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A Back-to-Basics Routine with a Twist for Huge Delts

Goal: Size, Strength, Detail
Bodyparts: Deltoids

Many mistakenly think that wearing a sleeveless shirt with pride is all about having a great set of arms. But the reality is that the visual impact of big bi's and tri's is diminished if you have a deflated set of deltoids. Without a good top-down aesthetic, you may as well pick up some long-sleeve tees and sweat through the summer heat. You can, however, correct your shoulder woes by simply rededicating yourself to the basics -- heavy, compound movements in traditional rep-ranges followed by some more advanced, head-specific work. Try the following routine from Matt Choate, NASM-CPT, a Long Beach (Calif.) based trainer.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

3 sets x 10-12 reps
"I like to start out a shoulder routine with a heavy, basic, mass-building move, while I'm fresh and strong," says Choate. "Dumbbell shoulder presses target all three heads of your deltoids but it also engages your upper traps, rotator cuff and serratus anterior to assist and stabilize in the movement."

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

3 sets x 10-12 reps
"Your shoulders should be nicely warmed-up now," says Choate. "The next area of focus is the middle deltoids, and I like to do this with lateral raises. To create broad shoulders, you need to increase their width. Lateral raises selectively target this area of your shoulders." Choate adds that this routine is kept early in the routine because he wants to be able to handle the most weight possible for the given rep range.

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Scaption Shrug

3 sets x 10-12 reps
Next up, Choate recommends this less conventional exercise, done with slightly less weight. "The scapation shrug engages the front deltoids, rotator cuff, and serratus anterior. Then your upper traps are engaged when you perform the shrug part of the exercise. I always like to include an exercise that is going to be challenging and engages as many muscles groups as possible." Try performing this exercise a few times without weight to become comfortable with the proper range of motion. To execute this move, hold a pair of dumbbells at the front of your thighs, raise your arms at a 30-degree angle to your body (so that they form a "Y") until they're at shoulder level. Then shrug your shoulders upward. Lower and repeat for reps.
Dumbbell front raise + Dumbbell Shrug

3 sets x 10-12
Choate recommends finishing your shoulder day off with a superset to promote blood volume to the area. The front raise, which targets the anterior deltoid, is done late in the routine simply because your front delts are typically the strongest of your three heads. This is followed by a shrug to finish off the upper traps, which were worked on the last exercise.

TRAINER TIP: For each exercise, select a weight that induces muscle failure at the rep range listed. Failure is defined as the point at which you can no longer complete reps with good form. Some body English to get through a few forced reps is acceptable for more advanced lifters.

Matt Choate, NASM-CPT, is a Long Beach (Calif.) based personal trainer.