Friday, May 17, 2013

Compendium of Old School Exercises/ Part One: Shoulders. By Vic Goyaram

Mauritius Compendium of Old School Exercises 
Part One: Shoulders
Researched and Composed by Vic Veeraj Goyaram
Exclusive for Bodybuilding Mauritius
Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia

"Old is gold"
In this series we bring you a collection of old school exercises that are definitely worth to be included into your training routine. Many of these exercises are very rarely performed in gyms nowadays and what a pity should some of these exercises disappear. The first article deals with deltoid exercises. 

Many of the exercises that are described here are those that have been used extensively by two of my "shoulder heroes", namely Arnold Schwarzenegger and Larry Scott. I admire them not because they have had to find ways to overcome shortcomings in their shoulder structure. Larry was not blessed with a wide shoulder structure and therefore had to find ways to build his deltoids to give him an appearance of width. He enlisted the help of Vince Gironda for this (check out our article titled Gironda Shoulder training Gems). 

Arnold on the other side, although not naturally narrow in the shoulders had a "hanging look" to his shoulders and he had to find ways to overcome this. I quote from Arnold's Encyclopaedia of Modern Bodybuilding "Reg Park was not narrow but his traps and shoulders sloped downwards. My own shoulders have this same sort of hanging look, so they look much narrower when I stand relaxed than when executing a pose like a lat spread, where the real width becomes apparent."
Arnold's "hanging shoulder" look more evident when standing
relaxed. Compare his structure to that of Don Howorth (below)
Don "Duke of Delts" Howorth, a Vince Gironda pupil
You may be wondering why on earth am I starting with a dangerous exercise. The press-behind-neck is one which is unlikely to be featured in modern books of training exercises because it has been held responsible for more wrecked shoulders than any other shoulder exercise. However, poor technique is often the underlying cause than the exercise itself. All exercise have their risks and granted the behind-the-neck press may be more risky than others. A lot of old-school bodybuilders built their delts with this exercise and a lot of reckless lifters wrecked their shoulders on the same exercise. 
Franco Columbu blasting delts on behind-the-neck presses
Purpose of exercise:
Elbow positioning dictates what deltoid head get greater emphasis. When performing behind-the-neck presses the elbows move out to the sides. This involves the medial (outer) deltoid head to a greater extent. Conversely, when doing presses to the front, the elbows are drawn forward and this works the front deltoids to a greater extent. 

Execution and pointers:
  • Grab barbell with an overhand grip about shoulder width apart. 
  • Lower the barbell behind the head to about ear level
  • At the bottom position your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor, otherwise adjust your grip. Taking a wider grip won't give you wider delts.
  • Press the barbell up just short of lockout.
  • Keep torso as straight as possible. 
  • Be careful not to compromise form for poundage. A good superset would be behind-neck-presses and seated side laterals. 
The Bradford press has a reputation of being another dangerous exercise but nothing can be further from the truth. Improper execution is to blame for damaged shoulder joints rather than the exercise itself. The Bradford press is in fact a good exercise for rotator cuff rehabilitation and for increasing shoulder joint mobility.  The Bradford press was invented by the weightlifter Jim Bradford who was famous in the 1960s. The movement is fairly simple and it involves alternating between a front and a behind-the-neck barbell press every repetition. 
Arnold performing Bradford presses. Note the weight he is using
  • Begin by taking a shoulder width grip on a barbell and then lift the barbell up to chin height. This would be your starting position. 
  • Press the barbell to a point which is about 4-6 inches above your head. 
  • Do not go to full lock out position because it will relieve tension on the deltoids, defeating the purpose of this exercise. 
  • Once that position is achieved begin to lower the barbell as in a behind-the-neck press until you reach the height of your ears. 
  • There is no need to go lower and "cheat" by resting the barbell on your neck. Once that position is attained press the barbell back up. 
  • Go until the reps get harder and harder. In that case move the barbell just enough to clear your head until you reach failure. 
Purpose of exercise and pointers:
The Bradford press intends to keep constant tension on the deltoids. Secondly, the exercise is very helpful in developing shoulder flexibility and strengthening your rotator cuff. Alternating between a front and behind-the-neck press makes sure your side delts are also getting work because they are involved to a greater extent in behind-the-neck presses. Alternating position during each rep ensures that you stick to proper form as well as it disrupts any rhythm that may develop if you were to perform either front or rear presses. It is important to select a weight which allows you to perform 10-15 reps. Do not be overzealous and take too heavy. 

The Gironda dumbbell swing is one of the Iron Guru's deltoid moves to grill the deltoids. Unfortunately, it is a forgotten exercise because I have never seen anyone perform this movement. Everybody is into machine and cable lateral raises these days. Call it a two-in-one exercise as it works both the side and front deltoid heads at the same time. 
The Iron Guru performing lateral side swings
Execution and Pointers: 
To perform side swings, one arm moves in a traditional lateral raise motion while the other arm is swung up across the front of the body, tight to the torso, to keep continuous tension on the shoulder and help get a deeper contraction. The movement must be performed as strictly as possible and torso must always be stationary and facing forward. It helps to maintain a brief pause at the top of the movement.

This exercise was one that the late Steve Reeves used to perform a lot to build his deltoids to heroic proportions. Larry Scott was also a proponent of this exercise. Arnold was also seen doing this exercise and I am sure you have all seen pictures of him doing side laterals lying on a slant board. When it comes to deltoid training, Larry Scott is my hero because he was challenged in terms of shoulder structure but devised ways to bring up his deltoids to Olympia winning calibre. 
Larry Scott performing the Incline bench lateral raise
Purpose of Exercise:
The purpose of side laterals is to work the side deltoids to a greater extent. As you all know, side deltoids give the shoulders greater width and contributes a lot to your V-Taper. This variation attempts to overload the side deltoids even further by minimising involvement of other muscles that may "steal" from this movement, like the trapezius. When done properly this exercise is almost pure side deltoid work.  On normal side lateral raise I get a bigger pump in my trapezius than in my side deltoids and this old-school variation has helped me tremendously. 

Execution and Pointers:
  • Weight is of minor importance in this exercise. Form is paramount for best results and to avoid wasting your time and energy.
  • Do not lock the arm during the movement. Instead, keep a slight bend in it. 
  • Move the dumbbells upwards and sideways rather than in front of your body. Your palms should be orientated in such a way that your little fingers lead the way rather than your thumb. The latter will instead work the front deltoids more and this is not what we are after. This will limit the amount of weight used but maximise the stress on the side deltoid. 
The late Steve Reeves was very fond of this exercise
The credits to this unconventional way of doing side laterals go to the late Serge Nubret.  It was also made popular by Arnold (and what didn't Arnold make popular in bodybuilding?).  Side laterals work the side deltoids to a greater degree and having personally tried this movement I can say that the involvement of the traps, which can steal a bit from side laterals, is nearly non-existent. The side deltoids are also involved in this movement. 
Nubret performs side laterals on the floor
Execution and Pointers:
  • Lie on you side and holding one dumbbell in one hand, lower it to the floor.
  • Raise the dumbbell all the way over your head, keeping arms straight.
  • It is crucial to do the reps slowly and controlling on the negative.
  • At the top of the movement contract the delt rather than resting it. Hold the contraction for 1 second and then spend 2-3 seconds on the negative part.
  • Special pointer: you can raise the dumbbells 2/3 of the way up and then maintain a static hold for 2 seconds and then continue raising to the full range.
  • You can do these on an abdominal board on a slight incline to increase the range of motion as Arnold does
Arnold does this movement on a slight incline to increase
the range of motion
To quote Larry Scott himself: 

"The weight used in this movement is not too important, but the form is. Remember, these courses are designed to help you achieve proper performance of the exercises, and feel the chosen muscles working to the maximum. In doing that, you will prepare yourself for the more advanced work ahead and gain some of the muscle you desire as well.

Don't try to cheat in this exercise at all . . . lie with your chest flat against the incline bench (facing the high end), and don't try to raise it at any time during the movement. Just raise the dumbbells as high as you can, out to your sides.

If you prefer, turn your head to the side for a bit more comfort. And, if you think the puny weights you're using aren't doing any good, you're wrong. The burn you get from this exercise alone makes it worth it weight in muscle . . . keep it up and you'll get some really sensational results"

Larry Scott's version of the shoulder press has quickly become my favourite. I decided to adopt this style of pressing to solve a dilemma I have always had with shoulder pressing: feeling presses more in the triceps rather than deltoids (in spite of having tried every possible pressing styles).  This shoulder exercise was in fact invented by Vince Gironda to help bring up Scott's lagging shoulder for the Mr. America contest. 

Purpose of Exercise:
This variation of the shoulder press aims to isolate and keep constant tension on the deltoids. The movement is performed by not completely extending the arms (no complete lockout) and not letting the dumbbells drop too low in the bottom position. Thus, only the middle 3/5th of the range of motion is used. This, according to Scott, is because the top portion of the movement is mostly triceps and the bottom portion of the movement is mostly traps. 
Elbows starting in front of the body, pinky higher than thumb
Press dumbbells behind the neck at the top.
Execution and Pointers:
  • Start with dumbbells resting on top of your shoulders. Elbows are kept in front of the body. The palms facing each other and the pinky fingers facing up and higher than the thumb at all times.
  • Press the dumbbells such that they move from in front of your neck in the bottom portion of the rep to behind the neck at the top of the movement (remember, top doesn't mean full lockout). The rationale of this positioning of elbows is explained in the picture below.
Positioning of the elbows and the absence of any lockout are very important
points in this exercise. 
Pinky fingers should be kept higher than the thumb throughout the movement
Furthermore, Scott suggests this important tip:
"Remember, you don't actually press the dumbbells. You press the elbows. Sounds crazy but, your deltoids don't care what's happening to either the dumbbells or your wrists but they do care what's happening to your elbows. It's the arc of the elbows the shoulders sense"

I am sure if you perform your front arm  raises like this someone may try to correct you thinking you are doing it all wrong. The reasons would be that "the delts stop working as you bring the arms high up" and "you should keep the tension on the delts". Most people bring the dumbbells up until their arms are parallel to the floor which is a fine way of doing this exercise.
Arnold is known for his particular "tweak"
on the front arm raises
However, the delts are still actively involved in this exercise as you bring the dumbbells high up, past the point where your arms are parallel to the floor. I recently read that the delts are still active as you bring the arms 40degrees above the parallel. As you bring the dumbbells past this point, you also start engaging the middle traps muscle, a muscle which adds a lot to your back development. Arnold's middle traps were testament to this exercise's effectiveness.
Arnold in action in a seated version of the raise
Execution and Pointers:
  • Start with dumbbells in front of the body, palms facing the thighs. 
  • Raise the one arm in an arc until the dumbbell is in above the head
  • As you lower the working arm start raising the other arm
  • Make sure the elbows don't stick out so that the dumbbells pass in front of your face. There is another variation of the front arm raise called the Hatfield raise which allows this (see below)
  • Barbells can also be used for this movement. A seated position can also be used to minimise cheating.
Arnold's middle traps benefited a lot from this movement
WARNING! I guard you against using excessive weight on this movement and then use the whole body to swing the weight up. Do not do this. Maintain strict form. Look at the weight that Arnold used, I am sure he could have used 70lb dumbbells if he wanted to. The only reason that going above parallel is not recommended is if you have a shoulder injury or some other shoulder problem. The only reason that going above parallel is not recommended is if you have a shoulder injury or some other shoulder problem.

These were Vince Gironda's favourite exercises for the side deltoids, along with wide grip upright rows. If you study videos of these movements you will see that the elbows move the same way as in side lateral raises. It is only the positioning of the hands which is different from side laterals. These wide grip movements are thus ideal for working the side deltoids to a greater extent. I will lay particular emphasis on these movements because they are fantastic movements that are somewhat underutilised by bodybuilders. Gironda credits the wide grip upright row/ pull component of cleans rather than the pressing component for the outstanding shoulders of weightlifters.

The execution of the High Pull is as follows:
  • Hold barbell at shoulder width
  • Pull barbell upward until it is at the same level as the top of your head. If you have hair like Don King do not go all the way up. Stop slightly above forehead level. 
  • The barbell should be held forward at about 30 cms from the body throughout the movement except at the bottom portion.
Illustration of form in the Gironda High Pulls
Note how far ahead in front of the body the barbell is
Don Howorth was built by Gironda.
He was known as the "Duke of Delts"
In the case of the Barbell wide grip upright row the bar is kept closer to the body, as described below  
Extract from Vince Gironda's book
Wide grip upright rows can also be performed using dumbbells and one arm at a time although I have not seen any old-school bodybuilder perform it this way (correct me if I am wrong). I have seen a video of bodybuilder Jim Cordova performing wide grip upright rows one arm at a time. Working one arm at a time allows greater focus on the working delt. Make sure to give these a try as well.
Jim Cordova performing one arm wide grip upright rows with dumbbells 
This exercise is "Pure front delt power" as the contraction you feel in the front delt is magnificent. There is a bit of chest involvement as well in this exercise. Start with dumbbells at your sides. Tilt slightly to the side as if you're doing an oblique side bend, then raise the dumbbell using a hammer grip. Maintain a peak contraction of 1 second at the top of the movement and slowly bring down the dumbbell. Repeat for the other arm. Arm should be very slightly bent. No cheating or swinging is allowed. The movement can also be performed seated although I personally prefer the standing variation. This movement is credited to legendary powerlifter Dr. Fred Hatfield, also known as "Dr. Squat" probably to build front deltoid power to aid his bench presses. 
The Hatfield dumbbell front raise

11. "One-Up" dumbbell shoulder press
The aim of this exercise is to reduce the involvement on the triceps and keep constant tension on the deltoid, much like the Larry Scott shoulder dumbbell press. However, here we subject the deltoids to greater time under tension because it differs from conventional alternate dumbbell presses. This is because you begin with both arms above the head. The initial position is in fact the overhead contracted position.
The One Up press differs from conventional alternate presses
The execution of this exercise is as follows:
  • Start with both dumbbells overhead (dumbbells slightly above the head rather than in a lockout position)
  • Lower one arm until the dumbbell nearly touches the shoulder
  • Bring back the same arm upwards at the same level as the other arm. Maintain the dumbbell there. This keeps constant tension.
  • "Send the other arm to work" by lowering to shoulder level and press up.
  • Elbows must point out and the pinkie finger should be higher than the thumb.
One of my favourite bodybuilders
Tony "Michael Jackson of Bodybuilding" Pearson

I hope you enjoyed the article and are eager to try these exercises in the gym for your next shoulder workout

References and acknowledgements:

I acknowledge the following sources for material for writing this article. I spent a lot of time reading, studying and testing their material to enable me to write this article. Although I have a lot of experience in training my parents were still adolescents during the golden era.  

1. Anthony Ditillo's blog website for illustrations of Larry Scott's exercises. Ditillo was a writer for Ironman.

2. Unleashing the wild physique. Website on Vince Gironda

3. Arnold Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.

Join us for discussions on our facebook group
Free advice & daily bodybuilding talk
Your #1 Bodybuilding destination in Mauritius 

My Bio: I am a Mauritian originally from Roche Bois, Port Louis and now based in Cape Town, South Africa where I work as a research and development consultant (product developer) for the nutritional supplements and functional foods company. I did my postgraduate studies in molecular biology of exercise, looking at the influence of nutrition and exercise in gene expression in muscle. My research is relevant and applicable to exercising individuals, sports persons and diabetic individuals. The knowledge that I share with you stems from my 18 years of experience in bodybuilding and 8 years of university education in the field. I have also published work in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism (2012, 2014), International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (2013) and co-authored two book chapters on exercise and diabetes. I also presented my research work at the 2012 International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference (UK).
©,2014 Veeraj Goyaram, Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited.
Disclaimer: The Content on this site is intended to be used for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be and should not be interpreted as medical advice or a diagnosis of any health or fitness problem, condition or disease; or a recommendation for a specific test, doctor, care provider, procedure, treatment plan, product, or course of action. BODYBUILDING MAURITIUS is not a medical or healthcare provider and your use of this site does not create a doctor / patient relationship. We disclaim all responsibility for the professional qualifications and licensing of, and services provided by, any physician or other health providers posting on or otherwise referred to on this Site and/or any Third Party Site. Never disregard the medical advice of your physician or health professional, or delay in seeking such advice, because of something you read on this Site. We offer this Site AS IS and without any warranties.  Correspondence:


Post a Comment