The shoulders are some of the most under-appreciated and under-trained muscles in the gym. Your shoulders might not be as fun to train as your pecs and your biceps and they might not come out as often as your arms do down the beach.
But with that said, your shoulders play a key role in a vast number of different exercises (including the ‘fun ones’ like the bench press and squat). At the same time, they’re also some of the most important muscles when it comes to making those biceps and triceps look their very best – rounded deltoids really create definition and separation at the top of your arms and this makes them look that much more defined and impressive. Finally, shoulders give you width and make you appear much wider and more dominating. This is absolutely crucial for creating a v-taper and is something no bodybuilder can do without as it makes the waist look that much smaller. But for any guy who just wants to look imposing and who wants to strike and intimidating silhouette, this is a great way to make sure you do that.
Of course big shoulders don’t always equate to wide shoulders. Unfortunately, your width is partially defined by your genetics and all you can do is to add a little extra on the sides by building up your lateral deltoids to be wider.
But either way, shoulders maketh the man and if you ignore these, it will be a massive weak link in your chain. That’s why we’ve collected three of the best workouts on the web for you to start learning how to build your shoulders up and taking up more space. These are difficult muscles to train with fewer exercises and a higher risk of injury, so take it from these guys when looking for ways to trigger real growth, power and strength.
Calum Von Moger’s ‘Delt Demolition’
Calum Von Moger is a bodybuilder who is more interested in mimicking the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane than he is Ronnie Coleman or today’s modern behemoths. He’s all about symmetry, definition and that classic, heroic physique.
And as we’ve already seen – wide shoulders are absolutely a must for that. And taking a look at his videos, it’s clear to see that Calum very much knows what he’s doing. Here is one of his most effective workouts that you can employ to get similar cannonballs on your arms…
- Seated behind-the-neck press
- Dumbbell military press
- Upright row
- Dumbbell side lateral
- Rear delt fly
This workout starts with the somewhat divisive ‘behind the neck’ press. This means you’re pressing the bar behind your neck instead of in front of you, which actually removes the involvement of the upper pectoral and places more emphasis on the deltoids and also the lateral deltoids. This can be a tough move for the neck and the rotator cuffs, so it’s important not to try this with too much weight stacked on the bar. But if you ease yourself into it, then this is a brilliant tool for building big shoulders and really creating some trauma that will lead to growth.
Next comes the dumbbell military press. While getting the dumbbells in position can be tricky, using dumbbells forces you to use more stabilizing muscles to keep them steady and it also ensures that you’re going to maintain symmetry. This prevents one side of your body from ‘helping’ the other and ensures much more balance in your appearance and your performance.
Next we have the upright row which hits the front delts. This is a nice variation on the usual forward raise and will also involve the traps – which are partly responsible for the monstrous look that big shoulders can give you.
Finally, it’s the usual one-two punch of side laterals and rear delts to hit those three all-important deltoid muscle heads. This is something you’ll see in almost every shoulder workout, though one of the big variations is whether the isolation exercises like these come before or after the compound moves.
Jake Alvarez’s Shoulder Gains Workout
Jake Alvarez explains how he was once the ‘shy kid’ in his school but how he managed to change all that through his training. And of course a big part of this comes from his amazingly massive shoulders. It’s hard to be a shrinking wall flower when you take up that much space!
Interestingly, Jake’s workout here focuses more on the rear delt. This is definitely something worth trying, seeing as many people neglect the rear delts in favour of the medial and anterior. Making sure to work the rear will contribute to your overall shoulder growth and will also help you to improve your performance in numerous compound movements like shoulder presses and the bench.
His workout consists of:
- Dumbbell shoulder press
- Rear delft fly
- Face pull
- Reverse pec deck
We’re starting with the standard dumbbell press which is an excellent movement for building balanced shoulders in a compound manner. This requires you to train the supporting muscles and as we’ve seen, prevents one muscle from getting ahead of the others. It also allows the position of the weights to be more directly over the shoulders which prevents the top of the pecs from taking over too much.
We then move on to the rear delt fly – one of the most well-loved exercises for hitting the rear deltoids and a great way to get that balance. Later we’ll be doing the reverse pec deck which is a very similar exercise but note that there is a slight difference in where the tension will be during the motion between these two machines as well as the angle that you’ll be working at.
Finally, we have the ‘face pull’. This routine involves using a cable machine lying flat on the ground and then pulling the handles down directly toward your face (hence the name) so that your hands are on either side of your head as you do.
This is a pulling exercise and on the face of it might appear to train the lats more than the deltoids. The key is to focus on the contraction and to make sure you are using the perfect technique throughout. Specifically, you are widening your arms by rolling out your delts in the same way you would during a rear pec deck or fly.
This is a great original exercise for the rear shoulders and if you use all these in this order, your deltoids won’t have felt anything quite like it!
A Shoulder Blasting Workout for Faster Gains
This last shoulder workout comes from Mike Chang over at Six Pack Shortcuts. Now Mike is known for providing great workouts that anyone can do from home and he has a home-made physique to show that his strategies work.
This routine is no different and with basic equipment, you can do it in a garage or anywhere else. This time:
- Standing military press
- Wide grip upright row
- Bent arm side laterals
- Hammer front raises
This is a simple and straightforward routine that starts with the compound movement like so many others and then breaks it down to each of the three heads. Mike keeps things classic and is sure to train the whole body using the standing military press. From there, he moves onto the upright row which is a pulling workout that also trains the sides of the deltoids and the rears.
There’s no movement here that is designed specifically for the rear delts, so if you’re going to follow this routine make sure you’re engaging them during that upright row!
The bent arm side laterals are of course to hit the lateral delts for that width and by keeping your arms bent, you can change the angle and the ‘lever arm’. This lets you work with more weight and keeps the focus more tightly on the shoulders.
Finally, front raises performed with a hammer grip will help you to open up those shoulders while simultaneously using a much more comfortable grip!
So there you have it: three routines that will absolutely blast your shoulders and help you to start having to walk sideways through doorways! Each of these has a slightly different focus and between them, you can see just how many different approaches there are to hitting this part of the body.
Try each of these workouts in order to mix things up and inject some fresh pain into your shoulders. As you do, you’ll likely find that some of these exercises and routines are more well suited to your specific body type and your favorite ways of training. This allows you to collect more new techniques and more new strategies that you can incorporate into your broader training approaches.
But notice what all these workouts have in common is that they include both compound movements and isolation movements to target each of the muscle heads.
Otherwise, keep trying new things, keep switching up the focus and keep finding new ways to shock your body into growth.
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