Many bodybuilders have great physiques. A lot of them are huge, however—so huge, people often say, "They don't need to get any bigger." Even so, the deltoids are one muscle group that everyone could use a little more of.
A wide shoulder structure is the first thing that identifies you as a bodybuilder. Having big shoulders makes your waist look smaller, makes your lats look bigger and makes your upper body as a whole look better.
Unfortunately, the deltoids can be quite stubborn. A few genetically blessed people have wide shoulders with naturally round deltoids, but the majority of us have to bust our @sses to get bigger shoulders. When I first got serious about bodybuilding, I already had a good base. I had a big chest and big arms; however, my body looked much like a ruler. I had no delts; that is, they didn't stand out at all from my arms.
I knew that if I wanted to have any hope of making it in the sport, I would have to drastically widen my shoulders. I tried many different routines and half-@ssed my way around the gym doing it. In the end it took me doing quite a bit of research and experimentation to find a program that worked.
Dissecting The Delts
Let's get down to the nitty-gritty science behind the shoulders. The deltoid complex is unique, as it can move in almost any direction. As a result, many different exercises can be used to stimulate the muscle fibers in many ways. The deltoid is composed of three heads: the anterior, or front, delt; the posterior, or rear, delt; and the medial, or middle, delt.
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To stimulate muscle fiber and maximize growth, you must do exercises for each head. I am a firm believer in isolating each delt head with a specific exercise in order to maximize growth; however, it's also key to include a good compound movement for building overall size and strength.
In terms of compound movements for the shoulders, I believe that dumbbells are far superior to barbells. When you use a barbell, your hands are locked into one position, which hinders your range of motion. Not only does it place more stress on your joints, but, in my opinion, it also takes away fiber stimulation because of the limited range. Don't take my word for it, though. Try doing a shoulder workout with barbell presses and one with dumbbell presses. I guarantee that you'll feel a difference in fiber stimulation.
Here are the two shoulder routines I use. Note that I do warm-up sets for all exercises and that I do all the work sets listed to failure.
- Seated dumbbell presses 2 x 6-12
- Arnold presses 2 x 6-12
- Dumbbell bent-over lateral raises 2 x 6-12
- Braced one-arm lateral raises 2 x 6-12
Workout 2 (Preexhaustion):
- Cable lateral raises 2 x 6-12
- Seated dumbbell presses 2 x 6-12
- Upright rows 2 x 6-12
- Cable bent-over lateral raises 2 x 6-12
I alternate these workouts every four weeks and work all exercises through a full range of motion. I believe that the number of muscle fibers you can stimulate is directly proportional to how far you can stretch and how well you can contract a muscle. (Why do you think calves and forearms are problem bodyparts for so many people? They have limited ranges of motion.)
For example, on seated dumbbell presses you should lower the dumbbells until they touch the tops of your shoulders and then press them overhead, moving up and together until they touch at the top, and on lateral raises you should raise the dumbbells as high as the top of your head and slowly lower them back down to the sides of your thighs.
Editor's note: Layne Norton has a B.S. in biochemistry and is a Ph.D. candidate in nutritional science. He's a professional drug-free competitive bodybuilder in the IFPA and NGA. His Web site is www.BioLayne.com. For more of his articles visit www.Bodybuilding.com. IM
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