Many guys develop a decent set of anterior (front) deltoid muscles, just from doing enough chest work. However, you’ll never max out your physique development and reach the height of muscle symmetry if you have flat, underdeveloped side (medial) deltoids sitting on your shoulders. Generally, the medial fibers of the deltoid do not get enough stimulation to get that round, full appearance from basic exercises alone. Nevertheless, this is fixable – but you must be willing to train with fire-blazing muscle tension to build the medial part of the deltoid.
If you thicken the medial part of the deltoid, your upper back and chest will look wider from the front, even when relaxed. Furthermore, thick medial deltoids will improve your symmetry, because your waist will look smaller. Seated dumbbell lateral raises are excellent for adding shape and size to the deltoids, without overly stressing the shoulder joint.
Overview of the Deltoid Muscle
The deltoid muscle caps five other muscles and the bony connections, which make up the shoulder joint. This deltoid has muscle sections that arise from three different bony regions on the shoulder girdle. The anterior fibers of the deltoid attach between the lateral part of the clavicle and the humerus bones. The anterior fibers flex the humerus at the shoulder (bringing the humerus bone of the upper arm forward), and also medially (internally) rotate the humerus at the shoulder. The posterior fibers of the deltoid originate from the inferior edge of the spine of the scapula, and insert at the lateral (outside) of the humerous bone (upper arm). These fibers extend the humerus (pull the arm backward). The medial fibers of the deltoid are primarily activated by seated lateral raises. They connect the acromion of the scapula and the humerus bone. Although weight trainers call this the lateral portion of the deltoid, these fibers are anatomically located in the medial region of the deltoid (with respect to the other fibers of the deltoid muscle). The medial fibers abduct the humerus, raising the humerus away from the side of the body.
The supraspinatus is one of the rotator cuff muscles and is activated by seated lateral raises. It begins near the cervical vertebrae, and attaches on the head of the humerus. Like the medial deltoid, the supraspinatus abducts the humerus. It also keeps the head of the humerus in the shoulder joint. The shoulder has been designed for mobility rather than stability. As a result, lifting huge weights has a greater potential to induce injury to the shoulder than other, more stable joints. This does not mean that you should not train the shoulders with decent loads, but the super-heavy stuff should be reserved for squats and deadlifts. Seated dumbbell side laterals provide superb stimulation for the medial fibers of the deltoids, without the need for hoisting super-heavy weights or risking injury to the rotator cuff muscles.
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises
1. Place a short-backed 90º bench in front of a mirror. Sit on the bench and take a dumbbell in each hand. Turn your palms toward the side of your thighs.
2. Your elbows should be just short of straight, but your elbow joint angle should not change throughout the range of motion. Lean slightly forward, but look up so that you can see your arms in the mirror.
3. Slowly and simultaneously raise both dumbbells from a position that is beside your thighs, and continue lifting until the hands are just slightly above shoulder level. This is abduction of the arms. Both arms should work at the same time, and you should be able to draw a line that runs from one arm, through the shoulders, to the other arm. Your palms should be facing the floor as you are lifting the weight upward.
4. Continue to raise the dumbbells out to the side of the body until they are at shoulder level, so your arms are parallel to the floor. Rising higher than this will stimulate the trapezius, but it will not help develop the deltoid muscles any further.
5. As the top position is approached, begin to pronate the hands until the knuckle of the little finger is at about a 45º angle, relative to the ceiling. Hold the top position briefly.
6. Slowly return your arms to the sides by retracing your steps. This means that you will turn your palms back to a position that is facing the floor, then lower your arms toward your thighs.
6. Do not pause at the bottom, but immediately begin the lift upward. This will keep the fibers in the medial deltoid firing throughout the set. After you have completed 12-15 full reps, you can rest 60-90 seconds before starting your next set.
Many people sit too vertically during this exercise. To maximize activation of the medial fibers of the deltoid, remember to bend forward just a little. However, don’t bend your torso too far forward, otherwise the rear deltoids will get the load.
The next important point about this exercise is to make sure that you rotate at your shoulder (not just at the wrist), to make the knuckle of the little finger move upward as you approach the top of the lift. It is also important that you do the exercise strictly, without jerky movements. It is not necessary to worry too much about lifting superhuman weight. On the other hand, you cannot expect good results if you are lifting pencil weight, either.
The road to shoulder greatness is not easy, and you will have to push yourself if you want to be outstanding. Fully sliced shoulders are within your reach – if you want them badly enough. When the Average Joe wants to quit, you need to do 2 more reps. If you are careful in your exercise form and diligent in your training, over the next few months you should see new thickness and contours emerging from the recesses of your short-sleeve shirts.
Boettcher CE, Ginn KA, & Cathers, I 2009. Which is the optimal exercise to strengthen supraspinatus? Med Sci Sports Exerc, 41, 1979-1983.
Kibler WB, Sciascia AD, Uhl TL, Tambay N & Cunningham T 2008. Electromyographic analysis of specific exercises for scapular control in early phases of shoulder rehabilitation. Am J Sports Med, 36, 1789-1798.
Minning S, Eliot CA, Uhl TL & Malone TR 2007. EMG analysis of shoulder muscle fatigue during resisted isometric shoulder elevation. J Electromyogr Kinesiol, 17, 153-159.
Moore KL and AF Dalley. Clinically oriented Anatomy, Fourth Edition. Baltimore, Lippincott Williams & Williams, Kelly, PJ Editor, 1992, pp. 690-698.
Reinold MM, Macrina LC, Wilk KE, Fleisig GS, Dun S, Barrentine SW, Ellerbusch MT & Andrews JR 2007. Electromyographic analysis of the supraspinatus and deltoid muscles during 3 common rehabilitation exercises. J Athl Train, 42, 464-469.
Yasojima T, Kizuka T, Noguchi H, Shiraki H, Mukai N & Miyanaga Y 2008. Differences in EMG activity in scapular plane abduction under variable arm positions and loading conditions. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 40, 716-72.
Uhl TL, Muir TA & Lawson L 2010. Electromyographical Assessment of Passive, Active Assistive, and Active Shoulder Rehabilitation Exercises. PMR, 2, 132-141.
Have you tried this NEW workout plan that everyone is talking about?
Bring on Summer: Week 3 Workouts
Welcome to week three of our three-week Bring on Summer program workouts. If you’d like to view the full complimentary program, which also includes additional workouts, meal plans and recipes, and other healthy-habit tips, you can do so here. (Find the week one and week two workout plans here.)
This workout is comprised of three circuits. Complete all exercises in a given circuit consecutively, one set each, and then take your rest before moving onto the next circuit. Continue until you’ve finished all sets. Repeat the full workout a total of three times throughout the week.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step forward with one leg, pushing the weight into your heel.
- Bending the knee of your forward leg, lower down and gently touch your back knee to the ground, pausing for one second.
- Push your forward foot into the ground while bringing your opposite leg forward to get yourself to a standing position.
- Repeat this movement, “walking” forward as you lunge, alternating legs.
- Stand upright and brace your abdominals so you do not arch your back.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip, palms facing out. Bend your arms so your elbows are facing outward and the dumbbells are near the tops of your shoulders.
- Raise the dumbbells above your head in a controlled motion, gently touching the dumbbells together at the top.
- Lower your arms to return the dumbbells to the position near your shoulders.
Hip Opener With Rotation
Reps: 12 (each side)
- Start in the up position of a pushup.
- Bring your right leg forward to the outside of your right hand.
- Keep your left hand on the floor, even with your right foot. Make sure your left knee doesn’t touch the floor.
- Keeping your right arm straight, rotate your trunk, reaching toward the sky.
- Try to pull the toes on your left foot up toward your shin.
- Lower your arm to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
- Load a barbell, or set the barbell on supports so that your starting position is mid-shin level.
- Grab the barbell just outside hip-width with an overhand grip. If your grip strength is not very strong, then alternate your hands instead, with one overhand grip and one underhand.
- While bracing your abdominals and keeping your back and neck in a straight line, drive your feet into the ground, pulling your truck up and thrusting your hips forward into the bar as you stand up.
- Continuing to brace your abdominals and keeping your back and neck in a straight line, bend at your hips, pushing them backward to lower your body back to the starting position.
- Keep the bar as close to your body as possible throughout the entire movement.
- Sit down on a bench, placing your hands next to your thighs.
- Walk your feet out and straighten your legs, lift your hips and glutes off the bench, and hold there with your elbows extended straight.
- Bending at the elbows, lower your body down as far as you can go, or until your arms form a 90-degree angle.
- Push up through your palms, squeezing your triceps on the top for one second.
Reps: 30 seconds
- Lie down on the floor on your back with your legs straight and arms at your sides.
- Contract your abs slowly and reach your arms toward your shins as you lift your legs up to a 45-degree angle.
- Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
- Position yourself on all fours. Place your hands under your chest, positioning your index fingers and thumbs so they’re touching, forming a diamond shape. Extend your arms and legs so that your body is elevated and forms a straight line from your head to your feet.
- Squeezing your glutes and keeping your back flat, bend your arms, with your elbows out to the side, to lower your chest toward the ground.
- Stop just before your chest touches the floor, then push back up to the starting position.
Reverse Dumbbell Fly
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your abs tight and back straight, push your hips backward, bending to a 45-degree angle.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, let your arms hang straight out in front of you.
- Slowly spread your arms apart to a T-shape, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top and pausing for one second.
- With control, bring your arms back to the parallel position.
Plate Wood Chopper
Reps: 12 (each side)
- Start in a lunge position with one knee on the ground, holding a plate with both hands in front of you.
- Rotate your torso to the side of your raised knee and lift the weight up and across your body with straight arms.
- As you lift, turn your torso and head so you end up facing the plate as its above your shoulder.
- Lower the plate back past the starting position, reversing the twist to bring the weight down on your ground-knee side.
Have you tried this NEW workout plan that everyone is talking about?
How to Pack a Gym Bag
Forgetting your socks or weightlifting gloves can derail your workout, especially if you’re new to exercise or entrenched in a rigid program. To stay the course, having the right supplies is key to your success. To help you prepare, we asked Life Time personal trainers Anna Taylor, NASM, USAW, Alpha, and Bryce Morris, MS, NASM, ISSA, Alpha, for their favorite gym-bag essentials.
- Stretchy, flexible, sweat-wicking shirt and pants or shorts
- Socks (two pairs)
- Undergarments, sports bra, support, or protection
- Cross-trainers or sport-specific shoes
- Refillable water bottle
- Flip-flops for showering
- Hair binders, deodorant, toiletries
- Sports watch or heart-rate monitor
- MP3 player/phone and earbuds or headphones for music
Nice to Haves
- Swimsuit for the whirlpool or sauna
- Wet/dry bag for swimsuit or sweaty clothes postworkout
- Razors: Some clubs offer them in the locker room, but bring a reusable one to cut down on waste
- Odor-absorbing charcoal sticks to keep your bag smelling fresh
- Shaker bottle with premeasured protein powder so you can add water and refuel
Coach Anna also suggests:
- A protein-packed bar to eat before your workout
- Bear KompleX Hand Grips for pull-ups
- A weightlifting belt for lifts at 80 percent or more of max
Coach Bryce also suggests:
- An extra T-shirt
- A RPM speed rope for double-unders and conditioning
- A BCAA and L-glutamine supplement to support recovery after your session
Have you tried this NEW workout plan that everyone is talking about?
Out with the Old: Change Your Workout to Improve Wellness
Take yourself back to the 1970s when Arnold Schwarzenegger was preparing for the Mr. Olympia contest. Everybody wanted to try his incredibly intense workouts. It has been rumored that Arnold’s workouts were so intense that at least three different trainers would have to give him separate workouts in order to keep up with him.
Following in the king’s footsteps, anyone who wanted to be a bodybuilder or get into shape undeniably thought that working out six days a week, two times a day, was the way to make this happen. Luckily for us and all of America, workouts have evolved from the old-school mindset to the new school.
Varying Your Workout Old School: Sticking to the same workout for months.
Although this was the go-to, this pattern isn’t always going to work. When you do the same sets and reps for every workout, you miss out on allowing your body to change.
New School: Implementing the SAID principle.
The SAID principle is an acronym for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. When the body is put under different stress, it starts to adapt. In other words, the body is trying to get better. By providing your body with different types of sets, reps, and loads, you are able to tap into more of your muscle fibers, increase strength, and avoid plateaus.
Targeting Training Old school: Focusing only on the trouble spots.
This type of focus won’t work for the majority of people who are coming to the gym to work out or lose weight. When there is variety in your workouts, there is room for growth and development. Focusing only on the areas that are the weakest isn’t going to help the areas that are already strong continue to get stronger.
New School: Correcting trouble spots while also training strong areas.
Correcting a weakness and building on a strong point at the same time will enable you to improve your body as a whole. A way to correct those problem areas is to figure out exactly why they are causing you problems. The Functional Movement Screen captures fundamental movements, motor control within movement patterns, and competence of basic movements uncomplicated by specific skills. It will determine the greatest areas of movement deficiency, demonstrate asymmetries, and eventually correlate these with an outcome.
Cardio vs. Strength Old School: Focusing only on cardio will increase weight loss.
While it’s important to incorporate cardio into your workout regimen to help build and keep your cardiovascular systems stronger, it is not the only type of exercise that is needed for weight loss. Focusing only on cardio will lessen your chances of building muscle.
New School: Getting a healthy dose of both cardio and strength training will improve overall health.
Much like how a car stays warm after it turns off, the same can be said about your body after you finish a workout. EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) explains how your body’s metabolism can continue to burn more calories. Resistance training can provide a greater EPOC effect than running at a steady speed.
Out with the Old and in with the New
Training methods will come and go, and at some point the new-school methods will become old school. At NIFS we offer a wide variety of programs, assessments, and education to help turn those old habits into new routines. Stay positive, be willing to accept change, and explore to find what works best for you!
This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.
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