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Muscle Growth

Best Exercises For Men To Grow Big Shoulders

By Shannon Cole on Jan 31, 2024 9:00:00 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time

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.

Shoulder Anatomy

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.

Guide to Growing Big Shoulders | Mind Pump


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Shannon Cole

Shannon Cole is an ISSA certified personal trainer and lives in the Dallas area. She is a certified nutrition coach through NASM and NCI, and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Sports Science and Rehabilitation. After obtaining her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication she eventually gravitated to personal training, and hasn't turned back since. Her passion for athletics and fitness initially stemmed from her high school years playing golf, and her love for the sport still hasn't faded; her career goal is to obtain her Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certification and develop strength and conditioning programs for golfers. You can usually find her working out in her garage gym, or training for the next Spartan Race with her husband.

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