How to Build the Deltoid Muscle

The deltoid muscle is the scientific name for what is most commonly known as the shoulder muscle; the muscle which encapsulates the shoulder joint. It is a muscle with 3 heads; the rear (posterior), side (lateral), and front (anterior).

Building the deltoids is hugely important to bodybuilders because having huge ‘delts’ can help you to improve your shoulder width dramatically, and add to the much sought after ‘V’ taper bodybuilders aspire to achieve.

Right, let’s take a look at how to build each of the 3 deltoid heads:

Posterior head

I recommend the rear delt row, performed with a barbell much in the same way as a bent over row. The only difference is, the bent over row targets the lats by pulling the barbell up and into the top of the abs, whereas the rear delt row the barbell is pulled towards the top of the chest to the neck.

To execute, you simply bend your knees slightly, keeping your feet around shoulder width apart or narrower. You bend your trunk to 90 degrees so your upper body is parallel to the floor. Grab the barbell with a mid to wide overhand grip, and, keeping your back locked and parallel – bring the barbell up to your upper chest/neck area, and slowly lower.

If you are working heavy, you can start and each rep on the floor.

Lateral head

My favourite exercise for this is the upright row. Traditionally, the upright row was performed with a very close grip, and the bar was pulled right up to the chin and was also an excellent exercise for the traps. Well, this isn’t necessary to pull that high here; we’re not after traps, and besides, it’s also is known to cause rotor cuff damage – something you want to avoid at all costs.

But, you can still make the most of this exercise without rotor cuff damage. You just need to make a slight alteration.

The alteration is simple: grab the bar with a wider grip, lean forward with a straight back ever-so-slightly, and then perform reps bringing the bar up to your nipples. This really hits the delts great, and spares the rotor cuff.

Anterior head

The military press is the best exercise I know for anterior deltoid development. It can be performed standing or sitting, and is very simple. I should tell you that this is another exercise I have my own little twist to. Traditionally it’s performed by sitting or standing, and with a shoulder width or slightly wider grip, the bar starts in front of you, under the chin with your forearms tucked under it. Keeping the back straight, it’s then lifted and lowered for each rep. Unfortunately, this is also know to cause rotor cuff damage.

So, the way I do it is by lowering to eye-height only. That way you hit the delts as deep as they need to be hit, without putting your shoulder joints under undue stress.

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