Achieve your optimum health and fitness for a lifetime!


By John Litteral 12-31-22

Round and nicely developed shoulders are one of the most noticeable body parts. I am a hard gainer when it comes to shoulder development, so I modify my shoulder training from time to time so that I can put more emphasis on developing my delts. The key modification that I implement is putting my shoulder day at the beginning of my training split so that I can specifically target my shoulders before all other body parts. Our shoulders are highly involved when we train our chest, especially during the flat bench press and the incline bench press. Therefore, from time to time I will put my shoulder workout before my chest workout during my training split for a few months. This allows my shoulders to start the training split at a time when my delts are most rested. This really does make a difference in my performance when doing my shoulder exercises, especially my overhead shoulder press.


For gaining muscle mass, strength is obviously very important. But for bodybuilding, strategically training our muscles from different angles and targeting all the different heads of our muscles is the key to maximizing overall size. This means that we need to do shoulder exercises that target the front, side, and rear delts.


Compound multijointed movements are essential for building muscle size and strength. It is important to do compound movements before isolation movements, with the exception of some MUSCLE CONFUSION TECHNIQUES like “pre-exhaustion.” I always begin my shoulder workout with the standard overhead barbell press, and then isolation movements such as front raises, dumbbell side-lateral raises, and rear delt extensions. Compound lifts allow you to use heavy weight, therefore you get stronger and build bigger muscles.


Isolation movements are single jointed movements that are designed to target a specific muscle or part of a muscle. Unlike compound movements where you are able to use heavy weights and have the potential to get stronger for years, isolation movements need to be done with lighter weights and higher reps, and the potential for increasing the weight for the exercise is very limited. Powerlifters and Strength trainers rarely use isolation movements because their goal is to simply lift heavier weights, therefore they often do not see any practical use for them. But in bodybuilding, isolation movements are very important for gaining muscle mass and definition because they help produce a FULL MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT. Isolation movements are practical because the more muscle mass that you have, the higher that your metabolism will be because bigger muscles burn more calories.    


This exercise is one of the BIG FOUR (squats, deadlifts, bench press, and shoulder press) compound movement exercises that I consider to be essential. I like to lower the press in front of the head and also the behind the neck. Most often I always start my shoulder workout with the press in front of the head. I do the behind the neck press in the following exercise when I superset the front raise with the behind the neck press. I will get to that in the next section.

In this movement, I lower the bar down to the top of my chest at the top of my collarbone, and then I raise the weight up over my head to full extension. Since this is a power movement, I usually do a rep range between 5-7 when I am bulking, and 8-10 when I am not bulking.


The front raises develop the front part of the delts. The behind the neck shoulder press stimulates the shoulders in a similar fashion as the overhead press in the front, but there is enough difference in these movements that they are both worth doing in your training.

I start this exercise with doing front raises with a 45lbs plate for as many reps as I can get, and then I immediately do the barbell behind the neck press with a weight that I can get 6-8 reps with. This super-set really stimulates the shoulders! I can get a lot of reps with a 45lbs plate when doing front raises, but in order to not pump out an extreme amount of reps, I will do the movement slowly and pause at the top with the plate held in front of my head. I can also use dumbbells for the front raises and use heavier weight that allows me to only get 10-15 reps.

As for the behind the neck press, I prefer to lower the weight down to earlobe level. Some people lower the weight down further.


This exercise develops the side part of the delts. I do a rep range of 10-15.


This exercise develops your rear delts. This part of the shoulder is probably the most neglected area of the shoulders by many people. A well-developed side and rear delts are very impressive looking, and they can even make your arms look a lot bigger in appearance. I do a rep range of 10-15 with this exercise. You can do this exercise with dumbbells or machine. I find that I get a better pump on my rear delts with a rear delt extension machine.

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