The Nitty Gritty
OK, so we understand the pacing and sequencing of the workout. We also understand the reasoning behind its structure. Now it’s time to break it down into its individual elements, namely, the exercises themselves.
SEATED LATERAL RAISES: Cutler always begins his shoulder training with this movement because, as mentioned earlier, it’s excellent for pre-exhausting the shoulders, thereby bracing them for the heavier load to come in the second superset. Lateral raises primarily work the side delts and secondarily the rear delts. Cutler performs this exercise in a slightly atypical fashion. Rather than lifting from his wrists, he raises the dumbbells using his elbows so that, at the top of the movement, his wrists, elbows and shoulders form a line parallel with the floor, with his elbows bent at about 45 degrees. He believes that this variation more effectively hits his delts, but he stresses that everyone has a unique structural makeup. If raising your wrists first works for you, then stick with that form.
Grasp a pair of dumbbells that will allow you to perform 12 reps in a quick and explosive, but not jerky, manner. Don’t let the weights rest, not even for a second. Keep them moving until you’ve finished the set. Once you’ve completed the prescribed number of reps, go right into the next exercise.
SEATED ALTERNATE FRONT RAISES: This hits the head of the deltoids, but it also lends secondary stimulation to the upper traps. Cutler prefers to do this exercise in isolateral fashion, which means one arm at a time. Performing front raises with both arms in unison is awkward and can put undue stress on your lower back and pelvis as you struggle to remain upright.
Keep your elbows pointing out as you raise the weight with your wrist. Bring the dumbbell just above eye level before lowering it again. As with the lateral, the aim here is for explosive, but not cheat, reps. Up and down, one arm, then the other, like a machine. Machines don’t rest and neither should you, until you complete 12 reps per arm.
Once you’ve completed your initial set of front raises, put the dumbbells down, take 30 seconds to replace them and then select the next heavier pair. Sit down, take a deep breath and launch right into your second lateral raise/front raise superset. This time, shoot for 10 reps for each of the two exercises. Repeat this cycle one more time, aiming to crank out eight reps with the heaviest pair of dumbbells you’ll be using for your raises.
That’s it for your first superset cycle. Take one minute to catch your breath, collect your thoughts and return the weights to the rack. Don’t stop moving, though, because before you know it, it’s time to begin the second superset.
SEATED PRESSES: With the shoulder region completely warmed up, launch into the power portion of the routine. Use a pair of dumbbells that will allow you to perform 10 reps. Sit on a short-back bench with the dumbbells balanced on end atop your knees. If you have a spotter, have him assist you in getting the weights to shoulder level. Otherwise, hoist them one at a time to your shoulders with the help of your legs.
It’s OK to lean back a little as you press the weights up. The short back acts as a brace, which helps protect your spine. Again, explode up with the weight and control its downward motion. Bang! Bang! Bang! Up and down, up and down. Keep the pistons pumping for a count of 10 before (carefully) lowering the weights to the floor. Now stand up. It’s time for the next exercise.
STANDING SHRUGS: Take a heavy pair of dumbbells off the rack. If you have wrist wraps, use them. You don’t want your grip giving out before your traps do. Keep the dumbbells at your sides and drag them up over your hips as you try to touch your shoulders to your ears. You won’t reach them, but try with all your might to get there anyway. Do 10 reps, put the weight down, take deep breaths for 30 seconds, and then get your butt back on the bench for seated presses.
You may have to stick with the same weight you used for the first set of seated presses. Your shoulders should be pretty fatigued by this point, so increasing the weight is not necessary. Instead, aim to push out another 10 reps before returning to shrugs. Rest 30 seconds. Now, shoot for eight reps, if you can. Your shoulders should be searing (if you did this right) and even eight will be a struggle. If you have a partner, have him spot you from the elbows when pressing — you’ll need it. Then it’s one final set of heavy shrugs. Go for 10. It’s the absolute last set of this routine, so gut it out.