Q: The incline one-arm lateral raise is very awkward for me. Is there another exercise I can use for the stretch in my [Positions-of-Flexion] delt routine?
A: That exercise was an Arnold favorite in his prime because it provides some stretch overload to the medial- and posterior-delt heads. Arnold knew instinctively that stretch overload triggered significant mass gains (this was decades before the animal study that produced a 300 percent mass increase with one month of stretch overload—Arnold just had a knack for knowing what packed on muscle).
Arnold’s shoulders were always a problem area because his clavicles weren’t exceptionally wide; however, with some serious work on incline one-arm laterals, he was able to give his delts a fuller, rounder look to look bigger. All it takes is a small amount of extra muscle on the medial delt heads to have you looking much, much wider and bigger overall. It’s an illusion worth working for…
Even so, the incline one-arm lateral raise is hard to get the hang of—especially if you try to go too heavy and/or allow tension to fall off the medial-delt head at the bottom of the stroke.
The next best stretch move is one-arm cable laterals. Notice that your arm still moves across your body for some medial- and posterior-head stretch. Plus, you get a better top-end contraction with a cable.
With the inclines, you don’t get the arm up into the contracted-position plane because of the angle of your torso. So does that mean the one-arm cable lateral the better exercise? Not necessarily…
The main problem with one-arm cable laterals is weight-stack drag, which lessens the important negative resistance on the downward stroke. The angle of pull is also not perpendicular to the torso—your arm is being pulled downward, as well as across, which lessens the stretch overload. Nevertheless, it’s your go-to exercise for the stretch position if incline one-arms aren’t doing it for you.
We suggest using the one-arm cable lateral at one delt workout for stretch; then at your next go back to the incline one-arm lateral—but keep your weight manageable and work on form and feel. Alternate those exercises at every other workout and you’ll create an eye-popping upper-body size illusion.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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