Wider shoulders can be beneficial for performance in sports like football, but some lifters simply are interested in the aesthetic benefits. You can increase the width in your shoulders by participating in a weight-training program that’s designed to build muscle mass. Incorporate a variety of shoulder-specific exercises into your routine and regularly change up the volume and intensity of your sessions to boost the success of your training.
A Workout for Size
To elicit muscle growth, each workout must provide enough stress that it leaves your muscle tissues overloaded. An effective workout will cause small tears within your tissues, and this damage is what stimulates the muscle-building process. To cause this damage, your workout needs to be of high volume, which means it features a relatively high number of sets and reps. Complete three to six sets of six to 12 reps of each shoulder exercise in your workout. Only give your muscles 30 to 90 seconds of rest in between sets to encourage exhaustion. Keep your shoulder workouts to two days per week and schedule two to three off days in between each session so that your muscles can completely heal. Before each workout, walk or jog for five minutes and perform 20 arm circles in each direction to warm up your shoulders.
Your shoulder muscles, or deltoids, are responsible for lifting up your arms forward and out to your sides. The deltoid features three heads, including the anterior head at the front of your shoulder, the lateral head at the middle of your shoulder and the posterior head at the back of your shoulder. Select four to six exercises to include in your workout, ensuring you pick at least one for each of the three deltoid heads. Exercises that primarily work the anterior head include close-grip chest presses, close-hand pushups, front raises, shoulder presses and dips. To target the lateral head, choose from upright rows and lateral raises. For the posterior deltoid, you can do rear-delt raises, reverse flyes and rear-delt rows.
Barbells, kettlebells, strength machines, cables and even your own body weight can serve as resistance. Close-grip chest presses can be done with a machine, a barbell, a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells. You can use a machine, barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells for shoulder presses. Barbells and most machines challenge both upper limbs to work together, while dumbbells and kettlebells force each shoulder to work independently. Regularly changing up what type of weight you use can help keep your muscles from adapting and therefore hitting a training plateau. For example, if you do upright rows with a barbell one week, use dumbbells the following week.
If you perform the same exercise routine, your muscles will eventually adapt and you won’t see any further size gains in your shoulders. In addition to regularly changing up the exercises in your workout, help prevent plateau and encourage continued growth by gradually increasing your workout volume and the weight you lift. Begin by doing three sets of each exercise and bump up your volume by adding another set every four weeks of consistent training. Once you reach six sets, move back down to three again, but focus on using heavier weights than you were previously. Changing the order of exercises can also help you continue to overload your muscles. For example, if the order of your workout has been close-grip chest presses, lateral raises, shoulder presses and then reverse flyes, on the next workout, try ordering your workout with shoulder presses, reverse flyes, lateral raises and then chest presses.
- National Strength and Conditioning Association: Strength, Size or Power?
- ExRx.net: Shoulder Exercises
- STACK: Build Up Strong Shoulders With a Muscle-Blasting Dumbbell Circuit
- STACK: Get Powerful Shoulders Without Weights
- National Strength and Conditioning Perform Journal: Basics Principles of Strength Training
- Photo Credit Raul Rodriguez/iStock/Getty Images
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