Friday, August 22, 2008

Deltoid Development - Barton Horvath

Development of the Deltoid Muscles
by Barton Horvath (1947)

A great many of us consider the deltoid muscles as being just nice showy muscles, ones which we develop along with the rest of the muscles of our body, and let it go at that.

However, if any of you were ever so unfortunate as to injure the shoulder, you will have realized that the deltoid muscle is one of the most important muscles of the entire body so far as the performance of our everyday activities is concerned.

Every time we raise a telephone to speaking position, brush our hair from out of our eyes or sit down to enjoy a nice steak, we are asking our deltoid muscles to lend us a helping hand. Yes, the deltoid muscles make possible such a huge variety of arm movements, all more noticeable when the deltoids are injured in some way, that we ought not to just skip over them lightly, but should visit with them for a while and get to understand them fully. By doing this we will learn to appreciate that bump of muscle we develop on our shoulders for what it really means to us in our daily life as well as welcoming it for the beauty it imparts to the male physique.

By this I do not mean that we will need to make an exhaustive study of anatomy, for while I personally have found the anatomical study of the deltoids to be most interesting and revealing, I possess an inquisitive mind and believe that the average reader is more interested in the methods used in developing and strengthening the deltoids than in their anatomical functions.

However, before any sincere lifter should be willing to accept a routine of deltoid training he should have enough interest in the subject to want to learn the basic anatomical details concerning it so that he will be able to determine whether or not the exercises recommended are suitable for the purpose. It is with this thought in mind that I should like to enter into a brief discussion dealing with the anatomy of the deltoid muscle before I explain the technical details of an actual exercise routine.

The deltoid muscle received its name from the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, Delta, which is shaped like a triangle. Since the deltoid muscle is also triangular in shape the connection is obvious. To the older reader this will be common knowledge and I am not mentioning this fact as a new discovery, but I recall that this connection between two words was of interest to me when I first learned of it so I am passing the knowledge on to those who may not be informed.

The anatomical location of the deltoid is simple to describe for its entire bulk is situated on the shoulders, having an attachment to the clavicle, or collar bone in the front of the shoulder, as well as two attachments to the scapula or shoulder girdle, one on the side of the shoulder and one to the rear of the shoulder. From these three attachments coarse strands of tough fibres which compose the deltoid muscle swing over toward the center of the shoulder and narrow down, converging to a spot on the humerus or arm bone, and it is here that the deltoid has its insertion.

For a complete understanding of the muscular functions of the deltoid it is important that we study the foregoing anatomical discussion fully. This study will reveal the deltoid muscle is spread wide over the entire side of the shoulder because of its three separate attachments, one to the rear, one to the side and one to the front. It therefore becomes a foregone conclusion that it will be necessary for us to utilize separate exercises to some extent to develop each of these three parts, since the deltoid is in reality a three-headed muscle it cannot be expected that any single exercise or single type of exercise will develop all three heads equally well.

The fact that the deltoid is inserted into the humerus bone would also indicate that the full development of it will depend upon action of the upper arm bone too.

It is of course possible to create an amount of muscular action at the deltoid without any motion of the upper arm bone, but this muscular display is caused solely by the bunching up of the muscular masses and is not to be confused with constructive exercise. We notice this effect in certain trapezius exercises and muscle control movements, but even in these there is bound to be some action at the clavicle and scapula, so a portion of the deltoid does receive some muscular exercise, though of a very inferior nature.

It is best to bear in mind at all times that the full development of the deltoid depends upon action at the shoulder girdle, or scapula, as well as action at the upper arm bone. Such movements produce a complete deltoid stimulation, though the action must vary to some extent to influence each of its three separate sections.

The muscular action of the deltoid is also easily explained. It assists in raising the upper arm to a point just a bit above shoulder level. This action it performs rather independently, and does not look for much outside aid from associate muscles. In addition, and while some books dealing with anatomy will disagree with me, the deltoid also works strongly in accord with the upper section of the trapezius muscle in raising the upper arm to a point completely above the head. As I have stated, certain authorities will disagree with me on this contention, but I have seen the superior results that have been brought about through the utilization of this principle of full extension, and therefore I will stick to my guns on this point.

In addition the deltoid works in conjunction with the upper back muscles, mainly the latissimus dorsi muscle in pushing the upper arm down against pressure, and it cooperates with the trapezius muscle in pulling the arms back as well as also working along with the pectoral muscles in pulling the arms to the front.

It would therefore appear as though the deltoids are actively engaged in almost all upper body movements with the exception of abdominal and lower back exercises. However, as will be brought out later on, many important deltoid exercises depend upon action even in these two areas.

For this reason a complete development of the deltoid will need to be based upon an exercise routine which will embrace a wide variety of movements, even to the extent of the performances of certain movements which will appear as being rather irrelevant to the uninformed.

It is for this fact that I have gone into so much detail in explaining the anatomical location as well as the muscular functions of the deltoids, so that the reader will be able to recognize the association of these exercises which may appear as being unconnected to the problem at hand to the casual observer.

It will also carry out my contention that the complete development of any one particular muscle in the body is not possible unless the rest of the body is also highly developed. While the legs may appear to bear absolutely no relation to the deltoids, there are some advanced deltoid movements which will require great leg power for correct performance. Also, the side muscles may appear as being totally unassociated to the deltoids, and yet some advanced deltoid exercises will require unusual side strength.

And so it goes, an endless chain upon which perfection in any one part of the body depends to a large extent upon the ability and strength of all its component links.

It may appear that I have gotten off the main theme in the foregoing discussion, but I have not, for I am attempting to bring home a vital point which applies not alone to deltoid development, but to complete bodily development as well.

It will be in order now for us to take a general look at the various types of movements which will bring about action of the deltoid muscle. Naturally, later on we will go into an actual exercise routine, but for now I should like to speak about general movements. In this way we can determine whether or not they correspond with the facts we have previously gone into concerning the muscular actions of the deltoid.

The most direct form of deltoid is any straight arm movement, preferably with separate weights in either hand, in which the weights are raises from the thighs to a position above shoulder height. Naturally this applies only to movements which are performed when the trainee is standing erect. It is a simple matter to perform exercises of this sort when the arms are moved off to either the side or directly to the front of the body. When we attempt to raise the weights to the rear of the body the action is of course restricted, but we can carry it out to a point where enough value is obtained to make the exercise a practical one.

These straight arm movements will serve very nicely as a basis for our deltoid workout. However, since the amount of weight which can be employed in such movements is extremely limited, advanced work requires the assistance of stronger muscles so that the movements may be of a wider variety and of a more strenuous nature, with the result being greater deltoid development.

Movements of this sort would be those in which we bend the arm at the elbow, and by doing so cut down on the leverage involved and permit out stronger upper arm and upper back muscles to help us along. More advanced than this would be movements in which we not alone bend our arms but also use our powerful side and torso muscles. The most advanced type of movements would be those in which the lower back and leg muscles are called into play along with the deltoid muscles.

It is now apparent if deltoid development is to be carried out to a high degree of specialization it will be necessary to incorporate movements which may appear to be rather general in character, but analysis will reveal that they are in keeping with the general aim in mind, which is complete deltoid development.

It has long been my contention that no one single course of specialized exercise will serve all groups of lifters equally well. An advanced exercise is of no value to a beginner and a simple movement will prove to be no constructive worth to an advanced trainee. Each present an entirely individual problem and therefore each must train differently if best results are to be realized.

Therefore, to simplify matters and to assure success to all interested lifters I have decided that it is most wise to break down all lifters into three separate groups. These groups are the beginner, the intermediate and the advanced. The beginner is one who has had little or no previous lifting experience. The intermediate is one who has already achieved better than average strength and development through the use of weight training methods and the advanced trainee is one who is highly developed but wishes through specialized methods to advance even further. So that each will have his own individual program I will now list the various courses which I recommend for each group to follow and I feel certain that all will make fine gains by following these exercises as outlined.


EXERCISE NO. 1 – Start as shown in Illustration 1. Now, without bending the elbows raise one weight above head to the front to the position shown in illustration 2. Lower to original position and raise the other arm to above head. Repeat 15 to 20 repetitions, each arm.

EXERCISE NO. 2 – Start as shown in Illustration 3. Now, move the weights off to the side without bending the elbows as shown in Illustration 4. Return to starting position and repeat for 10 to 12 repetitions.

EXERCISE NO. 3 – Start as shown in Illustration 7. Note that the weights are held to the rear of the thighs. Now, raise the weights only as far as is shown in Illustration 8. Lower and repeat for 15 to 20 repetitions.

EXERCISE NO. 4 – Lean forward at a 90 degree angle with your arms facing the ground and holding two dumbbells. Now, without bending the elbows raise both weights off to the side. Return to starting position and repeat 15 to 20 repetitions.

These four exercises will wake up your deltoid muscle. It is to be noticed that all three heads of the muscle are exercised and I advocate that the beginner stay with this routine for several months, adding weight slowly as the strength increases before he attempts the intermediate exercises. While it is only human nature to desire to advance as rapidly as possible, sometimes the seemingly longer route is in reality the shortest way to one’s goal when all factors are taken into consideration. These four exercises will lay that all important foundation for your future deltoid training. Only after this foundation is laid can you expect to make the improvement you want and can have through correct training.


EXERCISE NO. 1 – The intermediate can begin to employ some other movements besides straight arm raises for his deltoid exercise. The two arm press is a fine deltoid exercise and in addition it develops the arms and upper back as well. Start as is shown in illustration 9. Now, press the weight above the head as is shown in Illustration 10. Lower as far as the chest and repeat for 8 to 12 repetitions.

EXERCISE NO. 2 – The two arm rowing exercise is a fine deltoid exercise, affecting the rear head of the deltoid very strongly. In addition it is also a splendid upper back exercise and works the arms a lot. It will be noticed that the more advanced exercises work other muscles besides the deltoids, as I had said they would. Start this exercise as shown in Illustration 11. Now, pull the weight up to the chest as shown in Illustration 12. Lower only as far as the original position and repeat the movement for 10 to 15 repetitions.

EXERCISE NO. 3 – Besides being a fine chest exercise the two arm pullover also exercises the deltoids nicely. Start as is shown in Illustration 13 and lower the weight as shown in Illustration 14. Return to the starting position and repeat for 15 to 20 repetitions.

EXERCISE NO. 4 – We are now ready for the three-in-one deltoid exercise, which is definitely without peer for pumping up all sections of the deltoids and making them grow. Start as shown in Illustration 15. Now, raise one arm as shown in Illustration 16. While lowering this raised arm, raise the other one and repeat for 10 repetitions each hand. At this time do not place the weights on the ground but hold them at the position shown in Illustration 17. Lower the weights off to the side as shown in Illustration 18. Raise again to Illustration 17 and repeat the movement for 10 repetitions. Now, still hold the weights and do not place them on the ground and start the last part of this combination exercise. Hold the weights well to the rear of the thighs. Now, raise the weights as far as is shown in Illustration 20. The shoulders are well hunched up and shrugged together. Lower and repeat for 10 repetitions.

EXERCISE NO. 5 – The prone press is a good pectoral exercise but it is also a fine deltoid one. The deltoids and the pectorals work in conjunction in such a wide variety of fine movements that it is very rare indeed to see a person who has well developed deltoids and who also does not possess well developed pectorals. Start the exercise as shown in Illustration 21. Now, press the weight up to the position shown in Illustration 22. Lower as far as the starting position and repeat for 12 to 15 repetitions.

EXERCISE NO. 6 – Carrying out the theme that the deltoids and the pectorals work together a whole lot, the next exercise is one that is considered by many as being very nearly solely a pectoral exercise. In reality it is a fine deltoid movement too and should be practiced as such. Start as shown in Illustration 23. Now, lower the weights off to the side as is shown in Illustration 24. Raise again to the starting position and repeat for 15 to 20 repetitions.

EXERCISE NO. 7 – The floor dip and later on the dip between the parallel bars work the deltoids and the pectorals together also. I believe that all readers are familiar with these exercises and they should be included in with your deltoid program. As the strength increases tie some additional weights to the body to make the exercise progressively more severe. Perform 20 repetitions adding more and more weight tied to the body as you progress.

EXERCISE NO 8 – The handstand dip is another fine deltoid exercise, and in addition the arm muscles are given a great workout. To those who have not mastered the handstand it will be necessary to balance yourself with your feet against a wall or to have a training partner hold you up. Start the movement as shown in Illustration 25. Now, lower the body as shown in Illustration 26. Press back up into starting position and repeat as often as strength and balance will permit.

EXERCISE NO. 9 – The one arm alternate dumbbell press is the final exercise that we will follow as an intermediate for deltoid development. This exercise of course influences the back muscles and the arm muscles as well as the deltoid muscles and is a very good one. Start as is shown in Illustration 27. Now, press one weight up to the position as shown in Illustration 28. Lower this weight and whole doing so press up the other one. Keep the move steady and continuous. Repeat for 10 to 12 repetitions each arm.

The foregoing workout will not only build up powerful deltoid muscles but will also develop nearly all the muscles of the entire upper body. Stick to this routine for about six months or so and then if you feel that you are ready for it you can go ahead with the advanced methods.


You advanced fellows can be treated very much differently than your less fortunate beginner or intermediate brothers. It is to be expected that you have already developed decided tendencies connected with not alone your training routine but your general life as a whole. For me to say to you that this or that was the best would be proof that I was not worthy of instructing. Therefore, your advice from me will be more on the nature of a discussion and if you are really advanced you will be able to extract the needed information from this discussion to base your own training program on.

Now, with a few exceptions advanced movements simply must be of a sort that call upon the stronger and larger bodily muscles to assist the deltoids along so that the particular exercise can be performed. Let us review the exceptions first and then the other advanced movements.

I simply do not care how advanced the trainee is, he must regularly practice the three-in-one deltoid exercise for best continued improvement. The three-in-one deltoid exercise will go a long way towards keeping his deltoids round and full and just cannot be overlooked. In addition, every once in a while a workout with a chest expander and with the pulleys will add variety and will be found to be useful. These pulley and expander workouts need not be too frequent, but once every few weeks they will be found to be valuable.

Apparatus movements are also not to be overlooked. By this I mean such movements as the slow muscle-up and crucifix on the Roman Rings as well as planches on the rings and high bar. Don’t go in for any spectacular feats, merely confine yourself to movements of the type just explained or else you will find yourself spending too much time on this sort of activity and this is not desired.

Along these same lines hand balancing and bottom man work in particular places a lot of strain on the deltoids and has a definite place in the advanced trainee’s schedule. Finally, the last form of supplementary exercise is posing and muscle control. Let the boys complain that you hog the gym mirror, but for bringing out that final touch that can be called “class” you will need to practice muscle control. Now mind you don’t spend all your time with these supplementary exercises, for this will defeat the very purpose in mind and I am certain that with this word of caution you will not overdo them but they do have a decided place in your workout and should not be neglected.

We can now get along to truly advanced weight exercises for the deltoids. Aside from the three-in-one deltoid exercise, which pretty nearly is all deltoid work, the other straight-arm movements for an advanced trainee must be those which call mainly the pectoral muscles into play and ins some instances the back muscles as well.

Movements of this sort would be the pullover, chest movements of the sort as explained as Exercise No. 6 of the intermediate course as well as similar combination deltoid and pectoral movements. It of course is not needed to practice them all in one single workout, but one that you personally like the best should be included in your regular routine.

The next step beyond the straight-arm exercises are those in which the arms are bent. Exercises of this sort would be the one and two arm presses, both lying and standing and the sitting press must also be recognized as being valuable for the strain it throws on the shoulders. The bent arm pullover will affect the shoulders a lot too and can be followed as an advanced move. The upright rowing motion is a great one too. Here do not try to include all the exercises that are possible under this grouping but pick out one or two that you like the best each workout.

Continuing on with advanced workouts we find that the next possible stage is those exercises which affect not alone the deltoids, but also the arms and side and lower back as well. Exercises of this sort are the side and bent press and weight juggling and tossing also comes into this group.

The final degree of advancement will be exercises which include all off the above features but in addition include leg motions. These would be repetition jerks with two arms, repetition two arm clean & jerks, repetition one and two arm snatches and other overhead lifting moves. In these lifting moves, for our purpose it is important that the repetitions be rather high or else less benefit in the way of muscle development will be noticed, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that lifting movements aren’t really advanced deltoid work for they are and you will find this out quickly if you practice them. Here once again do not try to practice all of the exercises possible but extract the one or two you really like for your use.

Advanced exercise is not alone the performance of advanced movements. Each exercise must be carried out to the point of breathlessness and just moderate tiredness will not serve. The exercises should be executed with a snap and speed, there is no need for rigid body posture or exact performance. If you feel like swinging the weights instead of performing the exercise stiffly, go to it but make certain that you add a few more pounds to the weight you use to compensate for the slack style. In other words you advanced fellows have no real control on you, you can do pretty much as you please and will make good progress as a result if you make certain that each and every exercise you perform leaves you with the deltoids pumped up and fairly screaming for relief. This will positively come about if performing the exercises I have recommended in the manner that I have just described.

Well, here you are, you advanced fellows. I just dare you to go after a program of the sort I have just finished discussing and if you don’t have to have your jacket altered soon, well. then you can be sure that you are wearing one several sizes too large right now.

Go to it and good luck to each and every one.

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