Super Shoulders: The Ultimate Deltoid Workout

Shoulder MusclesIf you desire a strong, chiseled looking body, then one of the biggest muscle groups that you should develop are your shoulder muscles; more specifically your deltoids.

In fact, the deltoids might be the most important muscle group in the body.

They not only serve a functional purpose, movement of the arms, but they also give the shoulders that pleasing aesthetic rounded contour when developed by performing deltoid workouts.

Deltoids:  The Anatomy

To develop strong deltoids you’ll need to perform some deltoid exercises but first, let’s take a look at the anatomy of the deltoid muscles.

The deltoids or delts can be broken down into three heads with each allowing different movements along a different plane of motion. The three heads are the:

  • Anterior deltoid (front delts)
  • Lateral deltoid (side delts)
  • Posterior deltoid (rear delts)

anterior deltoidThe anterior deltoid’s primary job is shoulder abduction when the shoulder is externally rotated.

You’ll often use your anterior deltoids for aiding in bringing your arms across your body, for lifting things or for pressing movements (such as the bench press or overhead press).

You will get amazing shoulder definition if you develop strong anterior deltoids.


lateral deltoidThe lateral deltoids are also involved in shoulder abduction but when the shoulders are internally rotated.

The focus will be on the lateral deltoids when you lift your arms out to the sides (with your palms facing downwards) or in upward pressing movements such as the military press.

Developing your lateral deltoids will help give you wider shoulders.


posterior deltoidThe posterior deltoids, oft neglected and forgotten, are greatly stimulated when you bring your arms backwards such as when doing rowing exercises.

Most of the overhead pressing movements that work the anterior and lateral deltoids do little for activating the posterior or rear delts.

Therefore, it makes sense that performing some focused isolation rear deltoid exercises  is in order.


Before The Ultimate Deltoid Workout

We are going to take a look at a workout that will blast all three heads and that will  give you rock hard shoulders that will make the other guys in the gym jealous.

Since the shoulders are such a complex joint, allowing movement in so many different planes, it is highly recommended that you warm-up thoroughly before following this workout so you can keep your shoulders healthy and avoid injuries.

Here is what I recommend for a warm-up:

Perform light cardio for 5 to 10 minutes
Perform the posterior shoulder stretch
Perform the anterior shoulder and chest stretch
Perform front and reverse arm circles

For the posterior shoulder stretch, you take your right arm and have it reach across and touch your opposite/left shoulder blade. Then take your left arm and grab your right elbow and pull it to the left as far as you can.

Perform the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds and then do the same stretch on the other side.

For the anterior shoulder stretch, I like to hold a light, thin bar behind my back with my elbows fully extended. Now raise the bar back and away from your body and as you do this, stick your chest up and out.

Hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds.

When doing the arm circles, I recommend that you don’t swing wildly but use a nice slow, fluid motion. Do ten circles forward and then ten circles backward.

Now that the warm-up is all taken care of, let’s take a look at the ultimate deltoid workout that will give you boulder-like shoulders and give you a strong, pleasing look!

The Ultimate Deltoid Workout

The workout will be broken down into three parts, one for each head. So we’ll look at anterior (front) deltoid exercises, lateral (side) deltoid exercises and posterior (rear) deltoid exercises.

Anterior Deltoids (front delts)

Seated Military Press – In the seated position, you put your hands on the bar, grasping it at just wider than shoulder width and press the bar upwards until your arms are fully extended.

Perform a warm-up set or two with very light weight. When picking the “working” weight, you want to be able to do perform about 12 repetitions.

The working weight is the weight at where you will push/challenge yourself. If the weight is too easy, increase the weight five pounds (See the warm-up progression near the end of the article). Keep progressing until rep number 12 is challenging.

You will ultimately do 3 working sets of 8 to 12 reps for optimal muscle growth.

NOTE: In all exercises, pick a weight where the last repetition (or few reps) are challenging. Think progressive and intensity, try to increase the weights each time you perform this workout. You’ll get stronger and increased strength leads to more muscle.

Front Dumbbell Raises – Take a dumbbell in each hand and have your palms face downward. Raise the dumbbells in front of your upper legs.

Lower the weights to the starting position to complete one repetition. You can keep your elbows straight or slightly bent. You can also lift both dumbbells at the same time or alternate. I prefer alternating them, especially at heavier weights.

Remember, pick a light weight to start and practice good form. Don’t swing the dumbbells as this just uses momentum and really doesn’t work the anterior deltoids optimally. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.

Lateral Deltoids (side delts)

Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise – Take a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing towards your body. Keep your knees slightly bent and raise your upper arms to the sides. You’ll keep raising the dumbbells until the weights are right at about shoulder height.

As you lower the weight back down, you are completing one repetition. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.

Barbell Upright Rows – I like to use a barbell for these but you scan substitute dumbbells or use a cable/pulley machine. Grasp the barbell with palms facing downward. You should be holding the barbell at about the mid-thigh level.

Pull the barbell straight up to about chin level and then bring the barbell back down to the starting position. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Posterior Deltoids (rear delts):  No longer neglected

Rear Dumbbell Lateral Raise – Take a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inwards or towards your body. Bend your knees and bend over until your back is close to horizontal with you hips. Raise your upper arms to your sides until the dumbbells are about shoulder height and then lower the weights back down.

Perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. Remember to pick a light weight on these!

Face Pulls – Face pulls are an excellent exercise that will stimulate your rear delts. I favor using a rope and pulley. You can use either an overhand or underhand grip. Set the pulley to about head height and then pull the rope attachment towards your face.

As you do this, contract your upper back muscles and rear delts by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Ultimate Shoulder Workout Recap

Anterior/front delts

  • Seated military press – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
  • Front dumbbell raises – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps

Lateral/side delts

  • Standing dumbbell lateral raise – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
    Barbell upright rows – 2 sets of 10 reps


  • Rear dumbbell lateral raise – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps
  • Face pulls – 2 sets of 10 reps

Remember to think progressive. In weight lifting, the old phrase rings true, “No pain, no gain”. You want to try to increase the weight a little every few workouts (every workout if possible).

I recommend you start off light on all movements. This will let you progress fairly quickly and it will help you build a good strong base since you can practice great form at the lower weight levels.

A Good Warm-Up Goes A Long Way

Let’s say you are getting ready to do the military press. You’d like to perform your working reps at 150 pounds.

To warm up properly, you need to warm up the muscle but you want to avoid fatigue. Most warm up improperly, doing way to many reps before the actual working sets.

Their warm-up might look like:

  • 25 lbs x 10 reps
  • 50 lbs x 10 reps
  • 75 lbs x 10 reps
  • 100 lbs x10 reps
  • 125 lbs x 10 reps

Then the working sets are started but you would have already 50 repetitions before that. This is definitely not optimal for lifting heavier weights because by the time you get to the heavy weight, you are too tired and can only squeeze out a few reps.

This is a more optimal way to warm-up:

  • 25 lbs x 10 reps
  • 50 lbs x 5 reps
  • 75 lbs x 3 reps
  • 100 lbs x 2 reps
  • 140 lbs x 1 rep

You’ve warmed up in less than half the reps. Now you are ready to perform the 150lb working sets at just about full strength. Who knows, maybe you can even go higher!

Concluding The Ultimate Deltoid Workout

If you stick with this workout and focus on lifting progressively where you work towards lifting heavier and heavier on subsequent workouts you can guarantee that you’ll make major progress.

You definitely want to have a log book with you to track the weight lifted and progress made. You might also snap a few pics every month.

If you perform these deltoid workouts consistently for the next six months, you’ll see amazing strength and mass gains and you’ll be the envy of those around you.

What we just covered is an amazing shoulder workout but if you want to fully reshape your body and maximize your muscular potential, please take a look at the No-Nonsense Muscle Building Program.

It’s a 29 week program that will help you build the best body you’ve ever had!

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