By Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS
Broad shoulders project an image of strength and masculinity, and they give the waist a smaller, tapered look. There is just something special about big, wide shoulders that intrigues women and inspires men.
Beyond the aesthetic appeal, strong developed shoulders play a role in pretty much any upper-body movement that requires strength and power.
To maximally develop the shoulders requires a holistic approach that uses fast and slow tempos, a variety of rep ranges and compound and isolation movements.
If you promise to give me your all, I will give you a great workout that will get you in and out of the gym in less than 45 minutes.
Before the bench press, the standing press is what strength aficionados and the lay public accepted as the standard of upper-body strength. Overhead presses serve to build masculine brawn, enhance utilitarian strength, and fulfill the traditional look of raw power. To build shoulders that take out doorjambs and impress even the most jaded tailor, we’ve got to overhead press heavy.
For overhead presses, complete three sets of five reps. On the first two sets, use a weight you are capable of doing six to eight reps with; on the third set, go to failure. At failure push press the weight for three additional reps and lower the weight back to the starting point with a five-second eccentric. This is an eccentric emphasis mechanical drop set in action.
: 180 seconds
: Do not do a standing incline press — make sure to push your head through when locking out the weight to work the entire shoulder.
Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Lateral raises focus on the medial/side delts, the part of the shoulder that gives the appearance of width. Lie back on an incline bench and hold the dumbbells at your sides like suitcases. Keep a 10- to 15-degree bend in your elbow throughout the entirety of the movement. Perform by lifting your arms out to your sides until the dumbbells are at shoulder level.
Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position using a four-second negative. Repeat this movement for eight reps. Perform three sets going as heavy as possible without sacrificing tempo or range of motion.
Lots of bodybuilders do heavy lateral raises relying on momentum. For this movement, concentrate on feeling the side delts doing the work. I call this muscle intention.
Because of the incline, this is an extended range of motion movement, so time under tension is prolonged and a larger amount of muscle damage results (a good thing for hypertrophy).
: 60 seconds
Cue the muscle working, not the movement; this is not an ego lift.
Face Pull Superset With Bent-Over Lateral Raise Superset
Face pulls work the posterior deltoid and, surprisingly to most, even put extreme stress on the medial deltoid, according to EMG studies. Furthermore, face pulls target your back’s weak scapular muscles, which aid in stabilization of your shoulder joints. This is great for shoulder health. Additionally, this movement strengthens your lower traps.
Facing a high pulley with a rope or dual handles attached, grasp both ends with a pronated (overhand) grip. Step back so your arms are straight out in front of you and pull the weight directly toward your face, separating your hands as you do so. Keep your upper arms parallel to the ground. Do this for three sets of 12 reps.
Keep this exercise strict. Hold contracted position for one second. Bands or a pulley will work.
With no rest, immediately hit bent-over lateral raises. This will be done for three sets of 15 reps. This movement directly targets the posterior delt or the back of the shoulders.
: 90 seconds between supersets
Keep this movement strict. One variation you can do is to make the movement head supported, putting your forehead on the back of an incline bench to make sure your torso position doesn’t change.
Around the Worlds
This fatiguing finisher hurts so good! Hold a plate with your hands just in front of your abs, elbows just shy of extension. With the elbow in this fixed position, lift the weight around your head in a clock wise motion for 12 reps. Repeat the motion for 12 reps counterclockwise, and finally finish with 12 front plate raises to forehead level. This one set.
For the second set, do this for nine reps all three directions, and for the final sets, do 6 reps all three directions. Your delts will feel like they can bust seams in button up shirts! Doesn’t make sense
: 60 seconds
Keep this movement strict as long as possible. Once failure has been reached using strict technique, a moderate cheat is permitted to get the weight up — however from the top down make sure to control the eccentric.
“I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders,” says the old Jewish proverb. The functionality of building ridiculously strong shoulders is a crucial component of the workout program for cage fighters, strongmen, doormen, rugged outdoorsmen, Hawaiian watermen and even pumped up cons on the jailhouse yard.
For the aesthetic-minded individual, this means a tapered looking waist and a persona of power. Bottom line: Big strong shoulders suit almost any physical goal and project confidence.
Time to hit the pig iron!