One of the worst feelings in the world is the anticipation of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMs) that never materializes. You may feel a little tight the next day, but it’s not the kind of soul-rending ache in your muscle bellies that you typically associate with growth. These are the times when you typically commit to crafting (or adopting) a delts workout routine designed to remind those muscle fibers, whose growth-resistant antics now border on contempt, who is really in charge.
And when it comes to your shoulders, this type of beatdown is even more important. Trained to some degree on every other workout day, your delts are quick to become complacent. But with a careful mixture of exercises and the proper manipulation of training variables that push your muscles beyond failure, your shoulders can see impressive and oftentimes rapid growth.
GET WARM, THEN GET WRECKED
No matter how hard you’re hitting your delts workout on any given day, make sure that you precede your working sets with a more-thorough than-normal active warm-up. Going beyond the tired ritual of “a few light sets” before your heavier work, a more dynamic warm-up helps you increase core body temperature and increase blood flow to working muscles, which is even more important when we’re talking about the more delicate structures of the shoulder joints.
Spend 5-10 minutes performing activities that engage your shoulders, such as jumping jacks, shadowboxing, arm circles and band work to properly lubricate the joints. Bonus: This type of warmup can also enhance central nervous system recruitment, which means you’ll be stronger and more efficient for every rep of the workout to come.
ABOUT THE DELTS WORKOUT ROUTINE
It’s pretty standard practice to begin your shoulder routine with some heavy over- head presses. Done standing or seated, overhead presses build crazy strength by bringing your triceps, upper pecs and even your abs into play to help you move more weight. The goal here, however, is beefier delts and, sometimes, a simple reduction in weight is advisable. But that doesn’t mean you have to scale back the intensity. By simply alternating sides with each rep, you can create a new stimulus for growth. But here, we’ll dial it back yet another step by keeping one dumbbell stationary—either in the up or down position—to further increase the total time that your delts are under tension. This increases the time the delts work for, fatiguing your muscles in a different way than with normal presses, and igniting that deep burn you haven’t felt in a while.
The presses are followed by the wide-grip upright row. As with the overhead press, the upright row takes advantage of multiple muscle groups to complete each rep. This goes tidily into the overload category that is the hallmark of sustained growth, while adding dimension and height to your traps, better framing the tops of your delts as a result.
In physique speak, it can be argued that the medial deltoid head is the most critical of all muscles. That’s because wide-reaching middle delts that cover a lot of ground can give your waistline a smaller appearance–no crunches or crash diets required. Here, you’ll will yourself through three absolutely brutal drop sets that call for you to rep your way into a lactic acid frenzy as you work your way down the dumbbell rack. This will flush your delts full of mass-making blood and nutrients and set the table for a flamboyant cameo by your old friend DOMS.
Some work on the reverse pec deck caps off your shoulder day but it comes with a twist: five-second holds on each rep. Most guys like to fly through their reverse flyes. Because rear delts are usually (and sadly) trained last, fatigue levels generally dictate sloppier form. Here, the extended hold forces a better mind-muscle connection and breeds greater emphasis on controlling the weight during moves for this small but crucial muscle group.