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Derek Lunsford has practically none of it because he’s only 24 and has been a competitive bodybuilder for only a few years. At last year’s 212 Olympia, it didn’t seem to matter that he was lacking the “hard and grainy” look that signals a mature physique. Lunsford placed fifth in the loaded lineup, nipping at the heels of seasoned veterans Jose Raymond and David Henry (third and fourth place, and ages 43 and 42, respectively) and beating 40-somethings Ronny Rockel and Charles Dixon.
“Actually, that’s probably one of the things that held me back at the Olympia—a lack of muscle maturity,” says Lunsford, a native of Indiana. “But I love bodybuilding so much that I’m willing to take a lower placing. I think I could have placed a little higher, but I respect the judges’ opinions. Plus, I have so much respect and appreciation for all the work the older guys like Jose Raymond have put in. They’ve put a lot more into it than I have. Ultimately, I just want to see the sport of bodybuilding grow.”
Speaking of growing, the immense size and width of Lunsford’s shoulders must have had something to do with him cracking the Olympia top five on his first try. In the following pages, you’ll find his multidimensional delt routine—a crucial workout for any bodybuilder looking to create an illusion of immense size in a weight-capped division (this one at 212 pounds).
“The more the shoulders pop, especially the side and rear delts, the bigger and wider you’re going to look,” Lunsford says. “That illusion is so important, and another key thing is to make sure to hit every angle of the shoulders. That way, you’re not lacking in any area, and you’re symmetrical. But also, you’re going to have deeper cuts, striations, and separation between the muscles that are going to make you look so much bigger.”
Whether he’s able to accentuate the illusion even further in 2018, and maybe even start developing a little muscle maturity, won’t be revealed until September. Lunsford has decided to skip the Arnold Classic and go all-in on the 212 Olympia this year. His goal, of course, will be to not only improve his placing but win. Not that he’s in a hurry or anything.
“I’m just going to enjoy the process,” Lunsford says. “I’m in this for the long haul. If someday I have hard, grainy muscles, cool. If I don’t, but my physique still looks good and presentable, that’s fine, too. Whatever happens, happens.”
Sounds like a pretty mature young man.
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DUMBBELL LATERAL RAISE
ACTION: Stand holding a pair of light dumbbells at your sides (palms facing in) with your elbows and knees slightly bent. Maintaining only a slight bend in your elbows, raise the dumbbells up and out to the sides by contracting your deltoids. When your arms reach parallel with the floor, pause for a count, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the start position.
LUNSFORD’S TIP: “As you lift the dumbbells up, lead with your elbows. And at the top, stop when your arms are parallel with the floor. If you go higher than that, you start using the traps. If you’re trying to incorporate your traps, that’s fine. But for me, I’m trying to work straight delts with this exercise.”
SEATED DUMBBELL SHOULDER PRESS
ACTION: Sit on a low-back seat or an adjustable bench (set to an upright position) holding a pair of dumbbells. Lift the dumbbells, and begin with them just outside your shoulders, palms facing forward. Press the dumbbells straight up by contracting your delts and extending your elbows until the weights are overhead with your arms just short of locked out. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the start position.
LUNSFORD’S TIP: “I really make sure to maintain constant tension on the delts the entire time on these by not locking out the elbows at the top (which would use the triceps mainly). And coming down, you don’t necessarily need to lower the dumbbells all the way—just to where your upper arms are parallel with the floor, same as with lateral raises.”
CABLE UPRIGHT ROW
ACTION: Attach a long straight bar to a low pulley cable. Stand facing the stack, and grasp the bar with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Begin with your arms extended toward the floor and your knees slightly bent. Contract your deltoids and bend your elbows to pull the bar up to chest level. Hold for a count at the top, then slowly return to the start position.
LUNSFORD’S TIP: “I like to take a wide grip on upright rows to really target the middle delt and make it pop. When doing cable upright rows, you can use a lat pulldown bar to achieve that wider hand placement. If I’m using a barbell, I’ll put my middle finger or ring finger in the groove between the grips. Going this wide might feel uncomfortable at first, but as you start to perform the exercise, it feels really natural.”
ACTION: Stand facing a lat pulldown machine with a rope (not a bar) attached to the cable. Grasp the rope with both hands, palms facing downward. Start by leaning back slightly and your arms extended in front of your face. Pull the rope toward your forehead, leading with your elbows so they point out to the sides. Pull your hands apart as much as the rope will allow. When your hands reach your head, squeeze the contraction hard in your rear delts and upper back, then return to the start position.
LUNSFORD’S TIP: “I do face-pulls to hit my rear delts, but you’re going to hit some traps with it, too. There’s no getting around that. To hit the rear delts more, focus on pulling your hands apart on each rep as much as the rope will allow, which will sort of simulate a rear-delt flye.”
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LUNSFORD’S SHOULDER WORKOUT
*Lunsford increases the weight on each set (pyramid). The numbers listed in the “Reps” column for the first three exercises are typical of how his rep counts decrease as the weight gets heavier.
LUNSFORD’S TRAINING SPLIT
“Leading up to a show, I do cardio every day—usually twice a day,” says Lunsford, who walks on a treadmill at an incline at low intensity during these sessions. “I’ll do it in a fasted state in the morning, then again post-workout, for 30 minutes at a time.” In the off-season, he does cardio four to five times a week for around 20 minutes per session. The treadmill is still used, but he also incorporates high-intensity intervals (HIIT) on an elliptical machine, a stationary bike, or a stairclimber from time to time. “If I start to get soft, I’ll crank it up for a few weeks with the HIIT,” he says.