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Shoulders: Creating Your Own Workout Program

By Frank Gigante

Boulders. Cannonballs. Mountain caps….all of these terms conjure up images of large, wide,full delts usually capping off a great physique. Well developed shoulders can really accentuate and finish off a physique and provide some great aesthetics in many ways. Building and sculpting those shoulders takes time and a variety of angles and exercises.

The shoulder muscles themselves are not large muscles and the joint can be delicate. The shoulder muscles themselves get hit indirectly in many exercises such as any form of bench pressing, as many back movements. When training people or writing training programs for people I usually am aware of how much indirect stress the shoulders will receive in these other moments when determining how best to directly target them within a given workout program.

The deltoid is comprised of three smaller muscles, or heads: the anterior or front head, the lateral head and the posterior head or rear head. It doesn’t take a ton of weight to target and work each head, but it does take a strategic plan to ensure the fullest development of each head of the deltoid. When creating a workout plan it is wise to include exercises for each of the heads of the deltoids, but also take into consideration in what other workouts or other exercises certain heads may be getting worked as well.

There are a few shoulder exercises which are great for building mass to the shoulders.

One of these should be included in a workout program followed by a few select isolation exercises.

Shoulder presses: These are often used as the main mass movers of many shoulder programs. Shoulder presses can be done in a variety of ways. For these you may use barbells, dumbbells, a smith machine, and even cable machines.

Arnold presses: A great variation on a standard dumbbell shoulder press but a great addition to a mass building routine.

Let’s take a look at some exercises for each of the three heads so that we can create a few options to choose from in order to develop rounded, sculpted shoulders that stand out from all angles.

Front Deltoid:

These are often indirectly hit through any type of bench pressing movement, so keep that in mind when developing a shoulder workout. Front Dumbbell Raises – These can be done with dumbbells as well as bands or cables. These are a great isolation movement for the front head of the shoulders. Weight is not the focus with this exercise, but a controlled motion throughout the movement will bring the greatest results.

Side Deltoid:

The primary function of the lateral head of the deltoid is to move the arms outward and away from the body. Target the side head through isolation exercises which won’t require a lot of weight, but again controlled full range movements to really stimulate the muscle. -Dumbbell side laterals

-Cable side laterals (single arm or both sides worked together)

-Incline side laterals (done on an incline bench)

Rear deltoid:

The rear deltoid is a small muscle which gets worked in many back movements such as rows, pull ups, chins, and pull downs.

The focus of these isolation exercises again is to focus on contracting just the rear delt, and you may find that the weight used on these exercises is even less than that used in targeting the other heads of the deltoid.

-Rear laterals

-Reverse pec deck/flyes

-Bent over rear laterals/reverse flyes

When creating your own shoulder routine start by considering how involved the shoulders may be in other workouts of the training program. Next, start by choosing a mass builder to work the overall shoulder. Then, add in specific isolation movements to target the various heads. Keep in mind, you may not need or want to target all of the heads in every program, but maybe just one or two in a program. In following programs you could then switch the emphasis to a different head of the deltoid.

Remember to use strict form and a full range of motion to get the most out of each exercise and really target the muscles.


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