Tuesday, 4 December 2012




What is the best deltoid workout? Be descriptive (sets, reps, etc).

I will outline several different approaches to training delts, and the one which got me the best results personally. I think it's important to firstly remember that everyone responds to resistance training differently, and training delts is no exception, therefore I've included several programs for different needs.

 Low-Medium Volume Approach:

Here is the program that really reconstructed my delts. It's a low-medium volume approach that hits all heads of the delts hard, and one I manipulate to this current day. It brought my delts from 2-D to 3-D and really broadened my shoulders, giving me a wider appearance.
Sets: 10
Time: 45-50 mins.
Level: Advanced. 
Goal: Mass and sculpting.
Split: Delts given their own day.
Seated Dumbbell Press - 2 sets, 6-8 reps
Seated Lateral raises - 2 sets, 6-8 reps
Face Pulls - 2 sets, 6-8 reps
Behind the neck barbell press - 2 set, 6-8 reps
Bent over laterals - 1 set, 6-8 reps
Cable side laterals - 1 set, 8-10 reps

The above workout has a moderate amount of sets. I find this amount of sets is ideal. It allows me enough time for a good 1-2 minute break between sets without worrying about over-lengthening overall training time. I can get through the workout hard and heavy without worrying about loosing intensity either.

Devastating Delts: Put Some Polish To Your Physique! 

Your number one priority is always to have an unbreakable desire. If you want big delts, then you need to want them real bad.

Because delts aren't a big muscle, it's important your routine doesn't fatigue you before you're finished. I believe this program finds the solution to preventing fatigue build-up during training.
Total volume is moderate so it won't burn your delts out and you are only doing 1-2 sets per exercise which means there is enough variety to prevent fatiguing from the same movement.
Exercises are also carefully ordered. Each exercise is followed by a different movement that targets a different deltoid head than the previous exercise.
Reps in this workout are in the 6-8 range. This allows you to go heavy and maximize hormonal response. And there is nothing better for the ego than this style of training. Doing only 1 to 2 sets per exercise at this rep range gives me the feeling I'm doing maxes.

 Low Volume Approach:

This is a low-volume deltoid workout that be added into any low-volume routine. It really emphasizes the intensity-approach to training. It's low in sets and reps and focuses on heavy free weight exercises. Hormonal response from this kind of approach will be maximal.
Sets: 6
Time: 35-40 mins.
Level: Intermediate-Advanced.
Goal: Mass.
Split: Delts/traps.
Seated military press: 2 sets, 4-6 reps
Dumbbell Side Laterals: 2 sets, 4-6 reps
Bent-Over lateral raises: 2 sets, 4-6 reps

If I was only allowed to use free weights for one muscle group I would choose delts. From my own experience, my delts have blown up from doing free weight exercises such as overhead dumbbell press and heavy side lateral raises. This program brings your delt training back to basics with the core free weight movements. I highly recommend it.

High Volume Approach:

Sets in this workout are higher than the above workouts. Some people look for workouts that can give a good pump, and respond to this style of training quite nicely. Reps are also slightly higher, but still in the hypertrophy range.
Sets: 14
Time: 60-75 mins. 
Level: Advanced. 
Goal: Mass and pump. 
Split: Delts given their own day.
Seated dumbbell press - 4 sets, 8-10 reps
Seated lateral raises - 4 sets, 8-10 reps
Upright rows 2 sets, 8-10 reps
Smith-machine Overhead press 2 sets, 8-10 reps
Face Pulls 2 sets, 8-10 reps

The exercises have been ordered in a way that avoids fatigue which can be a problem with using a higher volume.

Hard-Gainer's Routine:

For a lot of us, delts are especially hard to develop. What annoys us even more is that they are probably one of the most important body-parts. People absolutely hate the look of having limp and bony shoulders. So, are you one of those people who don't seem to respond to any sort of delt training?
If so, I recommend giving this twice-a-week program a try. It emphasizes on using variations of compound movements that allow you to lift as much as you can. I can't stress the importance of going heavy enough, especially for delts.
Sets: 7 Time: 35-40 mins, twice weekly. Level: Intermediate. Goal: Mass.Split: Delts/traps/abs.
Standing Military press - 4 sets, 4-6 reps
Standing 20-degree Side Lateral Raises - 3 sets, 4-6 reps

Total sets here are quite low to allow the trainer enough rest to hit the weights with maximum effort. Reps are within the 4-6 range, which together with low volume, create a powerful hormonal response that will kick-start muscle growth.
Military press is a great compound that hits both the front and mid delts at once. Lateral raises are to be performed with a slight lean forward, with your hands facing forward, rather than to the sides. Performing raises like this has two benefits:
It turns the exercise into a compound movement which allows you to lift more weight.
It also recruits the posterior fibers of the delts. Not many other delt workouts can hit all 3 heads equally with just 2 exercises.
If you're finding it hard to add mass onto your shoulders, you should prioritize your delt training. This program should be done before any other muscle group you train on that same day. Having two low volume workouts per week, rather than one moderate volume workout, means you can focus more on each workout and take long enough breaks for you to recover for your next set.

Sets & Reps:
What set and rep range do delts respond best to? Be descriptive.

Delts are a smaller muscle group, so the amount of sets dedicated to delts needn't be excessive. It should be somewhere in between the amount of sets given to a bigger muscle group such as chest and back, and a smaller muscle group such as biceps or triceps.
Personally, I have responded best to a low-medium volume of 10 sets per workout. This isn't too many sets that it risks overtraining, but just enough to get through the workout without sacrificing weight or training intensity.
Another reason I recommend moderate volume is because it puts you under the right training conditions that allow you to have the intensity in order to lift heavy. As well as this, it is very recovery-friendly. Keep in mind that the delts are a small muscle group that fatigues quickly. Very few people will be able to get through a 20 set delt workout without overtraining.
I would recommend between 5-8 reps per set when training delts. This will ensure your going heavy and really stimulating those delt heads with max. force. Isolation exercises such as front raises are an exception where I would recommend up to 10 reps.

Workout Length:

How long should an effective deltoid workout be?

Don't Let Overtraining Stop You! 
As the athlete continues to get better, it is human nature to want to add more and more stimulus in the hopes that they will continue to improve. Often this is not the end result however...

I would recommend training them for around 20-35 minutes. This timing allows you to really stimulate each head of the delts without the risk of overtraining. Fatigue kicks in pretty quick when you're training delts, so your training productivity after this 20-35 minute mark will become counter-productive.
You will find the delts get very tired and sore, and maintaining the same level of intensity as you did earlier on in your workout will be very difficult.
Training within the 20-35 minute range allows you to hit each head within a time frame that is conductive to training at your maximum intensity. A little over 35 minutes is OK, but try not to over-do it, particularly if your training delts with another muscle group.
If the time you take to train delts is excessive, it will take too long to get through two muscles in the one workout, and your overall workout time will be too long. This means results will hamper and the cycle of overtraining will begin.

Other Muscle Groups:

Should they be trained with any other muscle groups in particular?

I like to train delts either on their own, or with additional trap and ab work. I think delts really deserve the attention of training them on their own. This way you can better establish a muscle-mind connection. When you activate the CNS like this, your brain is sent all sorts of signals and your chances of growing as so much higher.

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