We Love Fitness

old school delt development

Back in the day it was a rule that the shoulders should be much wider than the waist in order to form that V taper. This was the goal of every bodybuilder. This is what all of us strived for and it took a lot of work because genetics weren’t so kind to everyone equally.

Structure plays an important part as some people are just born with naturally wide shoulders and small waist. I don’t have a with a wide waist, but I do have large abs and they have a tendency to grow big, which makes my waist look larger. Arnold has sloping shoulders, so he had to work hard to bring up his lateral delts in order to broaden the appearance of his shoulders.

Keeping the waist slim and tight to offset shoulder development is also tricky because you can work your abs so hard, (like I did mine) that they get thick and overshadow the width of the shoulders. One exercise I tell everyone NOT to do is side bends with weights. This also widens the oblique muscles around the waist and even though you think you’re reducing it, it’s actually getting bigger.

However, wide shoulders can be achieved if approached properly. Years ago it was thought that the behind-the-neck press was the best way to develop the delts. We all did them and there was a guy in our gym that could actually do them with 315 lbs. That’s really strong, and he was thick and big, but his waist was twice the width of his shoulders.

Over the years it was discovered that this exercise caused a lot of shoulder problems and arthritis because of its unnatural movement. At this point in my life I can’t even get my left arm back to grab the bar from doing these for so long. Many of us found alternative exercises to do in place of it though, such as the standing press with a bar, alternate dumbbell presses and Smith machine presses.

Basically, the pressing movements added thickness and size but didn’t do a whole lot for the shape of the muscle. There are three heads, ‘anterior (front), ‘posterior’ (back), and ‘lateral’ (side). Each one has to be specifically worked separately in order to get maximum size out of it. Standing laterals are for the side, bent over laterals for the rear, and front raises for the front, but the bench press also works the front and sometimes will increase the size ratio to the back, so be careful and work them evenly.


Back in those days, I also found that one arm dumbbell presses twisting as you press up really worked well. I had very good results with that, using one arm at a time. We always experimented with movements to see what worked best. I guess you could call us pioneers.

Supersets with standing dumbbell presses alternating with standing lateral raises works extremely well and gives your delts a very good pump.  Four sets each and then finish off with four sets of bent over laterals and four sets of shrugs.

I’ve saved the best for last and this one will really blow your delts up. Arnold and I experimented with these plenty.

Start at the 20 lb. dumbbells and pick them up for standing press, with palms facing you. As you press up, rotate your palms out to be facing front. Each rep should be exactly like this. After your first set of 8 reps, make 5 lb. jumps and work your way up as far as you can go non-stop. We went all the way to the 80 lb. dumbbells. This is a killer… but you’re not done yet.

Rest for a few minutes and then start where you left off and do the same thing all the way back down the line. This is all you need on the pressing movements. Now grab the dumbbells again and do a set of lateral raises—at least 8 reps. Go all the way up the rack again as far as you can go. Your reps will drop, but that’s ok, as you can make them up on the end. Once you get to the top, rest then work your way back down the rack.

Now it’s time for shrugs, so grab the dumbbells and do 5 sets of 12 reps of shrugs for the traps. You can also use a straight bar if you prefer.  Finish off by doing some neck work, having your training partner give you resistance with a towel by pushing all four sides of your head as you lie on a bench. Ive always felt that it’s not just the shoulders alone that look good but have to tie in with traps and neck to give that complete look.

You won’t be able to do this work out more than twice a week as its really depleting and requires good recovery time. In fact you may just want to do it once a week at first and then see how it goes.

Workouts like this cannot be done for long periods of time—a month tops and then change it. Your body will adapt to it and then it will need a change in order to grow again. This goes for any routine, but this one in particular. Try it and watch your delts grow in front of your eyes, and be sure to eat right and take your supplements. It all figures in to making you the champion you deserve to be.


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We Love Fitness - 2013