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Want Wider Shoulders? The Three Most Effective Methods to Increase Their Size

Updated on June 28, 2013

Have a Complete Physique

Many men train their shoulders, but not nearly as intensely as they should. They spend hours and hours on their chest, but only give their deltoids attention every now and then. Although many claim they only want to get stronger, let us be serious: nearly every man that trains is at least somewhat concerned with his image.

With this thought in mind, shoulders become a major priority. The increased width of the torso will give the illusion of the waist being smaller. This specific appearance is known as a "V-taper," because the broadness of the shoulders narrowing down to the waist creates a V-like shape.

In addition to being beneficial to your overall look, bringing your shoulders up to par with the rest of your muscle groups will increase your strength in both pressing and pulling exercises, such as benching, dips, and pull ups.

The target of this exercise is the lateral head (orange segment above) of the deltoid. Building mass in this area will increase the width of your shoulders.
The target of this exercise is the lateral head (orange segment above) of the deltoid. Building mass in this area will increase the width of your shoulders. | Source

#3. Lateral Raises

Lateral raises are a perfect example of a movement that many people perform, but very few perform correctly. The arms should be straight with elbows nearly locked, and the torso should remain vertical at all times. All too often do you see men hunched over, elbows bent, swinging the dumbbells upward, using their momentum instead of their shoulder muscles to move the weight.

Although it may be hard to accept, this is not an exercise that requires heavy weight; in fact, heavy weight should be avoided in order to prevent injury. Your arms should be the only part of your body moving during this exercise, with a conscious effort to utilize your shoulder to lift the weight.

There are plenty of variations of this movement to choose from in order to keep things fresh. Using cables, performing the movement while seated, and focusing on one arm at a time are all viable options that can be implemented.

Both shoulders are required to balance the weight individually, which promotes overall symmetry of the body.
Both shoulders are required to balance the weight individually, which promotes overall symmetry of the body. | Source

#2. Seated Dumbbell Press

The seated dumbbell press is a very safe, beneficial movement for the shoulders. Each shoulder is required to move the weight on its own, which makes muscle imbalances almost impossible from this exercise. The chance of injury is also fairly low for the same reason.

For example, let us assume you are pressing a 50-pound dumbbell in each hand. No matter what happens, both your left and right shoulders are only subjected to fifty pounds of weight. Conversely, let us now assume you are pressing a barbell loaded with 100 pounds. Under perfect conditions, each shoulder is, like the dumbbell press, only exposed to fifty pounds of force. However, we live in a world where mistakes frequently occur, despite the amount of precautions taken. For whatever reason, say that you unintentionally shift your body weight to your right side. This would result in far more stress being placed upon your right shoulder; perhaps even enough to cause a significant injury.

The main drawbacks of the seated dumbbell press are not encountered until a significant amount of strength has been developed. With larger, heavier dumbbells, it becomes difficult to get the weight from the knees to the shoulders if a spotter is not available. Secondly, the larger the dumbbell, the less range of motion you will have during pressing, as the dumbbell will hit your shoulder before you have gone low enough.

#1. Barbell Overhead Press

With the sheer amount of weight able to be handled, the overhead press yields the best results for shoulder development.
With the sheer amount of weight able to be handled, the overhead press yields the best results for shoulder development. | Source

While the seated dumbbell press is a great movement when aiming to work the shoulders, there are simply too many issues encountered once the weight being used begins to get heavy. When overhead pressing, the bar is always able to be brought down to touch the upper chest, regardless of the weight. There is also no need for a spotter, as the weight can be ditched by either racking it or simply dropping it should failure occur.

Since the movement is done standing with no back support, it forces you to keep your core tight in order to stabilize your torso. As a result, the abs and lower back will become stronger over time from this exercise. Also a result of the absence of back support, one is unable to slide down and "cheat" during this movement like you would be able to during a seated press.

As with any other barbell exercise, the main selling point is the heavy weight that is able to be exerted. However, with heavier weight, form becomes that much more significant and must be mastered before attempting to press a heavy load. Once form is no longer an issue, you can begin to reap the many benefits of the overhead press. As previously mentioned, no other exercise allows more weight to be used than a barbell, meaning your shoulders will grow the most from this movement, developing a solid, full appearance.

There is a seated variant of the overhead press that involves the barbell, but the lack of core involvement and presence of back stability that may be used to create an advantage makes it an inferior option.

While most people do not intend to use back support for this purpose, when struggling under heavy weight, chances are that you will slide down and arch your back in order to complete the rep, sometimes subconsciously. This negates the entire purpose of back support and can also, ironically, lead to injury. The seated variant is completely viable for higher repetitions, but for training heavy, the standing overhead press is much preferred.

A little extra work in this area will ensure the shoulder muscles remain balanced and complete.
A little extra work in this area will ensure the shoulder muscles remain balanced and complete. | Source

We Cannot Forget Rear Delts

As shown in the picture toward the top of the page involving shoulder anatomy, there is a posterior deltoid segment of the shoulder. While this is usually targeted by most back exercises, additional work can be performed if the area is lagging. Rear-delt flys are a very simple and effective movement for this muscle segment. Since it has such little surface area, it takes very little time to grow, so do not worry too much if you have been neglecting your posterior delts.

Choose Two

It may be argued that all three exercises form a complete shoulder routine, but the seated dumbbell press and barbell overhead press are virtually the same movement, thus targeting the same muscles of the shoulder. Therefore, one of the previously listed pressing movements should be combined with lateral raises. Ideally, the overhead press would be chosen, but for those who choose not to train their shoulders with heavy weight or have had an injury in the past will able to succeed just fine with dumbbell presses.

While two exercises may seem very small, one must remember that the deltoids are a very small muscle group, requiring very little volume to grow, especially if trained with heavy weight. If it seems like too little to do for the shoulders, a combination of heavy, low reps with the overhead press and high reps with lateral raises are sure to get them burning.

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    • Erudite Scholar profile image

      Jeff Zod 

      4 months ago from Nairobi

      Hi Will,

      Thank you so much for this informative article. I have recently started exercising and I really appreciate the help.


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