Thursday, June 7, 2012

Adelfo Cerame RtWC12: Shoulder Your Weaker Body Parts! Bring Up Those Lagging Delts - Exercises, Splits, Routines

Image 1: After his 2nd place at the Nationals, Adelfo wanted to bring up his rear delts and although the lighting does not really do him justice, he made use of the weeks between the Nationals (right) and the USA (left) and filled up considerably.
It is more than 3 months ago that Adelfo and I have been talking about ways to bring up his somewhat lagging delts (if you could even say that there is something "lagging" about Adelfo's physique), yet still, it seems as if it had been yesterday that I told him that he would not have to wonder that those delts were not growing, when he was working them almost exclusively with compound movements for stronger body parts, which wouldn't allow the side and, more importantly, the rear delts to reach that highly productive, growth triggering point of just too much load to handle, but still not so much load that adaptation could not make up for it. And judged by his latest progress pics, Adelfo did not just take that comment to the heart, but was also able to make the appropriate changes to his routine. Good for you that he is no magician who would never betray any of his illusionist tricks, but gives away practical advice every week ;-)

Boulder shoulder tweaks

After my Florida show, I felt that my shoulders (front, side & rear) were an area in my physique that could use some improvement. It was not a clearcut weakness of mine, but when the initial disappointment subsided and I took another look at the comparison shots, I felt that Adel (aka Dr. Andro) had been right, when he said "If anything, you lost on one maybe two of the backshots, where Neil looked somewhat more massive - his rear-delts in particular." And yeah, he had been right, those rear delts did not really keep up with the rest of my back development, which - as you may probably remember - had been one of my priorities (aside from coming in as shredded as possible) during the prep for my first competition of the year. I knew I would not make the same mistake twice, and decided to level out those imbalances in the weeks to come.
Image 2:  The left hand side is a current image of me 4 weeks out from the USA’s, and the right hand image was me 4 days out from Nationals.
And allegedly, the results, now 14 weeks later, may not be earth-shattering, but the changes are unquestionably visible and that despite the fact that the "mini-bulk" I had originally planned for in-between the shows turned out to be more of an ameliorated diet ;-)

Make changes to see changes

While I guess that it should actually not be necessary for me to point out that continuing along a way that has lead you astray is a pretty stupid undertaking, I still see people do just that day by day - and not just in the gym, but also in their private and professional lives! Often ridden by the fear to make a change for the worse they'd rather continue along a known path that won't produce the desired results than to try something new that would at least hold the chance of improvement.

My old path consisted of training my shoulders once a week, following my basic training principle to use heavy compounds wherever possible and simply rely on the fact that those would provide an intense enough stimulus to both, the primary, as well as the auxiliary muscles that are involved in the respective exercises.

According to the aforementioned primacy not to follow a path which has lead you astray before another time, I increased the training frequency a bit and made a  couple of additional adjustments with respect to the exercise selection (see table on the right) and the grouping of the bodyparts, with auxiliary shoulder work on chest day.

Barbell jammers, bent over reverse cable fly’s and lat pulls behind the neck are 3 exercises that I have added into my training. Out of the three, I really enjoyed were those jammers - I felt they really targeted all areas of my delts, plus they are less stressing on the shoulders joints, because you're pushing in a forward/upward motion rather than right over the head. What was particularly surprising, though was how effective those three rear delt exercises actually were - I have never really paid much attention to it, let alone trained them in in isolation, but the way they felt during and after each workout told me that it may have been a mistake not to do DB rows (which are certainly more difficult for me to do than for an able person), lat pulls behind the neck and bent over reverse cable flys, before.

Training shoulders twice in a bi-weekly hybrid routine cycle

Image 3: Planned changes deliver results
Consequently, all three (DB rows, lat pulls behind the neck and bent over reverse cable fly’s) have turned into staples of my routine - irrespective of whether I am training at a higher or lower training volume on my new bi-weekly alternating hybrid routine
  • EDT/5x5 = 2 week phase
  • Overkill/5x5 = 2 week phase
  • Hypertrophy/5x5 = 2 week phase
While cycling through these basic templates, I incorporated the aforementioned additional shoulder work into my existing split on "chest-" and "back-days" which allowed me to train my shoulders - just as my chest and back - twice a week.

The following example routine (which is not intended to be copied without adaptations) goes to show you how you can reconcile all that in one routine, where you would split your shoulder workout up into front and side delts on "chest-" and rear delts on "back days" (click to enlarge):
Workout routine: No blueprint, just an example - Overkill (left), 5x5 (middle), EDT (right) hybrid
As I said before, both the volume and the intensity of these workouts are pretty insane and I am not suggesting that any beginner should simply copy this workout. The idea, however, to incorporate front and side delts on your "chest-" and the rear delts on your "back-day" is yet something that will have merit regardless of your training status or overall conditioning. So pick your favorite exercises from table one, align them into a routine with a total volume and intensity that suits your need, eat well, train heavy and get enough rest and you will see your shoulders will grow ;-)