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Power of the press: whatever your bodybuilding status, when it comes to optimizing delt size and power, you have to get in over your head

Power of the press: whatever your bodybuilding status, when it comes to optimizing delt size and power, you have to get in over your head – Delt-Training Special!

Shoulders make the bodybuilder. We’re talking deltoids that are thick, wide and capped like mountains. No other bodypart signposts a bodybuilder as a bodybuilder as well. No other strength athletes train for that V-taper look of superwide shoulders straddling a trim hard waistline.

Understanding the role of shoulder development in the bodybuilding armory is one thing — achieving it is another. That takes us to the main exercise for building size and power in that area: the overhead press. No one ever built wide shoulders without busting his deltoid heads with overhead pressing. The bottom line is if you want to look like a bodybuilder, you’ve got to make the overhead press the core of your shoulder development.

This superfeature addresses the various types of shoulder presses, how to perform them for optimum results and how to best incorporate them into your deltoid-training routine.

All variations of shoulder presses are unique, but their similarities are greater than their differences. The range of motion changes little from lift to lift, so any claims that you’ll achieve wholly unique results doing one type of press rather than another are spurious. All shoulder presses place primary emphasis on the front deltoid heads. Your triceps assist in the upward push, especially near lockout, and side delts, rear delts, upper traps and (if you lean back) upper chest flex throughout the lift and serve as stabilizers.

Let’s examine the main versions of overhead presses and their individual characteristics.

EXERCISE 1

This is the king of shoulder exercises. It is deceptively as simple as pushing a barbell from the front of your shoulders to an arms-overhead position. Militaries can be performed from either a standing or seated position. Sitting restricts leg and lumbar movement, thus focusing the stress solely on the upper body. Conversely, standinq allows the lower body to aid in eking out a few extra reps, and such cheating can be valuable if you don’t have a spotter handy.

Military Presses

EXERCISE 2

Dumbbell Presses

Dumbbells provide a freer range of motion than barbells, and they force shoulder muscles to work harder to stabilize the weights. You can perform this exercise with your palms facing in or forward, and you can change your palm positioning throughout a lift by rotating your forearms. Note, however, that such variations produce minimal effects on your delts.

Dumbbell presses can be done with both arms simultaneously, with arms alternating on each rep, or all reps done on one side at a time. The most efficient use of energy is with both arms together, but single-arm variations may give you greater focus. You can do dumbbell presses standing or seated; most trainers prefer sitting with their backs supported. Whatever variation you choose, a longer range of motion can be achieved by bringing each dumbbell slightly inward as you near the contraction over your head (two dumbbells may touch together at the top).

POWER OF THE PRESS

EXERCISE 3

Smith Machine Presses

Because it locks you into a fluid up and down movement, the Smith machine is an excellent tool for overhead pressing. It also allows you to go to failure with relative safety, as it is almost always easy to rerack the weight, even if you have to bail out at a lower catch than you started at. Because the path of the bar is static, the key is to make certain you position yourself correctly before beginning.

EXERCISE 4

Behind-the-Neck Presses

As the name suggests, this is a barbell press wherein the bar is pressed from behind the head. It forces you to tense your trapezius muscles, and it prevents you from leaning back and using your upper chest. It also places slightly more emphasis on side and rear delts, simply because the further back your elbows are during overhead presses, the more your shoulder complex flexes.

However, contrary to what many trainers believe, the focus on side delts is minor. This is truly a front-delt lift, with other shoulder muscles working only as stabilizers. This exercise can be performed seated or standing. Another variation is to alternate reps of military presses and behind-the-neck presses in the same set.

A word of caution: This is a good lift for a beginner or an intermediate, but the more advanced and stronger you get, the greater the risk of injury, particularly to the rotator cuffs, while doing it. For this reason, many pros don’t do it. Whatever your level of training, always warm up thoroughly before this exercise, and use perfect form.

EXERCISE 5

Other Machine Presses

In addition to Smith machines, most modern gyms have one or more other overhead pressing devices. Various cam, pulley and lever configurations have been designed to help trainers work their front delts. Whereas free-weight (especially dumbbell) presses force the entire shoulder structure to help balance the weight, most machines eliminate the need for equilibration. Therefore, you may sacrifice some muscle stimulation. On the other hand, this lets you pack on weight and focus on the up and down motion of your arms.

SUGGESTED DELT ROUTINES FOR BEGINNERS

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Routine 1

Standing military presses 3 10-12

Standing side raises 3 10-12

Routine 2

Behind-the-neck presses 3 10-12

Seated side raises 3 10-12

GUIDELINES

* For both routines, warm up with two light sets of 15 reps of a pressing movement.

* Train shoulders no more than twice a week, with workouts spaced at least 72 hours apart.

* Schedule only one pressing movement per workout.

* Make the pressing movement the first exercise in your shoulder routine.

* Do no more than three sets of a pressing exercise.

* Reps should be in the range of 10 to 12.

* Poundages should equate to working to just short of failure; i.e., use poundages with which you can do 13 or 14 reps.

SUGGESTED DELT ROUTINES FOR INTERMEDIATES

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Routine 1

Seated military presses 4 8-10

Seated side raises 3 8-10

Seated bent raises 3 8-10

Routine 2

Seated dumbbell presses 4 8-10

Standing side raises 3 8-10

Standing bent raises 3 8-10

GUIDELINES

* For both routines, warm up with two light sets of 15 reps of a pressing movement.

* Train shoulders no more than twice a week, with workouts spaced at least 72 hours apart.

* Schedule only one pressing movement per workout.

* Make the pressing movement the first exercise in your shoulder routine.

* Do no more than four sets of a pressing exercise.

* Reps should be In the range of eight to 10.

* Poundages should equate to working to failure; i.e., use poundages with which you fail between the eighth and 10th rep.

SUGGESTED DELT ROUTINES FOR ADVANCED TRAINERS

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Routine 1

Smith machine presses 5 6-8

Cable side lateral raises 3 8-10

Front dumbbell raises 3 8-10

Bent laterals on an incline bench 3 8-10

Routine 2

Seated dumbbell presses 5 6-8

Seated side lateral raises 3 8-10

Front barbell raises 3 8-10

Seated bent laterals 3 8-10

GUIDELINES

* For both routines, warm up with two light sets of 15 reps of a pressing movement.

* Train shoulders only once a week.

* Schedule only one pressing movement per workout.

* Make the pressing movement the first exercise in your shoulder routine, unless you are incorporating the pre-exhaust technique into your program.

* Do no more than six sets of a pressing exercise.

* Reps should be in the range of six to eight.

* Poundages should equate to working to failure; i.e., use poundages with which you fail between the eighth and 10th rep.

* Working-past-f allure techniques, such as forced reps or descending sets, can be incorporated. However, restrict such techniques to the final two sets.

MEET THE PRESS

Because the shoulder structure is so vulnerable to injury, it’s crucial that you use proper form when executing overhead presses. Here’s a 14-point guide to pressing correctly and productively.

1. For seated presses, use a bench with the incline set at 80-85 degrees.

2. For seated presses, sit with your back fully supported by the incline pad.

3. For barbell and machine presses, adopt a grip a few inches beyond shoulder width.

4. For dumbbell presses, place the dumbbells level with your shoulders with your forearms vertical.

5. At the start of a press, keep your elbows slightly behind the plane of your hands. Never allow your elbows to move in front of your hands during the ascent or descent.

6. As you press the weight upward, try to keep your elbows back, as in the starting position. As you approach lockout, they will align closer to the plane of your hands.

7. Stop the press just short (approximately two inches) of lockout, because at lockout, the triceps take over most of the workload.

8. As you lower the weight from just short of lockout, let your elbows come back a little from the plane of your hands.

9. Not locking out is tricky to master for dumbbell presses; if you have difficulty, continue pressing to lockout.

10. As you return to the starting position, don’t pause. You should merely come down and transition into the next rep.

11. Throughout a set, keep your wrists rigid. Letting them roll backward or forward will increase the risk of wrist or shoulder injuries.

12. For behind-the-neck presses, the “elbows behind the hands” alignment is trickier to accomplish during the lower part of the movement. Go with the plane of alignment that feels the most comfortable.

13. For behind-the-neck presses, lower the weight only as far as is comfortable before commencing the next rep.

14. Once the set starts, the only movement should be the action of your arms. The rest of your body should remain in a fixed position.

PRESS COVERAGE

Presses are excellent compound exercises, but they focus primarily on the front deltoids, so they must not be overused. Your front delts are called into play during chest-pressing movements; with this double duty (shoulder and chest), they can easily be overtrained. Whatever your level of expertise, doing more than six sets of all-out shoulder presses per workout will almost always lead to overtraining. For the type of workload and program you should be using, see the following routines for beginning, Intermediate and advanced bodybuilders.

POLICING THE PRESS

Because your shoulder girdle is an injury-prone area, take the following extra safety precautions when performing overhead presses.

* Do two light warm-up sets of 15 reps each before proceeding with shoulder presses. Gauge your strength and flexibility before moving on to working sets.

* Proper form in warm-up and working sets is crucial. Keep your hands slightly in front of your elbows. Don’t let the weight pull your hands back. Also, never bounce the bar out of the low position.

* For added safety when going to failure, utilize a spotter or perform sets that go to failure on a machine.

The key to building broad powerful shoulders is adherence to a well-planned training routine. And the core of that routine will always be a heavy pressing movement. Give pressing movements the focus and style of execution they deserve, and you’ll soon have a bigger chip … on both shoulders.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group