By: Dr. Mike Israetel
Here are some helpful tips for your front delt training. Please note that these are averages based on my experience working with lots of clients and my own training. The recommendations here should be food for thought or places to start, not dogmatic scriptures to follow to the letter.
If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out the Training Volume Landmarks for Muscle Growth article. It discusses the theoretical and practical bases on which the upcoming recommendations are made. And if you love this info but want a bit of help in building your own workouts from the expert scientists at RP, check out the super popular Male Physique or Female Physique Templates.
The maintenance volume for front delt work is legitimately no direct work in almost all cases where compound pressing is still done for the chest. If you need to get to the gym in a rush and only have time for a maintenance session, compound pushing is MUCH more worth your time than direct front delt work.
Most intermediates can make great front delt gains with NO direct front delt work, as both horizontal and incline pushing, as well as overhead pressing and triceps work is going to be very simulative of the front delts. Even most advanced lifters shouldn’t see any losses in front delt size if they completely eliminating direct front delt work or even all overhead work, so long as they keep hammering their other compound pushing work.
Most people respond best to between 6 and 8 weekly sets of direct front delt work, which INCLUDES overhead pressing, on average.
The front delts actually take quite a bit of damage from push training and have a very limited fatigue threshold when isolated in conjunction with chest training. Much past 12 sets of overhead pressing or front delt raises starts to really become a recovery issue in the context of other chest training.
You’ll notice that front raises are not included in our exercise list. This is because we (at RP) honestly think that for almost all individuals, just getting in your overhead work will maximize your front delt development. If you’re the exception and need more direct work, please feel free to do front raises.
1-2 times per week.
Woah, that’s low. It’s that low for a reason… any more direct front delt work would start to interfere with chest work. And because chest work is also such great front delt work, you usually won’t have to train front delts by themselves more than twice in the same week.
Front delts usually like things pretty heavy. Presses for more than 12 reps per set seem more like exercises in pain tolerance than front delt stimulators. I’d recommend doing sets of between 6 and 10 reps for presses of various kinds.
Because you might only be training front delts once or twice a week, you only need one or two exercises per meso, and that should be variation enough. If you do train twice, feel free to alter the rep ranges between training sessions a bit.
Range of Motion:
Getting a DEEP stretch at the bottom of presses (especially with dumbbells) is a great way to really tax the front delts. If you press a barbell or dumbbell, at least go all the way down to touch your shoulders/clavicles. Yes, you can do more weight if you don’t, but then you’re working harder and risking more injury for less benefit.
Special Metabolite Techniques:
I’ve used giant sets for front delts, but not much else. However, everything but occlusion can work well, and a superset of front raises (first) followed by shoulder presses of any kind can really destroy your front delts. Again, heavy work is what seems to build the biggest front delts, not metabolite work.
Just like with most bodyparts, your first mesocycle should be moderate weights and reps. The next mesocycle can be more of the same with perhaps slightly different rep ranges and exercises, OR it can be a higher volume block that incorporates lighter weights (closer to the 70%1RM mark) and higher reps, as well as metabolite work. After that meso, a shorter (3-4 weeks) mesocycle of strength training (80-85%1RM) with lower volumes is likely a good idea to resensitize your muscles for more growth, at which point you repeat the process. And only do that metabolite work if it seems to work for you. It doesn’t really do much for me, so please experiment for yourself.
When choosing my chest training, I’ll always do some incline and horizontal work. But once every couple of mesocycles, I replace my incline work with overhead work to give my chest a break. Another thing you can try is putting your overhead work on a day in which you hit triceps hard, so that maybe your chest gets a bit of a hit while your front delts and triceps get the overload, and vice-versa on the chest-dominant days of the training week.