Superheroes, actors, bodybuilders—everyone who embodies power and strength has big, powerful delts. These figures look more muscular and dominating because their arms and torsos are capped with round, full shoulders. Their physiques stand a head and, well, shoulder above the rest.
Memorable physiques are made through hard work and attention to smaller muscle groups. If you want the shoulders of a beast, you must live and train like one. Here's how to make those boulder-shoulder dreams your new reality.
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These are named after some dude who was a bodybuilder and then did some movies—and if you don't know who I'm talking about, we have an issue. Muscular, well-balanced shoulders are what made Arnold famous in the first place, which is why this all-over shoulder builder is named for him.
This classic exercise is a beast of a shoulder builder because it requires strength to handle each dumbbell and coordination as you rotate at the shoulder to press the weight up. Arnold presses primarily work the front delt, but all three heads of the shoulder get involved. Stay focused and controlled throughout the movement.
Incline Front Raise
Front raises isolate the anterior head of the deltoid, and performing them on an incline reinforces that isolation since your back is pressed against the bench. This is also a great trick if you tend to swing to bring the weight up, since the bench forces you to stay still and lift from the shoulders. You might have to drop the weight a little bit at first to relearn the movement without momentum, but what you'll gain in shoulder growth will be totally worth it.
For each front raise, keep your shoulders down away from your ears and your back neutral as you bring the weights up and together in front of you. Slowly lower the weights to your sides, taking all momentum out of the movement by pausing at the top and the bottom. Repeat for 8 total reps.
Single-Arm Lateral Raise
Lateral raises work the lateral head of the deltoid, but if serious muscle growth is what you're after, focus on one side at a time. Isolation exercises help you develop better balance and symmetry, improving your overall look and performance.
Many lifters swing a little when doing both arms at the same time. Beasts don't let weight control them, so take control of that weight!
Hang on to something strong like a rack or machine and lean away from it, holding the dumbbell in your opposite hand. This angle will further emphasize the lateral head of the shoulder. Pause at the top of each rep before lowering the weight. Don't let the dumbbell rest against you when you lower down—pause and hang at the bottom, then start the next rep.
Cable Seated Lateral Raise
You've done rear-delt raises with dumbbells, but if you've never done them with cables, you are in for a treat. Cables allow you to keep tension on the muscle at all times, and increased time under tension means better growth and development.
Using cables can also help minimize the risk of injury by keeping you in a stable line of motion. Sit on a bench and bend at the hips until your ribs rest on your thighs. Grasp each handle with the opposite hand so the cables cross when your arms are fully extended. Perform each rep, holding it at the top for a count of three, and lower it under control to the starting position. Make sure your rear delts carry the load—momentum will not build shoulders.
Giant Set: Car Driver, Lateral Raise Hold, and Face Pull
This giant set will blast all three heads of your deltoids while keeping transitions to a minimum.
Bring a plate and a pair of light dumbbells with you, and set up next to a high pulley cable with a rope attachment.
Start by performing a single front raise with the plate, then immediately do a car driver at the top before lowering the weight. This is one rep and will light your front delts on fire. Do as many reps as you can for 15 seconds.
Next, pick up your dumbbells and hold them at the top of a lateral raise position for 15 seconds, hitting the middle of your shoulder with an isometric hold. If you can't keep the weights extended for the whole interval, reduce your weight.
Finally, grab your rope and do as many face pulls as you can with good form for another 15 seconds, pulling high with the elbows and focusing all your energy on the rear delts. Counting transitions, this giant set should take you around 1 minute. Complete 3 full rounds of these and you're done!