[Q] Joel, what’s your favorite type of pressing movement for shoulders and why?
[A] My favorite is the dumbbell press, but as you probably already know, there are a lot of options to choose from. I’d recommend that beginners use the Smith machine and work on form and proper technique, getting a feel for the exercise. This apparatus allows you to perform the movement within a set range of motion, which is important for such a delicate joint as the shoulder. Once you master that aspect, you can then venture out to the other free-weight exercises. With dumbbells I can get a deeper range of motion and also isolate each shoulder so as to eliminate strength imbalances and aesthetic weaknesses.
[Q] Do you keep chest and shoulders far apart in your split to reduce wear and tear on your joints?
[A] Some people like to train chest and shoulders on the same day. Not me. I think that’s a bad idea if you expect to fully develop either. Plus training both on the same day can place undue wear and tear on your shoulder joints. I keep the shoulders and chest three days apart to maximize rest and recovery and to minimize joint fatigue.
[Q] How many isolation movements are good to include in your delt workout? Do you really need one for each individual head?
[A] You’ll hear talk in the gym that shoulder presses are sufficient to build good shoulders; however, I do five movements for my delts – a press, a shrug (for the upper traps) and a single-joint straight-arm raise for each delt head. In the offseason I also add an upright row so I have an additional compound movement. This recipe guarantees you’ll get a complete shoulder workout and feel blood pumping around the entire shoulder-muscle group. Total development requires a total routine.
[Q] What’s the best rep range for adding size to your delts? Do you ever use heavy weight for very low reps as you would on a heavy chest day?
[A] I increase weight from set to set but still keep my rep max at 10. If I can’t get 10, it’s too heavy. On very rare occasions, when I get up around the 130-150-pound dumbbells, I might find myself fading off to 6-8 reps but if that happens, I adjust the weight for the next set. I can’t tell you never to go heavy because that may be what your shoulders need to respond positively. When you do go heavier, though, make sure you’re properly warmed up and have a spotter nearby. On most other exercises for shoulders I just use moderate weights and stay around 15 reps. This approach provides a great, growth-inducing pump!
Joel’s Offseason Delt Routine
Overhead Dumbbell Press 5 sets x 10* reps
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 4 sets x 15 reps
Dumbbell Front Raise 4 sets x 15 reps
Bent-Over Lateral Raise 4 sets x 15 reps
Upright Row 3 sets x 10 reps
Barbell Shrug 3 sets x 10 reps
*Doesn’t include 1-2 warm-up sets, not taken to failure.
Before jumping into his shoulder workout, Joel does five minutes of light cardio to increase his body temperature and blood flow. Then he performs a few minutes of arm circles, using five-pound dumbbells. He starts with small circles and works his way up to larger ones, backward and forward.