Muscle Mass Training: Big Shoulder & Tricep Day
Monday, March 7th, 2006. Empire Fitness Club, Hoboken, New Jersey. 6:30 am. Yes, 6:30 AM. Blame it on my training partner, Kostas, who forced me to get up before the sun was even up to train in the morning (to avoid the Monday night gym crowds). Actually, I’m usually a fairly early riser (between 6 and 7 am), and I enjoy being up early, but usually the first couple hours of the day are dedicated to becoming caffeinated, reading and just waking up mentally and physically. My preferred weight training time is late morning after I’m fully awake and a couple of meals are in me. High intensity weight training in the early AM was never my cup of tea. Surprisingly though, we blasted out a killer mass-building shoulder and tricep workout today. Check it out…
- A1 Seated Military press (barbell)
- 3 light warm up sets
- Set 1: 165 lbs X 6 reps
- Set 2: 175 lbs X 6 reps
- Set 3: 185 lbs X 5 reps
- Set 4: 135 lbs X 13 reps + 3 forced reps (pump set)
- B1 Standing Dumbbell Side Lateral raise (descending weight, ascending tempo)
- Set 1: 40 lbs X 12 reps X 1010
- Set 2: 35 lbs X 10 reps X 2010
- Set 3: 30 lbs X 8 reps X 3010
- Set 4: 20 lbs X 7 reps partner assisted forced negative, then 10 reps X 1010
- C1 Bent Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise (rear delt raise)
- 4 sets X 35 lbs X 12, 12, 10, 9 reps X 2010 tempo, 45 seconds rest between sets
- A1 Tricep Pushdown (cambered tricep bar)
- Warm up: 60 lbs X 15 reps
- Warm up: 80 lbs X 15 reps
- Set 1: 110 lbs X 12 reps
- Set 2: 120 lbs X 10 reps
- Set 3: 130 lbs X 7 reps
- B1 Two hand dumbbell Tricep extension behind head
- Set 1: 85 lbs X 12 reps
- Set 2: 90 lbs X 10 reps
- Set 3: 95 lbs X 8 reps + 1 forced rep
- Set 4: 40 lbs X 15 reps (pump set)
- C1 one arm reverse grip tricep pushdown
- 2 sets X 45 lbs X 12 reps
Note: 4-point tempo prescriptions are as follows:
2010 tempo =
2 = negative/eccentric action
0 = pause in stretch position
1 = positive/concentric action
0 = pause in contracted position
Tempo is noted where it is important to achieve a desired effect. When no tempo is noted, reps are simply “controlled”, (not fast, not slow – usually 2010 or 3020)
After loosening up my shoulder joints with my usual dynamic warm up/flexibility routine which consists of stuff like forward arm circles, backward arm circles, lateral raises (“flap wings’), rear arm raises, rear upright pulls, front arm raises and so on, it was onward to barbell military presses.
We started with a few light warm up sets first (I warm up thoroughly, without fatiguing myself), then it was a heavy day with sets of 5-6 reps, working up to 185 lbs. I have room to keep getting stronger. My personal record on these is 225 lbs X 6 reps. Definitely not strongman or power lifting material am I, but I use enough weight when it counts to get the growth I’m after.
This is the first time in a year and a half I’ve built back up to 185 lbs on Military’s. I wasn’t sure how the “minor” pec tear from a year and a half ago might affect heavy overhead pressing, but so far it seems like not at all. It only seems to have affected my poundages on direct chest movements.
Actually, I’ve found that I can get excellent growth without super heavy weights all the time – it just takes moderate weights with tweaks in form and body position, changes in tempo and alterations in mechanical advantage and leverage. After 23 years of training, you gotta take care of your joints and soft tissues. I want to do this for 23 more years. And then 23 more!
That said, I firmly believe that you MUST do some heavy training at least some of the time to reach your max potential in muscle fiber thickness and growth. If you do nothing but pumping, super strict, super slow and isolation work, I believe you are missing an important element in achieving that “thickly muscled” and “dense” look. Instead, you only get “sarcoplasmic hypertrophy”, increased capillarization, or what many trainers today call “non functional hypertrophy.”
As a bodybuilder, your goal should be to hypertrophy everything – so “non functional” hypertrophy is not a bad thing for bodybuilders. Everything inside the muscle cell takes up space and contributes to size increase. But you also want maximum stimulation and growth of every muscle fiber, not just a muscle pump. read Fred Hatfield’s classic scientific approach to bodybuilding books for more info on this subject. Fred was the first guy, to my knowledge, to emphasize this approach.
After heavy shoulder presses, it was standing dumbbell side lateral raises using a descending weight pattern and increasing tempo. Specifically, we increased the negative/eccentric portion of the rep tempo with each set. There is a time and a place for heavy laterals just like any other exercise. The trouble is, you CANNOT do this exercise with heavy weights and a slow negative. Go heavy enough and sure enough you will be dropping the dumbbells on the way down, you just cant fight it.
Your concentric lateral raise strength, because you can use a little body momentum to get the weight up, will outpace your ability to lower that same weight eccentrically under control (usually it’s the reverse, you can lower more than you can lift, but on laterals, you’re in a mechanically weak position and gravity is pulling those dumbbells down).
Just by focusing on slowing your negative on the lateral raise will give you some extra deltoid growth if you are used to “dropping” the weight. Try it. I recommend using both: strict form/slow negative, and heavy with only semi-strict form. Today we did both, and on the last set we did partner assisted forced negatives (partner pushes down on arms with more resistance at the bottom where the “dead spot” usually is).
The last delt exercise was bent over dumbbell lateral raise. This was my first time on these in a couple of months because I was taking it easy on the low back. To keep the strain off your lower back on these, you have to maintain that neutral or slightly arched low back position, with head up and a tight core/torso. To compensate for the lighter than usual weights on these, I shortened my rest interval, controlled the negative and did four sets.
Without wasting a minute, we moved right into triceps, starting off with pushdowns. A couple warm up sets to get the blood in the elbows, then three sets with 110, 120 and 130 lbs respectively. Felt real good today… like “deep” into the muscle fibers. Just a tiny bit of elbow discomfort, which I always take as a warning signal to maybe not go heavier next time but to use a different technique or even change exercises. Elbow trouble can really set you back if you’re not careful, because it interferes with all upper body pushing exercises, and heavy tricep pushdowns and extension are a common cause.
The second tricep exercise was two hand single dumbbell extension behind the head, going up to a 95 pound dumbbell with very strict form and a nice slow negative and full tricep stretch at the bottom.
The final exercise was one arm reverse cable pushdowns, which is not a great mass or strength builder, but always a good finishing movement.
I’ll be back in the gym tonite for abs and cardio. Cardio is currently three times a week for 20-30 minutes, either high intensity intervals or steady state at a moderate (not low) intensity, whatever I’m in the “mood” for. With cardio, it’s important to understand your body type, and I have the body type where I get fat if I don’t do some cardio year round.
Until next time, train hard and expect success all-ways.