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The Expert's Guide to Devastating Delts

Looking to Build Massive Cannonball Delts?
Go Beyond Your Old-School Shoulder Raises!

Round, capped shoulders send a message—this human is strong. But a lot of folks dreaming of defined delts chase big shoulders down a rabbit hole of silly, unproductive exercises. The unfortunate result is lackluster progress.

Devastating delts aren’t a complicated accomplishment. They, like most things in life, require simple hard work. Here’s how to build them.

Forget the Raises

Every lifter loves a good shoulder raise, but we fail to ask ourselves an important question. Is this the most productive exercise for my shoulders? The answer, more likely than not, is no.

Remember, training is nothing more than planned stress. Your body responds and adapts accordingly. What, then, is the best way to create deltoid stress that promotes strength and growth? Loading them with heavy weight.

Heavy presses, pulls and carries stress the delts into growth. The body says, ‘what are you doing, man? That’s a lot of weight.’ In response it builds strength via the nervous system and accrues muscle throughout the deltoids. We’ll get to how to accomplish this stress in just a bit.

Raises, besides their less-than-worthy results, aren’t great for shoulder health, at least if you load them heavily enough to make a difference. So if you have to load them to the point that they wreak havoc on your shoulder knots, why use them at all? (Answer that question quietly to yourself, especially if you’re in public. No one wants to sit at the same table as the crazy guy.)

Pressing Heavy for Shoulder Growth

The anterior and lateral deltoids flex and abduct the shoulder. (That’s a simplified action definition, but it works for our purpose.) Pressing is the culmination of both actions—that’s why it’s so productive for shoulder growth. Barbell variations offer the most load, but are potentially the most detrimental to shoulder health. Kettlebells are my favorite pressing implement. They’re easy on the shoulders but are great delt builders. They allow the shoulder to move through a natural path that recruits a ton of deltoid muscle.

Dumbbells are also a great pressing option. Like kettlebells, they’re easier on the shoulders than barbells. They’re downside is they don’t load the delts through the huge range of motion that kettlebells do. However, each variation is deadly and should exist in your delt training program.

Pulling into Big Shoulders

Finishing your shoulder cap requires rounding out the rear. Heavy pulling’s serious shoulder extension builds the rear delt and pops your shoulders through your shirt. But vertical pulling—like pull-ups and pull-downs—aren’t the best choice. In this instance we’re talking heavy rowing variations. The frontrunners are the bent barbell row and single arm dumbbell row. Each smashes the rear delts and is done with heavy weight.

Carrying the Delts Forth

While most utilize loaded carries to build traps and grip strength, the time-under-tension also puts a beneficial strain on the delts. And, what’s more, there are several great loaded carry variations.

Farmer’s walks, and their unilateral brother, suitcase carries, are done by walking with weight clenched strongly at your sides. Waiter’s walks are done by holding a weight with the upper-arm parallel to the ground and the elbow bent to ninety degrees. Overhead walks are self-explanatory—hold a weight overhead and take a walk. These, however, are best done unilaterally.

Set and Rep Schemes

Pressing, depending on the implement, is done in the three to eight rep range. Barbell pressing is most impactful in the three to five rep range, but kettlebells and dumbbells require a few more reps per set—mainly for safety. It’s difficult to load tremendously heavy bells into the rack position. For these variations stay in the five to eight rep range.

Rowing follows pressing’s lead. Barbell variations are loaded with more iron than dumbbell variations. In fact, you’d do well to follow exactly the pressing parameters from above.

Carries are best done for either time or distance. If you fancy counting time, perform each carry for sets of thirty to sixty seconds. Prefer measuring distance? Go for at least fifty yards per carry. Each instance allows for enough time under tension to make an impact.

Supplement Suggestions

[Editor’s Note: Today’s theme is lifting weights heavy enough to make a difference. And that takes strength. Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies available to support strength increase. On the supplement side of the ledger, you’ll want to look at supplements that have real clinical validation of their capacity for strength enhancement. ZMA (zinc magnesium aspartate) is one such supplement. In a landmark, double-blind, randomized clinical study, tests were conducted to determine the effects of ZMA on strength levels of college athletes. Among the results was a remarkable 11.8% increase in strength compared to the placebo group (4/6% increase). The overall study findings showed that ZMA significantly increased strength and power in athletes. As we've said many times here at ProSource, the industry's gold standard for ZMA comes from SNAC Systems, who pioneered ZMA research and development in the 1990s. ProSource ZMA contains 100% ZMA sourced from SNAC Systems.

When you’re talking about clinical validation of strength increase, you can’t help but cite one of the most exciting brand-specific studies conducted in the field in recent years, in this case on BioQuest’s MyoZene mass builder. In that 4-week clinical study conducted at a major US research facility and presented at the prestigious American College of Sports Medicine Annual Conference, a MyoZene-receiving subject group experienced gains of 24% in strength/muscular endurance at the mid-study point, and an impressive 32% at the end of the study. At the same time, the MyoZene users actually reduced some body fat as well. MyoZene’s formulation offers a perfect synergy of ultra-fast-acting whey and anabolism-triggering leucine (provided by ways of a state-of-the-art leucine peptide technology that greatly enhances bioavailability) to make possible those kinds of remarkable strength increases.]

And That’s a Cap!

There’s no secret to building big, capped shoulders. They’re simply the product of smart, hard work. Press, pull and carry heavily and keep consistent. You’ll soon find you need new shirts.

Read more about ProSource ZMA here.

Read more about BioQuest MyoZene here.

1 Lou L, Kalman D, Feldman S, Krieger DR. An Open Label Clinical Trial Evaluating the Effects of MyoZene with Resistance Training on Changes in Body Composition and Muscle Strength. 55th  American College of Sports Medicine Annual Conference. Med Sci Sports Exer  2008; 40(5): S98; 939.

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