What’s one thing all good superheroes have in common? Besides a cool name, a tragic back story and what on anyone without superheroic powers would be considered socially inappropriate wardrobe, that is. Big, broad shoulders, of course! 

Doorway-wide delts have the dual advantage of allowing you to lift very heavy things (like supervillains) overhead and looking intimidating. A goal worth shooting for, regardless of your backstory.


Want to scare off the bad guys? Want to get the girl? Then you need superhero shoulders, but quick. Check out our Superhero Shoulders Routine below and get started on the path to looking the part of the hero you already are.



What we refer to as the deltoid is actually three bunches of muscles which share points of origin and insertion. The deltoid group begins three-fourths the way down the clavicle and ends about three-fourths up the humerus. It caps a complex joint, a ball and socket structure, which provides more movement than any other in the body. It’s this very mobility that results in being athletes’ most frequently injured joint.


The three heads of the deltoid are titled anterior, medial and posterior and each has related, but distinct, functions. The primary function of the anterior head is to push the arm away from the front of the body, and to raise it to the front. The medial head’s function is to lift the arm to the side as well as to raise it overhead. The posterior head is responsible for pulling the arm behind the body.


In devising a shoulder-training program it is important to include exercises that target all three heads to ensure maximum delt development.



This is a simple, but very effective, program for building super wide, super thick and super deep shoulders, just the way female news reporters like them. We break these down into three categories: those that target the medial head (wide), those for the anterior (thick), and those for the posterior head (deep). Keep in mind that no exercise completely excludes ancillary involvement, not just from the other heads, but from other muscle groups. So we highlight primary movers and secondary movers for each.

SUPER WIDE: The Medial Head

Seated Dumbbell Press

Sidekick Muscles: Anterior delt, triceps, pectoralis major

Special Powers: If you can do only one pressing movement, this should be the one. First off, by using dumbbells you greatly minimize the chance of injury caused by being locked into a specific range of motion, as with a barbell. Secondly, dumbbells allow you to keep tension specifically on your delts throughout the full range of motion whereas the barbell, by locking your hands into a fixed position, provides for varying levels of stress throughout.

Nemesis: Lazy hands. 

Do not let the dumbbells fall together at the top of the movement, which is indicated by a clanking sound. This is a telltale sign of a boy blunder. Superheroes know better.

Alter Egos: Seated barbell press, Seated machine press.


Start: Either with the help of a sidekick or solo, raise a pair of dumbbells to your shoulders.  At the start position of the exercise you want to have your palms facing front. 

Positive: Push the dumbbells straight up until just short of lockout. There should be about a 10º bend to the elbows at the top position and the dumbbells should be about as far apart from one another as when starting the movement. Why?  Because the lateral head of the delt will remain under continuous tension this way. When you let the dumbbells come together at the top you are shifting most of the stress from the shoulders to the triceps.

Negative: Lower the dumbbells along the same path as in the positive portion of the movement only this time stop when the dumbbell handles reach the center of your ears. This also helps to keep stress on the delts. Imagine your arms to be powerful pistons, which they are.


Immediately go into…


Lateral Hold/Pump

Grab a light pair of dumbbells and raise them to your sides with a slight (5º) bend to your elbows. Hold the dumbbells at a 90º angle to your body for 20 seconds.  Let the dumbbells come down to your sides and then knock out 6 quick reps of laterals before putting them back in the rack.


Performance: Perform 1 warmup set of 20 reps with a light weight. Then move into four progressive working sets of 15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps, each supersetted with a lateral hold/pump. Rest no more than 30 seconds between sets.

SUPER THICK: The Anterior Head

Incline Front Dumbbell Raises

Sidekick Muscles: pectoralis major, trapezius

Special Powers: This isolates the front delts like no other exercise. By lying at a 70º angle on a bench as opposed to standing you more effectively hit the anterior delt at the start of the movement and lessen the amount of assistance provided by the trapezius.

Nemesis: Swinging. 

There will be a temptation to swing the dumbbells at the bottom of the movement but this defeats the purpose of performing the exercise on an incline. You should let your hands only come down as far as your hips. No swinging allowed on the top portion either. Stop your hands about 20º short of perpendicular with the floor for maximum benefit.

Alter Egos: Seated front barbell raise, Standing front dumbbell raise.


Start: Set a bench to a 70º angle or less. Grab a pair of relatively light dumbbells (lighter than that with which you would do lateral raises) and sit down with them. Lean back with the dumbbells resting on your knees. 

Positive: Raise the dumbbells with a slight bend to your elbows, palms facing down. Bring them straight up in front of you until your arms are at about a 70º angle and hold for one second.

Negative: Now lower them in a controlled manner until the dumbbells are in line with your hips. Hold them there for a second and raise again without using any momentum.


Immediately go into…


Reverse Hold/Pump

Grab a light pair of dumbbells and turn to face the bench. Sit facing the pad and raise your arms out in front of you keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Hold them parallel to the floor for 30 seconds. Without dropping the dumbbells stand up and knock out 6 quick reps of laterals before re-racking them.


Performance: Perform four progressive working sets of 15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps, each supersetted with a lateral hold/pump. Rest no more than 30 seconds between sets.

SUPER DEEP: The Posterior Head

Seated rear lateral raises

Sidekick Muscles: Latissimus, trapezius, medial delt

Special Powers: Seated rear laterals lock your body into just the right position for putting the bulk of the stress on your rear delts rather than your lats. Performing them on a bench, as opposed to standing, helps stabilize you and lessen the opportunity to swing the weights up.

Nemesis: Swinging, Raising torso too high. 

Controlling the dumbbells is key in this movement. Because it requires fairly light weight it’s important to get every bit of benefit possible from the exercise. Also, keep your torso down against your knees. The temptation will be to rise up when you’re tired. Resist temptation!

Alter Egos: Standing rear laterals, Machine rear laterals.


Start: Grab a pair of dumbbells close to the weight, or a little lighter than the weight you use for side laterals. Sit on the end of a flat bench and bend at the hips until your ribs are pressed against your thighs. 

Positive: With elbows slightly bent, raise the dumbbells out to your sides in an arcing motion until your hands are ear height, pinkies raised slightly higher than your thumbs.

Negative: Lower the weights back down but stop when they’re about 18” apart, under your thighs. This helps keep tension on the delts. Pause briefly before raising them again, without swinging them.


Immediately go into…


Prone Hold/Pump

Place a pair of light dumbbells on either side of the bench and lie face down on the bench, with your head hanging over one end. Now grab and raise the dumbbells out to your sides and hold them rigid for 30 seconds. At the completion of 30 seconds lower them and pump out 6 quick half reps, trying to resist the last one from going down.


Performance: Perform four progressive working sets of 15 reps, 12 reps, 10 reps, 8 reps, each supersetted with a lateral hold/pump. Rest no more than 30 seconds between sets.


By this time your delts should be pumped to the max and screaming for mercy like some pathetic evil-doer. Enjoy the feeling, for it is the feeling of victory. You have just defeated your greatest nemesis– Atrophy– and will grow stronger and larger as a result. 


As a finishing touch spend a minute squeezing your delts by holding your arms in a variety of positions and tensing. Feel the three distinct heads contract and relax. Know that with each squeeze you are etching in a few more cuts.


Now go over to an adjustable cable crossover station. Set the pulleys to shoulder height and load up the weight stacks to their maximum. Grab the pulley handles and (carefully) let the weight pull your scapula apart. Feel your delts stretch. Feel the blood flow through them as they’re pulled to their limit. Know that you’ve set the stage for your next delt workout, same delt time, same delt station. Continue this behavior for the next six weeks and watch your city’s female reporters suddenly flock to you for the “big scoop.”


Now go take a nap. Hey, even superheros need rest!


                                             SUPERHERO SHOULDERS ROUTINE                                             


EXERCISE                                 SETS              REPS
Seated Dumbbell Press              1*                   20

                                                         4             15-12-10-8

superset with

Lateral Hold/Pump                          30 sec/6reps


Incline Front Dumbbell Raises  4              15-12-10-8

superset with

Reverse Hold/Pump                        30 sec/6reps


Seated Rear Lateral Raises      4               15-12-10-8

superset with

Prone Hold/Pump                            30 sec/6reps


*warmup set