The Toughest, Most Effective Shoulder Workout Ever

The V-Taper. It’s the look most of us strive for and one of the most common goals when we begin working out. We all want to achieve that narrow waist and wide shoulders that create the illusion of size, even if we aren’t 220 pounds of solid muscle. In this day in age, with all of the controversy over maintaining a healthy look versus the mass-building game, it is relieving to know that you can create a look of size and strength without necessarily hindering your ability to run, jump, or merely keep up with the kids.

The following program is designed to help you develop what I like to call “resting shoulder caps” – developed shoulders that stand out by looking shapely and round, even when you are at rest. Nothing shows a well developed physique more than someone that doesn’t even have to flex to show it off.

The Toughest, Most Effective Shoulder Workout Ever


Pre-exhausting your shoulders is rule Number One for this training program. Undue stress on the rotator cuff and smaller shoulder stabilizer muscles isn’t necessary when it comes to training shoulders. Heavy is “relative” to the muscle group, so check your ego at the door and get ready to play with some baby weights.

Pre-exhausting is simply performing an isolation movement prior to engaging in a compound movement (such as shoulder pressing or military pressing). By targeting your shoulders first with a movement such as dumbbell lateral raises, you can engorge the muscle with blood and pre-fatigue it so that you can get more impact out of your compound movements later on.


After you’ve pre-exhausted your shoulders with some laterals or front raises, head on over to a larger compound movement like barbell military presses or dumbbell shoulder presses. You’re going to want to utilize about 80% of your normal 8 to 10 repetition range weight since you have already pre-exhausted your shoulders. You’ll feel a significant increase in muscle activity and probably a bit more isolation when you perform your compound movements this way. Take even more advantage of the situation by making a concerted effort to contract intensely at the top of your press, but making a point not to pause at the top; just a quick contraction.

Once you have fatigued your shoulders and reached 8-10 reps, immediately drop the weight by about 30% and perform the exact same movement for a drop set of another 8-10 reps. The combination of performing a pre-exhaust movement coupled with an intense compound movement drop set will be enough to shock your shoulders into growth.


The rear delts always get the short end of the stick. Many men (and women) neglect them altogether or are so fatigued by the time that they get to them at the end of their workout that they lack the intensity required to really spark them into overdrive. Those little rear-deltoids hold a lot of aesthetic value as they create a full, rounded effect to your shoulders and make an immense difference in how wide you appear, especially from the side.

The best way to target the rear delts is to mix your rear deltoid movements in throughout your workout rather than training them by themselves at the end of your workout. When you perform dumbbell lateral raises, for instance, you can try turning your palms towards your body (palms facing back) and performing the lateral motion with the hands in that position for a whole different spin on targeting the rear delts.


On your next shoulder day, try this high-volume, extremely high-intensity workout to fry your shoulders. Do not do this workout more than once every couple of weeks as it will lead to some serious overtraining, especially if your nutrition isn’t well aligned.

Warm-up with a few pushups with the hand stance relatively close to bring in the front deltoids and less chest. Only about 20-30 pushups are needed to wake the body up.

EXERCISE #1: Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Sets: 4

Reps: 18-20 (high-rep failure)

Tip: On your last set, squeeze the weight at the top of the movement for 1-2 seconds (reduce the weight if necessary)

EXERCISE #2: Barbell Military Press (drop set)

Sets: 5

Reps: 8-10 x 3 (drop set)

Tip: Perform 8-10 repetitions per set with triple drop sets on each set to total failure. For example: 8-10 reps, reduce the weight, another 8-10 reps or to failure, reduce the weight, ANOTHER 8-10 reps or to failure.

EXERCISES #3/4: Wide Grip Upright Row Superset with Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise (drop set)

Sets: 4

Reps: 10-12, 20 x 2 (drop set)

Tip: Using a wider grip will allow you to use a lighter weight but isolate the lateral head of the deltoid a bit more. After each set of upright rows, immediately go back to shoulder laterals and perform them with a weight that will allow you to achieve about 20 reps. After completing your 20 reps, reduce the weight and perform another 20 reps of laterals.

EXERCISES #5/6: Plate Front Raise Superset With Reverse Dumbbell Flye

Sets 4

Reps 10-12

Tip: Hold a 45, 25, or even a 10-pound plate out in front of your body until your arms are slightly above parallel with the floor, like you are performing a dumbbell front raise. Perform these until failure and superset with Reverse Flyes. For your reverse flyes, turn the palms back and learn forward being sure to target the rear deltoids and not the back.

EXERCISE #7: Seated Dumbbell Press

Sets: 3

Reps: 12-15

Utilizing a flat bench without back support, sit upright and perform traditional dumbbell shoulder presses. YOU WILL USE SIGNIFICANTLY LESS WEIGHT but you will not be leaning into the back of the bench, so the isolation on the shoulders will be much more because you won’t incorporate the upper chest. You can wear a weight belt if it helps to support your lower back, but the weight should be light enough to not pose this issue.

EXERCISE #8: High Pulley Row

Sets: 4

Reps: 12, 10-12 (drop set)

Tip: Attach a wide-grip lat pulldown bar to a high pulley row. Pull the bar to your clavicle or upper chest, making sure to keep the elbows high in order to engage your rear deltoids. If you are bringing in your back to assist, you’re either going too heavy or not bringing the elbows high enough. Perform the exercise with a weight that will allow you to perform 12 reps. Immediately reduce the weight and perform a drop set with a lighter weight that will allow you to get approximately 10-12 more repetitions.


Sometimes the last thing that you want to do after a workout is inflict more pain, but making a conscious effort to foam roll even for a couple of minutes on the targeted muscle group can significantly help muscle growth. And sometimes, with our shoulders being used so often, we develop scar tissue that inhibits growth and recovery. So go for it, inflict a couple minutes more pain – it will be worth it!

That’s it! Perform that routine every couple of weeks and it will put a whole new spin on your shoulder day and will skyrocket you into loving your V-Taper for summer!!

Thomas DeLauer

Thomas DeLauer is a well-known health and fitness author and is most noted for his personal transformation from 280lb overweight corporate career-goer to fitness cover model and author. He is the founder of as well as and has devoted his career to spreading the word on an anti-inflammatory approach to the diet. Residing near Santa Barbara, CA with his wife (they’ve been together since high school), his four dogs and three horses, he promotes a lifestyle of living as close to the earth as possible to obtain the best possible results. See more with Thomas here: Corporate Website: Facebook: Thomas.DeLauer Youtube: TheTDeLauer