The Best Exercises for Building Bigger Shoulders

August 7, 2013 | Mike Samuels

Must See Strength Training Videos

You've got legs like tree trunks, a barrel-shaped chest, bulging sleeve cannons and a back so wide it blocks out the sun. So what's missing? A broad set of strong shoulders. Despite impressive Bench Press numbers, a Squat personal record equivalent to a school bus, and a Deadlift rivaling the weight of a small cow, a set of puny shoulders can ruin your physique and deflate your ego.

The search for more muscle leads many guys to try dozens of exercises, few of which actually yield results. The best shoulder exercises, like those for other muscle groups, vary for each individual. However, the following three exercises should be staple movements in any shoulder training routine.

Neutral Grip Overhead Presses

The Neutral Grip Overhead Press variation, ideally performed with a Swiss bar, offers two main benefits. First, it allows lifters to get a good range of motion. Second, the neutral grip is more natural than a traditional grip for a lifter's wrists, forearms and shoulders—which translates to less stress on the joints and decreased chance of injury. The variation is specially good for anyone who struggles with straight bar Shoulder Presses.

To remove the temptation to lean back or use leg drive and for an added shoulder shock factor, perform the exercise sitting down. Another tactic for increasing intensity is to try "one and a half reps." This involves lowering the bar to your shoulders, pressing it up to eye level, lowering it back down again and then pressing it all the way up. The shoulders are most active in the initial phase of the move, and this challenging variation gives them twice as much work to do as normal presses. It also minimize triceps recruitment, which occurs at the top, during the lockout portion of the movement.

Behind-the-Back Lateral Raises

Why do so many guys who perform Lateral Raises with 30-, 40-, or even 50-pound dumbbells have shoulders that resemble billiard balls more than bowling balls? The answer: they use terrible form. Anyone can swing a pair of heavy dumbbells up from their sides using momentum, but that doesn't work the shoulders effectively.

To remove the temptation to cheat, perform lateral raises on a cable machine with one hand behind your back. The Behind-the-Back Lateral Raise is more difficult than a regular Lateral Raise because the position virtually eliminates the ability to cheat. To start, you'll probably have to use less weight than you normally do, but you will be rewarded with a much more effective exercise.

Rear Deltoid Raises

Rear Deltoid Raises are pretty common on the gym floor. However, if lifters perform them while leaning over or with their chest supported on a bench, the desire to lift more weight takes over, and form typically takes a backseat.

For most lifters, the chest-supported version of the Rear Deltoid Raise is superior to leaning forward, because it places less stress on the low back and allows for better technique. To maximize each rep, stay under control, squeeze your deltoids at the top of the movement and lower the weight slowly.

To maximize the set, keep moving—and when you get close to failure, perform partial movements. At first, you'll probably move the weights around 10 to 12 inches, but after 15 partials, you'll be down to a 5- or 6-inch range of motion. Although you usually want a full range on every exercise, rear deltoid raises are slightly different. Your deltoids will be burning from these small, speedy partial repetitions.

Drop sets are another tool you can use to completely fatigue your deltoids. Start with a weight that allows you to complete 10 full reps and 20 to 30 partials. Drop the load by 50 percent and go to failure again. Finish by simply lifting your arms up in the same fashion. You'll get some weird looks as your fellow athletes wonder why you're lifting with no weight, but the burn is so intense, your shoulders will respond with a huge jump in size.

Training for Shoulder Size

If your shoulders aren't up to par with the rest of your body, train them more often. Advanced lifters can attack their shoulders twice a week—once at the start of the week with a dedicated shoulder session and again after a chest or back workout. The above exercise variations are great for providing a huge stimulus for growth. Combined with proper nutrition, they will quickly make your shoulders bigger.

Read more:

Mike Samuels
- Mike Samuels is a UK-based personal trainer, diet coach, writer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist. He has a Level 3 Personal Trainer certification...
Mike Samuels
- Mike Samuels is a UK-based personal trainer, diet coach, writer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist. He has a Level 3 Personal Trainer certification...
Must See
Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,758
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 4,837,407
Why NFL Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson Counts His Blessings
Views: 6,156,231

Featured Videos

A Day in the Life of NBA D-League Star Seth Curry Views: 68,738
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 8,003
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 131,367
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,758
What Ryan Hall Eats for Breakfast
Views: 795,255
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,651
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,761
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,561,460

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Train Like a Pro: Julio Jones 3-Day Sandbag Strength Program

Kevin Love's In-Season Workout

Train Like a Pro: Dustin Pedroia's Baseball Power Workout

3 Habits of Highly Successful Coaches

How You Can Olympic Lift With an Injury

Is It Too Soon for Olympic Lifts?

Use Sled Pushes to Increase Speed, Strength and Power

Build a Strong Upper Body With These Landmine Exercises

Increase Athletic Strength with Rotational Bodyweight Training

4 Tips for Reducing Deadlift Back Pain

Not Making Bench Press Gains? Try These Strategies

How to Use the Pallof Press for an Iron Core

Tobin Heath's Powerful Leg Workout

Use Wave Loading to Take Your Strength to the Next Level

Speed Drill of the Day: Reverse Lunges

Get Faster With This Weightlifting Technique

2 Brutal 10-Minute Workouts That Deliver Serious Results

The Top 10 Mistakes Athletes Make in the Weight Room

3 Keys to Better Softball Workouts

Todd Durkin's Complete Football Strength Training Program

Train Like a Pro: James Harden's Basketball Maintenance Workout

Get Faster to Pitch Harder

Bicep Curl Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

Paul Rabil's Powerful Rotational Strength Workout

How to Recover From a Soccer Game or Workout

Abby Wambach's Strength and Speed Workout

Train Like a Pro: Henrik Zetterberg's Hockey Strength Workout

Speed Drill of the Day: Weighted Arm Swings

Train Like a Pro: MLS Soccer Strength Program

5 Quick Workout Fixes for Faster Muscle Growth

Abby Wambach's Soccer Power Workout

The 4 Best and Worst Cable Machine Exercises

8-Exercise Advanced Chest and Back Workout

Build Muscle With the 2-Second Pause Workout Program

3 Tips to Blast Through Training Plateaus

Build Strong Legs with the Leg Press Lockdown Workout

3 Reasons Why You Should Do Full-Body Workouts

Jump Higher After a Month With These 3 Exercises

3 Keys to a Solid Squat Setup

Build Bulletproof Chest Strength With This Unconventional Method

Add Surprise Sets for a Great Workout Finisher

Build Athletic Strength with the Playground Sandbag Workout

Train Like a Pro: Baseball Strength Workout Program

Train Like a Pro: Los Angeles Lakers Strength Training Program

The Un-Liftable Inch Dumbbell: Can You Handle Its Challenge?