For those of you who relish lifting massive poundages, whether in an effort to feed your ego or in a fruitless attempt at impressing your fellow gym rats, this shoulder workout is your kryptonite. Because instead of setting the stage to help you hoist a superhuman amount of iron overhead, it will instead purposefully drain your strength before you perform the core power move for the deltoids: the seated press.
Why would we recommend such a diabolical twist? One, it provides a shock to the system if you’ve been doing the same shoulder workout for months or years and your progress has ground to a halt. And two, it’s a good lesson that while the amount of weight you lift is a key issue in bodybuilding, it is not the most important criteria for prompting growth — challenging your muscles beyond their current capabilities is much more vital for results.
In this routine, you’ll begin with three exercises that target each area of the delts, the middle, posterior (rear) and anterior (front), respectively. For each, start light and pyramid up set to set. Eleven sets in, you’ll finally get to seated presses. Because your strength will be compromised, we recommend doing them on a Smith machine, on which the safeties will come in handy because you’ll reach failure much more quickly than you’re used to. Start with the most weight you can handle for six reps — which clearly won’t be as much as you could do if presses were your first exercise — and pyramid down from set to set. You’ll finish this workout with upright rows, using the same pyramiding strategy.
Yes, your lifting totals will suffer. But your delts may look a lot better in a cape … or, better to avoid awkward stares at the dumbbell rack, a tank top.
Exercise: Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Reps: 20 (Light weight warm-up set), 15, 12, 10
Exercise: Bent-Over Dumbbell Raise
Reps: 15, 12, 12, 10
Exercise: Barbell Front Raise
Reps: 15, 12, 10
Exercise: Seated Smith-Machine Press
Reps: 6, 8, 10, 12
Exercise: EZ-Bar Upright Row
Reps: 8, 10, 12