Shoulder Superset Workout: Set Your Delts on Fire!

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shoulder superset workout

You might have noticed the cannonball shoulders of basketball players and swimmers, wondering, “how do I get shoulders like that?” They spend thousands of hours moving their arms around. But you know what? You don’t have to spend an enormous amount of time swimming laps or throwing balls to get those delts poppin’. Continue reading to see how you can get boulder shoulders with a shoulder superset workout that will put your shoulders on fire!

Before we get into the training, let us first gain an understanding of the shoulder muscles and their functions. Afterward, we will see how to optimize your shoulder superset workout!

 

The Shoulder Muscle

shoulder anatomy

The shoulder is one of the most complex and freely moving muscles in the human body. It has a ball-shaped form, and its high level of mobility comes with a cost. This is low stability of the joint, which very quickly can lead to injuries and dislocation of the shoulder (Minitao et al., 2021). Most of us have heard or seen people dislocating their shoulder, as it is pretty fragile. The shoulder consists of the humerus, clavicle, and scapula (Britannica, 2022).

Shoulder Functions

The main movements of the shoulder include abduction and adduction; extension and flexion; internal and external rotation; horizontal adduction and abduction. 

Abduction: Moving the arm upwards laterally.

Adduction: Moving the arm downwards laterally. 

Flexion: Forward movement of the arm, in front of the body.

Extension: Backward movement of the arm, behind the body.

External rotation: Twisting the arm externally.

Internal Rotation: Twisting the arm internally.

Horizontal adduction: Moving the arm towards and across the chest.

Horizontal abduction: Moving the arm away from the chest (Britannica, 2022).

From this, it is clear that there are many shoulder muscles that connect the humerus with the clavicle and scapula. Some of them include deltoids, trapezius, levator scapulae, rhomboid major, and many others (Minitao et al., 2021).

However, the round, cannonball shoulders we are referring to, are called the deltoids (delts), which will be the focus of our workout.

Deltoids

deltoid muscle anatomy

The deltoids consist of the anterior delts, medial delts, and posterior delts, often called rear delts. The main functions of the anterior delts are flexion and rotation of the arm. When it comes to the medial delts, they are the arm abductors. Lastly, we have the rear delts. They extend and laterally rotate the arms (Minitao et al., 2021). With this in mind, we will split our shoulder superset workout into anterior (front), medial (mid), and rear delts.

Training the Shoulders

Enough of the science, for now, let’s examine how to properly work out the anterior, medial, and rear deltoids.

Anterior Delts

front raises anterior delts

As we have learned, the main function of the anterior delt is flexion and rotation. Exercises to target the anterior delts include Front Cable Raises, Facing Away Cable Raises, Cable Raises to Ears, Dumbbell Front Raises, and Dumbbell Anterior Delt Presses

For the Cable Raises, we want to angle the arms about 30° out laterally from our body. An angle like this ensures we engage as many of the anterior muscle fibers as possible. Then press up and aim towards the middle of your forehead. It will be an out, up, and in-kind of path (see picture).

The Cables allow us to train the anterior delts in the fully lengthened and shortened position with tension throughout the whole movement. Most machines and dumbbells do not allow us to do that, so take advantage of the cable machine!

They can be great to include in your shoulder superset workout. We can use post exhaust sets to first exhaust the shortened position of the anterior delts, before doing the same at the lengthened position. 

shoulder superset workout anterior delt

Subsequently, if we want to primarily target the anterior deltoids with presses, we are better off using an incline between 60-75°. The movement will be an arc in front of the torso. An incline allows for a range of motion that will be the most optimal for focusing on the anterior delts and ensures that the anterior muscle fibers are the primary movers. However, we can sit straight as well.

Most importantly, we want to angle the dumbbells correctly to ensure the movement primarily hits the anterior delt.

As opposed to holding the dumbbells completely horizontally as most bodybuilders do, we want them twisted a tiny bit inwards, towards the body.

The picture of the lady above demonstrates this well.

Medial Delts

Medial delts are responsible for the abduction of the arm. Some great exercises where the medial delts are at work are Dumbbell Lateral Raises, Cable Lateral Raises, Low Cable Lateral Raises, Wrist-Height Lateral Raises, Prone Incline Cable Y-Raises, and Prone Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raises. 

When doing lateral raises, we want to be tilted slightly forward to zone in on the medial delts. The movement will be an arc that is slightly in front of your body, as opposed to straight out.

If we move them straight out, as many people do, we start incorporating the rear delts as well. Another fact to remember if you are using dumbbells for lateral raises is to end the eccentric part of the movement, or the bottom, in this case, about 30° degrees from your body.

The reason for this is that below 30° there is no tension in the medial delts with dumbbells, and so it is practically wasteful to go all the way down.

DO NOT shrug, move the body, protract or retract the scapula. This will only incorporate other muscles into the movement and lessen the tension on the medial delts. We also want the scapula to move freely to allow for a full range of motion.

If anything, partial reps can be great depending on the stimulus you are trying to achieve, but bouncing weights is totally unnecessary and can lead to injuries.

Remember, the muscles don’t know how much weight you are holding in your hand. They communicate through the stimulus that is applied to them. 

To train the medial delt in the fully shortened position, Prone Incline Cable Y-Raises are a great option. Use the cables for the Y-Raises if you can, because there is very little tension in the medial delts at the top of the movement, in the shortened position, while using a dumbbell. Owing to the fact that the force of the dumbbell goes straight down. To train it in the lengthened position we can use Low Cable Lateral Raises.

Rear Delts

Lastly, we have rear or posterior delts. They are responsible for the extension and lateral rotation of the arm. 

The first misconception we want to highlight with regard to rear delt exercises is the ineffectiveness of the Rear Delt Fly and Reverse Pec Deck Fly.

It does not fully shorten the rear delts in the concentric part of the movement, or at the top, in this case. A Rear Delt Fly exercise is out of line with the posterior deltoid fibers. However, with a row, you have more shoulder extension and are able to recruit more fibers and shorten the rear delts much further than in a fly or a reverse pec deck. 

Better alternatives to training rear delts include Rear Delt Cable Rows, Prone Incline Dumbbell Rear Delt Rows, Rear Delt Cable Pulldowns, and Cable Pull Across (both straight and bent arm).

To figure out what your arm path should be when performing rear delt exercises, it is important that you know where your rear delt is fully shortened. This is individual for everyone. But one thing that is for sure, is that it will not be straight out or perpendicular to your body. Hence, why Rear Delt Fly’s are not a good option to target the rear delts.

How do you find your arm path?

The easiest way is to push your elbows as far back as possible, and then keep moving your arms up and down to see where on the path they will go back the furthest. This, WITHOUT the shoulder rolling forward. The video above by Austin Current demonstrates finding the right arm path excellently.

Shoulder Superset Workout Examples

shoulder workout lateral raises

Ready for some examples of a shoulder superset workout? We have covered you with three different samples. Pick your poison! BE WARY, you might have difficulties washing your hair for a few days after this… If you are unsure how to read the sets and tempo, please refer to this article where we explain it. 

Killer Shoulder Superset Workout #1


A1) 75° Incline Dumbbell Press, (3-1-1-0), 0s rest
A2) Prone Incline Y-Raises, 4 x 8-10, (3-0-1-1), 45s rest
B1) Wrist-Height Lateral Raises 3 x 8-10, (3-0-1-1), 0s rest
B2) Low Cable Lateral Raises 3 x 8-10, (3-1-1-0), 45s rest
C1) Rear Delt Rows, 3 x 8-10, (3-0-1-1), 0s rest
C2) Cable Pull Across (Straight Arm), 3 x 8-10, (3-1-1-0), 45s rest

Killer Shoulder Superset Workout #2


A1) Dumbbell Lateral Raises, 3 x 8-10, (3-0-1-0), 0s rest
A2) Prone Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raises, 3 x 8-10, (3-0-1-0), 0s rest
A3) Prone Incline Cable Y-Raises, 3 x 8-10, (3-0-1-0), 60s rest
B1) Dumbbell Front Raises, 3 x 8-10, (3-0-1-0), 0s rest
B2) Rear Delt Cable Pulldowns, 3 x 8-10, (3-0-1-0), 0s rest
B3) Cable-Pull Across (Bent-Arm), 3 x 8-10, (3-0-1-0), 60s rest

Killer Shoulder Superset Workout #3


A1) Front Cable Raises, 4 x 8-10 (3-0-1-1), 0s rest
A2) Front Cable Raises, 4 x 8-10, (3-1-1-0), 45s rest
B1) Wrist-Height Lateral Raises 3 x 8-10, (3-0-1-1), 0s rest
B2) Low Cable Lateral Raises 3 x 8-10, (3-1-1-0), 45s rest
C1) Prone Incline Dumbbell Rear Delt Rows, 3 x 8-10, (3-0-1-1), 0s rest
C2) Cable Pull Across (Straight Arm), 3 x 8-10, (3-1-1-0), 45s rest

 

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Conclusion

On the whole, we have examined the shoulder muscles with a focus on the deltoids. These are the round, cannonball-looking muscles that are so dearly sought after. Moreover, we have looked into how we train them properly with appropriate exercises for a killer shoulder superset workout! Which shoulder workouts you should perform is very individual, and depends on your goals. Keep experimenting and learning to get those boulder shoulders!

Thanks for reading our article!

– Terry Asher

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Terry Asher

Owner & Founder at Gym Junkies LLC
After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!
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Shoulder Superset Workout: Set Your Delts on Fire!
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Shoulder Superset Workout: Set Your Delts on Fire!
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Do you want the cannonball shoulders basketball players and swimmers have? Read more to learn how you can get those delts poppin’ with a powerful shoulder superset workout!
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