Derek Lunsford Builds Rounded Delts with Shoulder Workout 11 Weeks Out of 2023 Mr. Olympia

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2022 Mr. Olympia runner-up Derek Lunsford has his sights set on becoming the 18th man to win the title at the 2023 Olympia Weekend in Orlando, FL on Nov. 2-5, 2023. The former NPC USA winner (2017) and 212 Olympia champion (2021) will have to be his all-time best if he wants to win the world championship of his sport. 

Lunsford has been keeping his fans up to date on his progress leading up to that contest on social media, including training videos like the one he released documenting a shoulder workout at MI40 Gym in Tampa, FL just 11 weeks before the big show. The video below was shared on his YouTube channel on Aug. 21, 2023.

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Machine Lateral Raise

Lunsford began the session with machine lateral raises to focus on his side delts. He’s already lean enough that you can see the muscles working as he lifted the handles of the machine. The weight he was working with wasn’t shown, but he appeared to be in full control throughout his sets.

He would occasionally perform poses between sets to analyze his physique and prepare for the multiple rounds of posing he’ll have to do on stage at the contest. He gave the fans extra details about his training at this stage of his prep.

“I like to train six days in a row, take the seventh day off,” he said. “Occasionally in the offseason, I’ll take two days rest but, pretty much between here and the Olympia, six days a week. Today’s day five. Shoulders today. Yesterday I did legs.”

The camera briefly showed the pin set on the weight stack at 190 pounds (86.2 kilograms), which Lunsford performs for 12 reps on his third set. He ultimately pinned the entire stack of 250 pounds (113.4 kilograms) and worked a final set to failure plus several partial reps, which he counted as 15 total reps. After five total sets, he moved on to the next exercise.

Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The second movement was another lateral raise, this time using a free weight version with classic standing dumbbell laterals. Five total sets were shown on camera, with the third set shown in its entirety for 12 reps. His fourth set was for 12 full range reps plus partials, and he showed the camera that the gym’s 33-kilogram dumbbells he used are equivalent to 72.7 pounds, indicating that he’s feeling strong at this phase of his prep.

“Not my best ever, but it’s still over 70 pounds.”

Lunsford then finished with a back-off set using 28 kilograms (61.7 pounds), so he could better control the weight, before moving on.

Seated Smith Machine Press

With two lateral delt-focused movements completed, Lunsford focused on the front delts with seated overhead presses on a Smith machine. Lunsford used a moderately wide grip and lowered the bar to about chin-height before pressing it up. He would also stop short of lockout to keep tension on the working muscles. He had elbows sleeves on, as well.

Lunsford began with one 45-pound plate per side, then went up to two. He would eventually add a 25-pound plate per side for a third set with a spotter providing assistance at the end. He would remove those 25s for two additional sets, keeping with his training philosophy of using back-down sets.

“I like to do back-off sets periodically in my training … you do a couple of warm-up sets, do a top set or two, and then that last set. Do one more set but back it down and try to get better control and get as many reps as you can … So instead of, ‘Well, I got 15 reps. Might not have been controlled, but I still got 15 reps, let me go heavier,’ Actually, let’s get better time under tension. Let’s get better control of the weight. Let’s get a few more reps that are clean. What is that gonna do? That’s going to stimulate the muscle more and prevent injury. Smarter.”

Front Raises

Lunsford’s next exercise was an isolation movement with a twist. He would perform three sets of front raises with his palms facing each other, followed by three more sets with his palms facing down. He told the camera that each set would be done for 10 to 12 reps. However, he would keep the rest to no more than 40 seconds between each set. He saved even more time by working both shoulders simultaneously.

Reverse Pec-Deck

The bodybuilder then shifted focus to his rear delts, beginning with a reverse pec-deck. The former Olympia 212 champion would use the horizontal handles for a palms-down grip, and the camera panned over to Lunsford’s side, where you could see the rear delts working. Not all sets were shown, but he later said he did three sets in total.

Rear Lateral Raise

Following that exercise, Lunsford opted for a free weight movement. He sat on the end of a bench with dumbbells in his hands and performed bent-over lateral raises to target the rear delts again. He progressed to doing sets standing, with his torso bent at a 45-degree angle. Like the front raises, he deliberately changed his hand position with the two rear delt movements — having his palms facing down during the reverse pec-deck and facing his palms together with the bent-over lateral raises. He explained why these details matter.

“Switching up the hand positioning is going to help you target a little bit different portion of the delts.”

Cable Lateral Raise and Cable Upright Row

Lunsford felt the need to target the side delts one last time. So, he went to a seated cable row station with two cables and performed a unique cable lateral raise variation. He lied back on the pad and pulled the cable handles out to his sides, as if he was doing a standing lateral raise. He performed one set in this manner, followed by the final exercise of the day — three sets of a cable upright row in the same reclined position on the seated row bench.

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3D Shoulder Workout

If you want to give Lunsford’s style of training a try for yourself, you can follow the sample workout below.

  • Machine Lateral Raise — 5 x 12-15
  • Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise — 5 x 12-15 (Final set with reduced weight)
  • Seated Smith Machine Press — 5 x 10-12 (Final set with reduced weight)
  • Front Raise — 6 x 10-12 (30-40 seconds rest, 3 sets palms-in/3 sets palms-down)
  • Reverse Pec-Deck — 3 x 10-12 (Palms-down)
  • Rear Lateral Raise — 3 x 10-12 (Palms-in)
  • Cable Lateral Raise — 1 x 12
  • Cable Upright Row — 3 x 10-12

Lunsford finished one spot behind champion Hadi Choopan at the 2022 Mr. Olympia in Las Vegas, NV. He will look to take that final step toward the prestigious Sandow trophy and Olympia title in November.

If he’s able to defeat Choopan, as well as fellow top contenders including Nick Walker, Samson Dauda, and former champions Brandon Curry (2019 Mr. Olympia) and Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay (2020-2021 Mr. Olympia), then Lunsford will be the first man in history to have won the Olympia in two different divisions — the 212 and Men’s Open. This is an exciting time for Lunsford, on and off the stage, because he recently revealed that he and his wife are expecting their first child together.

Featured Image: Derek Lunsford / YouTube

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