Shoulders Training 101: How to build 3D delts

In this fourth installment of muscle building keys where we ran over the key principles for the maximum development of each body part, we are going to discuss the shoulders.

Well-Developed shoulders are a keystone for your physique appearance. Wide round delts would give you an incredible aesthetic look and a more pronounced V taper. Also, it will give the illusion of a smaller tapered waist.

However, developing a full round 3D Delts is not an easy process. Most people would make some beginner’s training mistakes that will result in an unbalanced look. This might give them a hard time later on. Luckily, Delts are not very genetic related muscles. With the right workouts and periodization, anyone can have an outstanding set of shoulders.

Before we discuss the keys of shoulder training, let’s run through a basic anatomy lesson.

Shoulders Anatomy

The deltoid is a large three-headed thick triangular muscle. It originates from the clavicle and the scapula at the rear of the shoulders and extends down to its insertion in the upper arm.

Basic Function: To rotate and lift the arm. The anterior deltoid lifts the arm to the front. The medial deltoid lifts the arm to the side, and the posterior delt lifts the arms to the rear.

Now, some people include the trapezius muscle as a part of shoulder training. I personally see them more as a back muscle. So, we won’t be discussing trapezius training or anatomy here.

The Importance Of Shoulder Training

As I already said, well-developed shoulders are the number one key to achieve that famous V taper look that most men are after. I think we all remember those coats with huge padded coats and pinched waists that men used to wear back in the 40s of the 20th century. They did it so it will give them an exaggerated v taper look. Even back then, people knew that if you want to have that tapered look you have to develop big wide delts. Steve Reeves was one of the first to achieve that awesome V shape look due to his well-developed side delts and small waist. and since then it becomes a standard aesthetic look that everyone is trying to achieve.

Steve Reeves showcasing an awsome V taper

And while your shoulder width is directly linked to your bone structure, developing your middle delts properly will give you the illusion of a much wider torso. However, there is a lot to shoulder training then developing the side delt. So, let’s run through the key principle of shoulder training that would help you take your look to the next level.

Key 1: Include Heavyweight  Overhead Pressing Movement In Your Routine

Let’s be honest, looking back most of the bodybuilders who were known of having an outstanding delt development were usually known for pressing heavyweights. Just look at Kevin Levrone footage where he is lifting 370 lbs in the smith machine overhead press and you will know what I am talking about. Also, Levrone had some of the most developed delts in bodybuilding history. he also links that development to his heavy pressing movements.

One of the most neglected shoulder exercises nowadays is the military press. But besides its decline in popularity, the military press still by far the best overall shoulder builder. It is a complete shoulder exercise. It targets the anterior and middle delts in addition to the trapezius and the triceps muscles. This exercise is a must if you want big powerful delts. I know that a lot of people stay away from the military press because of shoulder mobility issues. That’s not an excuse to deny yourself from the benefits of this staple exercise. if your shoulder mobility is poor, then maybe you should start working on improving it slowly. That way you will be capable of adding this exercise into your toolbox.

Also, if you have a decent shoulder flexibility and you can press behind the neck, it is also a great idea to switch between front and behind the neck presses for a complete shoulder development.

For people who don’t feel very comfortable with barbell overhead presses, using the dumbbells variation is a great way to increase your shoulders mass and strength. Also, I find that a lot of people can overhead press more comfortably using dumbbells instead of a barbell.

Key 2: Work Your Side Delts:

As we already established, having well-developed side delt is crucial for achieving a V shape look. Especially if you are not blessed with a wide clavicular bone. Often enough people would make the mistake of spending a large portion of their shoulder workout doing multiple variations of overhead presses. While those are very important to perform, you only need one variation. Instead, you should focus more on side delts exercises like dumbbell lateral raises and cable lateral raises.

Those would give you that wide look that you are after more than anything else. Also, despite having a bad rap for ruining your shoulders, upright rows with a wide grip are an awesome exercise. They will allow you to overload your side delts with somewhat heavier weights.

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that in order to have a perfect shoulder development, 50% of your shoulder training volume should be dedicated to side delt exercises.

Key 3: Work On Your rear Delts

The most underdeveloped muscle in the majority of gym trainees. Myself included. Despite its importance, the rear delt is often neglected or trained with half effort at the end of a shoulder workout. Often enough with shitty form and no mind-muscle connection.

Without well developed rear delts, you won’t have a 3D delts. It is as simple as that. If you want to have big round delt and to have that “bump” look that will make you look thicker from the side, your rear delts must be developed to the point where it matches your middle delt in height.

The best way I found to work very well with rear delts is longer time under tension and higher reps. They are a very small muscle. So there is no need for big poundages because you will end up using your traps instead to lift that weight. So, keep your reps high around 15-30 reps per set and focus on mind-muscle connection. This way, you are able to completely isolate the rear delts.

Key 4: Vary Your Exercise Selection

Varying training angles play a big role in taking your physique from good to great. If you want to achieve maximum delt development you need to target each muscle fiber sufficiently. To do that you need to use multiple variations of certain exercises so you can hit a new set of muscle fibers each time you train.

For instance, instead of doing your regular side lateral raises, you can try a 70° incline lateral raises.  That would completely change the feel of the exercise. it will also target a different part of your side delts. Also, try to make use of cable and machine exercises.  especially the cable raises because they keep a constant tension on the muscle through the entire workout.

Key 5: Do A Lot Of Training Volume

Do more sets and more exercises, simply. Shoulders respond very well to high volume training. Things like german volume training work super well when it comes to shoulder growth. Also, since you will be using multiple exercise variations, you will obviously need more sets. So don’t be afraid of overtraining and demolish those delts.

I usually recommend at least 20 sets per workout when it comes to shoulder training. I found that to be the minimum effective dose for some serious shoulder growth.

Key 6: Train Your Shoulders Twice A Week

If you already read my previous articles on other body parts you know that I will be including this one. I am a big advocate of high-frequency training because it works. It is the best way to build muscle as a natural trainee so you should give it a try.

Now, with shoulders, what I personally like to do is to train the heavy pressing movements on one workout. In the second workouts,I would train the side and rear delt in a second workout. That would be a great strategy especially if your delts are weak body parts.

Putting It All Together

Ok, enough with the talking. let’s move to the real stuff and let me present you with a shoulder assaulting workout that will get even the most stubborn shoulders to grow.

The Workout

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Notes
1-Dumbbell Overhead Press 6 6 120 sec

2A-Cable Side laterals

2B-Cable Upright rows*

3 10-12 90 sec *Last set is a strip set

3A-Face Pulls

3B-Bent Over Cable Lateral raises**

3 10-12 90 sec *Last set is a strip set
4-Plate Front Raises 1 100 Do 100 reps in a single set with a 25 lbs weight plate.


Good Luck in washing your hair.

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4 thoughts on “Shoulders Training 101: How to build 3D delts

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