Great Men, Great Gyms of the Golden Age
Dave & Laree Draper's IronOnLine Website
It was early morning and the famous California sun was beginning to light the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. The sky was blue, the air clean, and it promised to be another one of those days in The Land of Sunshine.
As I made my way to the Muscle Beach Weightlifting Club, I drove slowly through the deserted streets of Santa Monica, enjoying the stillness. I reached the gym and unlocked the door just as the chimes on the corner Salvation Army sounded, indicating it was 6 A.M. I enjoy training in the early morning, and have for 4 years. I find it a relaxing time of the day, which is conducive to productive training; the gym is relatively empty, making the facilities instantly available.
I put on the lights, set the clock and tuned in some soft background music on the radio. The Muscle Beach Weightlifting Club isn't much to look at; it didn't get its nickname "The Dungeon" for nothing. The ceiling leaks, the floor is cracked, and the whole place leaves much to be desired.
It wasn't many years ago, 7 or 8 maybe, that the gym with its homemade equipment was located on the glorious beach of Santa Monica, some 5 blocks away from its present location. Since then the town's do-gooders, somewhat archaic to say the least, have terminated what they believed to be a circus-like atmosphere at Muscle Beach, gym included, causing the Club to move to its present underground location.
But I love it. The area is enormous. The rugged equipment is not homemade, but tailored for its members' special needs, and there are plenty of weights. Practically speaking, there are better gyms in the area - but to me "The Dungeon" is like an old shoe; it fits comfortably.
I began the tedious but necessary task of training the midsection. Because I regard abdominal work as unpleasant, I prefer getting it over with; plus, I find it limbers and warms the body, still a bit stiff from a long night's sleep. I hadn't begun to sweat yet when the thunder of heavy hoofs echoed through the empty gym. Chuck Fish, alias "The Mighty Atom" of pro-wrestling fame, like myself, enjoys the freedom of early-bird training.
He's a giant of a man and looks almost terrifying with his shaved head, beard and handlebar mustache. But a more gentle and gracious bear you could not meet. It was Monday and the two of us planned to combine our training efforts in hopes of making revolutionary progress. In Chuck I saw the size I wanted, and in me he saw the shape and muscularity he wanted. Our mutual knowledge and training instincts, we concluded, would complement each other and the results could well be inspiring.
We soon discovered, as we began working out and sharing views on weight training, that we both had a particular passion for deltoid development. It is this muscle group, we agreed, that bears the accent of body power and body grace. Make the deltoids and arms your strong points and you'll go a far way in exhibiting a championship physique.
As you can guess, with this enthusiastic frame of mind, we paid special attention to the shoulder area; Chuck, expounding the ways to build size and strength, and me bringing up the rear by assuring fine muscle shape and hardness. And that is what this article is all about - developing shoulder width and thickness with simultaneous attention to shape and muscularity - a 5-step scheme of training for complete shoulder development.
1.) Seated Front Press
2.) Steep Incline Dumbbell Press
3.) Dumbbell Clean & Press
4.) Lying Deltoid Raise - Front
5.) Lying Deltoid Raise - Rear
1.) Seated Front Press. This exercise is performed seated, preferably with the back supported so as to prevent any cheating or unnecessary body movement. And, in this position the lower back (which can be prone to injury) is less likely to suffer damage.
This powerful movement is responsible for developing shoulder mass and strength. It attacks the frontal deltoid area primarily, in which one's pressing power lies. Thus, in performing the exercise the accent should be placed on STRENGTH. The barbell is pressed slowly from the rack to lockout position for 5 sets of 6-8 reps. In an effort to increase your strength slowly and steadily, start with 5 sets of 6 and add one repetition each workout until 5 sets of 8 are completed. Like this:
At this point increase the poundage and go back to 5 sets of 6. As your strength increases, so will your size.
2.) Steep Incline Dumbbell Press. Another exercise with the emphasis on strength, the seated incline dumbbell press works both the front and side deltoids. Here again, the simple system of gradually increased reps, as applied to the barbell press, should be practiced - that is, 5 sets of 6 reps to start, until 5 sets of 8 are reached . . . then add weight and go back to 5 x 6.
For variation, alter the pressing grip with each set; that is, press on set with the palms forward. Think of this position as the hands of a clock on 3 and 9. Press another set with the hands facing each other, at 12 and 6. Experiment with these different hand positions. They may be of use if you experience any shoulder aches at some point in your lifting. This is one of the many beauties of dumbbell training; it allows you to vary the angle of the grip to suit your own needs.
3.) Dumbbell Clean & Press. This rugged movement will add new thickness and strength to the entire shoulder area, including the very impressive trapezius muscle. Assume a crouched position with the dumbbells in the hang position. With each repetition clean the weights to the shoulders, and without hesitation press to an overhead position. For a maximum training effect in this instance be sure not to lock out the elbows, but maintain resistance continuously. Return the heavy poundage slowly with concentrated effort to hang, and repeat for 5 sets of 6 grueling but gratifying reps.
If you find yourself liking the feel and the whole idea of this movement, check out Dinosaur Dumbbell Training for over 100 more dynamic dumbbell moves.
4.) Lying Front Lateral Raise. Now- to etch some muscularity into those shoulders. Lying on your right side on a flat bench, grasp a relatively light dumbbell in your left hand. With your legs and free right hand arranged in such a way as to stabilize the body, raise the dumbbell slowly and deliberately from your side, contracting the deltoid - and return to starting position. 5 sets of 10 concentrated reps per side will do the trick.
Again, to add variety and assure complete development, try raising the dumbbell from various positions; for example, in front of the body, or in front of the head. Make those delts stand out like watermelons in a strawberry patch.
5.) Lying Rear Lateral Raise. This exercise is executed in much the same fashion as the lying front lateral raise. The only exception is that the dumbbell is brought up from a behind-the-torso position. This movement affects the rear delt strongly. 5 sets of 10 slow reps with a strong deltoid contraction at the top of each one.
No matter what, don't ever let discouragement become your training partner. You have the determination within you to tackle and beat it. This is the lifter's plague, his worst enemy, a sure sign of pending defeat. Keep up your spirit to succeed . . . AND YOU WILL.