Jeremy Buendia’s physique is the standard-bearer in the IFBB Pro League men’s physique division. The California native has earned the nascent sport’s top prize—the Men’s Physique Olympia crown—four years running.
Even more surprising is what he admits about his first three titles. “For a long time, I was training my shoulders all wrong,” Buendia confesses. “My technique was awful on a lot of my delt exercises.”
Consider it a matter of degrees, but his delts, while certainly not a detriment to his overall physique, weren’t all they could be. “That was a lagging body part for the first few years I did the Olympia—especially the middle delts,” he explains. “And it’s just so important for the taper in men’s physique, that wide-shoulder-to-small-waist ratio.”
His solution? He went to work with his long-time trainer, Hany Rambod, tweaking Rambod’s FST-7 training protocol to blow up his shoulders. “We prioritized lateral raise exercises, putting them earlier in the workouts, did more overall sets, and I put more energy into those workouts than I ever had before,” Buendia says. "One of the major things I was doing wrong was engaging my traps and not opening my lats on my lateral raises," says Buendia, who took the 2017 Olympia stage a full nine pounds heavier than in 2016. “If you open your lats up and engage them, you minimize your trap activation. Like a lot of people, I used to pull my shoulders back when doing laterals and initiate the motion with my traps, and that takes all the muscular tension off the delts.”
Now during his standing dumbbell laterals—which come second in his delt routine, after seated dumbbell presses—“I’m pretty much doing a lat spread pose throughout the range of motion,” he says.
Beyond that simple yet inspired change in approach, Buendia introduced a number of FST-7 tricks into his plan of attack. “I’ve been doing FST-7 since 2014,” he says. “The training system has evolved to incorporate new philosophies and new variations that Hany and I have been using this past year that I hadn’t done previously. That’s why I feel I’ve made such big improvements in my physique. I made the biggest and most drastic improvements of any Olympia competitor onstage.”
Before laterals, Buendia presses—typically dumbbells. “I like dumbbells because they allow for a more natural range of motion as opposed to locking yourself in on a machine or with a barbell,” he says. “I feel there’s a better mind-muscle connection, and I can more easily manipulate my tempos and techniques.”
For example, once Buendia gets through his two to three warmup sets and to his three to four working sets, he’ll sometimes incorporate static holds—keeping one dumbbell overhead, arm almost straight but elbow slightly bent to maintain tension while repping with the other arm—alternating presses, partial reps, superslow or more rapid-fire reps, or often a mix of all the above in one workout. “They’re all different FST-7 training principles to increase the workout intensity,” he says. “FST is all about maximizing the blood flow to the muscles, expanding the muscle fascia, and prompting further growth.”
For the four working sets, he pyramids up while the weights drop, starting at 10 reps, then eight, then six with the 120- or 130- pounders, before dropping the weight for the last set to failure.
The aforementioned dumbbell laterals are next on tap, the first of three lateral variations that are peppered in throughout his workout. “I like to do the dumbbell version earlier in my workout, when I’m not so fatigued and I can maximize the impact on the middle head of the delts,” Buendia says. “By focusing so much on the middle head, it improves that ‘capped’ look by creating more width.”
Through five to seven sets, he’ll pyramid up, while also tossing in an array of intensity boosters, such as static holds and partial reps. “On peak contraction holds, I’ll drop down from a 50-pound dumbbell to 20 to 25, and then I may do a 5-4-3-2-1 pattern—I’ll hold the dumbbell in the up position for a five-count, then do five reps, hold for four seconds and do four reps, hold for three and do three reps, on down to one,” he says. “At the very end, I’m gassed, but I’ll also add a few partial reps to push my body past the threshold.”
FRONT AND CENTER
Following laterals to the side are alternating dumbbell raises to the front, for four to five sets of more FST-7-inspired madness. “I’ll do some of the same things I do with laterals, like peak contraction holds, where I’ll come up for a two-count—one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand—then back down on each rep, or partials, where I finish a set with five or six quarter-reps. I also adjust my grip placement on my front raises, with some sets thumbs up and some thumbs down to target a slightly different part of the front deltoid. I’ll switch off between alternating and lifting the weights at the same time, too.”
While most sets end in failure or close to it, Buendia cautions that overall pacing matters. “I push my muscles to the point where I know they can go. But I also understand how to conserve energy to get me through the full hour that I’m training a body part,” he says. “If all I do is win the contest but don’t do anything with it afterward, then being the Men’s Physique Olympia champion doesn’t mean much.”
Three to four sets of standing behind-the-back cable laterals follow, which engage both the middle and rear heads. “Going behind the back creates more stretch in the deltoid, allows for a longer negative motion on each rep, and stretches the fascia around the muscle tissue,” Buendia points out. “That’s a growth trigger.”
Staying at the cable station, he’ll switch out the D-handle attachment for a rope, which he straddles for the next movement, cable front raises. “I don’t go too heavy, but instead emphasize the squeeze at the top of each rep,” he says. “I angle my body forward about 45 degrees, basically leaning as a counterweight to the stack, and I’ll lift my arms up to about chin level in front of me.” It’s three to four sets of 10 to 15 reps, including two-count peak-contraction holds on the final five reps of each.
With the end of the grueling session in sight, Buendia moves on to rear delts—still on the cable apparatus, he prefers face-pulls to other common rear-delt moves like bentover raises and reverse pec-deck flyes. “Face- pulls provide for a great stretch in the rear delts,” he explains. “Rear delts can be tough to stimulate because it’s harder to engage that mind-muscle connection, but the face-pull makes that process easier. It’s better than the reverse pec deck in my opinion because so many people do that wrong, using their rhomboids or lower traps to bring the weight back.”
To do the face-pull, stand in front of a high pulley and grasp each end of the rope attachment with an overhand grip, your palms facing each other. Lift your elbows up to shoulder level and to the sides. Now lean back to counterbalance your body against the weight and, keeping your elbows elevated, pull the rope back toward your head until your hands are alongside your ears. Squeeze, then reverse to the start, not letting the weight stack touch down between reps.
“Really reach forward and open your lats on the negative,” Buendia stresses. He’ll do four sets of around 10 to 15 reps— although, as with all his exercises, he doesn’t count strictly, instead going until he’s cashed out his rear delts and can’t do another rep cleanly— typically adding peak contraction holds on the last set or two.
TO THE END
The final stop on shoulder day is the preloaded barbell rack. Buendia grasps a 30-pounder, holding it directly in its center so it’s steady in his hand, and readies himself to do one-arm barbell laterals. “This exercise forces you to stabilize the barbell, and so when you lift it you have to initiate and engage with the delt,” he says. “If you end up swinging the weight at all and using momentum, the barbell won’t stay balanced. It’s a great option for isolating and finishing off the lateral head.”
Because this move is more technically challenging, Buendia forgoes the typical array of intensity boosters. “I rarely use partials or peak holds,” he says. “When I can no longer get a full, clean rep, that’s when I stop.” Four sets for each arm and he’s out.
BUENDIA’S SHOULDER WORKOUT
- Seated Dumbbell Press | SETS: 2–3, 3–4 | REPS: 10–15 (warm- up), 10, 8, 6, 10-20
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise | SETS: 5–7 | REPS: 10–20
- Alternating Dumbbell Front Raise | SETS: 4–5 | REPS: 10-15
- Cable Behind-the-Back Lateral Raise | SETS: 3–4 | REPS: 10–15
- Cable Front Raise With Rope | SETS: 3–4 | REPS: 10–15
- Face-Pull | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10-15
- Barbell One-Arm Lateral Raise | SETS: 4 | REPS: 10–15