Shoulder Smackdown

An intensive routine designed to crush those caps and reignite growth.


Per Bernal

Sports have shown time and time again that a punch in the mouth can serve as the ultimate wake-up call, helping you return to the fray stronger than ever. It rattles you out of complacency and refocuses your efforts. And it's an apt lesson for the gym.

Consider the shoulders. Made up of three smaller heads— the anterior (front), middle, and posterior (rear) deltoids—their muscle tissue isn’t so easy to break down and set the stage for growth. Training shoulders can get downright tedious, and concentration can wane. The question is, When was the last time you really gave your delts the vicious thumping they need to get growing again?

Charles Lowthian


The key to a great shoulder workout is ensuring that those three heads get pushed harder. While the front head is engaged during chest training and overhead pressing movements, the middle and rear delts aren’t activated to the same degree and require focused attention. This workout accomplishes that—prioritizing the middle head for maximum width building—while keeping the workout interesting from beginning to end by interspersing the variety of raises needed with presses and upright rows.

You’ll start with dumbbell lateral raises. This is a warmup, so start light for a 16-rep set and run up the rack from there for three more sets of 14, 12, and eight to 10 reps. By that final set, you’ll want to be at a weight where you hit failure by 10—but not so heavy that you are rocking your upper body to generate momentum. Remember, each delt head is relatively small and can’t handle a ton of poundage on its own, so using excessively heavy dumbbells just means you’re cheating.

You’ll also want to lean forward slightly at the hips to let the dumbbells come down in front of your hips (but not clang together) at the bottom, then “lead with your elbows” on the raise—at the top, your elbows and hands should be parallel with the floor and aligned, with one not higher than the other.


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