Derek Lunsford’s Off-Season Workout Explained for 3D Delts

derek lunsford does the rear delt fly machine and dumbbell side lateral

Lunsford says training muscle groups more frequently is the key to bringing up lagging body parts.

Derek Lunsford has always been a formidable presence in the bodybuilding industry. In 2017, he earned his pro card and secured a significant victory at the Tampa Pro in the Men’s 212 division. His achievements reached new heights when he emerged victorious in the same category on the Olympia stage in 2021. In this post, we’ll join Derek Lunsford as he takes us through his off-season shoulder workout. As a gesture of appreciation to his fans, Mr. Olympia shared a video on his YouTube channel showcasing his exercises to build deltoid muscle effectively.


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After astonishing everyone with his guest posing at Jim Manion’s Pittsburg Pro, Lunsford was invited to compete in the Men’s Open division at the 2022 Mr. Olympia. He certainly lived up to the hype and secured an impressive second place, narrowly surpassed by his teammate, Hadi Choopan. Derek Lunsford showcased remarkable conditioning and an impeccable physique that left a lasting impression.

Full Name: Derek Lunsford
Weight Height Date of Birth
205-215 lbs 5’6” 05/14/1993
Division Era Nationality
Men’s 212, Men’s Open 2010s- Till Date American

Determined and relentless, Derek Lunsford refused to give in. He returned to the drawing board, dedicating himself to further enhancing his physique for the 2023 Olympia. His unwavering commitment paid off, culminating in a victory as he claimed 2023 Mr. Olympia. Never one to rest on his laurels, Lunsford continues to train diligently, attributing his consistent success to his unparalleled work ethic, an attribute he has exemplified since his early high school days as the perennial recipient of the “Most Improved” accolade.

“So out of two sports [in] four years, that’s eight opportunities I got most improved five times out of the whole team right out of the whole team. I got most improved five times out of eight opportunities. That’s pretty impressive because, to me, the most improved like award means that I work the hardest and I just kept getting better. I was the one that continued to get better more…since high school my whole life, I’ve gotten most improved in everything.”

Derek Lunsford’s Off-Season Shoulder Exercises

You can watch Derek Lunsford’s off-season shoulder workout below:

Derek Lunsford did a mix of machine and free-weight shoulder exercises for his off-season training before ending his training with a post-workout protein shake. He did five exercises in total and explained that although this is shoulder day for him and he already has a full chest day in his schedule, he’ll do some chest exercises after he trains to get a pump. Lunsford also points out that this is a key to training lagging body parts.  

“I think that’s that’s really the key to lagging body parts, I feel like is you just got to do it more often you don’t have to go heavier, you don’t have to train more volume in one training session, but at the end of the week if you [are] more consistent by doing it more frequently and by the end of the week you have more volume I think that is what ultimately helps you bring up lagging body parts so again instead of doing a bunch in a short period of time just kind of breaking it up doing it maybe a little bit less each time but more often.”

Below is a breakdown of the exercises he did. 

Exercises Sets Reps
Dumbbell Side Lateral 4 12-15
Smith Machine Shoulder Press 4 12-15
Seated Front Raise 4 12-15
Rear Delt Fly Machine 3 12-15
Smith Machine Press 4 12

Dumbbell Side Laterals

Derek Lunsford’s first shoulder routine was the dumbbell side lateral. He explains that he usually does this routine with bent elbows, which is easier and allows you to lift more weight. But he’ll do a different variation with straight arms for this off-season workout. Lunsford also points out that this variation resembles what he does on the cable machine. To do dumbbell side laterals this way, he has to use a lighter weight because it’s more challenging. 

“I’m really trying to like push my shoulders down actually and away like this, I’m thinking like push down and away…this just hits a little differently when you extend your arms down and push away rather than keeping the elbows bent.”

Smith Machine Shoulder Press

Next, Derek Lunsford hits his shoulders with slow and controlled Smith machine shoulder press reps. Doing this exercise is a great way to build the deltoid muscles of the shoulders. This study on thirteen trained men showed that the shoulder press activates your medial and posterior delts more than the dumbbell fly and bench press (1)

Seated Front Raise

Next, Derek Lunsford does unilateral front raises using dumbbells, one arm after another. Mr. Olympia explained that he does this exercise seated to avoid cheating with momentum as he would when standing. He also brings his legs closer together, making him use his abs more, whether seated or standing. This study on ten competitive bodybuilders shows that the front raise is an excellent routine for your shoulders and mainly activates your anterior delts and pecs (2).

“You’re getting the most stimulus here in the front delt by not using that momentum and really controlling on the way down, especially, and then again; you’re getting that core activation as well.”

Rear Delt Fly Machine 

For his next routine, Derek Lunsford went for multiple sets of the rear delt fly seated on a machine. This routine effectively targets your rear delts while engaging your traps, lats, and rhomboids. Using the machine for this exercise gives you the advantage of lifting heavier while maintaining a good range of motion, and range of motion is essential when doing the rear delt fly. 

Smith Machine Press

Derek Lunsford did the Smith machine shoulder press on an incline bench for his last routine. Using the Smith machine for this move hits your front and side delts while providing support that relieves lower back tension. The incline for this exercise causes it to target your chest, shoulders, and triceps, but it places more resistance on your shoulders and upper chest. 

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  1. Campos, Y. A. C., Vianna, J. M., Guimarães, M. P., Oliveira, J. L. D., Hernández-Mosqueira, C., da Silva, S. F., & Marchetti, P. H. (2020). Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals. Journal of human kinetics, 75, 5–14.
  2. Coratella, G., Tornatore, G., Longo, S., Esposito, F., & Cè, E. (2020). An Electromyographic Analysis of Lateral Raise Variations and Frontal Raise in Competitive Bodybuilders. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(17), 6015.
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.