helping you develop a super wide look. This exercise can be tricky especially when wanting to rep out some serious weight – the traps tend to take over and take away from the actual delt work. To combat this, perform this exercise seated and keep the movement slow and controlled- keeping the traps relaxed.
- Sitting upright on the end of a bench, grab a set of dumbbells that are slightly lighter than what you usually do standing
- Start movement by contracting the shoulder and moving weight slightly out in front of you
- Once at shoulder level, slowly lower the weight back down stopping 1-2 inches from bottom
- Keep the dumbbell and your elbow in the same plane throughout the movement to ensure that the muscle is being worked as much as possible
Sets and Reps: 1 warm-up set to work on form/ 3 working sets x 10-14 reps
Top Tip: If you have trouble activating the medial delts and relaxing the traps, try flexing your lats during the movement. If your lats are contracted and spread, the trapezius muscle is unable to fire.
Exercise #3: Incline DB Raises
Although many attribute the width of the shoulder to the medial head, the anterior head needs to be isolated as well to make them even wider. The insertion point between the pec and deltoid is a great place to tie in the musculature; just take a look at Phil’s if you need some inspiration.
- Incline a bench to about a 45 degree angle and lie with a set of dumbbells face down
- Start from bottom of movement by squeezing scapula and contracting front delts to move the weight up to eye level
- Slowly lower the weight back down and repeat movement
Sets and Reps: 4 x 10-12
Top Tip: You will find that this movement is very isolated and that the weight you used will be significantly less than what you might normally be able to do on a front raise. Don’t worry about the weight so much as the squeeze and contraction of the muscle being worked.
Exercise #4: Cable Face-Pulls
Phil’s physique is not complete without a set of boulder rear deltoids. Besides the upper chest, rear delts are probably one of the most under-worked muscles in the body. Not only does not training the rear delt make your physique suffer it will cause problems with muscular imbalance and lead to future injuries. Hit the back of your shoulder with just as much intensity as the front “mirror muscles”.
- Perform this exercise with rope at the top of the cable pulley machine
- Start on floor at knees and begin with arms outreached
- Squeeze scapula down and together and pull cable to face, keeping the hand at forehead level
- Slowly let the weight back to the top but keep the motion tight, especially throughout scapula to ensure an excellent contraction
Sets and Reps: 3 drop sets x 12 reps each drop
Top Tip: Using a cable can put the shoulder in a vulnerable position. If this feels uncomfortable, try using to handles instead of rope attachment.
Although Phil is a world-renowned bodybuilder, there is no secret to building a set of bigger, more capped shoulders. By eating a clean diet, lifting heavy and smart and lifting with an intensity that was greater than the day before, you’ll be on your way to some serious gains. Make sure to check out Phil Heath as well as many Myprotein athletes at the Olympia contest September 17-20 to see all of the amazing physiques from around the world!