So You Want Pumpkin Delts?
Pumpkin delts, boulder shoulders, whatever you call them, they are one of the most important muscles in your body.
Whether you’re pushing, pulling, or overhead pressing, your shoulders are always involved. Most people only pay attention to their front delt, the part that you see in the mirror, and neglect their rear delt. It can be hard to see and even harder to feel a mind-muscle connection with the rear delt so it often goes undertrained in comparison to the front and side delt. Whether you’re chasing a balanced look or you’re looking for strength gains, training your ENTIRE shoulder is a non-negotiable.
Before you start training shoulders, you need to warm up! Most of us spend the day sitting at a computer, maybe not with the best posture, and our shoulders are tight and immobile. Throwing up dumbbells for a shoulder press right after work without a proper warm-up can lead to serious injury like rotator cuff tears, impingement, and dislocations. Warming up can be as easy as arm circles and shoulder shrugs but grabbing a light band can help you get an even more comprehensive warmup. Start with banded pull aparts, banded lateral raises, banded front raises, and banded behind the back passes. Do each of these 10-15 reps for 3-4 rounds. Your shoulders will thank you!
So let's train delts! Here are some key tips to growing true pumpkin delts.
TIP #1 Train REAR delts first!
Think about it, if you have a lagging bodypart, you would want to put the most energy into bringing that up! That’s why you start with rear delts at the beginning of your workout when you have the most energy to put into growing them. Also, your front delts get hit when you train chest anyways so they already have a higher training frequency by that fact alone.
When training rear delts, slow and controlled contractions are the way to go. A lot of movements that hit rear delts can easily be performed with momentum alone (dumbbell rear delt flys are notorious for this) and momentum is not what we want. We want to make sure that your rear delts are feeling tension throughout the entire motion.
TIP #2 Add in partial reps
With a smaller muscle group like delts, partial reps are an excellent way to increase time under tension which is where hypertrophy, or muscle growth, occurs. With partial reps, you can choose to focus on the beginning, middle, or end of a movement to target different areas of the muscle. With lateral raises, for example, partial reps at the bottom engage less of the traps but the higher you go, the more your traps will engage. Depending on your goals you can choose which parts you want to focus on. Since you aren’t performing the entire range of motion, oftentimes you can really overload your muscles with heavyweight. This isn’t always true, but when if you can go heavy, go heavy!
TIP #3 Inlude contraction holds
Contraction holds are just what they sound like, holds at the end of a contraction. Doing these is another way to increase your time under tension which, as previously stated, will help stimulate more muscle growth. Using lateral raises as an example, you would hold at the top and focus on squeezing and flexing your delts as hard as you can for a few seconds before slowly lowering the weight back down. These are amazing as a burnout at the end of a set or at the end of your workout.
So to summarize, if you want those big, rounded, capped shoulders you should be lifting consistently, starting with rear delts to avoid neglecting them and creating an imbalance, adding in controlled partial reps, and really maximizing time under tension with contraction holds. Adding all of these into your training will help your delts grow and give your boulder shoulders to rival DLB’s.