Because this is supposed to be about shoulder training, you probably expected heavy, overhead barbell presses as well as the expected lineup of gargantuan dumbbell raises. Yet, save for a few sets of dumbbell lateral raises, you won’t see Phil Heath busying himself with long-held traditions of tendon-straining free-weight work or lifting at his redline to satisfy his fans or our lenses. Most of his routine consists mainly of machine work, all within proven, muscle-building rep ranges.
PHIL HEATH, SIMPLY WILL NOT BE CONCERNING HIMSELF WITH THE LONG-HELD APPROACHES TO SHOULDER TRAINING. AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU.
“Do you need a fundamental basis of dumbbells and barbells? Absolutely,” he says. “I used to press crazy weight, but it really hurt, and it shouldn’t hurt all the time. Everybody wants to say, ‘This is better than this.’ They may point to research, and what they’re saying might be true—but what if I’m not comfortable doing that? If I’m growing, then that’s all that matters to me.”
Still, he says, naysayers will persist—and practically insist—that he needs to go back to the ham-and-egg approach of pressing to the death.
“They tell me, ‘But if you did free weights you’d grow even more!’ Well, I’m still growing. If I don’t like it and I’m still growing, then I might not want to change that. Every once in a while I’ll do barbell presses, and I hate ’em. And the minute I start hurting, I stop. It reminds me that I’m not doing them for a reason. I have to be smart. I take detours from the norm here and there, and I think I’ve been successful doing it. I’ve built one of the best backs in bodybuilding without doing deadlifts.”
Heath contends that he does do presses but that the tracked range of motion on the Smith and certain Hammer Strength machines allows him to do so more safely. The bottom line?
“I came into bodybuilding with two bad shoulders from basketball,” he says. “I know what works for me and what allows me to train with less pain.”
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