Building a Bolder Shoulder

Who doesn't love a set of big, broad shoulders? There's nothing more impressive than a big set of shoulders to top of the a 'V' shaped torso. Although most women don't want broad shoulders, developing your shoulders help their body's look more balanced and can make your waist look smaller. Developing your shoulder muscles can also help prevent injuries for active people and athletes. Because the shoulder and arms need a large range of motion and mobility, the joint itself is fairly unstable and susceptible to injury. You can reduce your risk of injury and strengthen the shoulder joint by strengthening the primary and secondary muscles of the shoulder.


  • As with any exercise, it's important to maintain proper form, go slowly and keep the rest of your body still to isolate your muscles.
  • For shoulder exercises you should keep your spine in a neutral position and slightly bent knees if standing to prevent injury and get the most affective workout.
  • If you've had a previous back injury or back pain, you should avoid lifting weights over your head until your doctor has given you the thumbs up.

primary muscle: Deltoid- Anterior, Medial and Posterior (or front, middle and rear)
attachment: the deltoids start on the collar-bone and shoulder blade and attaches to the humerus (the large bone in the upper arm)
action: horizontal abduction (moves the upper arm away from the body)


Overhead Press (military, dumbbell, etc): this movement can be performed with machines or there are many different variations to mix and match for slightly different muscle stimulation. Variations include using dumbbells or barbells, either standing or seated and palms facing forward or in towards your ears. Beginners should start with machines and then progress to seated dumbbell or another variation. Remember to keep a slight bend in the elbows when your arms are extended and end the movement when there is a 90-degree bend at the elbow or when slightly below shoulder height. The shoulder joint wasn't designed to rotate behind the body (unless you were born without shoulder blades) and behind the neck presses can cause injury.

Lateral Raise: this stimulates all of the delts. Variations include palms facing your thighs (focuses more on the middle portion of delts), palms facing forward (less middle, more front and some rotator cuff) and palms facing in with a 90- degree bend in the elbow (easier for beginners with less strain on the joints). Lift the weight away from the sides of your body; keep your arms as straight as possible without locking your elbows and stop when your arms are at shoulder height or slightly above.

Anterior Raise: this stimulates the front portion of the delts and can also be performed with palms facing the front of your thigh or palms facing each other in front of your thigh. Lift the weight in front of your body; keep your arms straight without locking your elbows and stop when your arms reach shoulder height or slightly above.

Rear Lateral Raise: stimulates the back portion of the delts. Some variations can cause strain to the lower back, but lying face down on an incline bench and lifting dumbbells up laterally can limit strain. Picture the "face of a clock," your head is pointed at "12" and your waist is at "6." Without arching your back, lift a pair of light dumbbells up laterally towards "10 and 2." This can also be done sitting on the end of a flat bench. Bend at the waist (remember to keep your back straight) and hold a pair of light dumbbells in your hands down at the sides of your legs. Keeping your back straight, lift your arms away from your body laterally until the dumbbells are at shoulder height.

Secondary muscles: the Trapezius, the Rhomboids (beneath the trapezius) and the Rotator-Cuff muscles (subscapularis, supraspinatus, teres minor and infraspinatus).
Attachment: the trapezius starts on the upper spine and skull and attaches to the shoulder blade and the rhomboids starts on the spine and attaches to the shoulder blade. The rotator-cuff muscles are deep within the shoulder and attached to the joint capsule.
Action: the trapezius muscle elevates the shoulder blade (shrugging shoulders) and moves the shoulder blade towards the spine, the rhomboids move the shoulder blade towards the spine and the rotator-cuff muscles are responsible for rotating the arm and stabilizing the shoulder joint. The rhomboids and rotator cuff (mainly used for stability) are exercised during many other movements and usually don t require specific exercises. Strengthening these muscles can be beneficial for sports with recurring overhead movements (baseball, volleyball, tennis, etc) and long-term weight lifters that lift heavy weights.

Shrugs: uses the trapezius. This can be done with barbells, dumbbells or machines. Remember to keep a slight bend in your knees and maintain neutral spine position.
Upright Row: uses the trapezius and rhomboids and can be performed with a cable or barbell. It's also important to keep your knees slightly bent and your back in neutral position.
Internal Rotations: optional, uses the rotator cuff muscles. Hold a light dumbbell in your right hand and lie on a bench, on your right side. Slowly rotate your forearm across your torso and then lower your forearm until it's perpendicular to your torso. Switch sides and repeat with the other arm.
External Rotations: optional, uses the rotator cuff muscles. Hold a light dumbbell in your left hand and lie on a bench on your right side. Slowly rotate your forearm away from your body and then lower your forearm until it's perpendicular to your torso. Switch sides and repeat with the other arm.

Including some of the exercises above into your normal workouts can help you develop a bolder shoulder and help create a "V" shaped torso for guys and an "hour-glass" figure for girls. As with any weight lifting exercise, lifting heavier weights for less reps will help to develop bigger bulkier muscles and lifting lighter weights for more reps will help develop leaner muscles. Remember that you should always include exercises for a full-body workout to develop a well-balanced body and better overall fitness.

This information and other information on this site is intended for general reference purposes only and is not intended to address specific medical conditions. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Prior to participating in any exercise program or activity, you should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.