5 Foolproof Ways to Build Muscular Shoulders

Johnnie Perry Jr.

Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Personal Training, Nutrition


Your shoulders say everything about you—from the mid-level office employee sitting in his cubicle 9 to 5 with rounded shoulders to the powerful high-level executive standing erect as he leads meetings—your shoulders define how others perceive you.


Tiny narrow shoulders make you look weak and timid—like Bambi.



Massive broad shoulders make you look powerful and confident—like Superman.


If you’re reading this, you and I know two things:


  1. You’re tired of the way your body looks after you slowly roll out of bed and look at yourself in the mirror each morning before a long day at work.
  2. You’re confused about how to train hard and deal with the aches and pains that have developed around your creaky nagging shoulders.


Whether you’re wearing an expensive suit or a tight t-shirt, you want massive eye-popping shoulders that tell people you command respect. Imagine dominating every meeting and social occasion because you made the decision to add strength and size to your shoulders.


Does that sound good? Yes?


Great. Let’s begin by unpacking five ways for you to turbo-charge your training for healthy, jaw-dropping shoulders.


Tip 1: Fix Your Pull Versus Push Ratio

I know you’re excited about gaining massive shoulders that make you feel like a superhero. Hell, I’m excited for you. You’re probably planning to head to the gym today, grabbing the first barbell you lay eyes on, and pumping out 10 sets of overhead presses. Stop. That’s not what you should do.


If you want to have massive eye-popping shoulders, fixing your pull versus push ratio is the key that unlocks the door to you looking like a confident stud.


Here’s why:


Your body has twice as many internal rotators of the shoulder versus external rotators. When the internal rotators like your pecs and the front of your shoulder are continually flexed by obsessive overhead pressing, they naturally become stronger.


It may sound great, but this sad state of affairs will eventually lead to rounded shoulders also known as kyphotic posture. It’s the type of posture is what you see in people who look meek and lack confidence.


Is that how you want other people to perceive you? I hope not.


How do we fix this? In the words of 90s R and B sensation Montell Jordan, “This is how we do it…”


Your shoulder has three different heads: the anterior (front), medial (side), and posterior (rear) deltoids (delts). Exercises like the shoulder press and front raises hit your anterior deltoids hard. You don’t need a ton a variation and volume to make them look phenomenal. For well rounded, muscle packed shoulders, you need to focus more on hitting the medial and posterior delts often.


Your rear delts are vital for shoulder health and appearance. They’re a major contributor in both bringing your shoulders back to give you that powerful confident look as well as fixing nagging shoulder pain. You must build them up.


With the 3 Way Band Pull Apart Sequence you’ll concentrate on stimulating the muscle fibers in your rear delts by hitting them at three different angles: high, middle, and low.


For every set, perform 8 reps of each variation with zero rest in between.




When you’re isolating one muscle, focus on muscle failure and even going past it.


After you’ve completed a set of lateral raises, don’t stop there. Continue by adding in partial reps to help stimulate muscle growth. Go after the extra pump! For partial reps, raise the dumbbells halfway. Your medial delts should feel like they’re on fire at the end of each set.


Perform 3 x 12-15 plus 8 partial reps.



Next, you’ll use the same method you did with the lateral raises.


Key in on your range of motion. Your goal is to target the rear delts, nothing else. As you pull the weight up, stop the motion as you reach your torso. If you go past that, other muscles will get involved and you won’t receive the full benefit of the exercise. Also, use a supinated (underhand) grip with the dumbbells to increase the external rotation of the shoulders.


Again, perform 3 x 12-15 plus 8 partial reps to help stimulate muscle growth and get your extra pump.



Tip 2: Change Your Grip

Do you experience achy, nagging shoulder pain when performing barbell overhead presses?


Imagine being able to build powerful shoulders without aggravating them in the process.



Does that sound good? Yeah? Pay close attention to the next part.


The barbell overhead press is a great exercise. It makes you feel like you're Godzilla holding a building over your head about to throw it 10 miles away, but it’s not essential for massive powerful shoulders.


Switching from the barbell to dumbbells to build massive shoulders allows you to lower and lift the weight in a natural path for your shoulder joint.


Save yourself years of agonizing shoulder pain by using a neutral grip. Instead of the barbell overhead press, implement the Standing Neutral Grip Dumbbell Overhead Press.


For strength gains, control the weight on the eccentric (lowering phase) of the movement. Once the dumbbells are back down by your ears, be explosive and press them up.




For powerful strength gains, perform 5 x 5.


Several lifters just like you with achy shoulders primarily use dumbbells for overhead pressing exercises. The lack of pain will lead to better consistency and results.


Tip 3: Control Your Tempo and Dominate Each Shoulder

If you want to pack on the maximum amount of muscle possible, put more emphasis on the eccentric and keep your shoulder under constant tension during each set. You have greater potential for muscle growth when you concentrate on the eccentric portion. Here, you’re going to isolate each shoulder and place them under immense stress for a large amount of time.


Use the 2-1-1 Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press.


Press the weight up overhead with both arms. Then, lower the dumbbells one side at a time under control as you squeeze your shoulders as hard as humanly possible against the resistance.



I’m sure you want your shoulders to be equally strong, right? Of course, you do.


Here’s a tip: Lower the stronger side first, then lower the weaker side. The weaker shoulder needs more time under tension so it can play catch up to the former. This alone can provide the shoulder development you’ve been looking for this whole time.


Perform 4 x 8-10 and it will leave your shoulders trembling.


Tip 4: Add a Half Rep Before Each Full Rep

Do you want to get some extra blood pumping through your shoulders? Who doesn’t!


Use the 1.5 Dumbbell Z Press.


The 1.5 rep technique forces you to perform a double contraction of the targeted muscle. Instead of hitting your shoulders once, you get to crush them twice in the same movement.


Press the weight all the way up for your full rep, go slow, and lower the weight halfway. Next, pause for a second, then press the dumbbells up again for your half rep. Finally, complete the movement by lowering the weight all the way down. That’s your 1.5 rep.


If you want to get the maximum benefit of the exercise, make sure your half rep takes the same amount of time as your full rep when lowering the weight.



If your shoulders can handle it, perform 4 x 6-8.



Tip 5: Dominate Every Muscle Fiber

If you like to train hard and fast, this part is for you.


Training density is the amount of work done in a certain period. You can do more work in a set period or more work in less time. Increasing training density does a few things:


  1. Increases caloric expenditure leading to more fat loss.
  2. Trains your cardiovascular system without you having to step on a treadmill.
  3. Keeps you focused, allowing you to waste zero time in the gym.


I know it sounds awesome, but how do you use this information? I’ve got the answer right here.


Use a triple set to target each head of the shoulders. Normally, you would perform three exercises on their own. Including rest periods, this may take you 20 minutes to complete during a workout. During a triple set, you complete three consecutive exercises with no rest between each. So, what usually takes you 20 minutes quickly turns into 10 minutes.


Destroy your delts by performing the following for three sets:


  • Seated Neutral Grip Dumbbell Shoulder Press - 8-10 reps, no rest.
  • Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise - max reps, no rest.
  • Seated Rear Delt Raise - max reps, rest 2 minutes.


The Takeaway

There’s no need to overcomplicate things—packing on muscle for powerful and healthy shoulders can be simple. Just follow the tips above.


If you train every inch of your shoulders, place them under different types of stress, and vary the exercises, you’ll be able to dominate your time in the gym and feel like Superman until you decide to retire your cape. (Which shouldn’t be anytime soon!)

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