TOPIC: What Is The Best Deltoid Workout?

The Question:

Have you been meaning to wear that sleeveless shirt, but haven't got the muscle for it yet? You need a good deltoid workout. Nothing looks cooler than 3D delts!

What is the best deltoid workout? Be descriptive (sets, reps, etc).

How long should an effective deltoid workout be?

Should they be trained with any other muscle groups in particular?

Bonus Question: What workout program can you do to increase strength and size of the deltoids if they are easily injured or damaged?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

1. DSM18 View Profile

2. ho124 View Profile

3. mivi320 View Profile

3. MattyG View Profile 

1st Place - DSM18

Have you been meaning to wear that sleeveless shirt, but haven't got the muscle for it yet? You need a good deltoid workout. Nothing looks cooler than 3D delts!

In this article, I will go over several different approaches you can take to deltoid training, and answer some commonly asked questions about delt training such as how long workouts should be, and what sets/reps are best. Read on and move yourself one step closer to those futuristic, 3-D delts you've always dreamed of.

What is the best deltoid workout? Be descriptive (sets, reps, etc).

I will outline several different approaches to training delts, and the one which got me the best results personally. I think it's important to firstly remember that everyone responds to resistance training differently, and training delts is no exception, therefore I've included several programs for different needs.

Low-Medium Volume Approach

Here is the program that really reconstructed my delts. It's a low-medium volume approach that hits all heads of the delts hard, and one I manipulate to this current day. It brought my delts from 2-D to 3-D and really broadened my shoulders, giving me a wider appearance.

Sets: 10

Time: 45-50 mins.

Level: Advanced.

Goal: Mass and sculpting.

Split: Delts given their own day.

  • Seated Dumbbell Press: 2 sets, 6-8 reps
  • Seated Lateral raises: 2 sets, 6-8 reps
  • Face Pulls: 2 sets, 6-8 reps
  • Behind-the-neck barbell press: 2 set, 6-8 reps
  • Bent-over laterals: 1 set, 6-8 reps
  • Cable side laterals: 1 set, 8-10 reps

The above workout has a moderate amount of sets. I find this amount of sets is ideal. It allows me enough time for a good 1-2 minute break between sets without worrying about over-lengthening overall training time. I can get through the workout hard and heavy without worrying about loosing intensity either.

Because delts aren't a big muscle, it's important your routine doesn't fatigue you before you're finished. I believe this program finds the solution to preventing fatigue build-up during training.

Total volume is moderate so it won't burn your delts out and you are only doing 1-2 sets per exercise which means there is enough variety to prevent fatiguing from the same movement.

Exercises are also carefully ordered. Each exercise is followed by a different movement that targets a different deltoid head than the previous exercise.

Reps in this workout are in the 6-8 range. This allows you to go heavy and maximize hormonal response. And there is nothing better for the ego than this style of training. Doing only 1 to 2 sets per exercise at this rep range gives me the feeling I'm doing maxes.

Low Volume Approach

This is a low-volume deltoid workout that be added into any low-volume routine. It really emphasizes the intensity-approach to training. It's low in sets and reps and focuses on heavy free weight exercises. Hormonal response from this kind of approach will be maximal.

Sets: 6

Time: 35-40 mins.

Level: Intermediate-Advanced. G

oal: Mass.

Split: Delts/traps.

  • Seated military press: 2 sets, 4-6 reps
  • Dumbbell Side Laterals: 2 sets, 4-6 reps
  • Bent-Over lateral raises: 2 sets, 4-6 reps

If I was only allowed to use free weights for one muscle group I would choose delts. From my own experience, my delts have blown up from doing free weight exercises such as overhead dumbbell press and heavy side lateral raises. This program brings your delt training back to basics with the core free weight movements. I highly recommend it.

High Volume Approach

Sets in this workout are higher than the above workouts. Some people look for workouts that can give a good pump, and respond to this style of training quite nicely. Reps are also slightly higher, but still in the hypertrophy range.

Sets: 14

Time: 60-75 mins.

Level: Advanced.

Goal: Mass and pump.

Split: Delts given their own day.

  • Seated dumbbell press: 4 sets, 8-10 reps
  • Seated lateral raises: 4 sets, 8-10 reps
  • Upright rows: 2 sets, 8-10 reps
  • Smith-machine Overhead press: 2 sets, 8-10 reps
  • Face Pulls: 2 sets, 8-10 reps

The exercises have been ordered in a way that avoids fatigue which can be a problem with using a higher volume.

Hard-Gainer's Routine

For a lot of us, delts are especially hard to develop. What annoys us even more is that they are probably one of the most important body-parts. People absolutely hate the look of having limp and bony shoulders. So, are you one of those people who don't seem to respond to any sort of delt training?

If so, I recommend giving this twice-a-week program a try. It emphasizes on using variations of compound movements that allow you to lift as much as you can. I can't stress the importance of going heavy enough, especially for delts.

Sets: 7

Time: 35-40 mins, twice weekly.

Level: Intermediate.

Goal: Mass.

Split: Delts/traps/abs.

  • Standing Military press: 4 sets, 4-6 reps
  • Standing 20-degree Side Lateral Raises: 3 sets, 4-6 reps

Total sets here are quite low to allow the trainer enough rest to hit the weights with maximum effort. Reps are within the 4-6 range, which together with low volume, create a powerful hormonal response that will kick-start muscle growth.

Military press is a great compound that hits both the front and mid delts at once. Lateral raises are to be performed with a slight lean forward, with your hands facing forward, rather than to the sides. Performing raises like this has two benefits:

  1. It turns the exercise into a compound movement which allows you to lift more weight.

  2. It also recruits the posterior fibers of the delts. Not many other delt workouts can hit all 3 heads equally with just 2 exercises.

If you're finding it hard to add mass onto your shoulders, you should prioritize your delt training. This program should be done before any other muscle group you train on that same day. Having two low volume workouts per week, rather than one moderate volume workout, means you can focus more on each workout and take long enough breaks for you to recover for your next set.

What set and rep range do delts respond best to? Be descriptive.

Delts are a smaller muscle group, so the amount of sets dedicated to delts needn't be excessive. It should be somewhere in between the amount of sets given to a bigger muscle group such as chest and back, and a smaller muscle group such as biceps or triceps.

Personally, I have responded best to a low-medium volume of 10 sets per workout. This isn't too many sets that it risks overtraining, but just enough to get through the workout without sacrificing weight or training intensity.

Another reason I recommend moderate volume is because it puts you under the right training conditions that allow you to have the intensity in order to lift heavy. As well as this, it is very recovery-friendly. Keep in mind that the delts are a small muscle group that fatigues quickly. Very few people will be able to get through a 20 set delt workout without overtraining.

I would recommend between 5-8 reps per set when training delts. This will ensure your going heavy and really stimulating those delt heads with max. force. Isolation exercises such as front raises are an exception where I would recommend up to 10 reps.

How long should an effective deltoid workout be?

I would recommend training them for around 20-35 minutes. This timing allows you to really stimulate each head of the delts without the risk of overtraining. Fatigue kicks in pretty quick when you're training delts, so your training productivity after this 20-35 minute mark will become counter-productive.

You will find the delts get very tired and sore, and maintaining the same level of intensity as you did earlier on in your workout will be very difficult.

Training within the 20-35 minute range allows you to hit each head within a time frame that is conductive to training at your maximum intensity. A little over 35 minutes is OK, but try not to over-do it, particularly if your training delts with another muscle group.

If the time you take to train delts is excessive, it will take too long to get through two muscles in the one workout, and your overall workout time will be too long. This means results will hamper and the cycle of overtraining will begin.

Should they be trained with any other muscle groups in particular?

I like to train delts either on their own, or with additional trap and ab work. I think delts really deserve the attention of training them on their own. This way you can better establish a muscle-mind connection. When you activate the CNS like this, your brain is sent all sorts of signals and your chances of growing as so much higher.

The human central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. These lie in the midline of the body and are protected by the skull and vertebrae respectively.

This collection of billions of neurons is arguably the most complex object known.

The central nervous system along with the peripheral nervous system comprise a primary division of controls that command all physical activities of a human.

Neurons of the central nervous system affect consciousness and mental activity while spinal extensions of central nervous system neuron pathways affect skeletal muscles and organs in the body.

If delts aren't trained alone, they are most likely going to be trained after another bigger muscle group such as back or chest. This means all of your energy is going to be exerted into your first muscle group and it won't leave much left for delts.

A lot of people complain that they're delts are responding, but a lot of the time the reason is because they aren't giving their delts the intensity and attention they need to be given in order to grow.

Training delts on their own day is ideal; intensity will be at its highest, which means you will be able to lift more poundage. Your delts will be fresher and you will be able to attack them with everything you got.

Training delts like this leaves you with a couple of extra sets, and that's where training your traps can polish the workout off. Traps shouldn't require a lot of volume, and shrug variations aren't highly physically demanding, so it should fit in nicely after delts.

Alternatively, delts can be trained with quads and calves. This option is also good; your delts haven't been fatigued from other exercises like they would be if you trained them after an upper, rather than lower, body part.

Training Splits

The nature of a lot of splits can make it difficult to give delts the attention they need. Having a day training just delts may be hard to fit into your split, considering there are other important muscle groups such as back, chest and legs that also require their own day.

If you're stuck with a having to train delts with another muscle, try and prioritize your delt training to the start of the workout. If you feel the other muscle group your training is equally important, it's an idea to switch between training delts or your other muscle group first.

For example, if you happened to train delts with back, then one week you could train back first, then the following week train delts before back.

Here Are Three Splits That Are Deltoid-Friendly

Option 1: 3-Day Split:

  • Monday: Delts/Back (Alternating between which you perform first weekly)
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: Chest/Biceps/Triceps
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Legs/Traps/Abs
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

Option 2: 4-Day Split:

  • Monday: Back/Triceps
  • Tuesday: Delts/Traps
  • Wednesday: off
  • Thursday: Chest/biceps
  • Friday: Legs/abs
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

Option 3: 5-Day Split:

  • Monday: Delts/Traps
  • Tuesday: Back/Abs
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Chest
  • Friday: Biceps/Triceps/Forearms
  • Saturday: off
  • Sunday: off

What workout program can you do to increase strength and size of the deltoids if they are easily injured or damaged?

If you have just sustained a deltoid injury, my advice would be too have it examined, and take a break from training to allow for recovery. But sometimes people have a permanent niggling injury that is always there, and probably always will be.

You don't want to give up deltoid training entirely, so what options do you have? Firstly, search for alternatives for the weight you will have to sacrifice. These include longer time-under tension, using longer negatives, using super-strict form or establishing a muscle-mind connection.

Using these methods will make up for any loss of poundage. You won't believe how effective these techniques are for adding muscle too. You will be really stimulating the muscles so much more, and hitting a bigger percentage of the target muscle, as opposed to surrounding muscles.

You also won't believe how difficult it can be to actually lift using moderate weight when you are training with strict form and really feeling your muscles working. Training like this, workouts can be just as intense, if not more intense, than if you happened to use more weight.

Here Are A Few Other Tips For Those With Niggling Delt-Injuries:

  • Create a program based on deltoid isolation exercises such as dumbbell front raises and lateral raises, and cable lateral raises. These generally allow you to train to failure using a lighter weight, meaning you are hitting your muscles to the extent of causing tissue damage and re-growth with a weight that won't further aggravate your injury.
  • Use higher reps. This doesn't mean grabbling a pair of 2lb. dumbbells. A lot of people are used to treating higher reps as just warm-ups, but you can still train to failure using higher reps.
  • Avoid upright rows and behind the neck presses. These both put your joints in un-natural positions, and cause shoulder and rotator cuff injuries.
  • Don't forget delts are also trained during both back and chest movements. It's an idea to monitor the amount of heavy pressing you are doing.

Sample Training Program:

  • Shoulder-width Grip Smith Machine presses: 2 sets, 12 reps.
  • One-arm Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 2 sets, 12-15 reps
  • Cable Seated Rear Lateral Raise: 2 sets, 12-15 reps
  • One-arm Dumbbell Front Raises: 2 sets, 12-15 reps
  • Incline One-Arm Lateral Raises: 2 sets, 12-15 reps

In the absence of heavy weight, the focus of this routine is on concentrating and really feeling your muscles working. Really try and establish that muscle-mind connection. Using one-arm on raise-variations will help you in doing this.

The cable rear lateral raises should be performed under control and slowly and the smith machine presses will encourage you to not cheat on form.

If you believe you can handle some compound movements, add them into you workout slowly, maybe adding one set each week. This way your body progressively gets used to the increase in weight. And don't forget to stretch.

A well-developed deltoid muscle is truly an amazing visual. Full, round delts make you appear bigger and broader, and will give you a look of self-assurance and respect. Apply whatever advice you found useful in the article, and start sculpting deltoids so good, that even Kevin Levrone will be asking you for some delt training-tips.

2nd Place - ho_124

First of all, I want to say one very important thing. There is no "Best" deltoid workout for every person. That's not to say there aren't any exercises that are clearly better than others, but I'm just saying that you have to come up with what you think is the best deltoid program for yourself.

Like I usually say, if there ever was a best deltoid program for anyone it would be posted everywhere and everyone would just do that workout, but seeing as how everyone is different, I can only suggest some good exercises for your deltoids.

The best deltoid exercise is one that you like and one that gave you good gains on your deltoids both in size and strength or whatever your goal is. That's why copying a workout in a magazine that promises massive gains might not work for you, because the exercises in there you might not work and therefore won't perform well.

Or your body just might not respond well to certain exercises which is why it is so important for you to make your own deltoid program because you're the best judge on which exercise work for you.

One other quick thing I want to say about deltoids for the beginners is that it is divided into three parts which have to all be worked for your deltoids to develop properly. They are basically the front, side and back heads, the fancy names are anterior, lateral and posterior.

Also I would like to recommend you to watch this great two part video by Milos. This video helped and inspired me to get larger delts, especially rear delts which are usually the underdeveloped head of the shoulder. Here is a like to his video or you can find it at The Fit Show.

What is the best deltoid workout? Be descriptive (sets, reps, etc).

Again I want to stress that there is no best or perfect deltoid program for everyone. Here I'm just going to suggest a deltoid program that I think is well rounded but it's going to be you who has to tweak it so it suits you the best. I also want to list a few techniques that you can use to help build your deltoids effectively.

You can use some of these techniques to make your own program, and if you want the best results you should highly consider using these techniques. Remember to warm-up your rotator cuffs before performing your exercises!

1. Drop Sets

To do drop sets let's use an example. Let's say that your target rep range is 12 for a certain deltoid exercise. To perform drop sets you pick a weight that you cannot complete twelve times. So once you do this you start your set and once you can't do anymore reps you drop the current weight and pick a lower weight.

So if you stopped at 6 because you couldn't do anymore you pick a lower weight and immediately start doing more reps to reach 12. So, if you do four more reps then drop the weight again and keep doing that until you get to your target rep range.

However you should only lower the weight for a maximum of 3-4 times. The basic concept is that you are stressing your muscles more than if you just used a lower weight for twelve reps, therefore your muscles will grow back bigger and stronger.

2. Burns

This is another easy technique to perform and is quite simple. Basically once you are done with your set you pick a much lower weight and do as many faster reps as possible until you can hardly do another rep.

So if you were using 40 pounds on shoulder press, after the set you would pick say 15 pounds and do as many fast reps as possible to further fatigue your muscle. Like drop sets, the concept is to further fatigue your muscle so it grows bigger and stronger.

3. Rest Pause Training

This is another kind of technique that is also very good at increasing strength and mass. To do rest pause training you start with a target rep range. If you were doing an exercise and you wanted to do 10 reps, you would pick a weight that you could not normally perform that many reps with.

After you do this and start your reps and you stop at 6 reps, you would drop the weight and rest for about 5-10 seconds. Then you would pick up the weight and keep going until you got to your target rep range. Like drop sets you should only do about 3-4 rest pauses in your set.

Like the rest of the techniques it stresses your muscles more so when it recovers it is stronger and bigger. One note is that you can combine rest pause training with drop sets to fatigue your deltoids even further. However use this sparingly because you might overtrain if you're not careful, especially if you're just starting.

  • I tend to like drop sets better than rest pause because it puts constant stress on my muscles which isn't true for rest pause training.

4. Super Sets and Tri-Sets

Some people like to do supersets for different heads of the deltoid. To do this you would pick one head of the deltoid, do an exercise for that head and immediately do an exercise for another head of the deltoid. A lot of people have said that they have had fantastic gains by supersetting with shoulders.

Apart from great gains, the only other advantage of this is saving time and constantly keeping your shoulders warm.

Deltoid Program

So now that you have seen a list of good techniques to put into your program I will show you a program that I feel is well rounded. I also want to say that I see a lot of programs that are overkill for your deltoids (doing something like five or six exercises for two, three, even four reps each).

You don't need to do that many exercises for your deltoids or you will just train them so hard that they won't recover and grow. Also for muscular growth the rep range is anywhere from 6-12 reps. It differs for everyone so you're the person who will have to choose which they like best. Six reps is leaning more towards strength and twelve reps is leaning more towards endurance but not quite.

Rear delt raises from low pulley: (see Milos video part two) 3 sets 8-12 reps, start with weaker arm first.

  • This is a great exercise which works all three heads of the shoulder but especially the rear delts.
  • I chose this exercise first because almost all bodybuilders have underdeveloped rear delts.

Upright rows: 3 sets 6-12 reps

  • Use rest pause technique (rest for 5-10 seconds and try to squeeze in two more reps).
  • This exercise requires a lot of weight and will put lots of mass on your side delts.
  • Different grips can be used (narrow, regular and wide)

Arnold shoulder press: 4 sets x 6-12 reps

  • Drop set on the last two sets (you don't have to if you don't feel comfortable, drop setting is just something extra to fatigue your muscle more).
  • Only lower the weight a maximum of 3-4 times. Also on the second set, go very slowly on the concentric (up) movement.
  • The reason why there are four sets is because this is a very good compound exercise that has been tried and proven to add mass to your deltoids. You also want to do 4 or 5 sets depending on how much time you have. It focuses more on your anterior deltoids (Front head) but it also uses some of the lateral head.
  • Note a lot of people like to go 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps and 6 reps for this exercise; it may be something you might want to try.
  • If this puts too much stress on your shoulders, try shoulder press only going down to a 90 degree angle.

Perform Tri-sets for the following exercises: (dumbbells can also be replaced by cables)

Bent-over dumbbell lateral raises: 3 sets x 6-12 reps

  • This is a simple exercise which is just one variation of this kind of exercise. If you're worrying about how your posterior shoulders won't develop as well because your doing less sets don't worry, your posterior deltoids are worked in with other muscles like when performing back exercises.

Lateral raises: 3 sets x 6-12 reps

  • For this exercise you want to grip the dumbbells and point your thumbs down so that they are pointing diagonally to the floor but not so that it is uncomfortable. The reason for this is because if you use the grip that most people use which is thumbs pointing horizontal it uses some of the anterior deltoid, but right now you want to concentrate on the lateral deltoid.

Front plate raises: 3 sets x 6-12 reps

  • Try this exercise standing behind a wall to prevent you from cheating.

Rotator cuff exercise, External rotator on bench: 3 sets x 8-12 reps

  • You should highly think about adding a rotator cuff exercise if you have time to do it. You might even be able to super set it with another part of the shoulder because this exercise really isn't for size of the shoulder but for strengthening it. By doing this you will help prevent against shoulder injury since the rotator cuff is the most easily torn muscle in the shoulder. A lot of people do not do any rotator cuff exercises and as a result run the risk of injuring it in other activities.
  • One last thing about the rotator cuff exercise is that you don't want to go all out so you're struggling on the last rep, or at least that's how I do it. I mainly use this to strengthen my rotator cuff to prevent injury, so I don't need tons of weight. Plus it won't add much if any size to your shoulders.

How Long Should An Effective Deltoid Workout Be?

An effective deltoid workout should be anywhere from twenty five to forty five minutes. The reason being is that you want to leave time to train other body parts. Like most people I'm assuming that they don't leave each body part to be trained separately because most people don't have time to do that.

You don't want to spend a full hour training your deltoids or else you run the risk of overtraining them and doing pointless extra reps that won't make your deltoids grow any faster. If you find that you're taking a little too long to complete a deltoid workout then maybe you are taking too long of a rest between sets.

You should take about 30 seconds to 1 minute of rest which is actually how long you should take if you want your muscles to grow. This rest time actually helps in hypertrophy, which is building muscle. If you need more rest the max amount of time you should take is 1 minute and thirty seconds.

Should they be trained with any other muscle groups in particular?

Most people (myself included) like training their deltoids with the traps. However there isn't a rule saying that if you don't train them with your traps then you're making a big mistake. If you don't like training them with your traps then you can train them with something else if it works for you.

One reason I like training traps with deltoids is because the exercises for deltoids don't take up one hour which is how long I usually work out for. Usually I have about 20 minutes left so I stick in traps with my deltoids which takes about 20 minutes to do because there are I only do two exercises for them.

Another reason is because the posterior deltoid is involved in the trap exercises like shrugs. Since many programs emphasize more of the anterior and lateral deltoids, sticking in traps with the deltoids acts like more exercises to work the posterior deltoid so that it too is given a good workout, which is true for my program.

This ensures that the whole deltoid will develop properly. It also gives the posterior head more of a workload so therefore it becomes more fatigued and will result in more strength and size.

If you think about it; if I had four exercises for chest and I did two on one day and two days later I did the other two exercises, would my chest grow that much or become stronger? It wouldn't be as effective if I just stacked the four exercises on one day to give my chest a better workout.

If you like training traps with your back, another good way is to train shoulders with abs and or forearms.

Bonus Question

  • If your shoulders are injured easily you might want to stay away from shoulder press with dumbbells, barbells and the smith machine because those are the exercises that have a higher risk of injuring your shoulders rather than raises.

    One risk of doing presses is that if you're letting the weight fall on your sides because your arms fail like a lot of people do, it puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders and they could tear.

    Think about it, if you held your arm straight up and I tied a 40 pound dumbbell to your hand and I just let your hand fall, your arm would come crashing down tearing your shoulder in the process.

  • Use a spotter if you still decide to use presses. So if you feel your shoulder hurting or if your arms are about to fail on you and bring your arms down and tear your muscle, then you can get your spotter to take off the weight for you.

  • If you still want to do shoulder press then, like bench press, make sure your elbows do not dip below your shoulders or it will put a lot of pressure on your shoulders.

  • Another great pressing movement for shoulders that are injured easily is the Arnold press. Since your elbows are more in line with your shoulders putting less pressure on your deltoids.

  • Also like I said above, if your shoulders are injured easily you might want to try doing a rotator cuff exercise which is mainly for strengthening it. If your rotator cuff is stronger, it will be able to take a bigger workload without being damaged as easily.

  • You might also not want to use the techniques I listed above such as drop sets and rest pause training if your shoulders are injured easily. The obvious reason is that you will be using very heavy weight because that's the point of drop sets and rest pause training, to fatigue your muscles even further. So therefore it's not a good idea to use them because I can guarantee if your shoulders are injured easily and you use these techniques, they will get injured again.

  • If you're planning to do presses, don't use a machine because with a machine, you have to lower it back down and if you can't support it anymore, its gonna come crashing down putting a lot of pressure on your shoulders (you can't just let go of the handles unlike dumbbells).

    Use dumbbells so if your arms are about to fail you can just drop them on the floor. Also don't use a barbell because you can't drop it like dumbbells, if you want to use barbells use a smith machine because you can just put it on the hinges if you can't support the weight anymore.

  • Lastly I would increase the rep range from 8-12 reps because if you're planning to use weight for 6 reps, it might put too much pressure on your shoulders.

    Also if you just came out of an injury, your shoulders will be weak because when your muscle recovers it has a lot of scar tissue which is weak and not very flexible. Therefore you might want to use lighter weight until you feel comfortable with increasing the poundage.

    Here's a program that will help you build your shoulders if they are injured easily. This is a very safe program with minimal risk to injury (Note: resistance bands can also be used).

  • *Anterior deltoid

    Front plate raise: 3 Sets x 8-12 reps

    • Lateral deltoid

      Lateral Raise: 3 Sets x 8-12 reps Remember keep your thumbs pointing down

    • Posterior deltoid

      Lying rear deltoid raise: 3 Sets x 8-12 reps Or, Wide-grip seated rows toward upper chest: 3 Sets x 8-12 reps

    • Rotator cuff exercise (Injury prevention exercise)

      External rotation on bench: 3 sets x 15+ reps Since this is for injury prevention, you don't want to go all out on this exercise or else you will probably just end up injuring yourself.

Here are some exercises which strengthen your rotator cuffs:

3rd Place - mivi320

Having wide, freakishly massive delts too cap off your shoulders can drastically alter the way your upper body appears. The most effective way to add some serious size to your deltoids is to overhead press some serious poundage.

Think about it. The heavier you can go on an overhead press, the bigger your delts will be! The combination of heavy overhead pressing with shaping deltoid exercises will shock your deltoids into some impressive growth!

The Heavy Duty Deltoid Workout

The Routine:

  • Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press: 4 sets of 4-8 reps
  • Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Bent-Over Lateral Raise: 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Standing Cable Lateral Raise: 4 sets of 8-12 reps

This is the best routine for bringing your deltoids up to par. The workout focuses on heavy overhead pressing, as the first movement is a seated dumbbell overhead press—which is by far one of the best deltoid movements.

The rep range on the overhead press is 4-8 reps, as more strength gains on these will translate into eventual size gains in the deltoid region. Remember to always lower the weight slowly then explode back to the top. If you cannot control the dumbbells on the way down (eccentric), opt for a lighter pair of dumbbells.

After completing 4 sets of heavy seated dumbbell overhead presses, move onto 4 sets of seated dumbbell lateral raises. Unlike the 4 sets of seated dumbbell overhead presses, the rep range for this exercise is 8-12 reps.

For getting striated deltoids, I firmly believe in higher reps for deltoid shaping movements - hence the 8-12 rep range selection subsequently following the 4 sets of heavy overhead pressing.

The deltoids respond very well to volumizing movements - especially when you squeeze out rep after rep, causing more blood to be transported to the muscle, which conclusively kick starts the growth process in the muscle.

After completion of 4 sets for seated dumbbell lateral raises, proceed to bent-over lateral raises - which target the rear delts. The rear delts are easily one of the most undertrained muscle group amongst bodybuilders. The rear delts really create a full, round, three-dimensional appearance of the shoulders, and therefore should not be neglected in your training!

The next and final exercise to complete the workout is standing cable lateral raises. This exercise is obviously done with cables, which keeps constant tension on the medial delts.

Heavy Duty Deltoid Training Tips:

  • Refrain from dropping the weight on the negative portion of the movement. Remember to always control the weight on the negative portion of the movement, as doing so will allow for optimal muscle growth.
  • Train at a moderate rep speed. Training at a moderate rep speed on your shoulder exercises will prevent the possibility of injuries. Most lifts use to fast of a rep speed when training shoulders, which is basically asking for an injury.
  • Rest periods in-between sets should be kept to 45-60 seconds between your shaping exercises (8-12 rep range exercises) and as much as time as you need between heavy seated dumbbell overhead presses. Doing so will preserve strength for your heavy sets.
  • Remember to pause at the peak of all isolation exercises (8-12 rep range exercises). Focusing on the contraction of the muscle will increase your mind to muscle connection, and ultimately allow for better deltoid growth!
  • Be sure you properly warm-up before starting your workout. All injuries are bad, but a shoulder injury is the absolute worst. If you injure your shoulder, you won't be able to train chest or any upper body parts for that matter.
  • Remember to stay hydrated during your workout and throughout the course of the day, as even the slightest bit of dehydration can alter your training performance drastically.

How long should an effective deltoid workout be?

The deltoids are a relatively small muscle group; therefore, they don't require as much time between sets as a larger muscle group such as the legs. Decreased time between sets will allow for a shorter workout. Generally, the workout routine suggested should take anywhere in the neighborhood of 30-45 minutes.

Training the deltoids any longer will most likely result in overtraining. Remember that your delts are being trained as a secondary muscle during chest and back exercises, so there's no reason to spend an hour or longer training them.

Besides, nobody wants to live in the gym.

Should they be trained with any other muscle groups in particular?

If your delts are not up to par with the rest of your body, then they should be assigned their very own day of training. The suggested workout above will shock your delts into dramatic strength and size gains if your delts are lacking.

As mentioned previously, the delts get hit pretty hard when training the chest and back muscles. Therefore, training your delts separately on their very own workout day will prevent overtraining, and guarantee amazing gains in muscle growth!

What workout program can you do to increase strength and size of the deltoids if they are easily injured or damaged?

If your deltoids are easily damaged or injured, then you should keep pressing movements to a minimum and focus on executing deltoid isolation exercises with lighter weight and higher reps.

The shoulders respond very well to higher reps as well, and using a lighter weight with excellent form will prevent any possibility of injury or damage. Strength and size gains can still be made with easily injured deltoids, no doubt about it.

Increasing your reps and decreasing your weight will allow for more recruitment in the deltoid area. When you reach 20, 30, 40 reps, they honestly all feel the same. The biggest drain in training this way is not physical, but rather all mental.

Heavy Duty Deltoid Workout For Easily Damaged or Injured Deltoids:

  • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 20-40 reps
  • Cable Seated Rear Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 20-40 reps
  • Front Cable Raise: 3 sets of 20-40 reps
  • Reverse Flyes: 3 sets of 20-40 reps

By focusing on higher reps and lighter weight, the likelihood of damaging easily injured shoulders is almost non existent!

3rd Place - MattyG

Strong, well developed deltoids capture the physique, giving that Greek mythical god like appearance.

There are many fancy exercises out there for deltoids; lying lateral raises, Arnold presses and upright rows to name a few—but nothing beats the good old fashioned movements to pack on the mass. These are the movements used in my routine.

The deltoid complex is made up of three heads—the front (anterior) head, the side (lateral/medial) head, and the rear (posterior) head.

Each exercise in the routine is geared towards stimulating a specific head—three heads = three exercises. Yes THREE EXERCISES—nothing more!

The Routine

  • Standing Barbell Military Press: 3x 6-10reps
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 3x 8-12 reps
  • Bent-over lateral dumbbell raise: 2x 8-12 reps

In general, work close to failure, sometimes to failure and sometimes one rep short. You don't want to blast yourself all the time, but you don't want to take it easy either. You need to work hard remember. One rep short is still painful. (Good pain, not OWW!!!)

Before doing this routine warm-up with some light cardio for 10 minutes, then do some arm circles, both arms at a time, forwards for 20 circles and backwards for 20. This will help loosen up the delts and the shoulder girdle itself, reducing risk of injury.

Standing Barbell Military Press:

This is the daddy of all shoulder exercises. After the above warm-up has been completed, perform two warm-up sets of 10 reps with a light weight—say half the working load. So if you press 50kg for your work sets, warm-up with 20-25kg. Don't go anywhere near failure.

This exercise works the front delt primarily, as well as some side delt and very little or no rear delt.


  1. Clean barbell to upper chest level (or set up from a power rack). Assume a grip of slightly wider than shoulder width—say 2 inches each side.
  2. Make a slight bend in legs, arch back slightly and pull abdominals in—making your core tight.
  3. Press bar up, in a controlled manner, no jerking of the legs or upper body, until arms are almost locked out above head. Look up at the bar as you press.
  4. Lower the bar smoothly and deliberately, but not too slowly. Feel the negative but don't take too long. Lower the bar to around chin level.
  5. As you begin to struggle with the exercise later in the set, focus on absolute core tightness. The lumbar region of the spine is at risk if you get loose and wiggle about, straining to complete a rep. It is advisable, though not imperative to wear a lifting belt for this exercise.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise:

After your military presses you shoulders will be nice and warm so just do a quick warm-up set to 'test the water' with half your working weight. This exercise works the side head primarily.

With dumbbell in each hand, assume the same posture as with the military press (arched back, tight abs, slight bend at the knees).


  1. Hold the dumbbells with palms pretty much facing, in front of you belly button, arms bent to about 130 degrees, not straight.
  2. Using a nice controlled and fluid motion, raise the bells to either side (simultaneously) until upper arms are just about parallel to the floor—no higher, maybe a little lower. At the top of the movement the hands should be palms facing floor, and the wrists should be in line with the elbows - not above or below.
  3. Lower back to starting point, feeling the negative, but not too slowly. Don't drop the weights down—feel it.
  4. Try not to swing the torso to lift the weights. You see many pros do this, and I'm not gonna argue with those guys, but if you need me to tell you how to do this exercise in the first place you're probably not at the sort of level of development to benefit from 'cheatin' type techniques'.

To work the rear deltoids. This movement is similar to the lateral raise.


  1. Bend over to the point that your torso is almost parallel to the floor, maybe 10 or 20 degrees up from parallel. Keep back arched.
  2. Pick up dumbbells (position them where you can get them once bent over) using same grip as for laterals.
  3. Raise the dumbbells out to your sides, with arms bent to about the same angle as before. Raise until upper arms are parallel to floor, wrists in line with elbows.
  4. Don't throw the weight up. If you need to do this the weight is too heavy. You only need a light weight for this.
  5. Lower back to starting position, controlled.

When in bent over position, I like to look forwards (basically up) which helps to keep me steady. A LITTLE body 'rocking' is acceptable, but not throwing the weights around (same applies for standing laterals).

Some people like to rest their forehead on a bench for stability. I don't. So long as you keep the core solid and back arched slightly, you should be fine.

After the work has been completed you need to stretch out the muscles.

Spend five minutes stretching—it will save you hours of pain. (Well it will reduce pain) Hold your stretches for 10-15 seconds each side; do each side 2 or 3 times.

A stretch I particularly like is to pull one arm across your body with your free arm pulling the stretching arm from behind the elbow. I'm not very good at describing stretches, so here are some links.

Length Of Routine

Taking one minute between sets, and up to 5 minutes between exercises, this routine should take 45 minutes give or take (including warm-up).

Actual hard work portion of the routine is only about half an hour at most. It depends on the intensity you're looking for. If you want to make it more intense, decrease the length of time between sets and exercises.

Train With Other Muscles?

You can train the deltoids with arms, legs, abdominals, back, or chest. Many people train with the chest because the deltoids are used in many chest pressing movements, so as to kill two birds with one stone, as it were.

I prefer not to do this, as you have already fatigued the delts, you can not attack the exercises with the same vigor.

With arms is a good approach, as the military press uses triceps as a SYNERGIST (HELPER), and neither delts nor arms need so much gut wrenchingly hard work as the other big areas such as legs and back.

In a well balanced split routine you can easily fit shoulders into their own day, but if you want to do them with another body part, go for arms.

Remember that many back exercises use rear delts (rows, pull-ups, etc.) and chest uses front and side delts so when constructing your split, allow time for recovery.


If your shoulders are easily damaged, I bet it's your rotator cuff that's to blame. If you're using excellent form for everything and allowing proper rest and recovery time and your shoulder's playing up, I would hedge a bet on the rotator cuff.

The rotator cuff is a complex of four small muscles—subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor. They act together to keep the humerus tightly housed inside the shoulder socket, and to avoid the damaging effect of bone grinding on bone.

You can train these muscles just like any other, and the extra strength will help avoid recurring injuries to the shoulder.

If your problem is not to do with the rotator cuff, but is actually an injury to the deltoid complex itself you must FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR'S ADVICE ONLY. Preferably a sports therapist who knows your history. I am not about to go about dishing advice on how to cure an injury, only how to better prepare yourself for prevention of injury.

Well, that just about wraps it up for this topic. I hope you found it helpful.

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Workout Of The Week

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