The shoulders are the most widely used muscle in the upper body in my opinion. They function in almost every action that comes your way. The shoulders have almost 360 degrees of rotation, not to mention the fact that a broad, thick set of shoulders looks impressive on stage—and even better in the eyes of the ladies.
Shoulders are an important muscle, so why is it that so many people can't seem to develop a thick, well-balanced set of shoulders? 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, its function, it's location in the body, and some exercises for each area of the shoulder. Finally—and what you have been waiting for—I will include five of my favorite workout programs to help turn your baseball-sized shoulders into massive bowling balls of muscle.
- Function: Flexion, Medial Rotation
- Location: Front portion of the shoulder girdle
- Exercise: Barbell Shoulder Press
- Function: Abduction
- Location: Middle/Side of the shoulder
- Exercise: Dumbbell Side Laterals
- Function: Extension, Lateral Rotation
- Location: Back of the shoulder
- Exercise: Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear-Delt Raise With Head On Bench
What you can see from the anatomy information above is the shoulder is really made up of 3 different small muscle groups. Many beginners treat the shoulder as one muscle group, and train it like the chest: 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. This builds a terrible imbalance and also can result in injury.
Without middle and posterior development the shoulders look narrow from both the front and the side. Many times injury is a result of imbalances like this. As a whole the shoulder is a moderate-sized muscle, it is made up of three small muscles. 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 all the isolation work.
All exercises should be performed in perfect form because bad form or habits that you start now will follow you and will lead to lack of progress—or worse, injury—in the future. Many if not all the exercises will be new to you. So make sure that you use the Exercise Guide on Bodybuilding.com to help you with your form.
Now that you understand what muscles make up your shoulder, their function, their location, and the rep-range needed to stimulate them, let's give you some workouts to help you build your shoulders.
Shoulder-Building Workout Programs
In 2005 I injured my right shoulder very badly; to the point where I needed surgery. I got the surgery. After I recovered I never thought I would be able to build big shoulders ever 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 made amazing gains and put some great size on my shoulders.
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; heavy weight training is great for stimulating growth, but only if used in perfect form.
I was lucky that this injury happened to me when I was 18, as I was able to recover quicker than if I was 30. I also learned a great lesson: Lift smart. I see way too many beginners ruin there shoulders with stupid lifting. As you learned, the shoulder is actually three small muscles that make up a moderate-sized area.
Lift heavy, hard, and with the utmost intensity in perfect form, and your shoulders will grow. As always, if you have any questions don't hesitate to drop me an email.