There’s a muscle in your upper body, one that assists with almost every movement your upper body makes, but is overall very weak unless focused on. What muscle is this? This magic, widely underactive muscle is your deltoid muscle! Also known as your shoulders, your delts are responsible for a multiple of movements, and assist in almost every movement. (It’s also October so we should talk about pumpkin shaped muscles, right?) Not only is strengthening your delts essential to proper (and pain free!) movement, but strong shoulders also give an illusion of toned and athletic arms, no matter the degree they actually are. That bump at the top of your upper arm sets you up for more shapely arms than just working arms, while also increasing your overall strength and stability.
Your shoulders are actually composed of three different sections of the deltoid muscle, each performing different actions.
Anterior Deltoid: This is the front portion of your shoulder, attaching at the clavicle (collarbone) and inserting into the mid-upper portion of your humerus bone. The anterior deltoid is in charge of flexing your shoulder (or moving your arm forward, in front of your body), and, with the help of the pecs and lats, shoulder adduction (pulling the humerus towards your body). The anterior delt also assists in almost every chest movement, as it is the closest part of the shoulder to the pec muscles. Movements that target the anterior deltoids include front raises, overhead press, upright row, and chest flys.
Medial Deltoid: This is the middle portion of your shoulder, originating at the acromium process (where your shoulder joint is) and inserting into that same mid-upper portion of the humerus. The medial deltoid is in charge of shoulder abduction (pulling the humerus away from the body). Movements that work the medial delt include those that involve the humerus moving away from the body, such as lateral raises and upright rows.
Rear Deltoid: This is the back portion of your shoulder, originating at the spine of the scapula (top of the shoulder blade) and inserting in, you guessed it, that same mid-upper portion of the humerus. The rear delt is mainly in charge of extending your shoulder, or bringing your arm back away from the body. The rear delt is the most underexercised portion of the shoulder, which leads to upper back muscular imbalances. Having weak rear delts, and stronger front and mid delts, will lead to rounded forward shoulders, with a tight chest and anterior delt. Strong rear delts help with proper posture, and help to counteract the common tightness that accompanies a mostly sedentary lifestyle. This can lead to upper back pain, along with shoulder and neck pain. Exercises that work the rear delt include rear delt flys, face pulls, and wide grip rows.
Your shoulders can be easily worked, either in their own workout day or mixed in with other push muscles, such as chest and triceps. Below are two sample workouts, one push focused and one shoulder focused. Your delts respond easily to volume and intensity, and grow best with a mixture of heavy compound movements, as well as isolation movements with higher volume (3-4 sets, 10-15 reps).
A1: Overhead Press 4 Sets, 6-8 Reps
B1: Incline Press 4 Sets, 8 Reps
C1: Upright Row 4 Sets, 10-12 Reps
C2: Lateral Raises 4 Sets, 10-12 Reps
D1: Face Pulls 4 Sets, 12-15 Reps
D2: Single Arm Overhead Press 4 Sets, 10 Reps/arm
Warm Up: 10 minutes cardio, 1 set incline pushups, 1 set light overhead press
A1: Dumbbell Chest Press 4 Sets, 6-8 Reps
B1: Overhead Shoulder Press 4 Sets, 8-10 reps
C1: Incline Chest Press 4 sets, 8-10 reps
C2: Lateral DB Raises 4 Sets, 10-12 reps
D1: Upright Row 4 Sets, 10 reps
D2: Face Pulls 4 Sets, 12-15 reps