T Nation

Side/Rear Delts

I’m trying to find some shoulder exercises to blow-up my side and rear delts.

All I can think of are upright rows and power cleans, but I’ve heard the first one is detrimental to the rotator cuff and I’m unsure if I’d be able to do power cleans after squats and deadlifts.

Any ideas?

[quote]Takinguptheroom wrote:
I’m trying to find some shoulder exercises to blow-up my side and rear delts.

All I can think of are upright rows and power cleans, but I’ve heard the first one is detrimental to the rotator cuff and I’m unsure if I’d be able to do power cleans after squats and deadlifts.

Any ideas?[/quote]

What are you trying to do? Make them stronger or trying to get more definition between the front/side/rear delts? For strength/size, stick to military press, cleans, push press etc. Cleans are great but work the back and traps more.


Maybe some cuban presses… those seem to hit the delts pretty good.

Sorry, also forgot cable rows to the face or to the neck, those seem to work. Both CT and Dave Tate recommend at least one of those.


what kind of exercise can add definition to those 3 parts of the shoulders? I am getting bored with side laterals.

Have you tried CT’s Shoulders Overhaul program?


Hey, there, Takinguptheroom!!!

There are two approaches to protecting shoulder integrity (and your rotator cuff muscles). One is to avoid any exercise that might cause a problem. the problem with this approach is that musuclar imbalances are inevitable, and as time goes on, you’ll find yourself doing less and less and avoiding more and more exercises.

Approach number two is to stretch the internal rotator cuff muscles (which tend to get overdeveloped, overused and tight over time, which limits ROM and cause pain) and strengthen the external rotator cuff muscles. The later will improve posture dramatically and reduce/eliminate pain.

I have a homework assignment for you. Get Horrigan’s book, “The 7 Minute Rotator Cuff Solution.” With a time investment of 7 minutes two times a week, you do military presses and power cleans and just about anything else that will give you the cannon ball delts of your dreams. (grin)

I’ll leave everyone else to share their favorite medial & posterior delt exercises.

Use a curl grip (palms up), bend over, and lift the weight perpendicular to the floor for your rear delt.

For sides, you can go heavier if you don’t drop the weight all the way to your side during laterals. Your supraspinatus actually abducts your arm through the first 30 degrees.

OK, first of all, Tampa-Terry should be on the T-mag payroll. Or at least get free supplements or something.

I have pretty good rear-deltoid development which I mostly attribute to T-bar rows and also barbell rows and pullups. My training partner likes to do laterals with a cable for constant tension.

Tampa Terry: I’m going to see if I can pick up that book in the next little while. Sounds like a good investment.

Mainly, I’m trying to correct a huge imbalance between the size of my front delts compared to the size of my side/rear delts. I’d like to use compounds instead of isolation exercises like side laterals and rear laterals.

I’m limited to barbells and dumbells. No cables or machines.

Let me add one more thing. If you are particularly trying to hit your rear delts, do some isolation movements for those before doing any for side or front delts. For example, do bent-over laterals before doing side/front raises.

And remember to be careful with the military press, especially behind the neck variation. Work up gradually or you’ll end up hurting your shoulder.


Bent over laterals hit my rear delts perfectly.
I also sometimes sit on a pec deck machine facing towards the machine, not away from it as you would for actual pec deck flyes. Then contract your rear delt and traps to move the pads together behind you.
For side delts try lean-away side laterals. Hold a dumbell in one hand only and grip pole or machine frame with your free hand. This hand should be high. I hope you can understand my poor description.
You gotta do some heavy pressing too, though.

I’ve built nice side/rear delts strictly doing chins, rows, deadlifts, occasional power cleans and snatches. No isolation work needed.

The problem with upright rows is not the rotator cuff. Upright rows internally rotate the humerous so that when when the arm comes up you get an impingement between the greater tubercle and the acromion which can damage soft tissues caught inbetween, the same thing can happen with side delt raises if you do them the way Arnold shows in education of a bodybuilder. The seven minute rotator cuff solution goes into great detail about every excercise you can think of that involves the shoulder. I would rate that book a must have because it covers a lot more than just rotator cuff injuries.

I can highly recommend Don Alessi’s “Triple Decker Delts” article. There are some great exersices and ideas in it.


How about dumbell side raises combined with a rubber band for extra resistance. Ditto for overhead presses witha a barbell and rubber band.

Have you seen “Ms Beast” delts? Now, I just want to know if that is a result of low reps or high reps? It is so defined and ripped!

Another vote for CT’s Shoulder Overhaul. Your deltoids will develope quickly. The isolation exercises to be performed after the main lift are effective. I believe it is also possible to incorporate this CT’s shoulder routines in many other programs.

Somewhere on here there is an article with a rear delt specialization program by Ian King. It’s somewhere under “Heavy Metal - Q&A with the King of Strength Coaches.”

A couple thoughts:

Train your rear delts early in the week AND early in your workout. If you’re just tagging them on at the end then you’re not really prioritizing them.

Dedicate more time and energy to a lagging muscle group. Granted, you’ll have to cut back some time from another group, but that is how you build balance. Drop off some sets from your best muscle group and focus on what is lacking.

Just a thought. Your perceived imbalances may be due to posture issues, ie. rounded shoulders will make the anterior delts appear larger. check out the eric cressey article on this subject to eliminate this as a possible issue.