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.
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.