Saturday, January 30, 2021

My Favorite Delt Exercises - Don Howorth


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The excerpt:

I say "favorite" rather than "best" for there is no single best deltoid exercise. If there were, everyone would be using it and everyone would have sensational delts. Obviously they don't.

The delts are slow growing, frustrating to, and often meager in their observable development. You have to bomb them regularly and hard . . . you've got to keep up your muscular attack on a day-in, day-out basis. Keep it up, work hard with the appropriate exercises, and you will certainly develop impressive deltoids. 

Don't neglect them . . . not even for one training day! 

There are just too many bodybuilders who know that in every upper-body exercise the delts get some work, and because of that they tend to do little specific delt work at all. By the time they realize their folly it's too late, and they must spend many months, maybe years of specialized work to catch up. 
You can't just "generally" work the delts. It's got to be an all-out siege! Don't fall into this trap . . . take several of the exercises I shall cite here and really bomb with them! 
Delt exercises fall into two categories, generally: Pressing movements, and lateral-raise-type movements. The pressing ones are recommended for bulking the delts. Here are some of my favorites.
Seated Barbell Press Behind Neck
To effectively build up the lateral (side) head of the deltoids, try this exercise. Do it seated to minimize cheating, and make sure your back remains erect throughout the movement, for only in this way will the full resistance bomb the delts. Take the bar off stands, and start with the weight behind the neck, resting on the shoulders. Press directly to arms' length (until the elbows lock), lower, touch the neck, and repeat for 6-8 reps per set with all the weight you can handle cleanly for the determined number of repetitions. Do at least 4 to 5 sets.
To make this (and all other) deltoid exercises even more effective, force out an extra rep or two at the end of each set. Even if you can't make a complete rep, force the weight up as high as you can and as close to lockout as possible. Workout by workout you will gain increased power from forcing these last complete and/or partial reps out with this technique, and you will find that in a short time even this heavy weight will go up as easily as the earlier reps. Of course, as your power increases, load the bar with more weight, continue to make forced (complete or partial) reps with the newer poundage. Only in this way will any deltoid exercise work to "massify" your delts more. 
Technical Point: Make sure in the Seated PBN that your elbows point directly out at all times . . . in line with each other. This will keep the stress on the lateral (outer) heads of the delts. 
"Military" Press
This is essentially for the frontal deltoid heads, as you can see by the natural position your elbows take, pointing almost forward. Press the weight overhead in a controlled and even-moving tempo by muscle power alone. Don't think of this exercise in terms of its Olympic Games lift significance. You are seeking to build delt mass, not making a record lift. Use maximum weight, of course, that will permit 6-8 complete reps . . . and, once again, force reps at the end of each set . . . even if you only get them partially completed. 
Technical Point: Make a concentrated effort to "think" the stress into the frontal deltoids. Otherwise, the other heads will tend to assist to much. 
Alternate Dumbbell Press
You can do this either seated or standing.But you must really force the delts. Make them work. Touch the dumbbell to your shoulder each rep. Alternate the dumbbells so that as one arm goes up the other arm descends in a rhythmic manner, without "swinging" the weight. Keep your back straight, and your elbows pointed in a specific direction: that is, if you're aiming for frontal delts, keep them to the front; and if your goal is deltoid width, keep them pointed to the sides. 
Technical Point: In any alternated movement there is always the tendency to let body rhythm and momentum do part of the work. Control your body so that while it sways it does not swing the weight upward. 
One Arm Press
eeeFor really isolating the delts this exercise is one of the West Coast favorites. Hold on to a pole or support with one hand, lean your body slightly away from the support slightly, and press in a moderately slow and strict manner with the other hand. 
Technical Point: Take special care to slightly touching the deltoid each rep, and do not get the weight up with a "momentum swing." MAKE the delts do the work

The exercises I have just described are outstanding for building great deltoid size and mass. Yet there are others just as important for sculpting shape, hardness and chiseling detail in these areas. The deltoids, fortunately, have such a tremendous number of striations that - when well developed - they look like a massing of cabled steel. 
The exercises which I shall now describe are called the "lateral raise" type of movements, and each exercise is excellent for producing this much desired "cable" effect. 

(Side) Lateral Raise 
The basic shaper-definer of the lateral (side) head of the deltoid is the Lateral Raise. Take two dumbbells and - keeping the arms slightly unlocked - raise them outward and upward from the sides to shoulder level. Hold for just a second and then s-l-o-w-l-y raise them to the side.
Technical Point: If you raise the dumbbells higher than the shoulders the delts cease their function and the trapezius takes over. Also, do not get into the habit of swinging the weights upwards - control the motion by willing the deltoids to do the work. 
Frontal Raise
To develop the frontal delts into chiseled sculpture, use the exact form described for the Lateral Raise, but lift the dumbbells to the front rather than the sides. In all lateral movements slightly more reps (8-12) will give a greater effect. 
Technical Point: In this variation of the Lateral Raise, there will be a tendency to rock up on your toes. Do not permit the heels to rise. Keep them flat on the floor, or the force of gravity will be placed on the forearms and the frontal deltoids will not feel the effect greatly enough. 
Rear Lateral Raise 
To properly work the rear deltoids, you must bend forward at the waist, otherwise there is not enough scope for the exercise to work. Place the head on a support if you wish, and lift the dumbbells out to the sides until they are parallel with your body. Lower and repeat.  
Technical Point: The best way really is to place a cushion on some stationary object of the correct height (table, incline bench or such) and place the head on this. Be sure, however, to keep the head "glued" to the pad, otherwise you will build a momentum swing that will defeat the effect of the movement. 
Leaning Incline Laterals 
To effectively isolate the outer (side) deltoids, lie on your side while on a standing incline bench, or "sitting-leaning" on a seated incline bench. Then, with a light weight (extreme isolation movements invariably dictate light weights) held in the hand of the arm on the "free" side, bring the dumbbell from your side (or below) up to eye level. Lower and repeat for 8-10 reps.  
Technical Point: Here again the tendency will be to swing the weight upward. DON'T. And be sure to lower the dumbbell just as slowly as you raised it. 
Pulley Laterals
Another excellent isolation exercise for the outer head of the delts is the Pulley Lateral. On the floor pulley, bring the handle across your body and up to shoulder level. Lower slowly (slowly enough that you continually feel the tension), and repeat.

Technical Point: Use a very strict exercising style, concentrate solely on the deltoid action, and use moderate to light weight resistance to ensure proper muscle action. 

Effective Training Techniques for Deltoid Work 
I cite this principle first because I want to advise you to AVOID IT WITH YOUR PRESSING MOVEMENTS, for the muscle action of the deltoid is so precise that cheating in presses will not work it thoroughly. In laterals, however, a slight cheat to get the weight started, and then forcing the delts to take over is permitted. Just make your initial "cheat" almost more mental than physical. Do not ever cheat more than a couple of inches. 
Pumping and "Burns" 
These two training techniques go hand in hand in deltoid development and are basic essentials in building great shoulder development. You must pump the delts to their maximum . . . bomb them into aching "burns" . . . fatigue them totally to gain the greatest development. Due to their small size in relation to the other muscles of the body (and close location to the heart and lungs) they recover first from fatigue . . . and quite easily. 
Therefore, pumping is essential . . . also "burns" at the end of your set (little additional half-reps and quarter-reps that produce that necessary growth "ache" the delts. 


In order to accomplish the pumping and burn's effects just mentioned, the use of super-sets (usually combining one pressing movement and one lateral raise, doing one set of the pressing movement followed without pause by one set of the lateral raise, to form one  super-set), is most effective. The added muscle attack of "no rest" between sets of a super-set will help you bong, er, bomb the delts to the highest degree. 


The real basis of successful deltoid development is the ability to isolate and concentrate on the delts when bombing them. Make a point to check frequently during reps to see if the delts alone are doing most of the work. Only by this vigilant concentration can you determine the ultimate success of the exercise. 
You must concentrate . . . 
You must be deliberate . . . 
You must isolate.  
Enjoy Your Lifting! 




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