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Deltoid Training For Bodybuilders

One of the fundamental aspects of bodybuilding is creating an illusion. That is, to give the impression that you are bigger, or wider, than you actually are. This is especially true for those bodybuilders that may not be blessed with great genetics, or an optimal skeletal system. In bodybuilding, the v taper is a major component of success. It is the v taper, in conjunction with a small waistline, that creates the most aesthetic physiques. To a large extent, the width of your shoulders is predetermined by skeletal structure, that is, something you are born with. To be a little more specific, the width of your clavicle is what determines your potential for shoulder width. Bodybuilders like Steve Reeves, Dave Draper and Frank Zane are all examples of bodybuilders that displayed this wide, square-shouldered look. However, by no means does this imply that those with a less than favourable skeletal structure are doomed to forever have puny shoulders. Tom Platz, Sergio Oliver, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Dillett are examples of bodybuilders that possessed narrower, naturally sloping shoulders, yet were able to build incredibly strong, broadly developed cannonball delts. The secret in creating the illusion that you possess large delts is to develop the medial deltoid. It is the medial delt that gives the appearance of increased shoulder width. This ultimately creates the illusion that your v taper is better than it actually is, and that you are wider than you actually are. Medial delt development however is only one aspect in creating mind blowing shoulders. The delts need to be thick, to show development of the front and rear deltoid. It is the rear delts that are most commonly underdeveloped and consequently, when striking a rear double biceps pose, let people down.

Basic Anatomy & Physiology of the Delts

The deltoid is a large hooded muscle on the outside of the shoulder, giving it a rounded appearance. It consists of three parts, an anterior (front), medial (middle) and posterior (rear). The deltoid lies on the outside of the collar bone and on the spine of the shoulder blade. It extends down to the upper arm. It is responsible for raising the arm forward of the body, and bringing the arm back toward the body, raising the arm sideways to the horizontal, from the horizontal it moves the arm both toward, and away from the midline of the body, and internally and externally rotates the upper arm.

Advanced Anatomy & Physiology of the Delts

The deltoid (delta = triangular) originates on the lateral one third of the clavicle, acromion process and the spine of the scapula. It inserts onto the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus. It is responsible for the following muscle actions:

  • Shoulder joint flexion and extension,
  • Shoulder joint abduction,
  • Shoulder joint horizontal abduction and adduction,
  • Shoulder joint diagonal abduction, and
  • Shoulder joint medial and lateral rotation.

Training Methods for Delts

The following table identifies exercises for the anterior deltoid and the percent (out of 100) emg activity:

Exercise

% EMG 

Seated dumbbell press                   

79

Standing dumbbell press                  

73

Seated barbell press     

61

 

Mri supports the emg results recorded for anterior deltoid recruitment. The anterior fibres are more active in shoulder joint flexion, horizontal adduction and medial rotation. Additional exercises that will significantly recruit the anterior deltoid are arnold presses, dumbbell and barbell front raises, and the bench press. Now let’s look at the medial deltoid. The following table identifies exercises for the medial deltoid and the percent (out of 100) emg activity:

Exercise

% EMG 

Incline dumbbell lateral raise                          

66

Standing dumbbell lateral raise                       

63

Seated dumbbell lateral raise                         

62

Cable lateral raise                                                 

47

 

It can be seen that with the exception of the cable lateral raise, there is little difference in recruitment of the medial fibres in the aforementioned exercises. The medial fibres are more active in shoulder joint abduction and horizontal abduction. Last but not least is the posterior deltoid. The following table identifies exercises for the posterior deltoid and the percent (out of 100) emg activity:

Exercise

% EMG

Standing dumbbell bent over lateral raise                                    

85

Seated dumbbell bent over lateral raise                                         

83

Standing cable bent over lateral raise                                             

77

 

It can be seen that the posterior fibres are more active in shoulder joint horizontal abduction, extension and lateral rotation. Also evident is the fact that cable movements, although great for maximising continuous tension, illicit less recruitment in both the medial and posterior fibres.

The Final Word on Delts

In order to accentuate a truly awesome v taper, all three heads of the deltoid need to be fully developed. The delts can be seen from almost every pose, and every angle. Choose maximum stimulating exercises, train hard and work the delts through a variety of movement planes and you’ll be well on your way to developing cannonball delts of your own.

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