Head and Shoulders Above

The 10 shoulder-training rules followed by 7X Mr. Olympia, Phil Heath.



Ten is the magic number. Heath has said he’s aiming for 10 Sandows, which wouldn’t just break the current record of eight held by both Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman, but would tack an extra on top of it. But 10 is also his typical rep target. He aims for 12 on side laterals, but chooses a weight that allows him to get only 10 strict reps on his other delt exercises. This keeps him in the middle of the 8–12 range, which has been scientifically proven to best build muscle.


For seated shoulder presses, he uses either dumbbells or a machine. And when he chooses a pressing machine, it’s usually one that allows his left and right arms to move unilaterally, thus replicating the freedom of dumbbells. Likewise, his side and rear laterals and his front raises are all done with dumbbells or independent-arm machines.

Consisting of three-headed muscles and ball-and-socket joints, your two shoulders have wide ranges of motion. Therefore, it makes sense to give each side as much freedom as possible. By choosing unilateral training tools, each arm can find its own groove. Also, on shoulder presses, additional muscle cells can be activated just to keep left and right in balance. Heath will do some bilateral overhead pressing and upright rowing, but in most workouts all of his delt and trap exercises are performed with either dumbbells or machines that let him move his arms independently.


Only two of the 13 Mr. Olympia’s were born after 1970, Heath and Jay Cutler. And the Gift arrived only 13 days before the launch of the ’80s. He grew up in the hometown of Microsoft (Seattle, WA) during the computer revolution. throughout his career as a bodybuilder/businessman, he’s eagerly adopted the latest high-technology. So maybe it’s no surprise that he also embraces the latest gym innovations, whether it’s the FST-7 training method or a new device.

He favors the Hammer Strength unilateral station for overhead pressing. He sometimes hits traps with a shrugging machine. And he often uses two devices for rear delts. One is a reverse pec deck. The other is a plate loaded, rear lateral machine, with which he lies facedown on a bench and pulls his elbows up against pads pressing against his triceps. Most gyms don’t have such a contraption. His does. And the day it was delivered Mr. Olympia couldn’t wait to try it.


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