Last time, I delved into the first 5 of 10 shoulder shredders you should be implementing at some point on your quest for physical domination. They’ve invariably played a key role in boosting that of my own, and personal client’s shoulder development in record time.
If you haven’t already, check those out here. Fantastic tools of mass construction, every one.
Continuing with the theme, these final 5 exercises are somewhat unique, and must be used in a specific fashion that depends on a number of variables. Placing within the session, training effect desired, mechanical lines of pull or tension, and previous exercises completed within the workout come into play.
You’ll notice, the strict Military Press is not included. Relax.
This is simply to acknowledge the fact that you don’t wan’t -or need- to be reading the same shit you already know. Denying the Barbell Military Press it’s glory amongst the hierarchies of deltoid decimation would be foolish. As such, I’m sure you can figure out that it’s probably going to be incorporated into your programming at some point when the time is right.
I seek to open your mind to the variations and specializations regarding deltoid specialization. There are more ways than one to skin a physique, and the optimal path is bound to be the one you’ve never traversed before.
6) Thick Bar, Barbell Push-Press (Eccentric Overload)
Much like the Military press mentioned above, the Barbell Push-Press is a formidable weapon. When used for good, and not pathetic displays of debauchery, this exercise can provide the boost in strength you’ve been needing to reach the next level of physical development.
The advantages are multifaceted.
First, many of you know that strength is significantly higher during all eccentric contractions (the negative portion), when compared to the concentric contraction (or positive portions). Eccentric overload allows you to handle a greater load than what would otherwise be possible. On top of this, the eccentric contraction contributes the majority of muscle damage and subsequent strength gains, regardless of the exercise.
In the Push-Press, the hips and knees are used to drive the bar into the air, essentially “cheating” the bar to lockout. Because of this, more weight is able to be used than in a Military Press. When you complete the eccentric phase, it is more effective at overloading the shoulders due to the unusual weight being used. This is akin to using eccentric hooks in a bench press to boost strength at a rapid pace.
Second, by using a thick-bar (or extremely large Fat Gripz) you are taking advantage of the irradiation effect. By using a thick grip, you are forced to grasp the bar harder to maintain stability. This squeezed grip causes the palms, forearms and every muscle up from there to contract harder by amplifying their nerve impulses, radiating strength and activating a greater percentage of muscle fibers in the surrounding areas.
The result is increased shoulder stimulation and a nice boost in strength. Benefits of thick grip training have been well established, and should have a place in your personal repertoire.
On to execution.
Hands should be shoulder width, or just outside on the bar. Elbows angled slightly to the front with wrists held tight. Feet may be parallel or moved to a split stance for added stability.
Putting the hips, knees and ankles into sync is the key. Too often, trainees will bend only in the knees and ankles to initiate the press, coming down too far. The hips are the largest joint, and should be the first to flex when preparing to complete the movement.
6 inches is all that’s needed. Bending at the hips and knees 6 deliberate inches, then exploding forward to flex the gluteus and legs will provide the “lift-off” for the press. As you do this, initiate with the shoulders, arms and forearms to explode into lockout. Once there, pause for a brief second to flex the shoulders and slowly perform the eccentric while squeezing the deltoids.
Once the bar is resting on the clavicles, move immediately into the second rep, repeating the process.
If done right, it should look slightly rhythmic and incredibly solid.
Suggested Usage: Compound in nature, multi joint, power producing, eccentric overload. This is a recipe for heavy loads once the deltoids have been sufficiently warmed up. Use these near the beginning of your program to expose your high threshold motor units to some love. The 5-10 repetition spectrum is a good place to start, depending on the goals of the session and your current phase of training.
Rarely implemented, I started utilizing these after reading an article by Charles Poliquin where he utilized Single Arm Barbell Scott Curls. Intrigued, I mulled over the mechanisms of what he was after, and decided to give it a shot.
Fuck. This guy knows what he’s talking about.
My forearms and bicep insertions were practically hanging like ribbons for days after 6 sets. Naturally, I began to build out the concept into other exercises that would normally use a dumbbell, producing similar levels of (welcomed) pain. My favorite thus far has been the Lean Away Barbell Lateral Raise.
Because of the barbell’s unique weight distribution, holding it in one hand requires focus. At first glance, the difference between a dumbbell and barbell seems insignificant. In execution however, you quickly realize things are not as they seem.
The shift in weight causes enhanced activation of the deltoids, once again resulting in a mild irradiation effect.
When used with a constant tempo and maintaining tension throughout the full range of motion, beautiful things bubble to the surface of the swelling pool of lactic acid. Short pre-loaded barbells, or 3/4 length empty bars are recommended, as most people are not doing strict lateral raises with a 45lb olympic bar. Very few should, if quality muscle building contractions are what you’re after.
To set up, start with the barbell on the ground and place the working hand directly in the middle of the bar to distribute the weight evenly. Next, hold onto a power rack or cable stack with your free hand, while moving your feet toward the implement. Barbell in hand, “lean away” from the power rack so that your body is tilted to the side, supported by the non-working hand.
Now, perform a lateral raise as you would with a dumbbell, arm straight or slightly bent at the elbow. As with using a dumbbell, you still need to lead with the elbow and little finger.
This position slightly changes the line of pull on the deltoids and shifts the strength curve. With little option to cheat, you will be forced to use a reasonable load, sobbing as you put the 40lb bar away. Suck it up, and watch those shoulders grow.
Suggested Usage: Anywhere a normal lateral raise would be placed, these can be inserted. One ripple I’ve found is that the exercise is leaps and bounds more effective if a slight pump has already been established. Like most other movements, it just “feels” better, and burns so good. Going any lower than 8 reps, form tends to be compromised due to there only being a single joint in play. Stick between 8 and 20 reps as a guideline.
8) Meadows 6 Ways
A combination movement I picked up from John Meadows, 6 Ways are yet another sick brainchild of the feared Mountain Dog. Seriously, this guy conjures up some sickening protocols, potent enough to make Arnold himself check his shorts.
Skin curdling. Smile cracking.
Luckily, this particular exercise is mild in comparison to most of Meadow’s methods. In fact, they are so simple, I pushed them to the sidelines for too long. Until I finally tried them.
About to pack up my kit and call it another good day, for some reason the exercise popped into my head at the end of a workout. By this point, all of my main shoulder exercises had been pounded, and my delts were twinging. Curious, I picked up a pair of 10′s and bolted my ass to the bench.
Since I was feeling the effects of the prior 60 minutes, I figured 10lbs was a conservative assessment. Yeah, right.
10 reps in, I was fried and dropped down to the 7.5′s to finish the set of 15. Many ego’s at this point would be in shambles. Instead, mine was slightly inflated by the glorious effectiveness of something so simple. 3 sets was all she wrote, dragging my arms as I hit the streets.
The lesson comes back once again to how irrelevant weight often is in the game of hypertrophy. At the end of a training session, a relatively light weight my feel as though it’s a 6RM. The high threshold motor units are fried, and deep cellular tears are woven throughout. Capitalizing on this by flushing the body of it’s final reserves in a controlled, injury-free manor can push you over the edge.
This is excellent.
Sitting on a flat bench, abs locked down, shoulders pinned back, hold a pair of dumbbells at your side. Squeeze, and complete a seated lateral raise. While in the contracted position, move the dumbbells to the front of your body while keeping the hands pronated. Raise your arms straight above your head and squeeze the shoulders as you do-so. Reverse these actions in a smooth tempo until your hands are back at your sides.
That’s one rep.
Suggested Usage: Just as I described. With the shoulders on the brink of annihilation, finish them with 6 Ways to earn your “s’medium” t-shirts. Conversely, these are a fantastic warm-up. 10-20 controlled reps
9)Far-Away, Wide Grip Upright Row
Here we have one of the most controversial shoulder exercises in the fitness industry. Demonized and pinned as the sole reason for impingement injuries, or praised as a foundational tool in the construction of a sexy frame.
I fall squarely in the middle, letting pragmatism determine the verdict. Most good coaches do this, and shrug off the dogma they are inundated with on the daily.
Through a combination of self-experimentation, client programming, and listening to those holding authority in the subject, Iv’e come to love the upright row, when performed in the fashion I am about to describe.
Brad Schoenfeld of workout911.com had an article published in the New York Times on this very subject. Put simply, it is rare that there is a “bad” exercise. Instead, improper technique or implementation of a given movement is where issues arise.
Traditionally, the hands are placed in the center of the barbell, lifting the bar as high as possible in front of the face, with the elbows travelling high. This is what I call “asking for trouble”, or “looking like a moron”. With the shoulder joint contorted at throughout the range of motion, it’s no wonder the Upright Row has such a bad wrap. Add to this the tendancies brought on by a lack of testosterone (obscene poundages and hoisting), and you’ve created a monster.
All is not lost, however. By simply moving the hands to shoulder width, restricting the range of motion and peppering in some Vince Gironda pixie dust, the muscle building gods will smile upon you once again.
Hands shoulder width, or just outside, begin with the barbell resting on your thighs. Leading with the elbows, let your hands act as hooks as you raise the bar to the lower sternum, making sure the upper arms never go above parallel to the shoulder.
The twist lies in how the bar tracks in it’s trajectory. At all times, the bar should be pressed about 12 inches away from the body to place more tension on the deltoids. This takes some practice. Stick with it and find your rhythm.
Suggested Usage: An excellent tool to use in superset fashion with any pressing variation, or on it’s own near the mid-point of a shoulder workout. Repetitions may vary widely, as more weight can be used than in a lateral raise. However, the limiting factor here is in the activation of the traps. The instinct to shrug the shoulders while moving the bar can override the effectiveness of the exercise. Fight this urge by limiting your poundages to what you can actually handle.
10)Meadows Partial Dumbbell Swings
We come to the end of this series. The polite thing to do would be to give you a soothing goodbye, free of pain and suffering.
Find another blog.
This is the type of pain that roots itself deep within, and twists like a hot blade. What else would you expect from John Meadows?. Wunderbar.
When it’s done, you cannot help but smile at the accomplishment. Or maybe that’s just me. Regardless, the Meadows Dumbbell Swing is a bitch of an exercise that packs an incredible punch toward boosting shoulder development. For those (everyone) in need of some posterior delt thrashing, this is your remedy.
The swing is somewhat common now, and I see coaches like Phil Learney in the UK implementing them into shoulder programs. For me, the experiment started 8 months ago when I decided to make shoulders my “favourite” body part to train. This was a result of having abysmal development, and an understanding of their importance when crafting an imposing physique.
For women, variations of the swing have found their way into my programming in an effort to exaggerate the small waist we are looking to highlight. Invariably, the mixture of high repetitions and constant tension produce fantastic results – quickly. As a side benefit, the increase in mental toughness has shone through in otherwise timid trainees.
With your chest supported on a 45 degree incline bench, grasp a set of dumbbells to hang in the starting position of a Rear Delt Raise. The dumbbells need to be heavier than what you can complete a full-range repetition with, as we are looking for an overload within a partial range of motion. The bottom 3/5.
In a rhythmic fashion, swing the dumbbells up as far as possible while squeezing your rear delts. Bring them back to the starting position beneath your face to lightly “bounce” the dumbbells off of each other, going directly into another repetition. Zero resting at the bottom.
Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm.
Seems straight forward, and it is. Now do this for 60 reps.
I just smiled. Seriously, do it for 60 reps at least once, see god, say hello for me, then come back down to earth. After, rest 60 seconds and repeat with half the weight for 30 repetitions. Drop the set once more with 20 reps and take a breather.
This is just one example of a set/repetition protocol. Ive used 8×20, 4×60,30,20,10, 3×30 and many other variants. The governing factor here is high repetition counts done with a constant tempo to maintain tension. This is extremely painful, and will change the way you think about training your delta.
To finish off the medial heads of the shoulder, perform the swings standing with your head cocked back to take the traps out of the movement. The dumbbells come directly to the sides, coming up 3/5 of the way. As you come to the end of the set the range of motion is drastically reduced to minor pulses. Keep going. Push through and use straps if needed.
Suggested Usage: As with the vast majority of the exercises we’ve covered, this is an excellent tool at the beginning or end of a session. If used at the beginning, I’d go easy on the intensity and treat it as a warm-up while getting an incredible pump to get ready for the rest of the session. As a finisher, things get a little crazy. This is where drop-sets, forced reps, shed tears and smiles come out to play. Maintain the theme of high repetitions and constant tension and you’ll reap the rewards.
Hopefully, over the last two posts you’ve got some gears turning on how to tweak your deltoid decimation efforts. Sticking to the tried and true basics will always form the backbone of an effective program. However, throwing in a curve ball and strategically inserting exercises can mean the difference between who is dominant in the room you stand in.
Full and complete shoulder development is rare, and will never really reach a satisfying level. Even among the professional competitors, satisfaction is never truly achieved. This would mean stagnation, complacency, and a willingness to let their competition move ahead.
Instead, once a specific goal is reached and dominated, another follows immediately. This ensures perpetual progression and an undying hunger to better themselves.
Like anything else in the physique game, this is a quest, not a sprint. Apply this to every aspect of your life to see progressions on every level.
The most important thing is that you kick ass every day you have in the gym. No questions. That being said:
1)What are your personal favorite delt training variations? (Don’t have to be listed above).
2)What is YOUR favorite body part to train, and why? With enough discussion (20+ comments), I’ll write up a special post on specialization, or training a specific area of the body.
Let’s get commenting, liking and sharing!
P.S.—-Don’t forget to sign up for my Newsletter below, with some new stuff coming your way, and a “goodie box” of training tools to launch in the new year.