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Few muscles give off an aura of badassery like a pair of big, gnarly deltoids. When sizing someone up at the gym or the local gin joint, shoulder width, in my experience, is a good indicator of their physical prowess. Have you ever seen a lifter, athlete, or fighter who doesn’t have well developed delts? If they exist, they are scarcer than hen’s teeth!
The deltoid is made up of three “heads,” the anterior deltoid (front), the lateral deltoid (side), and the posterior deltoid (rear). To successfully grow a pair of behemoth shoulders we need to be aware of the three heads and work out accordingly. We want symmetrical growth throughout the entire shoulder, so we have to make sure to hit all three heads on shoulder day.
Anybody who has read Muscle & Fitness long enough knows that for superior growth we want to include compound movements in our training. After our big, compound movement, we will then isolate the different heads.
This is one of the best overall delt developing exercises. We also get the added benefit of working our triceps on this exercise. Make sure that you are not doing a push press, and be sure not to bend your knees and explode up, as this will make your legs the prime mover at the start of the lift rather than your delts. Before the bench press took over as the benchmark (no pun intended) of upper body strength, the overhead press held that distinction.
Barbell Front Raise
While standing grab a barbell about shoulder width apart. Start with the bar hanging down against your thighs, lift the bar in an arc motion keeping your arms completely straight. Try not to swing or cheat. Keep the move strict and feel your front delts moving the weight.
Incline Lateral Raise
Grab a pair of dumbbells and sit on an incline bench with your arms straight down at your sides. Raise the dumbbells up to shoulder level and then lower them, keeping control of the weight the whole time. Make sure to emphasize the stretch at the bottom of the lift.
Face pulls work the posterior deltoid and, surprisingly to most, even put extreme stress on the medial deltoid, according to EMG studies. Face pulls also target your back’s weak scapular muscles, which aid in stabilization of your shoulder joints. This is a great move for shoulder health.
Bent-Over Lateral Raise
This exercise directly targets the posterior delt or the back of the shoulders. Keep this movement strict. One variation you can do is to make the movement head supported, putting your forehead on the back of an incline bench to make sure your torso position doesn’t change.