Written by Ron Harris
13 February 2020






Build Big Delts With Roelly Winklaar

Shoulder Training With the Dutch Beast


By Ron Harris


Who are the most massive men in pro bodybuilding today? There are a few notable specimens of inhuman thickness, such as seven-time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath, Big Ramy and France’s Morgan Aste. But any discussion of freaky mass has to include Egberton Rulove Etienne-Winklaar, aka Roelly Winklaar, a soft-spoken giant from the tiny island of Curaçao in the Dutch Antilles. At 5’7”, he competes at just under 300 pounds – and placed fifth in the 2019 Mr. Olympia and won the Yamamoto Pro the same year. Round and full are the key words here, because Roelly has that rare quality of “bubbly” muscle that seems to practically burst from the frame that only a fortunate few like Phil Heath have been blessed with. Like Heath, Winklaar has dominating shoulders and arms that are simply at a level most of their fellow pros can only dream of. Roelly has also been compared many times to the great Kevin Levrone, whose shoulders and triceps are widely considered to be among the best in the history of our sport. Give some of Roelly’s training methods a try and see if you can get your delts a little closer to beast level!


Delts – the Most Important Muscle Group?

Though they don’t usually get as much attention and glory as showier body parts like the arms and legs (when was the last time anyone ever asked you to flex your shoulders?), a very strong argument can be made that excellent deltoid development is one of the essential keys to success as a competitive bodybuilder. The very first look judges get of any lineup is of the athletes standing in the front relaxed position, and that’s exactly where huge, round, wide shoulders literally set you apart from the rest of the field. They help give you that all-important V-taper and do more for your overall shape than any other body part. And when it comes to the mandatory poses, killer delts will give you the edge in the side chest, side triceps, rear double biceps and especially the money shot for Roelly – the crab most-muscular. When he hits that pose and crunches together the sum total of monster traps, shoulders and chest, you instantly understand why he was appropriately dubbed “The Beast!”


How Roelly Got Those Sick Shoulders

First of all, let’s be real here. Like Kevin Levrone, Dennis Wolf, Phil Heath and Justin Compton – and every other man who has ever built a spectacular pair of deltoids that are literally the size of melons – there is a definite genetic propensity from birth that made that potential mass possible one day. But potential itself is meaningless unless it is realized. Both Roelly’s shoulders and triceps got a head start in his youth in Holland through the demanding sport of gymnastics (Roelly was even doing backflips in his posing routine in his earlier pro shows). If you’ve ever watched men’s gymnastics competition at the national and especially the Olympic level, you would notice that even though they aren’t big guys, they always have pretty impressive delts and tri’s. Roelly took to weight training after he quit playing soccer, and within just a couple of months of training, his shoulders and arms put those of almost all the other far more experienced gym members to shame. He soon began competing, since the gym owner let him train for free as long as he did, and he was made aware that he could probably lay off training his arms as intensely for a while.


Roelly didn’t get the same advice about his awesome shoulders, and he knew why. “Shoulders are one of those areas that you can almost never have too much development,” he explains. “The thicker, rounder and wider you can make them, the better your overall shape is, so I never stop hitting my deltoids with maximum effort and intensity.” Here are the main exercises Roelly uses when he trains some of the freakiest shoulders of all time.


1.Seated Dumbbell Presses

This movement is the foundation of Roelly’s shoulder workout, and he usually does it first thing while he’s fresh, after warming up with some lighter machine presses. Sibil “Grandma” Peeters was the trainer who took Roelly all the way from a decent amateur bodybuilder to an A-list IFBB pro, over the course of five years of hellish workouts in her native Rotterdam, Holland, where Roelly used to live for most of the year before moving back full-time to his native Curaçao in 2013. “Oma,” as he called her (the Dutch word for grandma) showed him several ways to make the dumbbell press a much more productive exercise.


Most bodybuilders do their overhead pressing with their back up against a pad. That allows them to use more weight, but it also means that they are leaning back and doing something more like an incline press. A true overhead press should be done with your back perfectly straight, so that the medial delts can work as hard as the front delts. All the old-school bodybuilders from the 1940s on until around the late ‘70s used to do all their dumbbell and barbell presses standing up. For several years, Roelly did all his presses seated, without back support.


Oma also taught Winklaar the importance of a full range of motion for overhead presses. Most bodybuilders only lower their arms to “parallel,” the point where their upper arms are level with the floor. He goes down a couple of inches more, until the dumbbell actually touches his shoulder.


“Think about it,” he says. “The guys with the best legs like Branch, Kai and the great Tom Platz didn’t just squat to parallel. They buried the weight! When you bench press, don’t you touch the bar to your chest for a good stretch? So why would you miss out on that full range of motion on presses?” The reason isn’t because it’s dangerous. Most guys won’t go that far down for the same reason they insist on back support— so they can handle heavier weights. One thing Oma always stressed is that it’s not about the weight. It’s about how hard you make the muscle work.


One last tip from Roelly: “I like to hold the dumbbells off center, with my pinkies up against the inside edge of the plates, and angle my hands slightly downward so my thumbs are lower. I feel more activation in the side head of the delts when I use this grip.”


2. Lateral Raises

Roelly’s workouts have changed in a few major ways since he left Holland for good and took on the responsibility for his own training. They’re about 30-45 minutes long now, as opposed to his previous 90-120 minutes, and are comprised mainly of straight sets with shorter rest periods – rather than giant sets and drop sets with more time needed between sets to recover.


As for Roelly’s shoulder training, Oma used to have him reserve lateral raises for the end of his delt sessions. One reason was that the round, capped shape he was blessed with doesn’t need much priority to maintain, and another was that she felt performing them later prevented heavier weights from being used, and heavy lateral raises are almost always done with less than optimal form. “A truly productive lateral raise should be done very strictly, slowly and with almost no bend to the arms,” Roelly explains. As such, he rarely used more than a pair of 30s in the off-season, and would go even lighter when deep into his contest prep.


Now that Winklaar is the master of his own training destiny, he has taken to doing laterals just after his presses. He will do them in two styles: standing and with heavier weights, and standing up against an incline bench set to a high angle with lighter dumbbells. Bracing his torso up against the bench keeps it immobile, ensuring stricter form and better isolation of the medial deltoids. “If you decide to try this, do the free-standing laterals for maybe three sets, and then the braced laterals for another three,” he notes.


3. Bent Dumbbell Laterals

The better pros all show complete and balanced development in all three heads of the deltoids, including the rear delts. Without fullness and roundness to the posterior deltoids, it’s simply impossible to display the coveted “3-D” look to the shoulders. Anyone whose rear delts are lacking would be wise to train them first thing on shoulder day when you’re fresh, rather than putting them off until the latter part of the workout when energy and concentration levels are both waning.


“My favorite exercise for rear delts is the bent dumbbell rear lateral raise,” says Roelly. “I usually do them sitting on the very end of the bench, and I employ a hammer grip.” He goes on to put the proper form into easily understandable terms. “I think of the motion as the total opposite of a flye for the chest, and picture making the same type of arc.”


Take care when you do rear laterals to avoid pinching your shoulder blades together. It’s easy to start working the upper back muscles like the rhomboids and teres major and minor if you’re not careful.


4. Cable Rear Laterals

Another variation of bent laterals that Roelly likes is the single-arm cable version. These allow him to really focus on the squeeze and the pump of each individual rear delt, and the constant tension provided by the cable allows for a uniquely different feel than he gets from the dumbbells.


5. Upright Rows

Just about every bodybuilder as well as the average gym rat does some type of overhead press along with lateral raises for shoulder training. Far more rarely will you see the upright row being performed, and that’s a shame. It’s a highly productive compound movement for the delts that involves both the medial and posterior heads, along with some indirect work for the traps. You can load some weight on here and really make the delts scream. One thing to keep in mind is that once you start spacing your hands closer together than shoulder width, the traps begin taking more of the workload rather than the delts. Shoulder width or just a bit wider will do a better job of making this a prime mass movement for your shoulders. Also, think in terms of pulling up and over your shoulders in an arc motion instead of merely pulling straight up and down.


6. Shoulder Bombs (not shown)

This is one shoulder-blaster that helped earn Oma her nickname of “The Trainer from Hell,” and Winklaar still keeps it in his shoulder-training repertoire. I will let him explain how this odd but intense movement is done.


“Shoulder bombs start at about what would be the middle of a lateral raise,” he begins. “Starting with your arms straight out to your sides and your palms facing up to the sky, you bring the dumbbells up in a half-moon shape and rotate your hands down. At the top position, the dumbbells are almost touching, your pinkies are up in the air and your thumbs are aimed at the ground.”


Nobody needs much weight for these. Even Roelly, at almost 300 pounds, only uses a pair of 30s. Average mortals like us would probably be all set with 15s or 20s, at most. And it’s safe to say that you should not do these at the very end of the workout.


Training Split*

Saturday: Back and arms (one session)

Sunday: OFF

*Abs and calves are trained twice a week, but not on set days.


Roelly’s Early Shoulder Workout (2008-2013)


Seated Dumbbell Presses (no back support)

4 x 8-10


Dumbbell Front Raises

3 x 8-10


Bent Dumbbell Rear Laterals

3 x 10-12


High Rope Pulls for Rear Delts

3 x 10-12


Lateral Raises

3 x 10-12


Shoulder Bombs

3 x 10-12


Roelly’s Current Shoulder Workout


Hammer Strength Presses

Warm-up, 2 x 20, 3 x 10-12


Seated Dumbbell Presses

Warm-ups, 1 x20, 1 x 15, 4 x 12


Lateral Raises

3 x 12


Shoulder Bombs/Overhead Lateral Raises

3 x 12

Dumbbell Shrugs

4 x 10


Bent Lateral Raises

3 x 12


Ron Harris got his start in the bodybuilding industry during the eight years he worked in Los Angeles as Associate Producer for ESPN’s “American Muscle Magazine” show in the 1990s. Since 1992 he has published nearly 5,000 articles in bodybuilding and fitness magazines, making him the most prolific bodybuilding writer ever. Ron has been training since the age of 14 and competing as a bodybuilder since 1989. He lives with his wife and two children in the Boston area. Facebook Instagram




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