I promised our Facebook followers a workout of their choice and to my surprise the request that came at the top of the list was for a “shoulder workout for mass”. I’d have expected an arms routine or something to do with six packs, so it shows me that a lot of you out there must struggle with the right principles for shoulder hypertrophy, as in truth they are not usually the hardest muscle in the world to build up. I’ve addressed some of the key fundamentals for shoulder training programs in a previous post, so if you’re unsure of general deltoid training principles go back there for a quick refresher course, and also read this post on advanced shoulder workouts. The take home point for effective deltoid stimulation is in fact a very simple one. If you’re not feeling it, you’re not building it. Let that sink in, and if the penny still doesn’t drop ask me what’s confusing you in the comments section below.
As usual with one off workouts, all the usual caveats apply. A one off “shoulder workout for mass” does not make a program, and in many cases the relevance and effectiveness of a given workout is how it sits within the framework of an overall macro-cycle of training. All this aside, I’ll quickly run you through some of the rationale behind this particular workout and then give you the good stuff to try yourself.
Deltoids are a mixed fibre muscle group, meaning that they run the gamut of white to pink to red muscle fibres, from slow and endurance based to fast twitch and power specific. This means you need to hit them with a variety of both repetition ranges and time under tension protocols. Putting physiology aside and getting into the real world of the gym, deltoids are often a challenge for a trainee to “feel” and therefore to pump up. Bodybuilders have long known (and this goes back to my increasingly strong guy feeling that a smart bodybuilder who thinks about his training, but doesn’t read too much science, will always be a better coach than a guy with his nose in a book who barely trains or who has limited experience – so that’s a thumbs up to a few of the “broscience” idiots on the internet who want a study for everything and who think experience doesn’t count for much) that an individual’s weak body part is the one he struggles to get a decent pump with, so focusing on improving what they called the “mind-muscle” (neurological) connection was always massively emphasized in bringing sub-par muscles up to scratch. They were bang on the money. Getting a pump is extremely important for hypertrophy (no, it doesn’t mean that “only” getting a pump will grow muscles, you need to place them under the intensity, or load, with the right tension and time to stimulate a growth response) so if you can’t pump your deltoids up too much you need to go back to the drawing board. My own deltoids were a weaker muscle for me back in the late 1990s when I competed as a bodybuilder, but now they are one of the few areas that have really improved (now that I no longer take things so seriously) simply by following my own deltoid training rules outlined here.
The other aspect of deltoid training that is crucially important and reflected in this workout is a change in angles. The deltoid is made up not just of the front, middle and rear (anterior, medial, posterior) as we are commonly told, but at least seven different muscle groups. This kind of makes sense if we think about it as the angles we can rotate our shoulder joint through are extremely varied in comparison to other joints. Which leads me to conclude that multiple angles are also extremely useful for maximal stimulation of the deltoid. So at least in this context the old bit of bodybuilder “broscience” of hitting the muscle from all angles/sides is 100% on the money.
In putting all this together what I wanted to write for you was a workout that was:
1) Easy to do in a normal gym – writing you up a UP workout that we can only do in one of our London personal training gyms is a bit unrealistic.
2) A deltoid workout that really pumped up your shoulders.
3) A protocol that reflected the mixed muscle fibre nature of your deltoids incorporating reasonable load, varying times under tensions, plus extended time under tension (by using giant sets).
4) Different angles of pull (this isn’t a physiological expression obviously, but it really should communicate to you how to think about and set up shoulder training workouts of your own in the future) to stimulate all seven muscles of the deltoid region.
Shoulder Workout For Mass:
A1: Face Pulls with maximum external rotation/3010/8 reps
A2: Seated Side Lateral Raises/3010/8 reps
A3: Seated Scott Press/2010/8 reps
A4: Bent Over Lateral Raises/2010/8 reps
A5: Seated (no back support) Barbell Press Behind Neck (only do the bottom half of the movement and keep elbows driven back for constant tension on deltoids) 2010/15 reps
240 seconds rest.
Repeat for 4 total sets.
This is as low repetition and as low time under tension as I’d go with deltoids if it is a single standalone hypertrophy workout. However, by using giant sets, no rest between sets, and moving from exercises that hit slightly different portions of the deltoid each time we are endeavoring to get many of the benefits of higher repetition, higher time under tension work whilst also getting the benefits of relatively lower repetition, higher intensity work such as stimulating the high threshold motor units in a muscle cell that are responsible for making us both stronger and bigger (via myofibrillar hypertrophy).
If you have any questions on deltoid training please fire away in the comments section below, and if you like this post I’m always extremely appreciative of LIKES and SHARES via the social media buttons on the left of this page. And if you don’t live near a UP London Personal Training Gym and want to work with our team, maybe you should check out our very popular, one-to-one coaching, online personal training service – it is designed to coach and teach you all the fundamentals, as well as inside tricks, tweaks, and tips, that I try to get across in my blogs.