Did Don Howorth Build His Cannonball Shoulders Naturally or Not?

| by Truth Seeker |

Don Howorth, the Duke of Delts | via: pinterest.com

Don Howorth (b.1935) is a popular bodybuilder from the 1960s whose otherworldly deltoid development earned him the title “the Duke of Delts”. There are many photos of him in which he showcases incredible width that immediately steals the attention of the spectators.

Don Howorth initiated his muscular ascension in the summer of 1955 and peaked in the 1960s. At the time, anabolic drugs were widely available, and most professional muscle constructors were already enhanced.

Here’s a quote from Dr. John Milton Hoberman’s book Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping:

“The first public advocate of testosterone therapy for aging men was the popular science journalist Paul de Kruif, whose manifesto The Male Hormone was published with some fanfare in 1945. Excerpted in Reader’s Digest and promoted by a full-page review in Newsweek (“Hormones for He-Men”), The Male Hormone was in some respects a prophetic book.

The potential market for a rejuvenating male hormone seemed to be enormous: “How many millions of American males, not the men they used to be, would flock to the physicians and the druggist, a bit shame-faced and surreptitious, maybe, but hopeful, murmuring: ‘Doc, how about some of this new male hormone?’”

Conclusion: In the mid-1940s, synthetic testosterone was already advertised as an elixir that can revive one’s manhood. It’s interesting to see that TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) promotion dates back almost 80 years.

Steroids may have been available during Don Howorth’s prime, but did he use them?

Yes. Unlike the fake natties out there selling dreams, he was open about his chemical enhancement.

In an interview for Iron Man Magazine, Howorth states as follows:

“We tried steroids. I had a nutritionist, Rheo H. Blair, who helped out all the bodybuilders. He put me on a diet on which I was eating an enormous amount of dairy and meat products, and I also did a minimal amount of Dianabol.” [source]

In another interview, this time with the bodybuilder Nelson Montana (author of The Bodybuilding Truth), Howorth provides a little more information about his drug regimen:

At one point I used 10 mgs a day, but then I started to retain a lot of water. We heard things about it but didn’t really know much. Some people said that it didn’t increase strength, but that was bull. I took 5 mgs of Dianabol for 4 weeks and my bench press went up thirty-five pounds! I noticed I recovered a lot faster and got great pumps.  But I never took any injectables.” [source]

Use vs. Abuse

Howorth preserved his amazing physique into his 50s and continued training beyond that. The key to his longevity, apart from genetic factors, is sensible use.

The muscle constructors of his time relied on fewer compounds, lower doses and did not touch insulin and growth hormone.

As a result, the bodybuilders from the 60s and the 70s were known for having unique “characters” whereas today’s pros lose their identity in the pursuit of size.

Don Howorth’s Stats

In the Iron Man interview quoted above, Howorth states: “I weighed 215, the best I’d ever looked up to that point.” Therefore, his weight was around 215lbs/97.72kg.

I couldn’t find his height and had to rely on comparisons.

In an old photo, Howorth is standing next to his trainer Vince Gironda and appears to be ever so slightly taller than Vince.

Since Gironda was ‎5’8″ (172.5cm) tall, Howorth’s height has to be around 5’8.5”/174cm.

The data provides the following table:

Height Weight FFMI @ 9% BF Arms
5’8.5”/174cm 215lbs/97.72kg 29.315 18 inches

Conclusion: Don Howorth had an insane FFMI – above 29. Naturals will never get there.

What Gave Howorth Those Delts?

The formula for extraterrestrial growth and muscular shine has always been the same:

Genetics + Steroids + Nutrition + Training

Whenever a bodybuilder displays a “freaky” body part, it’s always the child of those four variables. Out of them, genetics and drugs have the strongest influence as they can elicit anabolism that cannot be triggered by a training program or a nutritional regime even when the protocols are written by 140 IQ scientists.

Don Howorth’s majestic shoulders are not an exception to this rule because…there are no exceptions.

Genetics. Don Howorth’s delts were born with a congenital gift for growth. Many of his rivals were taking the same and doing similar workouts under the guidance of Vince Gironda. And yet Don Howorth’s deltoids were the best and would stand out even today.

Drugs. As you already know, he wasn’t natural. However, it’s worth noting that trenbolone (a steroid that has played a crucial role in the world of bodybuilding) was not available in the 60s.

According to the official information, tren was discovered in 1963 and introduced for veterinary use in the early 1970s. By that time, Howorth had already won his titles.

Why does this matter? Tren is known to produce 3D “Photoshop” shoulders.  The fact that Howorth developed insane deltoids during an era when trenbolone was under construction amplifies the greatness of his accomplishment.

Training. During his early years, Howorth concentrated on compound movements. (dumbbell and barbell presses). Then, Steve Reeves advised him to hit all deltoids separately too. To improve his side delts even further, Howorth began doing three-way lateral raises 3 times a week for 5 sets of 15 reps.

Note: Howorth’s high-volume training routines were heavily influenced by Vince Gironda.

Nutrition. Howorth’s basic dieting plan was also based on Gironda’s keto code of eating – meat, eggs and an apple a day.


I look narrow. What can I do to appear wider?

For better or worse, truly impressive width comes from one’s bone structure. If you have insanely narrow clavicles, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Nonetheless, the following adjustments can help:

Don’t bulk. Extra lard around the mid-section produces an anti-V taper a.k.a. a pyramid. It’s hardly surprising that permabulkers have waists wider than their shoulders.

Train lats and upper back heavily. The side deltoids may be the widest points, but they are minuscule muscles in comparison to the latissimus dorsi and have a very limited potential for growth. If you focus on your back, visible results will come faster.

Heavy compounds for shoulders. The strict overhead press is the most complete shoulder movement in existence. Unless you turn it into a standing incline press, it hits all three heads of the shoulder, although the anterior delts always do the heavy lifting.

In addition, the overhead press strengthens the rotator cuff isometrically and creates a more balanced shoulder girdle. This property of the exercise eliminates the need to do extra rotator cuff work unless you truly have to for a very specific reason.

They told me that a big neck and developed upper traps make you look narrow. Correct?

Vince Gironda believed so, and if you look at his students, you will see that their upper traps and necks were underdeveloped in comparison to the rest of their physiques.

It’s true that by limiting the size of your traps and neck you could create the illusion that you are wider, but it’s just that – an illusion. Do you really need it? After all, the price is fairly high. A pencil neck makes you look weaker and “beta”. In most cases, a neck in proportion to the rest of the body is the optimal solution.

Ultimately, trying to keep a body part smaller is wasted energy, especially when you’re natural.

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  1. CJ

    I think you merit “genetics” too much. Let’s see this guy (or any other druggie with “good genetics”) natural. He would blend in with everybody else, with maybe a little more broadness or an extra line on those shoulders.

    1. Brett

      You can see how he looked natty. There pics of him as a old man and he shrivelled into a stick.

      Granted test levels drop as you get older but still a big boned man with long muscle bellies normally holds most of his width into his old age.

      Most roiders are small to average off gear.

      A big natty rarely ever becomes a lifter. A lecturer of mine in college was about 6’5 and big boned. He also had humongous calves. He was just a massive guy with probably 8 inch wrists although I obviously never measured them.

      Guys like this never feel inferior physically and normally never lift. Whats the point when you already the biggest guy in the room anyway?

      These guys are very rare though. Often they carry a lot of body fat too as did this lecturer.

      1. Truth Seeker Post author

        You’re right.

        But he did/does have good genetics from the following perspective: his delts looked better than everybody else’s even though the other bodybuilders were on drugs too.

        That “shine” is genetic.

      2. Glove

        I agree that many Bbler are not big and bulky by nature. The point is that many Bbler start as skinny guys. For them it’s a strong motivation to start lifting. The strong athletic type of a guy and I met some do not have to pimp up his self confidence. I remember two friends of mine with fine genetics.
        One was blessed with talent for BB. The other one was ridiculous strong. Both never were interested to lift seriously.

  2. Sam

    A certain amount of genetic luck is also required to gain a lot of muscle mass with gear. And of course the genetic luck of long muscle bellies and short tendons.

  3. Glove

    Very true, Seeker!
    To get a wider look pull ups are most important!
    This Don Howorth is fantastic. Even for my generation he was not known in my place.
    Puting away everything what makes a successful Bbler his shoulders are a gift.
    Frank Zane type of a body with bulk.

  4. John

    10 mg dianabol my ass. It was at least 20 mg dbol ED and 200 mg deca a week.

    1. Glove

      No doubt! The dose was not that mild! 🙂

  5. sean

    lower doses worked in the 1960s and 1970s and with fewer side effects because the gear was pharmaceutical, pure and undiluted. If the vial said 200mg/ml test that’s exactly what it had and that’s all it had. Bodybuilders were not dropping dead on a monthly basis like today, and most of the 1960s/1970s bodybuilders lived normal length lives. Many of the problems today come from contamination and uncertain dosages.

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