Big and strong shoulders are probably one of the best ways to drastically improve the shape and look of your body. It takes your body one step further to the legendary V-taper (the next step is to achieve a smaller waistline and a bigger back). Apart from just looks though, strong and healthy shoulders can greatly improve your posture and can even protect you from neck injuries as well as some spinal cord issues. Stronger shoulders, also translate to a stronger bench press, allowing you to bench a considerably larger amount of weight.
What do I need to do to build a nice round set of shoulders?
Warm up – First, always warm up. Shoulder injuries are quite common and it is best to always spend a few extra minutes warming up rather than spending weeks outside of the gym. Remember, if your shoulders are injured, you will not be able to workout most, if not all, of your upper body. Start with 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps of shoulder presses using a light or empty barbell.
Heavy barbell press – Once properly warmed up, I like to start with a heavy (relatively) compound exercise, such as the seated barbell press. The seated press ensures that you do not use any momentum or leg strength to lift the weights. You use only your shoulders to lift and lower the weight. Sit on a bench and hold the barbell just over shoulder width and press the barbell up in a quick and controlled motion and then lower it slowly for a count of 2-4 seconds. It’s like a sitting bench press except the weight goes up over your head rather than the chest. Pick a weight that allows you to do 4-6 sets of 6-8 reps.
Dumbbell Press – After the heavy press, I like to move on to the dumbbell press for more reps. Why do dumbbell as well as barbell? Well, for one thing, if you have any imbalances between your left and right side, the dumbbell press will help to take care of that. Lifting equal weight for an equal amount of reps will let you identify any weaknesses and help to balance things out. It also takes the tension off the front of the shoulders and distributes it more or less evenly across the front, back and sides of the shoulders. I like to do a more moderate weight for higher reps. Aim for 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Side lateral raises – This exercise sounds easier than it is. It’s pretty simple, pick a dumbbell in each hand and with each of your palms facing the sides of your body, lift the dumbbell till they are at shoulder height, parallel to the floor and then lower them slowly for a count of 4. It’s easy at first but the more you do, the more your shoulders start burning up. Be careful with this exercise and do not lift too heavy. Do 4-6 sets of 8-12 reps.
Face pulls – This exercise is great for improving the back of your shoulders/upper back. Although this exercise won’t provide much in terms of aesthetics, it’s a great exercise for improving your posture. For this exercise, you will need to use the cable machine with the ropes attachment. Just grab the rope at shoulder height with both hands and pull towards yourself, stopping when your hands are beside your cheeks. Do this for 4 sets of 12 reps and I guarantee stronger shoulders and a great posture.