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A "Time Under Tension" Strategy
for Producing Cannonball Delts

Goal: Size, Stamina
Bodyparts: Shoulders

Bodybuilder Craig Richardson says it enough that it could be his personal motto: "Your muscles don't know weight - all they know is stress and fatigue." Naively, most of us non-IFBB-card-holding types still consider the almighty pound to be the ultimate deciding factor in our growth. But Craig is right - your muscles couldn't possibly care less about the poundages you're handling because "heavy" is all relative. Consider the ramblings of another bodybuilder. Arnold Schwarzenegger was strong but you were more likely to catch him yapping about peak contraction than how many plates he had on the bar. So maybe stepping out of the box occasionally and factoring in quality of training is worth a try.

One way you can "trick" stubborn muscles into growing - without hoisting strongman-sized loads - is by simply increasing the total time that they are stressed. By increasing muscular time under tension with moderate weight loads, you can break down muscle fiber at an astounding rate, while also providing a welcome respite from your existing, robotically-paced routine.

Your shoulders are a tricky muscle group to train. With so many planes of movement in these joints, there is a seemingly unlimited number of exercises you can use in each workout. But because of how many small muscles there are in your shoulders, there also seems to be an unlimited number of ways to get hurt. And while bar-bending overhead presses are the most highly-touted way of building Craig- or Arnold-like delts, there is another path you can take to limit your risk for injury.

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Instead of starting your next shoulder routine with seated or standing barbell presses, reach for a pair of dumbbells. But instead of simultaneously pressing the dumbbells overhead, you will alternate arms. For the first two sets, always keep one dumbbell in the bottom position while pressing the other to full extension at normal speed (1-2 seconds up, 1-2 seconds down). When the working arm returns to the start, press the other. Repeat in this fashion until you complete 10-12 reps per arm. For the next two sets, switch that sequence – one dumbbell will always be in the peak contracted, or fully extended position, while the other presses out a normal speed rep.

The first two sets increase the total amount of time that the dumbbell is held in the bottom, stretched position while the next two increase the total amount of time that the dumbbell is held at a peak contracted position. By combining the two, you're exposing your delts to additional stress at two key points of the movement, building strength at each and creating an environment for more growth.

Because of the additional time under tension, you should select dumbbells that you'd normally perform 12-15 reps with. As you gain strength and build stamina at each position, add weight to always ensure failure at 10-12 reps per arm. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets.

Exercise Sets/Reps
Dumbbell overhead press (1)
Dumbbell overhead press (2) 2/10-12
Machine overhead press 4/12
Reverse pec deck flye 3/12
Dumbbell lateral raise 3/12

(1) Alternate arms, but keep the non-working dumbbell in the bottom position while the other presses.

(2) Alternate arms, but keep the non-working dumbbell in the fully extended position while the other presses.