Roelly winklaar delts rotator

We asked Roelly Winklaar to take us through a normal delt routine and explain the rationale behind the exercises he chose. First, some basic anatomy: The deltoids are comprised of three parts: anterior (front), medial (middle), and posterior (rear). Winklaar works all three to achieve that full, round look onstage. He consistently performs six exercises, each of which hits a different head of the deltoids. It might surprise you that even though he increased the weight for this prep, he still kept the reps high. He doesn’t believe in “powerlifting style” training with low reps, so he never goes below 12. By keeping the volume high, he burns calories throughout his workout (thus, less cardio!).

He’s a stickler for form, however, never swinging the weight or cheating. He also avoids locking out at the top, in order to keep constant tension on the muscle and ward of injuries that would come with overloading the joint. “Time under tension is very important,” Winklaar says. “Locking out allows you to rest briefly. You should avoid resting the muscle at all costs during your set if you want the muscle to grow.” He keeps the same basic exercises, but may vary the grip on an exercise depending on how he’s feeling.


“Believe it or not, this is one of the exercises I see people doing incorrectly in almost any gym I visit,” Winklaar says. “I see guys circling their shoulders at the top, which is an injury waiting to happen.” Some people include these on back day, but Winklaar doesn’t think he can hit them as hard once he’s completed a heavy back workout that includes a killer set of deadlifts, so he adds them to his shoulder day. “There’s no better way to directly hit the traps than with shrugs,” he says. He alternates between barbell and dumbbell shrugs, noting that each has its benefits.

HOW TO DO IT: For dumbbell shrugs, start with your palms facing each other and the weights hanging at either side; try to hold them out about two inches from your body, keeping in mind that locking your elbows and hanging your arms straight down slightly relaxes the muscle and doesn’t activate the trap as much as possible. As you move the weight up, keep it in a straight up-and-down motion, never rotating forward or backward at the top. Hold at the top for a one-second count, then slowly lower back down. Winklaar notes that it’s also important not to hyperextend your elbows—another beginner’s mistake he often sees. Lower the weight only to where you started and no lower, or you risk injury to the elbow joint.


Roelly winklaar dumbell press


Winklaar warms up with the Hammer Strength shoulder press. He starts with a few light sets, but rather than rush through them quickly, he slowly moves through 20 reps in order to get blood flowing into the muscles. Since the machine locks your body into place, avoid going all-out on this one, instead using it as a warmup for the front delts.


This is Winklaar’s go-to exercise for huge front delts. He advocates using dumbbells over a barbell for a couple reasons. If you have any shoulder impingement or rotator cuff issues, dumbbells are much easier on them because you can make micro shifts in position at the top and the bottom, and even as you press them into place. Most important, though, keeping a heavy set of dumbbells up and moving properly activates ancillary stabilizing muscles like the triceps, biceps, and traps—and even the abs, for balance making it much more than just a front-delt exercise. 

One of the challenges with going superheavy is cleaning the dumbbells up and into position. Winklaar gets assistance on one side. He recommends flipping one dumbbell up yourself from your knee, while a spotter hands you the other one. “Oftentimes, trying to flip up such heavy dumbbells can lead to back injury or a pull in the neck, and you also lose at least one rep by trying to maneuver them yourself,” Winklaar says. 

He always uses a spotter on these, and never throws them onto the ground when he’s done. He’s also certain to begin the movement with the dumbbell at about ear level and not below, which activates more triceps over shoulders. Everything is done in a controlled manner. And for a bigger challenge and variation, he’ll perform it with a neutral grip (palms facing each other), which activates different muscle fibers.

HOW TO DO IT: Make sure your back is flat against the pad and not arched when you sit down. Arching stresses the lower back, so you really need to engage your abs to sit up straight. For your heaviest sets, have a spotter hand you one dumbbell. If no spotter is available, place the dumbbell up on its end on a bench beside you, which makes it easier than flipping both up. The pressing motion should be slightly faster on the way up than on the way down. It should feel like you’re trying to push the dumbbells through the ceiling then slowly lowering them back into position.


Roelly winklaar overhead press


Building the perfect X-frame requires full, round side delts. Winklaar relies on an old standby, lateral raises, which isolate the medial head—but adds his own twist. 

The traditional method is to start at your waist and move up to shoulder height. But by turning the palms up and raising the weights from shoulder height overhead, you can further isolate the muscle, Roelly says. “By doing only traditional side laterals, you end up cheating toward the end by swinging the weight to shoulder height. Starting at shoulder height and moving overhead forces you to keep the muscle tense and work throughout the whole range of motion.” 

He first does traditional laterals for three sets, then overhead laterals for three sets.

HOW TO DO IT: Choose a weight you can handle without swinging it down. Start with your hands at your sides and, with your elbows slightly bent, slowly lift the dumbbells until your arms are parallel to the ground. One mistake to avoid is moving the dumbbells above shoulder height. “Any time you go beyond shoulder height on traditional side laterals, you’re relaxing the muscle,” says Winklaar. 

When you flip your hands around to do overhead laterals, begin with your elbows slightly bent and arms out to the side, then move overhead. You may need to choose a lighter weight when you first try these—they really make the shoulders burn!


These isolate the posterior (rear) delts better than any other movement, with the added beneft of working the rhomboids and traps, thus adding size not only to the delts but to the middle back. “You don’t need to go very heavy on these to feel the muscle burn, especially if you do them with perfect form,” says Winklaar.

HOW TO DO IT: Keep your back flat and, with a weight in each hand, palms facing each other, bend over almost to parallel, so the dumbbells are hanging down and your hands are in a neutral grip. In one smooth motion, lift till your arms are parallel with the foor, then slowly lower the weights in a controlled manner—it’s easy on these to shift the weights forward or backward, cheating yourself out of the purpose of the movement. When you fIrst start these, check your form in the mirror to make sure the weight is coming directly out to your sides. You can also do these seated if standing causes too much strain on your lower back. 


  • Hammer Strength Press | SETS: 2 (warmup) | REPS: 20 | REST: 30 sec
    • Hammer Strength Press | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12 | REST: 1 min
  • Seated Dumbbell Press | SETS: 1 (warmup) | REPS: 20 | REST: 30 sec
    • Seated Dumbbell Press | SETS: 1 (warmup) | REPS: 15 | REST: 1 min
    • Seated Dumbbell Press | SETS: 4 | REPS: 12 | REST: 2-3 min
  • Lateral Raise* | SETS: 3 | REPS: 12 | REST: 1 min
  • Overhead Lateral Raise* | SETS: 3 | REPS: 12 | REST: 1 min
  • Shrug | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10 | REST: 2-3 min
  • Benover Lateral Raise | SETS: 3 | REPS: 12 | REST: 1 min

* Rest 4-5 minutes between lateral raise and overehad lateral raise.

NOTE: Winklaar rests longer between sets of his heavy exercises and 5-6 minutes between each exercise.