By Ken "Skip" Hill
Deltoids are probably the one muscle group that you simply cannot over-develop. You will likely never hear a judge or anyone else tell you that your delts are too big. At the same time, almost every one of us wants our shoulders to be wider and more muscular, never really being completely satisfied with the size and roundness of our delts no matter how big they might already be.
I myself have struggled with a shoulder structure that is so narrow that I have said in the past that even Barbie has a wider shoulder structure than I do. (I’m talking of course about the doll not the stripper that you think will pay attention to you if you keep tipping her enough.) I have battled for years to widen my shoulder complex and thicken the entire deltoid area. The traditional exercises have done little to add size and thickness and it has only been in the last few years that I have made bigger and better strides in my shoulder development. How? Read on, young grasshopper…
One of the most important things I have changed making sure that the shoulder complex is not over-trained. Most bodybuilders and trainers these days over-train the shoulder complex doing too many overall sets for chest and back and then add even more work on shoulder day which inevitably not only slows growth but usually puts them in a vulnerable position for injury as well. So, first things first, do not over-train the shoulder complex.
For exercise selection, I recommend getting away from the typical exercises that most of you have been doing for years with less than impressive results and instead doing some exercises that your deltoids aren’t used to. I have three exercises that I recommend you give a try for at least six weeks and if your shoulders don’t grow, you can come back and tell me I’m nuts.
Dumbbell Power Clean and Press
This exercise is best done at the end of your shoulder workout after the shoulder complex, and your back, is fully warmed up and can better handle the more explosive movement. Dumbbells are used because the deltoids have to control and balance the dumbbells using more of the shoulder complex’s secondary muscles, resulting in more overall development. You will feel the side and rear delts getting hammered during the clean portion of the movement and, of course, the front delts during the press portion of the movement. The rear delts will get a lot of work not only during the clean portion but also during the press because they are used to control the balance of the dumbbells.
Dumbbell Partial-Repetition Side Laterals
I get all sorts of people asking me about this exercise in the gym because of the limited range of motion. For this exercise you do a traditional side lateral (both arms at the same time) but you use much heavier dumbbells that will allow you a short range of motion in which your are only able to lift the dumbbells about a quarter to a third of the normal range. Usually, I frown upon exercises that utilize a shorter range of motion but for this exercise you get a stimulus that the side deltoid is not accustomed to due to the much heavier weight. The side delt has to work incredibly hard to move that heavier weight, even though it is only a limited range of motion. Before you knock it, try it. This one single exercise has added more to my side delts than any other exercise I have used in YEARS. This is another exercise that is best done at the end of a shoulder workout.
This exercise is actually a combo of two exercises. Yeah, I’m cheating but it’s my article and I am listing it because this combo works incredibly well.
The superset starts with regular, traditional, side laterals and ends with a push press on the smith machine. Why the smith machine? So that you don’t have to balance the bar when your shoulders are shot from the side laterals. This allows you to focus less on balance and more on just pushing the weight and frying the deltoid complex. You should be sucking air by the time your superset ends. This one is not pleasant.
Repetition ranges should vary and constantly change to keep the body off balance. One week you might do high reps in the area of 15-20. The following week you might start the first set in the area of 12-15 and keep the weight the same for three or four sets, allowing the reps to get progressively lower after each set. Repetition ranges, in my opinion, are over-rated. Specific rep ranges don’t directly cause growth; effort, work and intensity cause growth.
What is the bottom line when it comes to shoulder growth? Change your exercises to new movements your body is not accustomed to; work your ass off at max intensity; get out of the gym and grow by eating correctly and getting enough rest. If you think training your deltoids the way you are training them right now, is going to all of a sudden produce growth, you are wasting your time. Give these three exercises a shot and your deltoids will start growing again.
Ken "Skip" Hill has spent 30 years in the trenches of bodybuilding. He owns TEAM SKIP Nutritional Consulting, where he specializes in conditioning for bodybuilders and high-level athletes. You can reach Skip through his website, TEAMSKIP.net and follow him on Twitter (@IntenseMuscle).