Seven-time Mr. Olympia champion Phil Heath is among the most dominant of all time. He won his Sandow trophies in consecutive years from 2011 to 2017. Unlike other Olympia champions like eight-time champ Ronnie Coleman, six-time champ Dorian Yates, and four-time champ Jay Cutler, Heath isn’t known for training with immensely heavy weights as he is with deliberate muscle fiber stimulation during training.
In a video published on Sept. 3, 2023, on fitness influencer Will Tennyson’s YouTube channel, Heath guided Tennyson through a shoulder workout that prioritized building the delts for a 3D aesthetic at the ‘Mecca of Bodybuilding’ — Gold’s Gym in Venice, CA. Check it out below:
Will Tennyson and Phil Heath’s Shoulder Workout
The duo did five exercises in their shoulder workout:
- Face Pulls
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- Dumbbell Front Raise
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Machine Incline Shoulder Press
Heath noted that Tennyson’s shoulders, especially Tennyson’s posterior deltoids, lagged compared to his arms. This negatively impacts Tennyson’s overall physique symmetry and balance.
Heath opened their training session with face pulls to bias the rear delts. He grabbed the rope attachment between his index and middle fingers and pulled the handles apart during the concentrics. Heath performed 15-20 reps per set, squeezing his rear delts to their fully shortened position to bias hypertrophy.
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
The duo next performed dumbbell lateral raises to target the medial delts. At the starting position, the dumbbells rested against the outside of Heath’s thighs. He maintained a slight bend in his elbows as he raised the dumbbells on a slightly forward diagonal as though trying to touch the top corners of the gym.
Heath actively squeezed the dumbbell handles using his pinkies to keep the tension on his delts. He focused on shortening the medial delt rather than simply moving the weight.
Dumbbell Front Raise & Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Heath performed 10 reps of dumbbell front raises per shoulder. The first five reps were done on his right with a neutral grip, followed by a pronated grip for the final five reps. He replicated that programming on his left side.
For the dumbbell shoulder press, Heath’s arms range of motion positioned his arms at 90 degrees at the bottom of the movement. Instead of bringing the dumbbells together on concentrics, Heath pushed them straight overhead. He pulled depressed his scapula and kept his elbows in line throughout the entire range of motion to bias his anterior deltoids.
Machine Incline Shoulder Press
Heath prefers using machines toward the end of his workouts, as they eliminate the need to stabilize the weights. This can help him focus the tension on the target muscle group more effectively. A 2018 European Journal of Sport Science study found that focusing on establishing a mind-muscle connection during an exercise can help promote hypertrophy. (1)
Heath grabbed the handles with a wide grip. He emphasized using a full grip over a false (thumbless) grip — also known as a suicide grip — while performing pressing movements.
Heath last competed at the 2020 Olympia. Based on a conversation between bodybuilding coach Miloš Šarčev’s and Jay Cutler, Šarčev expects Heath to return to pro competition at the2024 Arnold Classic.
Given that Heath has never won an Arnold Classic title, there’s a possibility that Heath might make a comeback at the second biggest stage in bodybuilding, scheduled for March 1-3, 2024, in Columbus, OH.
While that remains in the realm of speculation, a return of “The Gift” to the pro stage wouldn’t be entirely out of nowhere. As a former Olympia champion, he holds a lifetime invite to compete on bodybuilding’s grandest stage should he decide to return.
- Schoenfeld BJ, Vigotsky A, Contreras B, Golden S, Alto A, Larson R, Winkelman N, Paoli A. Differential effects of attentional focus strategies during long-term resistance training. Eur J Sport Sci. 2018 Jun;18(5):705-712. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2018.1447020. Epub 2018 Mar 13. PMID: 29533715.
Featured image: @willtenny on Instagram