Exercises For Developing Shoulder Size

Posted: July 8, 2013 in Lift Technique, Training
Tags: , , ,

Every guy wants to be biggest,‭ ‬strongest dude in the gym.‭ ‬Developing your shoulders will not only make you look like a badass,‭ ‬but it’s an easy way to pack on weight and increase your overall upper body strength.

There are several muscles that attach to and originate from the shoulder,‭ ‬but for the purposes of this article,‭ ‬we’ll be focusing on the the two biggest superficial muscles of the shoulder‭ ‬-‭ ‬the deltoids and the trapezii.‭ ‬The trapezius muscle serves to laterally rotate,‭ ‬elevate,‭ ‬and retract the scapula,‭ ‬while the deltoids abduct,‭ ‬flex,‭ ‬extend,‭ ‬and medially and laterally rotate the humerus.‭

3‭ ‬Categories of Shoulder Exercises

1‭) ‬Holds/Shrugs

When you hold a weight in your hands,‭ ‬gravity will obviously pull it downwards.‭ ‬At this point,your trapezii have to turn on to provide stability.‭ ‬Exercises like rack pull holds provide an isometric contraction and are done for time,‭ ‬while shrugs utilize a more traditional eccentric/concentric approach and are done for reps.‭ ‬These exercises tax the entire body and provide a good training stimulus for growth,‭ ‬as well as general conditioning.‭ ‬Shrugs utilize a more traditional eccentric/concentric approach and are done for reps.

Rack Pull Holds

Rack pulls are essentially deadlifts from an elevated starting position.‭ ‬By starting the lift from a higher position,‭ ‬we can lift more weight than with a traditional deadlift and therefore achieve a better training stimulus for the shoulders and upper back.‭

To perform rack pull holds,‭ ‬set up the bar so that it starts at or slightly above your knees.‭ ‬Then approach the bar with your feet shoulder width apart,‭ ‬and your hands slightly outside the knees.‭ ‬Get a good grip,‭ ‬and attach wrist wraps if necessary.‭ ‬Extend your knees and hips and lock out the lift by squeezing your glutes,‭ ‬abs,‭ ‬and quads while retracting your shoulder blades and keeping your head back.‭ ‬Grip will become an issue,‭ ‬and your hands will likely fatigue before anything else.‭ ‬So use an alternated grip for sure,‭ ‬and wrist straps if necessary.‭ ‬When doing holds,‭ ‬we’re looking for‭ ‬40-60‭ ‬seconds of time under tension per set,‭ ‬under as much weight as possible.‭ ‬This range of time is generally agreed upon as the most ideal time under tension for inducing muscle hypertrophy.‭ ‬A good set/rep scheme with rack pull holds is‭ ‬3-5‭ ‬sets of‭ ‬6‭ ‬reps with an‭ ‬8‭ ‬second hold at the top of each rep.

Rack pull holds will not only develop your traps,‭ ‬but will help with your deadlift as well as strengthening the hands and forearms.

Farmers Walks

Farmers walks can be done with a number of implements.‭ ‬Farmers walk handles work best if you have access to them,‭ ‬but dumbbells,‭ ‬kettlebells,‭ ‬and trap bars will work too.‭ ‬Just like for rack pull holds,‭ ‬we’re looking for‭ ‬40-60‭ ‬seconds of time under tension‭ (‬TUT‭) ‬per set to maximize hypertrophy.‭ ‬Usually farmers walks are done for distance,‭ ‬but to build trap size it’s wiser to do them for time.‭ ‬All you have to do is pick up whatever implement you’ve decided to use,‭ ‬and then walk around with it for‭ ‬40-60‭ ‬seconds.

Overhead Carries

Think of these as overhead farmers walks.‭ ‬Hold two dumbbells over your head and walk for‭ ‬40-60‭ ‬seconds.‭ ‬Keep the weights over your head and not out in front of you.‭

2) Raises

These include lateral,‭ ‬front,‭ ‬and rear raises.‭ ‬The main goal of performing raises is to develop the deltoids.‭ ‬Although the trapezii do not attach to the humerus and therefore have no role in humeral abduction,‭ ‬flexion,‭ ‬or extension,‭ ‬the trapezii will turn on when performing raises to provide stability.

Lateral Raises

While holding dumbbells with your arms at your sides,‭ ‬raise your hands to shoulder height while keeping your arms back.‭

Front Raises

Same as lateral raises,‭ ‬but raise your hands to shoulder height with your hands directly in front of your shoulders.

Rear Raises

While face-down on an incline bench,‭ ‬raise your hands up to shoulder height.‭

3‭) ‬Presses and Pulls‭

Since the deltoids control shoulder extension and flexion,‭ ‬they play a role in pressing and pulling movements.‭ ‬By increasing the range of motion at the shoulder during traditional exercises like benching and rowing,‭ ‬we can increase the amount of tension present in the deltoids and stimulate muscle growth more effectively.‭ ‬The trapezii also play a role in pulling exercises,‭ ‬as they retract the scapulae.‭

Deficit Pushups

Just like regular pushups,‭ ‬but with your hands and feet elevated to allow for greater depth,‭ ‬and thus greater range of motion at the shoulder.‭ ‬Keeping your hands close together will recruit the anterior delts more heavily than wide-stance pushups.

Chek Press

My college strength coach Fred Cantor introduced me to Chek Presses,‭ ‬and I still use them to this day.‭ ‬Start by holding dumbbells in front of you with a neutral grip at shoulder height and your elbows bent.‭ ‬Then press the dumbells overhead,‭ ‬and rotate your arms to a pronated grip once you’ve reached the top of the press.‭ ‬Then bend your elbows and lower your arms into a goalpost position.‭ ‬From there,‭ ‬bring your elbows together in front of you to complete the exercise.

Chest Supported Row

Set up on an incline bench with your chest on the bench and dumbbells in each hand.‭ ‬Then retract your shoulder blades and row the weight,‭ ‬keeping your shoulders back.

Wide Grip Seated Row

Using a wide grip on your seated rows will allow for greater recruitment of the scapular retractors and the rear delts.

A Word About Tempo

To maximize hypertrophy,‭ ‬you should shoot for‭ ‬40-60‭ ‬seconds of time under tension for each set of shoulder exercises.‭ ‬By controlling tempo,‭ ‬we can make sure that each exercise is getting a sufficient amount of TUT.‭ ‬When reading tempo notations,‭ ‬the first number represents the eccentric portion of the lift,‭ ‬the second number represents a pause at the bottom of the lift,‭ ‬the third number represents the concentric portion,‭ ‬and the fourth number represents a pause at the top of the lift.‭ ‬For example,‭ ‬a bench press at a‭ ‬4010‭ ‬tempo would be a‭ ‬4-second eccentric phase,‭ ‬followed by a‭ ‬1-second concentric phase without a pause at the bottom or top.‭ ‬A row with a‭ ‬3011‭ ‬tempo would be a‭ ‬3‭ ‬second eccentric phase,‭ ‬followed by a‭ ‬1‭ ‬second concentric phase and a‭ ‬1‭ ‬second hold at the top.

Incorporation Into Your Program

Here’s a‭ ‬3-day/week program‭ ‬for shoulder development with a‭ ‬4th optional day.‭ ‬You’ll notice that this program still includes squats,‭ ‬deadlifts,‭ ‬and bench,‭ ‬so you can build your shoulders while still working on the big‭ ‬3‭ ‬lifts.‭

Day‭ ‬1‭ ‬-‭

A1‭) ‬Deadlift
A2‭) ‬Face Pull‭ ‬3-4×12‭ @ ‬3010‭ ‬tempo

B1‭) ‬Chek Press‭ ‬3-4×10‭ @ ‬4010‭ ‬tempo
B2‭) ‬Lower Body Assistance Exercise

C1‭) ‬Rack Pull Hold‭ ‬3-4×6‭ ‬w/‭ ‬8‭ ‬second hold
C2‭) ‬Rear Raise‭ ‬3-4×12‭ @ ‬3010‭ ‬tempo

Day‭ ‬2‭ ‬-‭

A1‭) ‬Squat
A2‭) ‬Wide Grip Seated Row‭ ‬3-4×10‭ @ ‬4010‭ ‬tempo

B1‭) ‬Dumbbell Shrugs‭ ‬3-4×10‭ @ ‬2011‭ ‬tempo
B2‭) ‬Lower Body Assistance Exercise

C1‭) ‬Farmers Walk‭ ‬3-4×40-60‭“
C2‭) ‬Lateral Raise‭ ‬3-4×12‭ @ ‬3010‭ ‬tempo

Day‭ ‬3‭ ‬-

A1‭) ‬Bench Press
A2‭) ‬Rear Raise‭ ‬3-4×12‭ @ ‬3010‭ ‬tempo

B1‭) ‬Lat Pulldown‭ ‬3-4×10‭ @ ‬4010‭ ‬tempo
B2‭) ‬Deficit Pushups‭ ‬3-4×12‭ @ ‬3010‭ ‬tempo

C1‭) ‬Wide Grip Barbell Shrug‭
C2‭) ‬Lateral Raise‭ ‬3-4×12‭ @ ‬3010‭ ‬tempo

Day‭ ‬4‭ (optional)

A1‭) ‬Rack Pull Hold‭ ‬3-4×6 w/ 8 second hold
A2‭) ‬Incline Dumbbell Bench Press‭ ‬3-4×10‭ @ ‬4010‭ ‬tempo

B1‭) ‬Lower Body Lift
B2‭) ‬Lateral Raise‭ ‬3-4×10‭ @ ‬3011‭ ‬tempo

C1‭) ‬Overhead Carries‭ ‬3-4×40-60‭“
C2‭) ‬Chest-Supported Row‭ ‬3-4×10‭ @ ‬3011‭ ‬tempo

Follow this workout for‭ ‬4-6‭ ‬weeks,‭ ‬or until you are happy with your shoulder development.‭ ‬A good idea would be to keep the sets at‭ ‬3‭ ‬for‭ ‬2‭ ‬weeks,‭ ‬then‭ ‬4‭ ‬for‭ ‬2‭ ‬weeks,‭ ‬then back to‭ ‬3‭ ‬with increased weight for‭ ‬2‭ ‬weeks.

If you would prefer to build your shoulders while staying on your current program,‭ ‬the best thing to do would be to add farmers walks or rack pull holds at the end of every workout for‭ ‬4-6‭ ‬weeks as a finisher.‭ ‬You should also substitute Chek presses and chest-supported rows into your program as assistance exercises,‭ ‬and perform lateral raises and rear raises‭ ‬1-2‭ ‬times per week.‭ ‬The anterior deltoid gets plenty of work during pushing movements,‭ ‬so lateral and rear raises are more beneficial,‭ ‬but adding in front raises certainly won’t hurt.

No More Wimpy Shoulders

Utilize more heavy carries and holds,‭ ‬raises,‭ ‬and shoulder-intensive presses and pulls and you can develop wider,‭ ‬more powerful shoulders in as little as‭ ‬6‭ ‬weeks.‭ ‬Stick to a rep scheme and tempo that favor hypertrophy,‭ ‬and watch your shoulders grow from deflated tennis balls into boulders.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s