Complete Guide To Building Your Shoulders

The shoulders are the most widely used upper body muscle. This article takes a look at shoulder anatomy and provides five effective workouts to help improve gains today.

In my opinion the shoulders are the most widely used upper body muscle. They function in almost every action that comes your way. The shoulders have almost 360 degrees of rotation. A broad thick set of shoulders looks impressive on a bodybuilding stage and even better in the eye of the ladies.

Yes, shoulders are a very functional muscle but why is it that so many people cant seem to develop a thick well balanced set of shoulders? Keep reading and we will figure out the answer to that question in time.

In the article below I will discuss the anatomy of the shoulder, its function, location in the body and some exercises for each area of the shoulder. Finally, and what you have been waiting for, I will include 5 of my favorite workout programs to help turn your baseball-sized shoulders into massive bowling balls of muscle.

Anatomy of the Shoulders - Deltoids

3 heads: anterior, middle and posterior.

Anterior Head:

  • Function: Flexion, Medial Rotation
  • Location: Front Portion of the Shoulder Girdle
  • Exercise: Barbell Shoulder Press

Middle Head:

Posterior Head:

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 can also 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 3 smaller muscles. Each muscle should receive an adequate workload and nothing more.

The shoulder girdle can rotate in 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 worst off 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 Muscle & Strength to help you with your form.

Now that you understand about what muscles make up your shoulder, their function, location, and the rep range needed to stimulate them, let’s give you some workouts to help you build your shoulder.

Big Shoulders

5 Shoulder Building Workout Routines

Below are 5 of my favorite shoulder building workout programs.

Shoulder Workout #1

  • Barbell Shoulder Press 3x4-6
  • One Arm Side Laterals 3x12
  • Front Plate Raise 3x12 hold plate at the top for 3 sec
  • Lying Rear Delt Raises 3x15

Shoulder Workout #2

  • Seated Side Laterals 3x8-12
  • Push Press 3x4-6
  • Reverse Flys 3x12
  • Side Lateral Raise 3x15

Shoulder Workout #3

  • Seated Bent Over Rear Delt Raise 3x8-12
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3x4-6
  • Standing Low Pulley Deltoid Raise 3x8-12
  • Barbell Rear Delt Rows 3x12

Shoulder Workout #4

  • Arnold Press 3x6-8
  • Bent Over Low Pulley Side Laterals 3x8-12
  • Laterals Lying One Arm Lateral Raises 3x10 with each arm
  • Front Dumbbell Raise 3x12

Shoulder Workout #5

  • One Arm Side Laterals 3x8 with 3 sec hold at the top
  • Standing Military Press 3x6-8
  • Reverse Flys 3x8-12
  • Side Lateral Raises 3x15

In 2005 I injured my right shoulder very badly to the point where I needed surgery. I had the surgery. After I recovered I never thought I would be able to build big shoulders again. I am telling you this story for 2 reasons.

First, I was wrong, my shoulder did grow. After I put the injury behind me and decided enough was enough, that 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 and also I 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 3 very 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.