This article is for you if you resistance train in splits with different body parts being worked during different workout.
Ask yourself, do you have a shoulder day when you will work each of the three heads of the deltoid muscle group? If so, why do you do this?
I used to and I didn’t like it very much. As a consequence my shoulders suffered. It wasn’t that they lagged very far behind the rest of my body, it was that I didn’t train with enough intensity to get to know how to work them correctly – I never felt the muscles working the way I could feel my biceps when I train arms.
What I did find was that my rear deltoid muscles would be fatigued and pumped on back day, particularly when I finished off with a narrow rowing movement (reverse grip barbell row, seated row, cable row).
I found that my front deltoid muscles were slightly fatigued on chest day, particularly when I would focus on the upper chest (incline barbell press, incline dumbbell press).
I found that the medial deltoid muscles would be well rested on back and chest day because they were hardly used at all.
What did this all mean? I started to think about it and after a while I saw the movements in my head in a new way. It turned out that the rear deltoids have more movement in common with the muscles of the back than they do with the muscles of the chest, which have more movement in common with the front deltoid muscles. The medial head of the deltoid muscle has little movement in common with either the chest or the back, but lots in common with the trap muscles.
This was good news for me because I didn’t like doing the shoulder workout I was doing. This new understanding about the supporting role the front and rear deltoids played in chest and back movements meant that I could gut the the shoulder workout of exercises that isolated either of these two heads and instead focus all of my energies on the medial head. It meant that my shoulder workout got a lot shorter, which was perfect for me because it wasn’t fun to do.
It was easy to put this to work for me. I started off adding rear machine laterals to the later part of my back workout when I knew the joint and deltoid muscles had been well warmed up. I would do three or four back exercises and I would just slide laterals in after the 3rd or 4th back movement. My only consideration was to make sure that they would have enough energy left in them to play a supporting role in any remaining back exercises that I would do. For example, bent over reverse grip rows recruit a lot of rear deltoid muscle fibers, so they must be done before rear laterals. Front lat pull-downs do not rely so heavily on the rear deltoid muscles so I can do them after rear lateral movements. The shoulder pump I get from doing rear laterals on back day is awesome, arguable the best pump I’m able to get out of any muscle.
Concerning the front deltoids, I now do front dumbbell laterals towards the end of my chest day when the join and muscles are well warmed-up. But I’ve changed the way that I do them. I used to just raise the weights up to the front trying to use only my shoulder muscles. Now I also focus on squeezing the pectorals on the way up because engaging the upper pectoral region during this movement will shift some of the work on to them to help to more fully fatigue them. And the movement of the weight is slightly changed too, the line they follow is more of a “)(” shape. My goal with this is to improve the appearance of the pectoral deltoid tie in area.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have a shoulder day, but I call it medial deltoid day and that is exactly what it is. I’ll do an overhead pressing motion (dumbbell shoulder press, machine shoulder press) and lots of medial laterals. Occasionally I may do a single arm dumbbell press before medial laterals to ensure symmetrical strength and development. As you can imagine, the these workouts do not take very long to complete, maybe 25 minutes to work through a max of about 12-14 sets. I’m now able to add a couple of trapezius exercises to the end of the work out, or train abs, or do some plyometrics training during the same workout. By eliminating direct training of the front and rear deltoid muscles on shoulder day I’m able to engage in movements that compliment the medial deltoids or are completely unrelated and therefore on fresh muscles.
This small change of training movements vs. body parts has really made a big difference in the overall appearance of my shoulder and neck. It has also allowed me to better manage the demands of a complex split training regime along with making resistance training a lot more fun. It has also allowed me to experience some mind blowing pumps that leave me laughing at what I see in the mirror after my workout – sometimes I can’t believe that my shoulder muscles could look so bloated.
I am presently experimenting with training gluts and hamstrings as the same body part and training them separately from the front of the leg. While the anatomy and planes of movement are a lot more complicated than that of the shoulders, I have found that stiff legged dead lifts have more in common with glut raises than they do with leg press. I’ll just leave it at that until I have a more complete understanding of what is actually going on and how to best put it to work for you.
Try gutting your shoulder workout and move front deltoid training to chest day and rear deltoid training to back day. Shoulder day should be about the medial head of the deltoid because that is what is going to give you the massive width. Give it a try and see how well it works for you.