(Not Quite) Barn-Door Delts

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As much as we may covet the idea of building “barn-door shoulders,” in reality, such an accomplishment would be inconvenient. Imagine always having to remember to turn sideways to walk through the typical doorway. You’d constantly be knocking things off shelves as you clumsily made your way around the house. Your wardrobe? All sleeveless T’s. (Well, some of you would be fine with that last part, I’m sure.)

So perhaps barn-door-wide delts aren’t quite the “ideal” goal. Instead, let’s take a surer, saner aim — how about shoulders with development among all three heads of the muscle? Shoulders that display proportional aesthetics, perfectly topping a classic V-shape silhouette, with impressive size and striations to boot. 

This workout will help you accomplish just that. Designed with balance and intensity in mind, it can be done on its own or paired with triceps or biceps once every five to seven days in a split. It begins where all great delt routines should, with presses, then moves on to the raises, targeting each head, starting with the oft-neglected rear delts first. It ends with a burnout that might just leave you unable to slip any shirt, sleeved or otherwise, over your head for the next day or so.

For the first exercise, the standing barbell shoulder press, you’ll start with a light warm-up of 20 reps, then pyramid up from there for sets of 15, 10, eight and finally five reps. Be sure on that last set that five is all you can get before your delts give way — do them in a power rack for an easy out in case of failure.

You’ll follow up with a seated dumbbell shoulder press, keeping your palms facing one another throughout the set for a slightly different feel than the barbell palms-forward position. Again, aim for exhaustion by that last set of five.

The next two moves are a superset rear-delt combo, starting with the lateral raise and finishing on a pec-deck with a reverse-flye setting. This is done purposefully because the machine is more forgiving as your rear delts tire, helping you maintain good form without a lot of momentum and bouncing. Don’t rest at all between the exercises and only minimally between supersets, about 30 seconds max.

From there, it’s a tri-set of dumbbell laterals, one-arm front raises and upright rows — again, the order has intent, focusing on the side heads before the anterior heads (which get lots of attention already during presses) and finishing with a “pump” set of rows you should strive for failure on.

The final stop? A seated machine press, during which you’ll do one long drop set, working your way down the stack until 20 pounds feels like 100 to your trembling shoulders. With that, make your way out the (perfectly normal-size) door. It’s time to grow.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Standing Barbell Shoulder Press

5

20, 15, 10, 5

Seated Neutral-Grip Dumbbell
Shoulder Press

4

10, 8, 6, 5

Bent-Over Lateral Raise
superset with
Reverse Pac-Dec Flye

3 3

12, 10, 8 12, 10, 8

Lateral Raise
tri-set with
One-Arm Dumbbell Front Raise
tri-set with
Dumbbell Upright Row
Seated Machine Press (drop set) 

3 3 3
1

12, 10, 8 12, 10, 8 12, 10, 8
to failure

*Start with a weight with which you can only get five to six reps, then keep dropping as you fail until you get down to 20 to 30 pounds.