When it comes to body composition, aesthetics, and the perception of power there are three body parts that are considered the biggest difference makers. The shoulders, forearms, and calves have the greatest visual impact.
A small difference in these body parts provide a dramatic change in visual perception. A change in shoulder size will make you “seem” more powerful than a change in your chest or even your biceps.
Forearms and calves, unfortunately, seem to be limited and heavily influenced by your genetics. It’s incredibly hard to make significant gains on these small muscle groups unless you’re blessed genetically.
The shoulders, however, just requires some hard work. Broadening your shoulders will make you appear more powerful, heavier than you really are, and even make your waist appear smaller.
The shoulders are the easiest of the three to develop and provide the greatest visual difference. Here’s how to get bigger shoulders, and which exercises are the most effective.
Building Shoulder Mass
There are two primary concepts with building shoulders specifically, and muscles in general: shaping and mass building. First let’s start with building some mass. To build mass you’ll want to focus on heavy barbell lifts, keeping your reps in the 6-8 range.
Here’s the best shoulder mass builders:
– Shoulder Barbell Press
– Shrugs (Shoulders and traps)
– Heavy Dumbbell Shoulder Press
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Shaping Your Shoulders
Shaping is all about “feeling” the muscle contraction. You want to connect with the muscle mentally and feel the burn on each and every rep. This often means dropping down in weight.
This is actually hard for most guys to do, because they want to swing around the heaviest weight possible. That’s a great mentality when you’re mass building, but not necessarily for shaping.
Focus on 10-12 quality reps and try your best to feel each and every contraction. If your form is sloppy with 30 pound dumbbells it’s more important to drop the weight to 20 or even 10 pounds if that means all of your reps are high quality.
Here’s the best shoulder shaping exercises:
– Dumbbell Laterals (Standing and bent)
– Cable Laterals
– Cable Pulldowns
– Upright Barbell Rows
Shaping gives you more of an opportunity to vary your workouts. Mass building is pretty straightforward and standard. Move heavy weight for 6-8 reps and you’re in the zone.
With shaping you can add in super-sets and go “down the rack” type of exercises.
Down The Rack
This will absolutely kill your shoulders if you do it with dumbbell laterals. Start with a moderately heavy weight allowing you to do 10 really good reps, then put those dumbbells back on the rack.
Immediately pick up a lighter set of dumbbells and do another 10 reps. You keep going down the rack until you either run out of dumbbells or your shoulders are screaming for mercy.
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When you’re trying to bring up a lagging body part you want to blast them each and every workout and force them to grow out of shear will. Not only is this counterproductive, it can lead to an injury which will quickly wipe away all of your shoulder gains if you’re sidelined and out of the gym for several weeks.
Generally, one high volume day per week and one low volume day is the most you’ll want to train the shoulders. They’re load bearing, and recover quickly but you still want to get ample rest and allow the muscles recover fully before punishing them again.
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