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The shoulders are the most widely used muscle in the upper body. They function in almost every action that comes your way. They have almost 360 degrees of rotation, not to mention the fact that a broad, thick set looks impressive onstage.

Shoulders are an important muscle, so why is it that so many people can't seem to develop a thick, well-balanced set? The first step is to make sure you're eating enough calories to build mass. Take a look at your diet, and add in a whey protein supplement to your regimen if necessary.

In the article below I will discuss the anatomy of the shoulder muscle group, its function, it's location in the body, and some strength-training exercises for each muscle in the group. Finally, I will include five of my favorite workout programs to help turn those baseball-sized knobs into massive bowling balls of muscle.

The shoulders are the most widely used muscle in the upper body.


Anterior Head
Middle Head
Posterior Head
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Rep Ranges

What you can see from the muscle anatomy information above is the shoulder is really made up of three small muscle groups. Many beginners treat these groups as one muscle, and train like they do chest, with presses, presses, and more presses.

The only problem with this training approach is presses for the shoulders will heavily recruit the anterior head (front portion) with little work to the middle and posterior head (back portion) of the shoulder girdle muscles. 

Without middle and posterior development the shoulders will look narrow from both the front and the side. Many times, injury is a result of imbalances like this. Each muscle should receive an adequate workload and nothing more.

The shoulder girdle can rotate almost 360 degrees, so exercises will be performed in many different angles with the use of free weights, machines, and cables. I like to use a low (4-6) rep range with the compound pressing exercises and a moderate (8-12) rep range for the isolation work.

All exercises should be performed with perfect form because bad form or habits that you start now will follow you and will lead to lack of progress, or maybe even injury. Many, if not all, of the following exercises will be new to you. So make sure that you use the Exercise Guide on to help you with your form.

Now that you understand what muscles make up this part of your body, as well as their function, their location, and the rep range needed to stimulate them, get started on these workouts and start building those boulders.

Shoulder-Building Workout Programs

Dumbbell shoulder press


In 2005, I injured my right shoulder to the point where I needed surgery. Even though the surgery was successful, I didn't think I'd ever be able to build the muscles up again. I am telling you this story for two reasons:

First, I was wrong; my shoulder did grow. After I put the injury behind me and decided enough was enough—I was not going to feel bad for myself anymore, and would work with what I had—I've gained some amazing muscle strength, along with some amazing muscle size.

Secondly, and most importantly, I injured my right shoulder because I was lifting with my ego. I want to make it clear to all beginner lifters that heavy weight training is great for stimulating growth, but only if done with perfect form.

I was lucky that this injury happened to me when I was 18; it's much easier to recover at 18 than at 30. I also learned a great lesson: Lift smart. I see way too many beginners ruin their shoulders with stupid lifting. As you learned, the shoulder is actually three small muscles that make up a moderate-sized area.

Strength training pays off, but you have to stick with it. Just follow this guide, lift heavy, hard, and with the utmost intensity in perfect form, and your shoulders will grow. 

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About the Author

Alex Stewart

Alex Stewart

Alex has a passion for bodybuilding and this has led him to a life in the fitness industry. He is a certified personal trainer & nutritionist.

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