Broad shoulders are an important aspect of a good physique. They are a sign of masculinity and dominance in a man's physique. They make your frame look more proportional by making your upper body appear wider. However, many bodybuilders make the mistake of completely neglecting their shoulders. An underdeveloped shoulder doesn't just make you look like you're out of shape, it can actually determine the types of workouts and shoulder exercises you can perform efficiently.
Strong, broad shoulders can bring real benefits, especially for a bodybuilder. They can make lifting much easier, boost your overall confidence and help prevent injuries during workouts and sports activities.
To get that dream of strong, broad shoulders, we've put together a list of the best exercises you can do. But before we get started, you might want to know how your shoulder works.
Shoulder Muscles Anatomy
The shoulder mainly consists of three deltoid muscles and four rotator cuff muscles. The deltoid muscles are the anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid, and posterior deltoid. The lesser known rotator cuff muscles are the Infraspinatus, the Subscapularis, the Teres Minor and the Supraspinatus.
- Anterior deltoid muscle: It is located on the front of the shoulder. It extends from the collarbone to the upper arm. The anterior deltoid muscle provides shoulder flexion, bringing your upper arm forward. It can be trained with simple exercises such as front raises or with press workouts such as the barbell overhead press.
- Lateral Deltoid: This is located on the outside of the shoulder, just behind the anterior head. It also extends from the shoulder blade, but attaches to the outside of the upper arm. The lateral deltoid is responsible for the abduction of the shoulder, raising the arms sideways to the side, much like a lateral raise. When properly developed, the lateral deltoid is responsible for the width of your shoulder. To train the lateral deltoid, exercises such as the dumbbell lateral raise can be used.
- Posterior deltoid: This is located at the back of your shoulder. It takes care of the shoulder where you pull your arms back and bring the shoulder blades together. Exercises such as the "face pull" and the "dumbbell rear raise" can be used to train this muscle.
- Rotator Cuff Muscles: The four rotator cuff muscles are located below the deltoids. They include Infraspinatus, Subscapularis, Teres Minor, and Supraspinatus. They provide extra support to the shoulder joint and allow us to rotate our upper arms at different angles.
Warm up your shoulders.
Warming up before the shoulder workout is very crucial. Before we actually grow the shoulder muscles, we start with a warm-up. Warming up helps prepare muscles and joints for the workout ahead, making them more flexible and less prone to injury. An adequate warm-up increases the body temperature and promotes blood flow to the working muscles.
This increases the amount of oxygen reaching the working muscles, allowing them to contract and relax easily.
To prepare for shoulder exercises, a full upper body warm-up is important as it increases your range of motion and allows you to perform the workout at maximum intensity.
There are many activities that can be used to warm up your shoulders before training. It can be light exercises or stretching exercises. Some of them are Pull-Apart, Foam Rolling, Plate Halo, and Arm circles
This warm-up works the rotator cuff muscles and your upper back.
- It can be performed by standing with your feet hip-width apart while holding one resistance band at the ends.
- Now bring your arms straight in front of you at shoulder height, with your palms facing down.
- Pull the resistance band apart by extending your arms sideways until your torso forms a T position. Hold the position for at least 2 seconds and then return to the starting position. That's one rep. Do 7-15 reps.
- When the band is fully extended, it should lightly touch your chest. The band must have a certain tension to create the resistance needed to warm up the body. However, this is just a warm-up, so don't use too much force.
T-spine foam rolling
Foam rolling releases tension on the tight spots in the body and improves blood circulation. T-spine foam rolling can improve upper body posture and mobility.
- To perform a T-spine foam rolling, sit on the floor with your knees bent and place a foam roller behind you.
- Now put your arms across your body. Then lift your hips off the floor and place your back on the foam roller.
- Slowly roll up and down the roller, maintaining your balance from your mid-back to your shoulder blades, depending on where you want to warm up the most.
The plate halo is a great way to warm up the shoulder and upper body.
- To perform the halo plate, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Now, with arms bent, hold a writing at eye level and rotate it around your head as if a “halo” were floating around your head.
- While you do this, your head and neck should remain in a neutral position.
Arm circles help loosen the shoulder muscles and improve blood circulation around the joints.
- To perform arm circles, stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, and lift both arms straight out to your sides, forming a "T" shape.
- Now move your arms in a circular motion for about 10-20 seconds, clockwise, then counterclockwise. Repeat this 3-5 times.
Best Shoulder Exercises for Mass and Strength
Developing broad, strong shoulders is every bodybuilder's dream. If you've been struggling to make significant progress in activating and growing those lean shoulder muscles of yours, you may be doing something wrong. Below we have listed some of the best exercises that can help you increase the size and strength of your shoulders with ease.
For mass gain, in addition to the effort you put into it, the result you will see can also be determined by genetics. People with naturally slouched shoulders can only grow their shoulders as far as their bones can support. Exercises that promote an increase in shoulder mass consist of lifting lighter weights for extended periods of time.
To increase the strength of the shoulders, heavy lifting is necessary to increase the strength of the entire upper body. Compound exercises are usually encouraged to develop some extra strength, speed and stability.
Dumbell shoulder press
This is one of the best exercises for shoulder hypertrophy. It works not only on the delts (anterior deltoid), but also on much of the upper body, including the trapezius and triceps.
The shoulder press can be performed sitting or standing. For weight gain, the seated position is preferred as this insulates the shoulder and takes away the extra support your legs and back provide. Because the shoulder comes from a very delicate joint, it's recommended that you only use a weight that you can comfortably bear, at least for a start.
A study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics by Campos et al. (2020), compared the extent of activation of the shoulder muscles by lateral raise, shoulder press, dumbbell fly, and bench press exercises in resistance trained individuals. It will come as no surprise that the shoulder press has the highest degree of activation of the
Anterior deltoids of all exercises. Again, it was only beaten by the lateral elevation when it came to medial deltoid activation.
To perform a dumbbell shoulder press:
- Sit at the end of an adjustable bench and hold a dumbbell of appropriate weight in each hand.
- Now lift the dumbbells to shoulder height and push them overhead. Let the dumbbells lightly touch each other in this position. Then lower them back down until the dumbbells are back on the shoulder.
- That's one rep. Repeat 8-12 times per set, making sure to use the same weight throughout a training session.
The lateral raise is a very effective shoulder muscle builder. As we have seen in the aforementioned published study, the lateral raise beats three other exercises in the activation of the medial or lateral deltoid muscle in experienced bodybuilders.
In addition to the medial deltoid, the lateral raise also targets the posterior deltoid and trapezius. When performing the lateral raise, it is advised to use only light weights, as heavier training tends to engage the trapezius muscle more than the delts.
There are many variations of the lateral raise. We have the incline lateral raise, cable lateral raise, kneeling lateral raise, landmine lateral raise, and others. But the lateral raise in a seated position tends to be one of the most preferred variations.
To perform a seated lateral raise:
- Sit down and grab a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing in.
- Now raise your arms up until they are in line with your shoulders and parallel to the floor. Hold this position for a second or two, then slowly return to the starting position. That's one rep.
- Repeat 12-15 times in a set of 3-4.
Bentover Lateral Raise
The Bentover lateral raise in the seated position targets the medial deltoid muscle more than the posterior. To put even more strain on the posterior deltoid, the flexed lateral raise is recommended.
To a Bentover Lateral Raise to be carried out:
- Stand and hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands with your palms facing each other.
- Bend your torso so that it is parallel to the floor and let your arms hang straight down on the floor. Do this while keeping your back in its natural arch position.
- Squeezing your shoulder blades together, raise your arm until they are shoulder height and parallel to the floor. Hold for at least a second, then slowly return to the starting position.
- Also do this for 12-15 reps of 3-4 sets.
Front raise is an isolation exercise that targets the deltoid muscles at the front of your shoulder. They can be performed with a barbell as well as with a barbell, as they are essentially the same movement. As an isolation exercise, front raises are best performed with lighter weights because they put all the load on your anterior deltoids. Because a lighter weight is used, a higher number of repetitions should be maintained. Anything between 12-20 reps of 2-3 sets can be done.
To perform dumbbell front raises:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding a pair of dumbbells in your hands with your palms facing in.
- Keeping your elbow slightly bent, raise your arms in front of you so that they line up with your shoulder. Pause for at least a second and slowly return to the starting position.
- While performing this exercise, it is very important to avoid swinging your dumbbells for extra momentum. Therefore, it is necessary to hold the arm-shoulder position for at least a second. This ensures that your shoulder is doing the required work.
If you want to build strong shoulders, the overhead press is one exercise that many pro bodybuilders think should be your primary workout. One of the reasons this is probably very important is because the overhead press strengthens and enlarges your entire upper body. Because it's a compound exercise, it targets multiple muscle groups, including the deltoids, the core, and even the lower body. It is one of the few exercises that gives a good picture of real strength.
To do an overhead press:
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, then grab a bar (Narrow Grip) with appropriate weight.
- With the bar resting in front of you, it may lightly touch your front delts, tighten your legs and entire torso, then press the bar up with a fully extended elbow until the bar is directly above the crown of your head.
As with any exercise, you should avoid pushing or swinging for momentum. In overhead presses, exercisers usually compromise the exercise by bending their knees and pushing up from their legs with added force. This one action should cause the legs to work even more than the delts, negating the purpose of the exercise.
This exercise is named after the legendary actor and bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Arnold press is a great shoulder exercise because it engages all three heads of your deltoids for a longer period of time than the regular presses. This increased tension time makes it a good exercise for shoulder muscle strengthening or hypertrophy.
However, to perform this exercise successfully, additional strength and stability is required from an individual. The main difference between the Arnold press and your regular traditional press is the extra motion of rotating the arms as you press them over the head. This single move will engage all three delts in your shoulder.
To run an Arnold press:
- Hold a pair of dumbbells in front of you while sitting on a bench. Your palms should face your shoulders.
- Now push the dumbbells overhead while twisting your arms so that your palms face away from you.
- Straighten your arms, hold for a moment, and then return to the starting position.
The shoulders, along with the hips, are the only places in the human body where there are ball joints. These types of joints are the most mobile joints, because they give us great freedom of movement. Yet they are very vulnerable. The high degree of dexterity actually comes in return for their being so prone to injury.
Weightlifters, even experienced ones, are not exempt from the possibility of shoulder injuries. Overuse injuries such as tendinitis, strains and sprains are a fixture among weightlifters. Most of these conditions are caused by lifting too heavy weights, using poor lifting techniques or, more importantly, starting to lift weights without proper warm-up exercises.
A sprain occurs when the ligament tears, while a strain results from a torn muscle fiber. Tendonitis occurs when the tendons that attach the muscles to the bones become irritated from overuse.
To help you avoid shoulder injuries, the tips below can be very helpful:
Always take your warm-up exercises seriously
That's why we've listed some of the easiest ways to warm up your shoulder in this blog. Warming up helps prepare your shoulders for further advanced exercises. They are great for preventing injuries and increasing training efficiency.
A specific study by the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center (OSTRC) of handball players, who were so prone to shoulder injuries, examined the effect of a certain training program as a warm-up in preventing overuse shoulder injuries in the subjects. Interestingly, the result showed that the athletes' risk of shoulder problems decreased by 28% and the risk of significant shoulder problems by 22%. In a nutshell, the study proved that adding some warm-up exercises to the handball players' routine was able to significantly reduce their prevalence of shoulder problems.
Strengthen your rotator cuff muscles
The rotator cuff muscles can be easily damaged or strained because they are small and heavily involved in shoulder movement. Strengthening them through regular exercise can help prevent shoulder injuries. Exercises like the pull-apart and banded external rotations are a good way to start.
Don't go too heavy!
It is very important that you only carry the weight that your body can support. Constantly lifting too much weight can overload your shoulder muscles, leading to an ever-increasing dose of pain in your shoulder.
Avoid risky exercises
The shoulder is a very delicate joint, so any exercise that could compromise its safety should be avoided. Even exercises like the shoulder press should be performed in the safest way possible. When doing a shoulder press, it is recommended to avoid the posterior neck position as this puts a lot of pressure on the middle glenohumeral ligament, which is part of the four structures that help keep the shoulder in place and prevent it from slipping. shoots out of the bowl.
Use the right form and technique
Poor lifting technique is one of the leading causes of shoulder injuries in bodybuilders. Proper form, technique, equipment, exercise, and intensity should always be monitored. That's why it's critical that you're supervised by well-trained fitness professionals while lifting.
Did you get excited after reading this article? Do you want to perform shoulder exercises effectively and injury-free and make your shoulders bigger and stronger? We have developed a specialized 10-weekly program and e-book to grow and strengthen your entire body as effectively as possible. Every body part strong and powerful! This program and e-book consists of warm ups, nutritional advice and different 10-week training schedules that take you step by step through the entire process. You can choose a program of 4, 5 and 6 days a week training. It will not surprise you that there are many shoulder exercises in this schedule!
Don't wait any longer and start an amazing transformation!
Campos, Yuri AC, Vianna, Jeferson M., Guimaraes, Miller P., Oliveira, Jorge
D., Hernández-Mosqueira, Claudio, da Silva, Sandro F. and Marchetti, Paulo H.. "Different Shoulder Exercises Affect the Activation of Deltoid Portions in Resistance-Trained Individuals" Journal of Human Kinetics, vol.75, no.1 , 2020, pp.5-14. https://doi.org/10.2478/hukin-2020-0033
Andersson SH, Bahr R, Clarsen B, et al. Preventing overuse shoulder injuries among throwing athletes: a cluster-randomised controlled trial in 660 elite handball players. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2017;51:1073-1080.