The Back-to-Basics Delt Workout for Bigger Shoulders

Through intense training and a little creativity, you can build some serious boulder shoulders.

Cable Lateral Raise - Delt Workout
Per Bernal / M+F Magazine
Per Bernal / M+F Magazine
Duration 60 minutes
Exercises 4
Equipment Yes

The gym is your playground. Use everything it has to offer—free weights, machines, cables—to build size, strength, and balanced symmetry. Excluding any one piece of equipment as “nonfunctional” is being close-minded to all the benefits that can be reaped from doing an exercise you’ve never tried or haven’t done in years.

The following delt workout is nearly as diverse as the shoulder joint itself. It utilizes three distinct pieces of equipment—a barbell, a pec deck, and a cable station—to develop strength, hypertrophy, and a healthy dose of detail-oriented isolation work. There’s something here for every deltoid head (middle, anterior, posterior), and the exercise variety will keep even the most ADHD-challenged person from getting bored. But, hey, if the Smith machine isn’t “functional” enough for you, go ahead and let someone else build bigger shoulders on it.

Decimate Your Delts

Exercise 1

Barbell Overhead Press
Overhead Press thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
2 min. rest
While you perform your overhead press, be mindful of your core to minimize undue strain on the lower back. Keep your abs tight throughout and your chest facing straight ahead, not angled upward.

Exercise 2

Barbell Upright Row You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Upright Row thumbnail
3 sets
12 reps
1 min. rest
The upright row doesn’t get enough credit. It recruits your deltoids and traps for a compound movement that delivers a lot of muscle-building benefits. Load this baby up and don’t be afraid to use a little body English to move more weight.

Exercise 3

Reverse Pec Deck How to
Reverse Pec Deck thumbnail
3 sets
15 reps
45 sec. rest
This is a great tool to isolate the hard-to-hit rear delts. If your gym doesn’t have a pec deck, you can substitute with bentover rear-delt flyes.

Exercise 4

One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, D-Handle Attachment How to
One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
none rest
Alternate arms without resting between sets. Your right delt will get a rest when your left delt is working, and vice versa.