Sculpted shoulders can completely enhance your appearance, and as a trainer, it’s a request I hear pretty often. Biceps and triceps tend to get all the love when doing upper extremity movements, but neglecting the shoulders can make you look disproportional and, aesthetically, not attractive.
Not only do muscular shoulders look great, but stronger deltoids can do wonders for your posture and assist with more complex lifts that require more of the back and chest. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to develop your shoulders. With some basic movements, you can achieve rounder, bigger shoulders in no time.
Before we get into the good stuff, keep in mind that the shoulder (deltoid) is made up of three heads: anterior, lateral, and posterior. Certain exercises will hit one portion better than the others, so to achieve a proportional look, we want to emphasize the entire shoulder, and not just one part.
The anterior head of the deltoid is responsible for shoulder flexion, or moving the arm forward toward an overhead position; the lateral head produces abduction, or moving the arm out to the side of the body; and the action of the posterior head is shoulder extension, or moving the arm backward behind your body.
Training and Equipment
Whether you have barbells, sandbags, kettlebells, dumbbells, (anything, really), you can do a lot to work those shoulders Obviously, the more equipment you have, the more versatility you will have with your exercises. Even if you only have resistance bands, you can do a lot to enhance your shoulders.
In terms of how to train them, I would suggest larger rep ranges and lighter weights. As much as we want to lift heavy and push ourselves, there are risks associated with heavy lifting on smaller muscle groups. Like the biceps and triceps, the deltoids are small muscles, so they can’t handle the same loads the way the back, legs, or chest can.
With this in mind, stick with a weight you can safely handle for 8 to 15 reps.
I could write pages of different exercises you can do for your shoulders, but I’m going to give you my favorites.
1. Overhead Press
I really enjoy going from barbells, to kettlebells, and even sandbags for my overhead presses. It may not seem to make a big difference, because you’re essentially performing the same movement, but changing up the equipment still presents a challenge for not just the deltoids, but the body as well.
Lifting a barbell overhead is going to feel different from lifting two kettlebells. So if you get tired of this movement, temporarily retire your usual weights and try something new.
2. Arnold Press
Going from a supinated to pronated position offers a unique way to work both the anterior and lateral fibers of the deltoid. Again, if you get tired of your overhead presses, this way of lifting overhead will probably be a nice challenge.
3. Cable Reverse Fly
This can easily be done in a bent over position with dumbbells, but if you want to change this up, you can use a cable machine, or even resistance bands if you work out at home.
These are just a few of my favorites, but there is a longer list here if you really want to build up your exercise library.
The exercises mentioned primarily isolate the deltoid, but you shouldn’t neglect compound exercise. Push-ups, bench presses, barbell rows, and numerous other exercises that target the chest and back are likely going to activate some part of the shoulder as well.
If you want bigger shoulders, Mind Pump’s got your back; check out the Complete Guide to Growing Big Shoulders, a free resource to help your deltoids look built and strong.