When you want something fresh, something unique, something guaranteed to pack on slabs of unadulterated muscle to your frame, call on Jay Cutler. His plan is for you to replace your current delt routine with this one for only four weeks. For most trainers, that’s four workouts, but if you’re a twice-a-week kind of guy, that would mean eight sessions. It’s intense, explosive and should be used as a boost out of any plateau you may be experiencing in your current routine. Sticking with a high-intensity routine like this without switching off for a period of equal time could lead to overall fatigue, if not injury.


Boulder Shoulders 2Let’s go over the plan first, then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of it. The entire shoulder workout consists of four exercises: seated lateral raises, seated front raisesseated dumbbell presses and standing dumbbell shrugs. There are no specific rear delt exercises included. You’ll be stressing your rear delts mightily with laterals and presses. Add dumbbell shrugs, and you’ve got a complete shoulder blast.

The exercises are divided into two supersets of three sets each. Two groups of two exercises multiplied by three sets equals 12 sets in all. It’s not a tremendous workload for the deltoids, but the intensity is not derived from volume, rather it’s from the speed at which the training is performed. Complete the entire workout in 15 minutes. That includes 30 seconds of rest between the paired exercises and one minute of rest between the two supersets.


Boulder Shoulders 3Nothing Cutler does in his life, much less in his bodybuilding life, is haphazard. From the moment he decided to make a career out of bodybuilding, he was focused and diligent in his approach to the sport. So it goes for the double superset shoulder routine.

As to why he uses dumbbells rather than barbells, Cutler says, “I prefer doing dumbbell movements for shoulders, because I get a better range of motion than I do with a barbell.”

He goes on to explain the reasoning behind splitting the exercises into two groups, as opposed to lumping them all together into one giant set. “Lateral and front raises are similar in that they’re both what I consider to be isolation movements, whereas seated presses and shrugs are more in the category of compound movements,” he says. “You want to keep the two raises grouped together, because they both require lighter weights and are equally good for warming up the area. I’ve always been a big proponent of pre-exhausting the muscle. After completing the first superset, you’ve got the blood flowing and you’ll be ready for heavier compound movements.”

As for why each of the exercises, with the exception of shrugs, is performed seated, Cutler notes, “When you’re sitting, there’s less tendency to cheat. You can also angle your torso in the exact way that the exercise works best for you without having to worry about balance.”



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.


Boulder Shoulders 1SEATED 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.

Boulder Shoulders 6SEATED ALTERNATE FRONT RAISES: 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.



Boulder Shoulders 8SEATED 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.

Boulder Shoulders 9STANDING 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.


Seated Lateral Raises, 3 sets & 12,10, 8 reps

– superset with –

Seated Alternate Front Raises, 3 sets & 12, 10, 8 reps

– rest one minute –

Seated Presses, 3 sets & 10, 10, 8 reps

– supersest with –

Standing Shrugs, 3 sets & 10, 10, 10 reps


Boulder Shoulders 8


Once you’ve returned all the dumbbells to their original place (just because we’re brutal trainers doesn’t mean we can’t be courteous ones, too), stretch out your shoulders. Using a vertical pole or column or the upright of a machine (watch your fingers), slowly stretch your shoulder region from a variety of angles. As you release, you should feel a surge or swelling in the muscle. This is good. It means growth is on the way via oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood being sent to heal the microscopic tears you’ve just inflicted on your muscles. The signal has already been sent (thanks to this routine) to start repairing those tears pronto and to build the muscles up a little stronger than before, so they can handle the stress next time around.

Facilitate the repair process by giving your body the raw materials it needs to enact these repairs. As soon as your workout is over, put some simple sugars and a fastabsorbing protein, such as whey, down your throat. Thirty to 50 grams of each should do the trick. There are good recovery drinks available at most gyms, but you could even mix whey protein with a can of soda if you’re in a pinch. The important thing is to take advantage of the postworkout period and to shift it from a catabolic state to an anabolic one.

As mentioned earlier, don’t perform this shoulder routine for longer than a month (four to eight workouts). Go back to your original routine for a month or so before switching back again. Not only does this type of system keep your muscles guessing how to adapt to ever-changing stresses, it allows your body to recuperate from the neurological stresses of such a fast-paced and intense workout.

One word of caution: the pacing of this program is intense and will bring your heart rate up into a range more commonly associated with moderate to intense cardio training. Make sure your cardio system is up to snuff first, a sound bit of advice to consider before partaking in any form of exercise.

Take it from us and from Mr. Delts (Jay Cutler), this workout is nothing if not hard. But hard work is exactly how Cutler got to where he is today. Why not see where it takes you? – FLEX