Q. I was told by a guy at my gym that I am wasting my time directly training my shoulders and arms. He said that these body parts would grow huge simply by training chest and back very heavy. It is obvious that the shoulders and arms are involved in presses and rows, but is that really enough?
A. This is actually an interesting question that I am going to be forced to answer in two ways. Yes, it is absolutely true that the triceps and anterior deltoids are stimulated during all chest press movements and that the biceps and posterior deltoids are heavily involved in all back pulling exercises (row, pull downs, pull ups). And since most lifters can move some pretty heavy iron on movements like bench presses, incline presses, bent rows, seated rows and one arm rows, there is no doubt that some significant development will result in the smaller assisting muscles as well (biceps, triceps and shoulders)…And this effect will be amplified if you have particularly good genetics for building muscle in these areas (hello Lee Priest and Kevin Levrone!). With that said, if you are someone with only a limited time to spend in the gym and also only crave pure bulk, without the detail and perfect proportions of a competitive bodybuilder, then you can probably be rather successful primarily training chest, back, and legs each week, while leaving the arms and shoulders alone. A Monday, Wednesday, Friday type schedule would work well here, with legs sitting between the two upper body sessions. Now for the other side of the coin…If your goal is to maximize the development of every body part and to either compete on a bodybuilding stage, or at least look as if you do, I feel it is certainly necessary to do direct work for both the arms and delts. While I do feel you can build larger bis, tris and shoulders without “isolating” them, I do not feel you can reach your full genetic potential for size, nor can you build the type of “completeness” you see on a bodybuilder’s physique. There are a myriad of angles, grips and innervation patterns that are necessary to bring out the optimal development of every muscle group… even the smaller ones. This means direct work…curls, extensions, laterals, etc. So what I am saying here is that it is up to you to figure out what you really wish to accomplish and then to take the proper route to get you there. Ask yourself this…“Am I a bodybuilder or a guy who lifts weights?” Your answer will tell you what you need to do.