Over 18 years ago when I started training, my deltoids were the most stubborn muscle group to respond and grow. I put a lot of focus into changing this though, and am proud of mass I’ve put on. Recently, at a large fitness expo I got to interact with thousands of people, many of which asked me about my shoulder training protocol. The struggles I’ve personally faced in my earlier years has equipped me with the knowledge to help you overcome your own. If you feel like your attempt at building big shoulders isn’t working, this article is for you. Apply these five training tips, work intensely, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for shoulder mass!
Before we get to my tips, a supplement suggestion to fuel your training session would be to drink PRE-KAGED before you hit the gym to help elevate the intensity. Every ingredient we’ve included is there to help improve mental focus, enhance energy, ward off fatigue, and heighten your performance. My favorite part of using PRE-KAGED is the sick pump I get! With that pumping through your system, you’re ready to get to work!
1-Do More Volume
Volume training is where I’m most at home, with lactic acid pooling in my muscles, and my clothes dripping with sweat. There is nothing quite like volume training to ignite the growth factor within the delts. The fibers which surround the shoulder joint thrive on endurance work, which is why I keep pushing them with more reps and sets until they finally admit defeat. High volume training for shoulders was my route to success primarily using my DTP philosophy.
The muscle fibre types found in the delts are more respondent to volume because they’re predominately “slow twitch.” This means they fire slowly but can go for a long time before fatiguing. Make the most of this fibre type with plenty of volume, pushing as much blood into the muscle and bringing it to exhaustion, especially if you’ve usually relied on short, heavy sets. 2-Superset New Angles
Supersets are the perfect way to inflict more punishment and volume on the shoulders in a short period of time, leaving no excuse even when working on a tight schedule. Shoulder training is all about angles and the options are almost endless. The main premise of this tip is to use two different angles for the same portion of the deltoids to break it down progressively.
An example of a superset I like to use for the anterior deltoids pairs a standing shoulder press on the squat machine with a lying cable front raise. Both exercises will work the anterior delts, but from very different angles. You’ll pre-exhaust them with the shoulder press, where you can go heavier, and then isolate them with the laying front raise. Laying on the ground eliminates any momentum, forcing all the work into the shoulder – you won’t be able to go as heavy with this one, so focus on higher reps here. It’s a delt killer! Get creative with angles for the best results on shoulder day.
3-Swap Dumbbells For Plates
One of my most infamous shoulder workouts was built around the theory of swapping dumbbells for weight plates. When I perform side raises with plates rather than dumbbells there is a noticeable difference in the tension I’m able to achieve. Not only is there more tension, it also scorches my medial deltoids deeper within the belly of the muscle.
The perfect exercises to utilize this technique are isolation “raise” variants rather than general pressing. Front, side, and even rear raises are all options.
4-Leave Low Reps Behind
Low reps will always be a part of building muscle, but to make the deltoids blow up, there needs to be more work done with higher rep ranges. Using my DTP principle I will venture all the way up to 50 repetitions in an effort to totally annihilate the slow twitch fibers. Not only does this work because of the extra volume I’ve already alluded to in this article, but the sheer intensity of DTP also forces growth due to the trauma it creates.An example of using DTP for shoulders is as follows:
Exercise – Seated Machine Shoulder Press (descending rep ranges)
- Set 1 – 50 reps
- Set 2 – 40 reps
- Set 3 – 30 reps
- Set 4 – 20 reps
- Set 5 – 10 reps
Exercise – Plate Side Raises (ascending rep ranges)
- Set 6 – 10 reps
- Set 7 – 20 reps
- Set 8 – 30 reps
- Set 9 – 40 reps
- Set 10 – 50 reps
5-Optimized Range of Motion
When utilizing presses for hypertrophy I will usually shorten my range of motion at both ends to keep the deltoids burning. At the point of lockout, my triceps become the main recipient of tension, and beyond a certain depth I experience shoulder pain. Between these two points is where I like to keep the focus, crushing the fibers with every rep knowing that the tension is key to tearing the muscle apart for future growth.
Shoulder training comes with its own set of rules – learning and then applying them is the route to success. Never become complacent with intensity either, this is a constant feature in my shoulder workouts. When a muscle becomes more resistant to growth is a signal that there needs to be more punishment inflicted. The body can withstand more than you believe, the trick is convincing your mind of that.