by Charles A. Smith
We all admire broad shoulders – whether we have built them ourselves or even if the tailor puts them there. Looking at wide shoulders often gives us the feeling that we have something lacking. It might be that our muscular strength leaves much to be desired, or our physical appearance is way below par. Broad shoulders have always been accepted as hallmarks of the strongman. Strength and width of upper body are synonymous. It is generally recognized that wide shoulders often depend upon the length of the clavicles – or collar bones. It could also be said that the power of that region more than depends upon deltoid development. Your shoulders might well be wide, but if the triangular shaped muscles which “cap” them are deficient in development, then your spread of the upper torso means nothing.
I shall never forget the powerful appearance of Ronald Walker – one of the all time greats of the weight world. His back and shoulders were truly titanic. The deltoids were each as large as a baby’s head. They appeared to jump in one huge wave, right round from the front of the chest – where they met – to the back of the neck and the trapezius muscle. As all other champions do –
The only man I have personally seen who tops the musculature – pure muscle – of
The deltoid is one of the body’s most curious muscles. It can stand an amazing amount of work – as the muscles of the forearms can – and it readily responds to the resistance of weights. Functioning on its own, it is limited in amount of poundage. Used within a group of muscles – with the triceps, serratus magnus, etc., truly impressive poundages are raised overhead. The deltoid is fully contracted and functional when the arms are raised at an angle of 90 degrees to the body. Above that angle, other muscles are called into play and a partial or full rotation of the shoulder blades occurs. As its name implies, it is a triangular shaped muscle, and it is itself divided into three portions – the anterior, the lateral and the posterior deltoid. Each of these three subdivisions of the deltoid need special attention.
To the Olympic lifter, the deltoids have special significance. In the old days of the strict military press, when the athlete had to keep the heels together and with the arms shoulder width apart – and the body strictly upright throughout – the main pressure or resistance was thrown directly on the lateral deltoids, those right on each side of the shoulders. However, with the evolution of the present day Olympic press, the anterior and posterior parts of the muscle gradually played a more prominent part. The wider hand spacing and the pointing of the elbows forward made the lifter use the anterior section more, and then further advances were made and it was discovered that a weight could be kept moving past the so-called sticking point – by rocking it back into the fingers and allowing the barbell to travel in a backward direction over the head – and so the posterior section became an important part of the press. Thus it behooves all Olympic men to strengthen the whole of the deltoid.
With the bodybuilder, the muscle we are discussing is just as important as it is to the Olympic lifter. In the far of days of weight work – ten years ago – people were more impressed by spreading the lats or bulging biceps. It is no longer sufficient to have good arms and/or back to be labeled excellent. The would-be Mr.
The following weight movements can be used by both Olympic lifters and bodybuilders. They are unorthodox in the sense that they are rarely used because they entail the output of a heap of energy. They are exercises which are hard but which will more than repay the time spent in performing them correctly. Some are dumbell movements and others barbell, but all of them are guaranteed to provide an increase strength, shape and endurance – three qualities which are requisites.
The Olympic man will find an increased power in starting his pressing weights from the shoulders, and in carrying his presses to a successful conclusion. His jerks will pack more dynamic quality – the space on which he rests the bar when he has cleaned it preparatory to jerking the weight will have more sustaining strength. The weight will feel lighter, will give him confidence to take the weight overhead in a smashing climax of power – in short, he will be a better lifter.
The bodybuilder is by no means in the back of the picture. There lies in front of him a glorious path to powerful and yet more powerful training sessions. The inclined presses, the bench work he makes so much use of, the various deltoid inducers he uses to develop his physique, will seem productive of commonplace results alongside of the exercises he will now be using.
Before I quote these deltoid developers, I will emphasize that they will not be subdivided into Olympic and bodybuilding exercises. These movements can be used by everyone and to an all embracing benefit. These are strenuous exercises and are not for those of you who think there is an easy path to power. If you are willing and able to work hard, then they are for you and success will attend your efforts.
Take a weight equal to your best press. Jerk it over and behind your head so that it rests on the shoulders as if you were about to perform deep knee bends. With the hands spaced one or two inches wider than shoulder width, jerk the weight to arm’s length, and then slowly fight the weight all the way down until it rests on the back of the shoulders again. Make every effort to lower the weight as slowly as humanly possible. As soon as the weight touches the shoulders jerk it overhead again and then repeat the slow fight against the weight until it rests on the shoulders once more and repeat the jerk and lowering. Commence with 4 sets of 5 reps and work up to 4 sets of 10 reps before increasing the weight by ten pounds and starting again with 4 sets of 5 reps. Again I will repeat – lower the weight as slowly as you can. This exercise was a favorite of Ron Walker and it was his opinion that not only did it increase deltoid development, it also improved jerking power. He also held that lowering a weight was twice as beneficial as jerking it there.
With a weight you can comfortably handle 8 to 10 reps, perform the press behind neck – but of course there’s a difference. These presses are performed while seated, and with the hands spaced right out to the collars. Seated and with such an extremely wide grip it will be found hard to start the weight away from the shoulders, but by testing one’s capacity one will soon find a weight suitable as a commencing poundage. Important points to be remembered – don’t look up at the weight and don’t enable yourself to lean back. Keep the body upright at all times while using this wide-grip seated press behind neck. Begin with w weight you can comfortably handle from 8 to 10 reps, 4 sets. Work up to 4 sets of 15 reps before increasing the weight ten pounds and dropping the reps back to 8 or 10.
This exercise is a favorite with the great strength athlete, Sig Klein, and I first saw it used in his gymnasium some few years ago. With a dumbell held in the hand, lie full length on a bench or on the floor. Stretch the arm along the side of the body so that the hand holding the dumbell rests on the hip. Lock the elbow and then raise the weight until the arm is upright – pointing straight up and forming a 90 degree angle to the body. At all times keep the elbow locked and do not bend it. At all times keep the palm of the hand facing to the feet and down at the start of the exercise. Commence with a weight you can handle comfortably for 3 sets of 10 reps and work up to 3 sets of 20 reps before increasing the weight by 2 ½ pounds and dropping back to 3 sets of 10.
This is another exercise in which the muscles are worked eccentrically. With the same weight you used to perform exercise three, load up two dumbells. Press them overhead and then slowly lower them out and down until the arms are level with the floor, forming an angle of 90 degrees to the body, resembling a cross. Hold them there for a slow count of 2 and then raise them to arm’s length overhead and repeat. This exercise must be performed slowly so that the full benefit is obtained from the muscles resistance to the weight. Commence with 4 sets of 8 reps and work up to 4 set of 12 before increasing the weight of each dumbell 1 ¼ pounds.
In this exercise, cheating is out. The best method of doing the movement is with the back kept flat against a post or a wall and refusing to allow the slightest sway of the hips forward or the smallest hollowing of the lower back. A particular tendency will be found as you try to squeeze out the last two or three reps. It is then that you must concentrate every effort to keep as upright a stance as is possible for you. With a barbell loaded up to a weight which will permit you to correctly make 8 to 10 reps, slowly raise the weight until it is at arm’s length straight in front of you at shoulder level. Take a count of 2 before lowering to the hips, and then repeat. Start off with 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps and increase reps until you are able to make 3 sets of 15. Don’t cheat with this exercise.
This last movement is designed to give you increased sustaining power in the anterior deltoids. Take a weight equal to the one you use in exercise five. Take the weight to arm’s length overhead. Keeping the back at all times against a wall or post, slowly lower the barbell until it is at arm’s length and at shoulder level. Take a 2 count here and then raise it again to the overhead position while keeping the arm’s straight. From arm’s length overhead, lower it slowly again and repeat. Commence with 3 sets of 8 reps and work up to 3 sets of 15. Don’t forget to let me know how you are progressing. I am entirely at your service.