In the summer of 1996, everyone was watching the Olympics, held in Atlanta, and all eyes were fixed on Michael Johnson. The world-record-setting sprinter with the unorthodox running style and gold Nikes would go on to win the 200m and 400m sprints by the kinds of margins of victory we’re now used to seeing Usain Bolt take over his competition. In addition to being a sprinting phenom, Johnson possessed amazing musculature -the kind you might find in NPC Physique competitions these days.

Like everyone else, I watched Johnson intently, but not only to see him shatter records. In every slo-mo replay of his dashes what also caught my attention most -even more than his dazzling shoes – were his delts. They were big and round, and with each pump of his arms their fibers popped into relief, first in his anterior delts, then posterior. To me it looked as if he were making up for his awkward upright stance by powering through his races with extra shoulder action.

The next time I was scheduled to train delts I had sprinting on my mind. Johnson was a guy who didn’t specialize in bodybuilding-style training but who had the kind of deltoid development any bodybuilder could appreciate. I thought about those popping fibers, and the action of a sprint, and decided to see if I couldn’t emulate the movement in the gym. I may have invented the exercise I call “the Sprinter, but if I didn’t, I would imagine the person who did was similarly influenced by watching a runner in action.


To do the Sprinter, grab a pair of dumbbells that are about the weight you’d use for dumbbell front raises or lateral raises. Bend at the hips, keeping the back straight, until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle to the floor. Now raise one dumbbell in front of you, elbow pointing toward the floor, as you raise the other behind you. Then do a controlled swing of the dumbbells until your hands are at the opposite ends of where they were for the last rep. Keep your elbows slightly bent and don’t fight the torque your body will undergo with each swing.

Instead, use it to help raise the dumbbells higher. I like to envision myself taking of from starting blocks to nail down the form. Go back and forth like this until you’ve reached your target number of reps, counting out a full rep only when you’ve completed a forward and back motion with each arm. The Sprinter hits the anterior and posterior heads of the deltoid nicely, and when paired with lateral raises and presses, helps to make up a complete shoulder workout.

More power to you,

Shawn Perine