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Articles > Weight Training > Shoulder Workout for Delts and Traps
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Big shoulders signal a powerful physique, no matter how covered up with clothing they are. Whether he's wearing a sweatshirt, a dress shirt or even a tuxedo, a wide, round pair of delts instantly identify a man as rugged and masculine. Even more significant is their role in physique competition.

Stand at the back of the auditorium at the prejudging of any bodybuilding contest and take note of who stands out. The athletes who catch your eye are not the men and women with big arms and usually not the quad monsters either. It's the competitors with huge, spherical delts and a small waist who are the most visually impressive from a distance and who shine in the symmetry round. Take, for example, men like Paul Dillett, Flex Wheeler, and Ronie Coleman. Although they have very different physiques, they do have one thing in common, melon ball shoulders that seem impossibly wide.

Whether you're a competitive bodybuilder or you just want to look good, great shoulders are a vital element of your physique, and they can actually create the illusion of a smaller waist. Here's how to bring yours up to par.

The Exercises

This program covers the three-delt heads: front, side and rear as well as the trapezius.

Front heads
I don't recommend that you do any direct exercise for your front delts, and here's why. Put your right hand on your left front delt and go through the motions of a flat-bench and an incline press. It felt firm when you did the flat press and hard as a rock when you did the incline, right? Believe me, your front heads are getting thrashed on chest day. In fact, not only should you not work your front delts, but you should avoid training chest and shoulders within two days of each other.

Side heads
Presses - Although you probably thought the lateral raise was the best size builder for the side delts, the real king is the shoulder press. Many great shoulders of the past were built with nothing but presses. Work up to pressing 1 1/2 times your body-weight overhead for reps, and your shoulders will be massive boulders.


Start

Finish

There are so many varieties of this movement to choose from: pressing to the front or back; using a barbell, dumbbells or machines. To pack on the most mass possible, you want to stick with free weights. If you have a shoulder injury or are just starting out, though, machines are the wiser choice.

Whether you go with dumbbells or a barbell, you'll be able to press the most weight and, just as important, protect your lower back, by performing this exercise seated on a bench that has back support. Be sure to wear a sturdy lifting belt. Be aware that many trainees have suffered injuries by doing heavy barbell presses behind the neck, and presses to the front involve the front heads too much. You'll never go wrong with dumbbells, however.

Balance is critical, so perform your presses slowly and under control. Get a full range of motion by starting with the dumbbells just above your shoulders and your hands facing forward. Press the 'bells up and together so that they touch at the top of the rep. Make a concentrated effort to contract your delts, not just your triceps, at the top. If you perform them properly, shoulder presses will build all three delt heads as no other exercise can.

Lateral raises - This exercise builds that rounded, capped look that all the top bodybuilders exhibit. Whether you're using dumbbells or cables, be sure to make your side heads do all the work. Many people like to heave and jerk up heavy weights, but their shoulders never grow. A good guideline is to take two seconds to raise the dumbbells, contract briefly at the top and take four seconds to lower.

While many articles advise you to turn your hand as if you were pouring water, with your pinkies higher than your thumbs, I find this totally unproductive. A slight bend in the elbows takes the traps out of the movement. For variety you can perform your laterals one arm at a time, with either a dumbbell or pulley, while bracing your other hand on an upright piece of equipment. If you can't feel this exercise in your side head, drop the weight and slow down the movement.

Rear Heads
Bent-over laterals - Many people perform this movement sloppily, bending over and jerking their whole body to get those dumbbells up. For this reason good rear delts are almost as rare as good calves in most gyms.

The proper way to execute bent-over laterals is to bend your knees slightly, then bend your torso at the hip until it's almost parallel to the ground. (Don't forget to remove your lifting belt, or you'll find it very difficult to breathe.) With a slight bend in your elbows and your palms facing the floor, slowly bring the dumbbells up to where your hands are just higher than your shoulder joints. In this case it's beneficial to do the pouring water trick described above.

Make sure you feel this exercise in your rear delts, not your back. In addition to dumbbells, you can use machines for either type of lateral, which gives you the advantage of continuous resistance.

Upright rows - This is the perfect exercise to superset with bent-over laterals. After you tire out your rear delts with the laterals, the upright rows will bring in your biceps and traps to hammer those rear heads to hell.

Trapezius
Shrugs
- No great pair of delts is complete without a set of thick, earscraping traps that bulge out of a boat-neck sweatshirt like split footballs. Fortunately, it's easy to develop this bodypart with properly performed shrugs. You can use dumbbells, a barbell, a Hammer machine or a Smith machine for this movement. Whatever equipment you chose, start at the point where the weight tugs on your traps for a full stretch, then pull the weight up using pure trap power. Keep your arms straight and make sure your shoulder joints clear your collarbone as you get to the top of the movement. Then squeeze your traps for a full second before lowering the weight.

Many trainees like to slap five plates on both sides of the bar and do something that resembles a nervous twitch rather than an exercise. If you want great traps, use a weight that you can control and get nice and sore from the next day.

Beginning Delt Devastator    
Exercise
Sets
Reps
Presses
2
8-12
Upright rows
2
8-12
Shrugs
2
8-12
 
Intermediate Shoulder Shocker
Exercise
Sets
Reps
Lateral raises
3
8-10
Presses
3
6-8
Bent-over laterals
3
10-15
Shrugs
3
8-10
 
Advanced DeIt Attack
Exercise
Sets
Reps
Presses
3
5-8
Lateral raises
3
8-10
Machine presses
1
10-15
Bent-over laterals
3
10-15
Shrugs
3
8-12

Tips for Building Devastating Delts

1) Preexhaust your target musdes - Pioneered by Arthur Jones, this technique involves hitting a body-part muscle with an isolation exercise, then immediately moving to a compound-joint movement to drive the muscle further into the ground. Lateral raises followed by presses will do the trick for the side delts, while bent-over laterals followed by upright rows will pulverize your rear delts.

2) Use good form - The shoulder joint is a very delicate structure and fairly easy to injure when you start slacking off and exercising with poor form. Not only will tight, controlled, slow performance prevent injuries but it will deliver better results all around.

3) Don't overtrain - Anytime you train chest or back, your shoulders are involved to a substantial degree. Consequently, you should never train shoulders more than once a week. Anyone who works delts on the day before or after he or she trains chest is almost guaranteed to overtrain.

4) Stick with moderate weights - This goes along with using good form. You should always try to lift the most weight you can but only as long as you can maintain tight form. A couple of cheat reps at the end of the occasional set are fine, but using your whole body to swing up 75-pound-dumbbell laterals won't do much for your side delts.

5) Use drop sets - Lateral raises were tailor-made for this technique. If your side-delt heads haven't been sore for a while, try a breakdown set of, say, 50-, 40-, 30- and 20-pound dumbbells. Assuming you use proper form, your side delts should be blazing after that effort. Then, if you're really feeling masochistic, jump under a Hammer or Smith machine and drive up some searing presses. Just one weight reduction on the presses, and your delts are done.

If your shoulders aren't as melonlike as you want them to be, give these techniques a try. Here are routines that incorporate the above exercises and methods for beginning, intermediate and advanced trainees.

 

Related Articles
Preventing Shoulder Injuries
Shoulders, Shoulders, and More Shoulder
Simple Yet Effective Shoulder Routine

 


 


 
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