Deflated-Delt Dilemma

Charles Poliquin

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Q: My delts are about as flat as pancakes. Any rapid solution to the problem?


A: Wide, round shoulders have been built with both high loads and high volumes. Powerlifters and Olympic lifters have built impressive shoulders using low reps for multiple sets on compound exercises, such as presses and upright rows. On the other hand, there are plenty of bodybuilders out there with the fantastic deltoid development that comes from high reps, short rest intervals and isolation-type movements. I’m of the opinion that people achieve better deltoid development if they cycle in and out of both approaches.

I find that descending, or drop, sets and preexhaustion are particularly effective at promoting shoulder growth. When someone has problems adding mass to the middle-delt area, tri-sets or Omni-rep breakdown sets can solve the problem.

Tri-sets are three exercises performed one after another—back to back—before taking a rest. Here’s a good tri-set for the mid delts:

A-1 Standing lateral raises 3 x 8-12, tempo 4/0/X/0

A-2 Low-pulley upright rows 3 x 8-12, tempo 4/0/X/0

A-3 Seated dumbbell presses 3 x 8-12, tempo 4/0/X/0

Perform A-1, A-2 and A-3 in a series, take a two-minute break, and repeat two more times, for a total of three tri-sets.

Notice that on the standing lateral raises you should do the concentric, or positive, stroke explosively, as the leverage is disadvantageous in the exercise. For low-pulley upright rows I recommend using a rope attachment, like the one normally used for pushdowns. That will remove some wrist stress.

On an Omni-rep breakdown set you select one basic exercise and its variation and essentially destroy all the fibers that can be used in the movement:


1) Do 6-8RM of standing one-arm lateral raises with a 2/0/X/0 tempo. That targets the highest-threshold fibers in your delts.

2) Do 10-12RM of lean-away one-arm lateral raises using a 2/0/X/0 tempo. By changing the mechanics, you take the supraspinatus muscle out of it and change the strength curve for the medial deltoid. You also tap into the intermediate-fast glycolitic fibers.

3) Do 20-25RM on one-arm low-pulley lateral raises with a 1/0/1/0 tempo. By using a low pulley, you get even tension throughout the movement. The higher reps will finish off whatever low-threshold fibers that can still fire after steps 1 and 2.


Do not rest between steps 1 and 2 or 2 and 3. After performing all three exercises, take a 90-second break, and then repeat with your other arm. Do three Omni-rep rounds per arm.

By the way, these routines are reserved for high-pain-threshold individuals. Wimps should stay away from them. Try each program for six workouts each. I’m sure your deltoids will become more massive and with noticeable roundness.

Q: What’s your opinion of powerlifting training for bodybuilders? I see some guys at the gym using the full paraphernalia that powerlifters use when squatting—supersuit, wraps, powerlifting belt.

A: Unless you’re in the final three weeks before a powerlifting meet, you should avoid knee wraps and the use of a weightlifting belt, which supports the lower back. If your lower back and knees are prone to injury, you must first restore proper body alignment by using corrective exercises, such as stepups and true abdominal-training techniques.

At the Athens Olympics, most of the world-record setters and medal winners weren’t using any belts for their snatches and clean and jerks, and those lifts are way more stressful to the lower back than deadlifts and squats. The trend became popular about 15 years ago as doctors and trainers realized that the belts had enabled the athletes to forgo abdominal work, which made them more susceptible to injuring their lower backs. The coaching staff emphasized extensive abdominal work with junior lifters so that they wouldn’t rely on the psychological crutch of a belt. As the years went by, fewer lifters were getting injured because their trunk muscles could now handle the heavy loads.


It’s All In Your Head

Ron Harris

It’s All In Your Head

Recently I attended a seminar hosted by six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates. At one point, while discussing training intensity and the true meaning of momentary muscular failure, Dorian mentioned an analogy he’d heard from Mike Mentzer, which had been passed on to Mike from Nautilus creator Arthur Jones: “Suppose you hit failure on a set of curls, but then some shady character put a gun to your head or to the head of your child, and told you to do two more—you’d somehow get those two reps, wouldn’t you?

Shoulder ASSAULT

Cory Crow

Shoulder  ASSAULT

Alex Azarian sounded beat. The night before we were scheduled to talk about his shoulder training, he and his wife, Nga, had welcomed Stephen Azarian, all seven pounds, two ounces of him, into the world. I offered via phone message to postpone, but Alex wouldn’t have it. Yes, he was tired; yes, having a baby is much higher on the scale of importance than an interview; and, yes, he had barely slept since the baby was born, but he wanted to do the interview despite all that—because he’d told me he would and he didn’t want to upset my schedule. That provides a little insight into just how nice a guy Alex Azarian is.

Blubber Blasters

John Hansen

Blubber Blasters

Q: I own a gym, and I help many of my clients get in shape and lose bodyfat. One seems to be at a sticking point. Although it’s only been three weeks, she’s still at 25 percent bodyfat, yet she’s lost 6.5 pounds in that time. Her waist measurement hasn’t changed much. Is she losing muscle? If so, why? Do you think she’s expecting results too quickly? Yes, we’re increasing the weights she’s using in the gym and trying to go heavier every week as much as possible. She believes, as I think most people do, that fat isn’t dropping fast enough due to her cutting back on the cardio. I’m trying to get her past that.

Specialized Bodybuilding Low-Carb Diets

Jerry Brainum

Specialized Bodybuilding Low-Carb Diets

Low-carbohydrate diets have long been a staple of bodybuilding and are still the most popular method used to lower bodyfat levels prior to a competition. Vince Gironda, a noted California trainer in the 1960s and ’70s, was an early advocate of low-carb plans. He used the diet himself to produce a physique so muscularly defined that according to Vince, “Judges couldn’t figure out how to place me when I competed.” Vince’s intense muscular definition and vascularity were a rare sight when he competed in the 1950s. His diet focused on eating meat and eggs. He also suggested going off the diet by eating carbohydrates at least two days a week. Vince was aware that glycogen fueled bodybuilding workouts; hence his admonition to ensure some carb intake at regular intervals.

How to Strip Bodyfat, Part 3

Stuart McRobert

How to Strip Bodyfat, Part 3

This month I return to the subject of how to strip off bodyfat. The previous two installments of this series, which appeared in the August and September ’09 issues, set the scene for this third part. We left off with item 28. To continue:

29) Avoid processed foods. Processing removes valuable nutrients, vitamins and minerals and replaces them with rubbish such as sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and chemicals. Eating processed foods can cause your insulin levels to spike, which triggers your body to store fat.