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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Porter Cottrell's Deltoid Workout Routine To Do List

Porter Cottrell - Night of Champions 1993, 5th Mr Olympia 1994

Porter Cottrell's Deltoid Workout Routine To Do List


porter cotrell

The Rep
I use a chair with a slight incline, or I create an incline with my body by leaning against the top of an upright seat. I start with the dumbbells near my shoulders, my elbows slightly below horizontal. I press up explosively, stopping short of lockout. This ensures that pressure is kept on the delts and not transferred to the triceps. I pause for a second at the top to really squeeze the muscles, then slowly lower the weight, controlling the motion with my deltoids, until my elbows dip slightly below my shoulders to give a good stretch.


  • Start with warm-up sets. I do two or three warm-ups with light weight, starting in the 20- to 25-rep range. I slowly decrease the reps as I increase the weight.
  • Focus on the mind-muscle link. I often make noise — you’ll hear me go “cchhh” with every rep. I feel myself getting stronger when I do that.
  • Keep the reps high. I never go below eight reps for any set, including my heaviest. Shoulders are prone to injury, and higher reps adequately stimulate them while reducing that risk.


  • Perform any type of shoulder press behind the neck. That’s an unnatural position for the body and can lead to shoulder injury.
  • Lock out at the top. That removes the emphasis from the deltoids and allows them to rest.
  • Rest the weight on your shoulders or chest at the bottom of the movement. Resting midset may allow you to execute more overall reps, but it does so at the expense of muscular development.

    Warm-up sets: 2-3. Working sets: 3. Reps: 8-25.



    porter cotrell 2

    The Rep
    I prefer to perform seated lateral raises because it is a stricter movement than the standing version. While standing, it is easy to cheat by bouncing from the knees. I start with the weights slightly beneath the seat at my sides. As I raise the weights, I keep my elbows slightly bent. The movement is both explosive and controlled.

  • I take the dumbbells just a few degrees above parallel; at the top of the movement, my elbows, wrists and shoulders are all in line. You should feel your delts contract before lowering the weights with as much control as possible.


  • Stop the set as soon as you lose your form. If you can’t perform the next rep perfectly, you’re straying from your objective.
  • Incorporate a drop in weight for your last set. Since this is an isolation movement, your body will respond well to high repetitions. Your heaviest set may not completely exhaust the targeted middle head of each deltoid because you’re forced to recruit supporting muscles. Decreasing the weight allows you to completely exhaust the target muscles.


  • Swing the weights. Many people get caught up in the poundages. Moving the weight, rather than working the muscle, then becomes the objective. This is ego-based training.
  • Let momentum take over on the negative. Too many bodybuilders put all their energy into raising the weight and very little into lowering it. To fully stimulate the muscles, you must work as hard on the negative as you do on the positive and control the dumbbells on the descent.
  • Twist your wrists at the top of the movement. Instead, try to keep the dumbbells parallel to the floor throughout. When you rotate your wrists, you remove the emphasis from your side deltoids. This could result in a rear-deltoid pull or, worse, rotator cuff damage.

    Warm-up sets: 1-2. Working sets: 3-4. Reps: 8-20.



    porter cotrell 3

    The Rep
    This exercise can be performed unsupported, by bending over, or supported, by lying chest down on an incline bench. I believe the supported version better isolates the rear delts. The motion is similar to dumbbell flyes. Start with the weights hanging down, and maintain a slight bend in your elbows as you bring the weights up and out to the sides. At the top of the movement, emphasize a contraction in your rear delts and concentrate on holding the weights for a brief pause. Then, lower the dumbbells, controlling them with your rear delts.


  • Use a rear-delt machine and perform cable bent laterals occasionally instead of just using dumbbells. All three versions have their own characteristics and, over the long haul, using all of them leads to a more complete look.
  • Keep your knees bent if you perform these without support. This removes the stress from your lower back and hamstrings.


  • Kick the weight backward. Instead, focus on bringing the dumbbells out to the sides to place as much emphasis as possible on the rear delts.
  • Allow the weights to drop. Recruit your rear delts to lower the weights with control.
  • Continue if you begin to lose your form. Rear delts are often weak, so it’s important to use strict form to hit them directly. As soon as you can no longer perform a rep properly, you’re forced to recruit other muscles. This won’t help you develop rear delts, and could lead to injury.

    Warm-up sets: 1-2. Working sets: 4-5. Reps: 8-20.



    porter cotrell 4

    The Rep
    Shrugs target muscles that haven’t been worked up to this point in the shoulder workout — the trapezius — so I do a set or two of light warm-ups. To perform shrugs, hold the dumbbells slightly in front of you and maintain a break in your elbows throughout the movement — that prevents you from recruiting your biceps. Raise the weights using both your upper and lower traps.

    Emphasize a long deep contraction at the top of the movement. I believe this is the key to trapezius development. Then lower the dumbbells very slowly with your traps, again being careful not to change the angle of your elbows.


  • Finish your shoulder training with shrugs. Doing shrugs earlier in your workout will prevent you from utilizing optimum poundages with lateral movements, as your traps assist with proper performance of lateral and bent raises.
  • Perform shrugs with dumbbells. This provides a more natural motion for the body than using a barbell.
  • Keep the weight fairly light and the reps high. I use about the same poundage for shrugs as for presses. If you use a weight that’s too heavy, you can’t focus on squeezing your muscles at the top or lowering the dumbbells with control. Both of these are essential for trapezius development.
  • Execute the entire rep slowly. I perform up to 20 reps, and a whole set may take as long as a minute and a half due to my concentrated deliberate motion.


  • Perform shrugs with a barbell behind your back. In this version, all you’re really doing is bending your elbows.
  • Roll your shoulders when you perform shrugs. That’s the best way to pinch a nerve or injure a disk in your spine, and it does nothing to develop your traps. Just use a straight up-and-down movement.

    Warm-up sets: 1-2. Working sets: 3-4. Reps: 15-20.



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