One of the most masculine features a man can have is capped shoulders. The truth is some men are pre-dispositioned with narrower shoulders and smaller muscle structure, and some men naturally have larger shoulders. Despite this, men can still build bigger shoulders.
The shoulder muscles that comprise the deltoid group are split into three major areas – the front deltoid, the lateral or medial deltoid and the rear deltoid. A balance across these 3 deltoids will help to increase strength, proportions and help to emphasise your V-taper by broadening your upper body. One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to build shoulder muscle is neglecting front and rear deltoids, thinking they will get enough of a workout on chest and back day.
The three biggest mistake I see people make when training shoulders:
- Not using enough variation – I see people come to the gym and do the same workout week in week out. The human body is very adaptive and will become accustomed to a training method very quickly. This is why even in powerlifting there are phased approaches. The body needs to be shocked into growth and variation in movement is a great way to do just that.
- Neglecting rear deltoids - focusing on too many press exercises will either make you put in a half-assed effort or be too tired to do rear delt work altogether. This can lead to chest and front deltoid over development and an underdeveloped back and rear deltoids; which will pull your shoulders forward (not the look you want).
- Lifting for the sake of lifting – This is by far the most common mistake I see. It is vital that any movement has intention and thought behind it.
- Why am I lifting this weight?
- Is my form correct?
- What area am I trying to focus on during the movement?
- Ensuring the muscle is contracting?
- Is my tempo right?
There is a lot to think about that's not just moving the object from A to B, if you're not conscious of the things I’ve listed above, this is more than likely your biggest stumbling block in the gym and building muscle.
Important Tips For Your Next Shoulder Workout:
1. Start Slow
Typically I start a shoulder workout with heavy compound pressing movements, like standing or seated military presses, Arnold presses, or machine presses. Since it’s a compound movement, most people would attack this first exercise by trying to lift as heavy as possible while they are fresh. In most cases, this ego-driven lifting will lead to an injury. Instead of loading up on weight, consider decreasing the weight and upping the volume; concentrating on every rep, ensuring your tempo and form are on point. You’ll find this just as hard, if not harder then trying for the big lifts, not to mention you’ll reap the rewards in the long run with muscle & joint longevity.
2. Fluctuate your repetitions.
Fluctuating reps is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve shoulder growth. Ensure you have an even focus on tempo, rep range and set size. There is no set of universal guidelines saying you must do 3 sets of 10 every workout. Sticking to the same reps and sets is a sure way to halt your training progression, so mix it up but keep the intensity high.
3. Build a thicker chest and back.
Having broad shoulders often depends on the development of your chest and latissimus dorsi (lats). Your shoulders sit on your lats and chest, so working these areas will lift your shoulders while your back muscles help to pull them back. So building thick lats/back and chest muscles will assist in developing fuller and broader shoulders.
4. Build thicker, fuller traps.
Your trapezius muscles (traps) connect your neck to your shoulders. Having thicker traps will lead to wider looking shoulders, but ensure you balance trap training with deltoids, as growing one of these areas without the other can lead to an irregular physique.
5. Getting extra sessions.
Focusing on one area more than the others can be a great way to see results faster. If you’re doing a body-part split, add in some rear delts sets on your chest day into your routine. This will go a long way to bring up your rear delts if they are lagging.
So how do you train your delts in a way not to get them injured but also build lean muscular Delts? The Answer is Higher volume, lots of Time Under Tension, squeezing through contraction points. But the big one is variety and hitting them at all angles. Below are some workouts I use to hit deltoids:
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