The glory of a man's physical appearance will always be his shoulders. No matter how wonderfully developed his arms may be, or how deep the chest, they do not display their prominence in dress as do a pair of wide, shapely spreading shoulders.
There seems to be a deep-rooted idea in the mind of the average body builder that back development alone will develop shoulder width. It does contribute a little, but the main achievement is back development, larger and stronger back muscles. Of course, these are very desirable, too, but as this article is intended for shoulder consideration only, we shall leave the back muscles alone, beyond to prove how shoulder development brings into operation certain muscles of the back.
The deep rooted idea referred to above was created by the special attention given to the latissimus dorsi muscles. These are those large back muscles that originate, slab-like, from each side of the spine, covering the mass of the back, to be finally attached to the bone of the upper arm, close up to the shoulders. These back muscles are very easily influenced, and responsive to development. By rolling the shoulders slightly forward and spreading wide the arms, an exaggerated muscular display is created. Yet when this voluntary movement is relaxed, the wide, muscular spread of the latissimus dorsi also relaxes, and to such and extent unless the individual performs the voluntary movement over, one would not be aware of their great spreading ability.
When these muscles are spread, the back widens under the shoulders, providing a pronounced V-shape appearance to the upper body, which is the pride of those who like to pose for photographs. Nevertheless, they are still back muscles, and the body builder should not allow himself to be confused on this point just because they can give a pleasing appearance to the eye while posing. Only too often does this convert him to the idea that this back spread is also a shoulder spread. These muscles certainly aid the shoulder spreading movement, but do not put muscle on the shoulders of make up for the lack of muscle that should appear on the shoulders.
For years I have been pounding away at the body builder to develop his shoulders in proportion to the rest of his body. As I have said, he is somewhat confused on the subject because of the misunderstood idea that back spread represents shoulder width. He knows little or nothing about the exercises one should practice for this particular purpose, and when he does try them out, it is dollars to donuts that he does not like the meager exercises at his disposal.
True shoulder width must have a constructive foundation, and that foundation can only be muscle -- not make believe, as is gotten from the momentary spread of the back muscles. Something tangible and real, visible to the whether with your coat on or stripped for the beach.
These muscles are known as the deltoids -- the big shoulder muscles, which I prefer to call shoulder caps. They repose upon the shoulder points, capping the peak of the arm with a rounded mound of powerful muscle. When fully developed, they give added beauty to a well developed arm, and provide a striking appearance to the shoulders.
They originate from the clavicles (collar bones) and roll over the shoulders in series of layers that fold over the shoulders -- front, back and at the side -- and influence the arm in all its varied raising movements.
The word deltoid means triangle, as typified by the Greek letter delta. As you study the deltoid you will notice its relationship with the trapezius (the muscle that is formed upon the shoulders between the deltoids, covering the back of the neck, and traveling down the back), and the pectoralis minor of the chest. Indeed, so similar is the deltoid origin with the trapezius that it is often referred to as a continuation of the trapezius, but it is not. It folds over the shoulder and end of the arm to become inserted into a thick V-shaped tension fastened about the middle of the humerus bone of the upper arm. This attachment explains the influence of the deltoid with the arm, and why all arm movement is significant with deltoid movement.
Many a sturdy-armed athlete has wondered shy, despite his obvious large biceps and forearm muscles, why, despite his obvious large biceps and forearm muscles, he fails to perform creditably when trying to hold out a weight in a straight arm position, level with his shoulders, or when holding out the arm in front at right angles to the shoulders. He simply lacked proportionate deltoid development. This same discrepancy equally interferes with successful lifting to arms' length overhead.
Since the deltoids have a functions affinity with the arms and the back muscles, particularly the trapezius, which are so powerful in aiding weights raised overhead, one can readily understand why inferior deltoid development would tend to offset some of the arm and back musculature operation and power. I have seen many powerfully developed athletes who had almost no conspicuous deltoid development. These same athletes never performed as well as one would expect from a glance at their apparent development. The casual observer overlooked the lack of deltoid prominence, but therein lay the answer to their inferior performance. Athletes who have a marked development of the deltoids invariably perform creditably.
Fundamentally, we are interested in appearance as derived from muscular development, but at no time must the true body builder disassociate muscular development from strength. Perhaps you think that this cannot be done, since the general concept is that muscle is synonymous with strength. This is not always true. There are forms of exercise that stimulate a peculiar form of development that does not create proportionate power. Such muscle is coarsely textured. It represents the same difference we see between a thick, loosely woven rope, as compared with a more compactly woven wire rope, and the difference in strength is the same.
Such type muscles never last. They are the puffball variety that are more ornamental than useful. Strength is the physical birthright of every man, therefore all his muscles should be strong muscles, and toward that end do I offer my constructive advice.
Earlier in this article I referred to the fact that the average body builder when shown the most commonly known deltoid exercise does not care for it, because it usually gives him a kink in the shoulder, right at the point where the bone of the upper arm fits into the bony shoulder girdle. He gets this kink simply because his deltoid muscles are insufficient in power. The exerciser usually starts out with the exercise known as the Crucifix -- where the arms are held out straight, in a line level with the shoulders. He usually jumps into the movement with little previous thought. He gauges the heft of his dumbbells by the general capacity of his arm strength. He finds the exercise awkward, and is often amazed at the little amount of weight he can use. This fact often discourages many exercisers who believe that the only benefit that can be gotten from exercise is to use as much weight as possible, and the more the better. Others just hate to employ light weight, especially when they are able to use good poundage in their other positions. Vanity gets the best of them. I have seen many practice the Crucifix just to save their face, as it were, but the degree of enthusiasm with which they practice the exercise is so indifferent that they might just as well not practice.
Vanity plays a peculiar part in many body builders' programs. The stronger they are, the more weight they desire to use, and for them to employ a light weight, why, that is an insult to their vanity. Rather than offend their vanity they will often neglect many important practices among which is culture of deltoid development. Only too often vanity is proven to be the temperamental factor in an athlete's life. He rarely will admit it, but it exists just the same. Many body builders seem to forget that the power of muscular force is controlled by leverage. All muscles are levers, some stronger than others. In the developing processes we have to remember this, because some muscles are best developed by the operation of exercise at the weakest point of leverage. No true body builder will neglect the weaker muscular levers in preference to the more favorable, easier developed muscles. He knows that even the strong muscles rely upon the smaller muscle groups at critical moments to help them out in performing a duty. After all, a body is only as strong as its weakest muscle.
The sooner the body builder gets this into his head, and the sooner he subsidizes his vanity to common sense understanding of muscular operation, the sooner will he get bodily balanced power and development.
The arms are natural long levers which throw a greater stress on the deltoids than one realizes. In pronounced deltoid movement every ounce of weight he holds in his hand increases the deltoid stress. Therefore, he should realize that in the development process, the deltoids should be given full consideration.
Deltoid exercise provides many interesting and fascinating movements. The Crucifix exercise is not the only one. There are many others, even though they may never have been brought to your attention. Strangely, they have rarely been discussed. Yet, they are such that will make deltoid exercise as great a pleasure as any other form of exercise. Not only this, but they will tend to give you a development of certain forearm muscles that most bodybuilders find difficult to obtain. Particularly is this true in developing the supinator longus of the forearm -- the muscle that shows its bulk on the front of the forearm mainly at the elbow joint, and rolls over the elbow into the back of the arm. This muscle is what straightens the forearm with the upper arm, and is constantly brought into play in deltoid exercise. There is nothing better for developing strength into the wrists, in addition, in all deltoid movement you have trapezius-latissimus dorsi and pectoral action -- very important members in your muscular scheme.
In this article, I am going to make deltoid exercise much easier for you. I am going to make it more pleasant and free you from that objectionable kink. Moreover, I am going to lessen the leverage in a series of progressive exercises which I am outlining here for the first time. At the same time, you will be able to employ more weight, if you wish. At any rate, your progressive range of handling weight will be amplified safely. There will be no wrist strain, as one finds with the old fashioned kettlebell weights, or even with heavy dumbbells. At the same time the wrists will obtain special benefit in flexibility and strength.
Do not start out with the set idea to use dumbbells or the combination kettlebell dumbbell, as heavy as possible. Be reasonable. Start out gradually. It is easier for you to step up than come down. As progression takes place, you can always increase accordingly to your growth in power. Different exercises call for different weight arrangements. Some permit heavier weights than do others, but be sensible in selecting weight per exercise. If one exercise calls for much less weight -- use it. Do not let vanity get the best of your better judgement. The successful one is he who prepared wisely. Follow this example and your improvement will be more noticeable.
Study carefully the exercises supplied with this article. You will like the graduated half-bent-arm movements. They will prepare you for full-straight-arm movement. The deltoids and the wrists will be strengthened naturally, and smoothly. If you are interested in securing the fullest in muscular development, you will find greater possibilities in increasing your performing ability with heavier weight, and obtain a more powerful development than what has been heretofore possible.
Apart from gaining proficiency in the Crucifix position, your ability to raise a weight overhead will be increased. You will find that "carrying" the weight on the forearm will afford many fascinating forms of exercise, besides minimizing the the leverage disadvantage that has always been the bugaboo of deltoid development. You will acquire the habit of not gripping the weight too severely, which general practice compels.
In the forearm there are several muscles whose duty it is to pull down. These muscles are brought into action by gripping. They interfere with raising a weight to arms' length overhead. The skilled strength athlete employs the "free grip" when pressing a weight overhead. That is, he does not grip too severely with the thumb. Hu usually grasps his bar, in two-hand work, with the thumb overlapping the bar, same as the fingers. Of course, this is not advisable with one-hand work, but with one-hand work the bar "hangs" across the cup of the thumb joint. Even in this, after he gets the weight started on its way overhead, he releases his grip to a certain extent. The combination kettlebell-dumbbell, shown in these exercises provides an easy, natural "hang." Thus are you systematically coached to handle a weight, how to progressively build the muscles, and how to progressively work out each exercise, besides obtain the fullest benefit of graduating with increased weight. You will enjoy the variety of training this program affords better than ever.
The deltoids respond quickly to stimulative development. When you look at yourself in the mirror you will see how splendid the muscular cap-like mound of the deltoid adds to the beauty of your physical appearance. Your shoulders will acquire a permanent "natural" width, that is far more preferable than the temporary "forced" back spread. On the street or on the beach, or at the pool your breadth of shoulders will be noticeable to an extent that will be favored by everyone including your neighbor's house-pet. Even the ants will line up in awe when you walk by, amazed at such shapely size in an endoskeletal being!
Start out wisely. The beginner may have to commence with weight as light as a five or 10 pound pair of dumbbells, in order to go through all the exercises correctly, for the full number of repetitions. If this be the case, then do not do otherwise. The body builder who has a fairly strong pair of arms, with a strong back, and is accustomed to handling a fair poundage, will be able to do so more comfortably. In the end, the net results will be greater and more deeply appreciated.
The dumbbells securely loaded suitable to your strength, with the handles revolving freely on the inside of the bar, demonstrate the value of this form of exercise. The hang of the bell on the back of the arms causes the shoulders to be pulled back, promoting full operation of the deltoid muscles.
From the overhead position as shown above, lower one arm with the bell carried on the back of the arm. This will lessen the leverage, yet give full action to the muscles. From position shown, allow arm to travel back overhead, and as the arm begins to raise, lower the other arm from the overhead position. Keep arms straight and hand on wrist turned up. Do not sway body sideways. Keep it erect.
From the overhead position shown in the first illustration, lower both arms simultaneously as shown, into the half bent arm position. Do not straighten the arms. This position permits more weight to be used safely. From bent arm position raise arms overhead to original position. The body must not bend.
In order to carry the bar of the bell on back of forearms, lower the bells from overhead to position shown.
From position in Figure 4 raise the arms to position shown, slowly. Note how the hand is turned back on wrist with palm down. From position shown lower both arms to original position as in Figure 4. Keep body straight.
From position shown gradually lower bells to position shown in next illustration. Note position of elbows. They must not be allowed to lower from the original line. You will feel like doing so, but don't. Note hand position with palm turned toward head.
This really is a forearm movement, the upper ram is not supposed to move. When it does, the elbow lowers, which spoils the value of the exercise. Keep arms when lowered in a straight line with the shoulders and return back to original position without dropping the elbows.
In order to carry the bar of the bells on the forearm, the arms must be lowered from above. Position shown is your starting position. Raise the bells to the shoulders, but do not allow elbows to travel back. Raise and lower several times for biceps and forearm muscles.
From position in Figure 8 raise the bells to position shown. Keep the elbows high, and the hands as shown. It is important in all these exercise positions that the body does not bend backward or sideways. The body must be kept strictly straight.
From the position as shown in the previous photo, start this exercise. Allow the right arm to straighten out as shown. Keep the hand turned back on the wrist. After straightening the arm bring it back to the original position, then repeat the movement with the left arm.
Assume position as in Figure 8 and from that position begin to straighten out the arms until they are in position shown. The palms of the hands must be bent back on the wrist. Lower and raise from positions stated, but do not allow the back to bend backward as the inclination will be. Keep the back straight.
Assume position in Figure 8, then raise one arm out to the straight-arm position as shown, keeping the back rigidly straight. Lower the raised arm back to the original position, then repeat the movement with the other arm. Do not raise the other arm until the straightened arm has returned to the original position.
Enjoy Your Lifting!