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Top 7 Exercises To Build Massive Shoulders

Written by Alex Stevenson

military press

If you want to have an aesthetically pleasing physique, one of the main goals you should be focusing on is building strong, muscular shoulders. Those who achieve this will give their body a much wider look, helping you form that V-taper that so many people desire.

For both genders, building larger shoulders can help make the waist look smaller, something that appeals to both regardless of your goals.

Building strong shoulders is also important as an injury prevention mechanism as having strong muscles will ensure that you are protecting the shoulder girdle as best as possible.

Shoulder injuries are all too common amongst those who are lifting very heavy weight, so this benefit can’t be said enough.

This said, let’s go over the top seven exercises that you should be adding to your workout protocol to help achieve this goal.

7. Bench Press

The first move to build massive shoulders might just surprise you because in theory, it’s actually a chest exercise.  The bench press is great for building strong shoulders because they will still be working in every single rep you do.

Despite the fact the pectoral muscles are also being called into play, you will still be stimulating that front and medial heads of the shoulders.

And, because this exercise allows you to lift a very heavy amount of weight, it’s also great for hypertrophy purposes.

6. Shoulder Press

Once you finish the bench press, the classic shoulder press is the next go-to move for building big shoulders. This compound exercise is going to hit the front and medial delts while also helping to target the triceps as well.

You can do this exercise standing or sitting, whichever your preference. Typically you will be able to lift heavier weight sitting however if you do them standing, you’ll get more of a core workout as well.

Try with either the barbell or the dumbbell, whichever you prefer.  Consider swapping between the two pieces of equipment as you go.

5. Incline Bench Press

Another bench press variety that’s excellent for building up great shoulder strength is the incline bench press.  This move is going to place less emphasis on the chest and more on the shoulders, so can be an excellent addition to any chest or shoulder workout.

The greater the incline on this move, the more shoulder action you’ll receive, so just keep that in mind as you go about the exercise.

When doing the incline bench, avoid locking the elbows at the top of the move. You want to maintain constant tension on the muscles at all times and this is best had by going just short of lockout.

4. Lateral Raises

Now we come to an isolation move that’s great for building bigger shoulders and doing at the end of your workout protocol – lateral raises.

This exercise will help you get those nicely capped shoulders, finishing off your look while boosting muscular endurance as well.

These can be done with a dumbbell or cable if you want to sustain constant tension on the muscle at all times.

Try doing one arm lateral raises if you really want to ensure that you aren’t allowing momentum to come into the equation, helping you push through the exercise.

When doing lateral raises, it’s also important to keep the core tight, or you may start to develop a sway in the lower back, putting you at risk for back pain down the road.

3. Reverse Fly’s

Since many of the exercises just mentioned are going to be more focused on hitting the front and side deltoid muscles, you also need to be doing something for your rear delts.

While you won’t see this muscle as much when looking directly at the body, it will make a difference in how you look from the side or behind.

Also, remember that ensuring all three heads of your shoulders are strong will be your best defense against an injury down the road.

The rear delts will be worked very well when doing bent over or horizontal rows, however you can also isolate them with reverse fly’s.

These can be done in a chest fly machine if it reverses, or done with cables or even bent over with a set of dumbbells.

The most important thing when doing this exercise is that you really zero in on maximum mind-muscle control. It’s very easy to allow other muscle groups to take over this exercise, preventing those rear delts from really working to their full capacity.

In most cases, you’re better off lightening the weight while doing this move, focusing on just that rear delt squeezing until you feel optimal tension develop.

Adding a few half reps with this exercise can also be a great way to maximize the muscle tension and fatigue development, helping you see great results.

2. Arnold Press

Another pressing variety that you don’t want to overlook is the Arnold press.  This move can be done either as a warm-up at the beginning of the workout or done towards the end as a way to fully fatigue your shoulder muscles.

The nice thing about this exercise is to takes your shoulders through a great range of motion, hitting the muscles from all angles.

To perform it, you’ll start with the palms of the hands facing towards you and then as you rotate and press the weight upward, you want to rotate the hands so the palms face away from you as you reach the top position.

Once there, lower back down, rotating as you do.

1. Clean And Press

Finally, the last of the moves that you’ll want to be sure to get into your workout protocol if you hope to achieve shoulder greatness is the clean and press.  This move is going to work all heads of the shoulders while also helping you develop a great deal of strength and power.

It’s a much more compound, full body movement than the ones listed above, even the military press as it brings the clean movement pattern into the picture.

The clean and press is typically done with a barbell, however you can also do it with a kettlebell if you feel inclined.

It should always be done towards the beginning of the workout session when you’re feeling fresh and are able to lift heavy as going heavy is the primary goal.

This exercise is very much about technique however, so you’ll want to be sure that you are starting with a lighter weight at first, only increasing the weight once you’ve mastered the overall movement pattern of the exercise and have your form down pat.

You will also be at a higher risk of injury with this exercise, so be sure that you are always being mindful of form and don’t be afraid to lighten the weight at any point if you feel your good form is slipping.

If you perform this move, you can side step performing other pressing exercises in that particular shoulder workout.

So there you have a list of the top seven moves that you should be adding to your workout protocol if you hope to see maximum results.  Remember that you will be working shoulders on any chest day that you perform, so if you are doing a split body workout and have both a chest as well as a shoulder day scheduled, you’ll want to ensure that sufficient time has passed between the workouts so that you go into each one feeling as strong as possible.

Schedule them too close to each other and you could overtrain the shoulder muscles, leading to decreases in both strength and size.

Train smart and you will see big changes coming to your physique in the near future.

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