Bodyweight Medial Deltoid Exercise

Q: Dear Coach,

I have been reading your work at T-Nation for many years now and I'm a big fan! I still use your active warmup technique from back in the days before everyone was talking about mobility instead of stretching, and your piece on Pop-em-out muscles was like a revelation. You combine a fantastic theoretical knowledge with practical and easy-to-implement training suggestions that gets results, and it's a combination that has helped me immensely. So thank you!

I was also hoping you could help me with a question that I can't seem to find an answer to anywhere on the web.

Due to recent changes in my schedule I've been doing more and more bodyweight exercises (pull-ups, pushups, etc.). I'm loving the new dimension to my training, particularly with one of my favorite exercises, the handstand pushup. My only concern is that it emphasises the front deltoid too much – which is one area that I'm really not interested in emphasising as much as the lateral deltoid, which really needs the work.

Having read your fabulous article on lateral deltoid training, I was hoping you might be able to advise me: is there a particular range of movement or hand position I can use that will help me focus more on the lateral deltoid? Or is there another bodyweight exercise that would do the trick better?

Thanks for your time and for all the help throughout the years, M.S.

A: There is a bodyweight exercise that targets the medial deltoid heavily; however, it involves gymnastic rings. You can set these up in your garage if you like – visit this link for an example.

Okay, I'll try to explain how it works. Think of two common gym movements: the cable crossover and the lateral raise. These are antagonistic movements – the former hits the pecs and the latter hits the medial/lateral deltoids. Now visualize doing these movements with the rings instead of a cable handle or dumbbell. For the crossover it's pretty easy to see how you would perform that on rings – get into a dip position, extend your arms out laterally until you achieve an iron cross, and then return back to the original position. For the lateral raise you would do the exact same thing except you're upside down! Get it?

Try that movement. It might take a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it your medial delts will be on fire. Add some push-ups and dips for the anterior delts and various pull-ups and chin-ups for the posterior delts, and you will build a serious set of shoulders!

Good luck! Keep me posted on your progress.