“Clothes maketh the man,” said William Shakespeare, but that’s not entirely true. While clothes are important, it’s how you fill those clothes that really matters. And if you want to look your best, boulder-sized shoulders will make all the difference.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a suit jacket, a t-shirt, or a stinger vest, big shoulders improve the way you look.

Your shoulders are made up of three primary muscles – the anterior or front deltoid, the medial or side deltoid, and the posterior or rear deltoid. If you want your shoulders to look and feel their best, you need to work your delts using a three-dimensional approach that targets all three deltoid heads.

Many people pay too little attention to their shoulder training and just do a few sets of shoulder presses or side raises after they’ve spent all their time and energy on their chest. This is a mistake. If you want boulder shoulders, you need to prioritize them with a dedicated workout.

If your shoulder development is lacking, this is the workout for you!

 

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Recovery

1

Barbell press

5

5

120 seconds

2

Face pulls

3

15-20

60 seconds

3

Side raises

3

12

90 seconds

4

Seated clean and ½ press

3

10

60 seconds

5

Finisher complex

2

10

60 seconds

 

The exercises:

Barbell press – this classic mass builder will beef up your shoulders and develop strength. Place a bar in the squat rack at mid-chest height. Grab the bar with a slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width, thumbless grip. Unrack the bar and step back. Flex your lats and lift your chest. Your elbows should be directly under your hands.

Without using your legs, push the weight up and overhead. Lower it slowly and repeat. Keep your core tightly braced throughout.

Increase the weight set by set, so your last 1-2 sets are the hardest, and you only just complete the final rep.

Face pulls – most people completely ignore their posterior deltoids, which not only undermines shoulder development, it also increases the risk of shoulder dysfunction and injury. Face pulls work your posterior deltoids, and also the middle trapezius and rhomboids between the shoulder blades, which great for your posture too.

Attach a rope handle to a chest-high adjustable pulley. Take one end in each hand and, with straight arms, step back to tension the cable. Keeping your elbows up, bend your arms and pull your hands into either side of your head. Imagine you are trying to stick your thumbs in your ears. Extend your arms and repeat. Focus on really squeezing your shoulders back and down.

Side raises – if you want broader shoulders, you need to work your medial deltoids, and this is the exercise to do it. Many people use too much body sway to raise the weights which is a mistake. That simply takes stress off the target muscle. Instead, keep the weights relatively light and use strict form to maximize the effect of this exercise.

With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbells on the outside of your thighs and not at the front. Keeping your thumbs pointing forward and your elbows slightly bent, raise the weights up and out to the side until your elbows are level with your shoulders. Lower the weights and repeat. Do not tip your hands forward, a common gym practice, as this increases your risk of shoulder injury.

Seated clean and ½ press – this great exercise works all three deltoid heads at the same time and provides a good, deep burn throughout the shoulder muscle complex.

It on the end of a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand – the weight should be just slightly heavier than what you used for side raises.

Shrug your shoulders and bend your arms to pull the weights up to your shoulders, palms facing forward. Next, press the weights up and overhead but do not lock out your elbows. The weights should be only just higher than your shoulders. Lower the weights back to your shoulders and then down to your sides. Immediately do another repetition.

Finisher complex – your final exercise is designed to pump as much blood into your shoulders as possible to stretch the fascia and create space for muscle growth. It also ensures your muscles get plenty of essential growth nutrients. They’ll also look “swole!”

Using a light pair of dumbbells perform:

  • 10 front raises

  • 10 side raises

  • 10 upright rows

  • 10 overhead presses

This is a non-stop shoulder circuit so do not rest between exercises. How ever many reps you do for the first exercise, that’s how many reps you should do for the remaining three. Two sets should be enough of what is often called the shoulder torturer!

Because of the way they overlap, you should train your shoulders 2-3 days before or after you train your chest e.g. chest on Monday and shoulders on Thursday. This ensures your delts are fresh and that you can work them hard. After six weeks following this program, you should see renewed shoulder growth, and your pebbles will be on their way to becoming boulders!