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Raise, Press, Repeat: Stan McQuay's Dumbbell Shoulder Workout

Grab some heavy weights and slap around the anterior, lateral, and medial heads of your shoulders like the Three Stooges. Your ticket to width is just 12 sets and two dumbbells away.

Bodybuilding has plenty of stars. It has even more personal trainers. But only a select few of the sport's elite can say they are personal trainers to the stars. Stan McQuay is one of these.

Over the 16 years since he started competitive bodybuilding, McQuay has had the special privilege of tasting success personally and watching his clients do the same. He won the Light Heavyweight title at the NPC nationals in 2006 among a handful of victories, but he's also trained with elite baseball and football players, current UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, and stars like 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, and Gerard Butler.

"The Man" knows how to build bodies that can carry a heavy load and look the part. Luckily, you don't have to have your own Wikipedia page to benefit from his expertise. He's been one of the sport's great ambassadors since his earliest competitions, not least because he credits bodybuilding with saving his life when he was a skinny young man.

Stan McQuay Talks About His Introduction to Bodybuilding

Watch The Video - 02:12




Raise, Then Press ///

Over the last decade, McQuay has slowly added meat to his frame, allowing him to step up from middleweight bodybuilding to light heavyweight, culminating in a seventh-place finish at the 212 Mr. Olympia in 2011. However, his calling card onstage has always been symmetry more than mass, and McQuay's boulder shoulders are crucial to the V-taper he presents on contest day.

McQuay never lets his shoulder routine get stagnant, and he always strives to shock his muscles and central nervous system. He says everything is fair game, including "routines, rep ranges, exercises, rest periods, cadences, and pace. My body never has time to adjust and get used to any style of training." However, a couple characteristics in his shoulder routine never change.

"I will always begin my shoulder routines with isolated movements first," McQuay says. "And depending on how my shoulders are shaping, I will usually begin with the weak parts of my shoulders first, usually with dumbbell lateral raises or even dumbbell rear lateral raises. After my isolated movements are all performed and I have a lot of blood in my shoulders, I'll move on to either dumbbell presses or military presses—some sort of heavy overhead press."

As a longtime martial artist, McQuay knows that focusing on his weak points first is the key to overcoming them. However, his program is also structured this way for safety. By pre-exhausting the muscles with isolation moves, he is forced to use a lighter weight for the heavier overhead presses. This allows him to concentrate on form and mind-muscle connection while decreasing the risk of injury.

McQuay's tool of choice to roast his shoulders piece-by-piece is the dumbbell. While there's definitely something impressive about a man who can hoist a heavy barbell overhead, dumbbells offer a distinct advantage when it comes to the shoulders—greater control. They help you isolate the individual heads and carry out your front, lateral, and rear delt attack plan as strategically as possible.

Dumbbell Deltoid Demolition Workout


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Bodybuilding is the reason I am who I am today. I am more confident in myself, actually looking for the next challenge, and inspiring others.

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steelchic

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steelchic

Yay!! Thank you for this. "focusing on his weak points first is the key to overcoming them" I like that.

Jul 5, 2013 6:19pm | report
jwethall

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jwethall

This appears to be terribly oversimplified, but these are probably the most effective moves for building big round delts (and traps with shrugs).

Jul 5, 2013 6:31pm | report
Dbiondi12

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Dbiondi12

Agreed, but if you had to pick just four moves, these would be it!

Jul 5, 2013 7:30pm | report
jwethall

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jwethall

Oh no I totally agree. That's why I said it 'appears' to be. I really only do dumbell presses, lateral raises, and rear raises for delts myself. To add variety I'll switch out one exercise for cables occasionally, but these 4 movements are staples in my routine and have been for years.

Jul 5, 2013 9:18pm | report
solarphoenix

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solarphoenix

iT TAKES AT TIMES THE MOST SIMPLEST EXCERCISES TO OBTAIN GREATER RESULTS.

Jul 8, 2013 10:52am | report
mmccollam14

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mmccollam14

ya big secret...

Jul 5, 2013 10:40pm | report
michaelirish

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michaelirish

Basic shoulder workout. Intensity would greatly help, and possibly tempo as well. Overall, I agree you guys.

Jul 5, 2013 10:44pm | report
patricktydean24

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patricktydean24

ummm..this looks like something a beginning bodybuilder would do..basics are good, but **** throw some intensity in there

Jul 6, 2013 2:13pm | report
fitalb87

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fitalb87

This is a typical example of the pre-exhaustion method wich is utilized by more advanced lifter .... A beginner wouldn't last long with this kind of workout ... The guy knows what his talking bout mate

Jul 13, 2013 3:53pm | report
joeharman

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joeharman

Intensity has nothing to do with the type of work out you are doing, no matter how basic it appears. Intensity can (and should) be applied to any and all workouts. "Intensity builds Immensity!"

Jul 18, 2013 10:45am | report
Robertsy69a

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Robertsy69a

Nice i'll try these the next workout i do.

Article Rated:
Jul 7, 2013 5:49am | report
chris91roberts

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chris91roberts

Awesome insight! I usually start with military press. I will definitely give this workout a shot.
Thanks!

Jul 7, 2013 9:02am | report
chris91roberts

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chris91roberts

Awesome insight! I usually start with military press. I will definitely give this workout a shot.
Thanks!

Jul 7, 2013 9:02am | report
Mattyd007

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Mattyd007

Great advice and posative story.
Thanks Stan

Jul 7, 2013 5:47pm | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 12'10"
  • wt: 154.32 lbs
  • bf: 8.0%
jdmilhouse

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jdmilhouse

Great, positive story!

Jul 7, 2013 6:13pm | report
marcozappulla

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marcozappulla

YEP.. SHOULDERS ARE NEVER BIG ENOUGH!

Jul 8, 2013 2:14am | report
DaveTheron

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DaveTheron

Is it advisable to change it up with cable lateral flies and bent over rear delts as a variation?

Jul 8, 2013 4:06am | report
new64chevy

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new64chevy

He knows his stuff. This matches my shoulder routine to the T.

Jul 8, 2013 7:55pm | report
asmith89

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asmith89

Stan is a freaking beast!

Jul 9, 2013 8:41am | report
darrenash

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darrenash

Nice to see a fairly limited shoulder workout. Usually, these workouts consist of a huge number of exercises and set. Strangely, this is an exact copy of my shoulder workout - although I sometimes switch the rear deltoid raises for wide grip upright rows.

Jul 11, 2013 3:00am | report
rmfitness

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rmfitness

Simple and Sweet, I like it....

Jul 17, 2013 6:42am | report
hickcomet

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hickcomet

good routine. simple and effective

Article Rated:
Jul 18, 2013 12:06pm | report
Train2smile

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Train2smile

CONGRATS Stan.

Eat Well, Train Hard & Smile
Just 2 ways:
Make excuses or Make progress.

Jul 29, 2013 2:40pm | report
Montycv3

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Montycv3

been doing his the wrong way round :S i thought heavy compound then break it down, will be trying this tonight :) including some front raises too

Aug 18, 2013 2:31am | report
Southxx87

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Southxx87

yea these are the basic mass builders, add some front raises or upright rows to add that definition

Aug 28, 2013 4:35pm | report
Showing 1 - 25 of 31 Comments

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