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Dugdale’s Dynamic Delts

The last two years have signaled a changing of the guard in the world of bodybuilding. Aside from the Olympia, where the best bodybuilder on the planet continues to dominate the sport with ungodly mass, many of the other shows are being won by a new breed of top bodybuilders who impress with symmetry, tight flat midsections and awesome conditioning, as opposed to sheer mass. Guys like Dexter Jackson, Darrem Charles, Troy Alves, Melvin Anthony, Ahmad Haidar, Richard Jones and Kris Dim. It’s time to add Mark Dugdale’s name to that list.

When you look at the Dugdale physique, you can’t help but feel that you are watching a breathing statue. If there is a bodypart that stands out above the rest on an upper body packed with quality muscle, it is his delts. Round, full, striated and vascular, they create a shoulder to waist taper that gains the attention of judges and envy of his competitors. But whose delts does Mark envy?

“Dexter Jackson. I love that guy’s delts. At a time when so many guys’ delts are jacked with synthol or site injections, Dexter’s have that crazy striated, separated look that just grabs your attention. I also think that Chris Cook has great delts.”

Mark recognized the importance of carving a great set of delts on to his physique early in his career.

“When I did an honest assessment of my genetics, I realized that I am not structurally broad. As a result, I felt that it was critical for me to prioritize my shoulders so that I could create as much muscular width as possible.” 

How does Mark train the delts that cap the incredibly symmetrical physique that carried him to a pro card at the 2004 N.P.C. USA Championships? You’re about to find out.

Dugdale’s Delts Workout

Exercise 1: Seated Side Laterals

dugdale deltsGiven Mark’s comments about his shoulder structure, it should come as no surprise that he begins his delt attack by with the premiere side delt movement, dumbbell laterals. While there are many variations of this movement — seated, standing, one-arm, two-arm, cable and machine – Mark prefers to do these seated using both arms simultaneously.

“It’s critical that your form on here is on the money or you won’t isolate the side head of the delt. If you don’t feel this movement right in that area, something is off.”

Mark will start with the dumbbells at his sides and raise them straight out until his arms are parallel to the floor at shoulder height. Any higher than that and the stress will go into the neck and trap area. From that top position, Mark lowers the weight back down to the starting position in a controlled fashion that keeps the pressure on the side head of the delt. He keeps a slight bend at the elbow throughout the movement. He will do two warmup sets of standing laterals (employing the same form) before doing two working sets of 6-12 reps.

Exercise 2: Seated Front Barbell Raise

Supersetted with

Exercise 3: Seated Dumbbell Shrugs

After waxing the side delt, Mark moves into a superset consisting of two seated movements, Front Barbell Raises and Dumbbell Shrugs. Here’s how he does them.

Mark’s first exercise in the superset is somewhat unique. He begins the movement by sitting on a flat bench with his feet shoulder-width apart. Taking an underhanded grip on a fixed barbell (the same hand position you would take to do a barbell curl), he starts the movement with the barbell in front of his belly button, just above, but not resting on, his quads. From there, he will raise the barbell up and out until it reaches a finished position at a point just above his forehead. He makes sure to keep the elbows pinned to the side at the beginning of the movement and is careful to make sure that they don’t venture outward as the bar is raised.

“Obviously, I’m targeting the front delt with this movement, but I really feel it throughout the entire deltoid. I think that it has a dramatic effect on bringing out the separation between my shoulders and arms.”

Mark will do two sets of 6-12 reps.

After each set, he will immediately grab a set of dumbbells to perform seated shrugs. After he tightens his belt and uses a set of straps to control the heaviest weight possible, he will lean forward slightly rather than staying arched, as many others do.

“I feel that when I take this position that I am able to squeeze the dumbbells up and back better than when I stay fully upright. I get a stronger, more intense contraction that I think has brought about greater results.”

Mark will do two sets of 6-12 reps.

Exercise 4: Seated Machine Press

dugdale deltsNext up for Mark are seated presses on an overhead press machine.

“The machine at my gym is great for this movement. It really doesn’t feel like you are pressing to the front or the back. It’s as if the area where the bar would be (the machine has handles) would come right through the center of your head. I really feel it hits the delts in a very unique and positive way.”

Mark is meticulous with his form, making sure to control the movement from beginning to end.

“I think that some guys make the mistake of not focusing on every part of the rep when they are using a machine, as opposed to free weight. You don’t have to control the path of the weight with a machine, but the tempo and range of motion on the rep are still in your hands, so don’t forget about them.”

Mark will do two sets of 6-12 reps.

Exercise 5: Reverse Pec Dec

Moving on the rear head of his delts, Mark favors using a wide handled pec dec. He feels that he can get a better isolation on his rear delts using the machine. Mark sits facing the machine with his chest against the pad and back slightly arched. He will grab the handles at a height will have his hands just slightly above his shoulders while maintaining a very slight bend in the elbows. He will slowly pull back to a position where his arms form a straight line across his body before returning to the starting position. The key to the whole movement is that the elbows must remain up and bent ever so slightly from beginning to end. Mark will perform two sets of 6-12 reps.   

Exercise 6: Hammer Strength Standing Shrugs 

Mark finishes his delt thrash with standing shrugs facing outward on the Hammer Strength machine. After pulling his lifting belt tight and wrapping his lifting straps tight around the bar, Mark pulls the bar as high as he can without rolling the shoulders, squeezes hard on the trap and returns to the full hanging position. He will do two sets of 6-12 reps. 

A Promising Future

The future is promising for Mark, to say the least. The central part of Mark’s life revolves around his true priorities…his faith in God and his family. With his wife Cristina, herself a champion figure competitor, and their three beautiful girls, Mark is a glowing example of someone who has the important things in life in the proper order. On the business side, Mark is the co-owner of a successful company, Garden Fresh Foods, and has sponsorship deals with the Weider/AMI organization and rising supplement company, SprayFlex. Cap all that off with an incredibly balanced physique and you have a balanced man, Mark Dugdale.

You can visit Mark online at www.MarkDugdale.com and www.SprayFlex.com. To contact Larry Pepe, you can email him at Larry@MuscleFlex.com.

Mark trains on the following training split:

  • Monday: Chest, Biceps, Calves
  • Tuesday: Quads, Abs
  • Wednesday: OFF
  • Thursday: Back, Hams, Calves
  • Friday: Delts, Triceps, Abs
  • Saturday: OFF
  • Sunday: OFF
Spread the Knowledge

Larry Pepe is the author of the new book, The Precontest Bible, which can be viewed online at www.PrecontestBible.com. Larry can be reached by email at Larry@MuscleFlex.com.


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