I've had very narrow and unimpressive shoulders for a big part of my life. Call it genetics if you want; the fact is that my biacromial width was very small. Women would walk up to me and say, "You're cute, but your biacromial width just doesn't do it for me." Okay, they didn't really say that, but for my first years of training, despite putting on a significant amount of muscle, I always looked like a Neanderthal with narrow, rounded shoulders. It's a shame really, because the shoulder muscles can make or break your physique!

The delts are among the most important in the body yet many coaches recommend not training them directly. This is a big mistake! If anything, shoulder training should be the cornerstone of a good training program. I'll give you three reasons why:

So having strong shoulders is a required element for injury prevention, aestheticism, and performance. This begs the question: if shoulder development is so important, why don't all trainees have it?

The answer is rather simple: they don't know how to do it! I pride myself in being an expert on shoulder development. Since I have a naturally narrow shoulder structure, I've had to work extra hard to find ways of creating monster deltoids. Plus, my experience in Olympic lifting has taught me a lot of ways to build humongous shoulders.

Add the fact that many of my hockey players come up to me with a history of shoulder injury and you have a strong basis of knowledge on how to build strong and powerful shoulders!

The Program

This complete shoulder overhaul program is divided into two training blocks of four weeks each. The first is an accumulation block and the second is an intensification block. The difference between both phases will be marked and varied. The following table explains the differences:

Phase of Training

Accumulation Block

Intensification Block

Duration

8 sessions in 4 weeks

4 sessions in 4 weeks

Frequency

2 workouts per week

1 workout per week

Intensity

Moderate

High

Volume

High

Low to moderate

Complexity of Movements

Simple motor movements

More complex motor movements

 

Phase 1: Accumulation Block

The purpose of an accumulation block is to place the body under a large amount of physiological stress by including a lot of total mechanical work. This high volume/high frequency method can really lead to huge muscle gains provided that the individual rests enough.

Despite what many people believe, including phases of high volume training is necessary for everybody but beginners to stimulate maximum hypertrophy gains. That's not to say super high volume training should be done all year long though. More than four consecutive high volume weeks can be detrimental, leading to overuse, stagnation, and eventually overtraining.

But in the scope of this program, using a short, high volume phase will increase protein synthesis and get you structurally ready for the intensification block.

There are two shoulder workouts per week during the accumulation block. Ideally, you'll want to do them on the first and last training sessions of the week. A good split looks like this:

Accumulation Block: Shoulder Workout #1

A. Old-Style Military Press

The term "old-style" refers to the press technique used by Olympic weightlifters prior to the advent of what's known as "Russian press technique" (pressing while hyperextending the lower back, almost making it a standing bench press). An old-time press is done with only the arms being allowed to move. The legs, back and torso stay tight during the whole movement and the heels are stacked together. The bar starts on the clavicle and you press it overhead in one smooth motion.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01 LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01
Correct military press form
U-Lead Systems, Inc.
Russian press
Old-Style Military Press

Parameter

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Sets

3

6

4

3

Reps

12

12

8

6

Load

12RM

(60-75%)

12RM

(60-75%)

8RM

(70-85%)

6RM

(75-90%)

Tempo

201

201

201

201

Rest intervals

60 seconds

60 seconds

90 seconds

90 seconds

B. One Arm Cable Lateral Raise

I really like this exercise to increase medial deltoid development, which will eventually widen your physique. I feel that doing this movement one arm at a time can really help you focus on getting a quality muscle contraction. To make this movement effective, you must pause for two seconds when the weight is lifted at shoulder height.

One Arm Cable Lateral Raise

Parameter

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Sets

3

6

4

3

Reps

15 / arm

15 / arm

10 / arm

8 / arm

Load

15RM

(50-70%)

15RM

(50-70%)

10RM

(65-80%)

8RM

(70-85%)

Tempo

121

121

121

121

Rest intervals

60 seconds

60 seconds

60 seconds

60 seconds

C. Lean Away Lateral Raise

Another superior deltoid exercise! Incline your trunk sideways by holding onto a fixed object and lateral away!

Leaning Away Lateral Raise

Parameter

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Sets

3

6

4

3

Reps

15

15

10

8

Load

15RM

(50-70%)

15RM

(50-70%)

10RM

(65-80%)

8RM

(70-85%)

Tempo

121

121

121

121

Rest intervals

60 seconds

60 seconds

60 seconds

60 seconds

Accumulation Block: Shoulder Workout #2

A. Snatch-Grip Behind the Neck Press

I know the behind the neck press has received a lot of bad press recently and I must admit that I don't like it either. However, I find the snatch grip (very wide grip) press to be safe and very effective at building huge deltoids! I used it myself extensively to solidify my receiving position in the snatch and really noticed a huge improvement in shoulder development from doing this exercise alone!

Snatch-Grip Behind the Neck Press

Parameter

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Sets

3

6

4

3

Reps

12

12

8

6

Load

12RM

(60-75%)

12RM

(60-75%)

8RM

(70-85%)

6RM

(75-90%)

Tempo

201

201

201

201

Rest intervals

60 seconds

60 seconds

90 seconds

90 seconds

B. Power Upright Rowing

This is essentially a cheated upright row because you use your legs to start the weight. This will allow you to use more weight, which will really put a lot of stimulation on both the deltoids and traps. To make this exercise effective you must hold the completed position for two seconds while flexing your shoulders and traps really hard.

Power Upright Rowing

Parameter

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Sets

3

6

4

3

Reps

12

12

8

6

Load

12RM

(60-75%)

12RM

(60-75%)

8RM

(70-85%)

6RM

(75-90%)

Tempo

121

121

121

121

Rest intervals

60 seconds

60 seconds

90 seconds

90 seconds

C. Incline Rear Delt Raises

You'll use rear delt raises to finish off the rear delts (which can add incredible depth to your physique). This is one of my favorite exercises to keep the shoulder muscles in balance.

Incline Rear Delt Raises

Parameter

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Sets

3

6

4

3

Reps

15

15

10

8

Load

15RM

(50-70%)

15RM

(50-70%)

10RM

(65-80%)

8RM

(70-85%)

Tempo

121

121

121

121

Rest intervals

60 seconds

60 seconds

60 seconds

60 seconds

Phase 2: Intensification Block

After the four weeks of high volume/moderate intensity training, your shoulders will be begging for a change of stimulus. And we're going to give it to them!

The intensification phase will really make the difference between muscular shoulders and bowling ball deltoids. The training frequency will be reduced to one workout per week; this is to give your body the proper rest it'll need to grow after such a hellish workout! We're going to lift big weights in this phase of training and use more complex movements.

As I mentioned, there's only one shoulder workout per week during the intensification block. Ideally, you'll want to do them on the first session of the week. A good split looks like this: