How to Grow Big Shoulders

Growing big shoulders is hard for a lot of skinny guys. It’s a stubborn muscle group and it’s simply not as easy to add muscle mass and a lot of tissue to this area of your body. However, there are certain exercises and strategies you can use to maximize your shoulder size. After reading this blog post you will know exactly how to build boulder shoulders and get wide, baseball delts.


1. Press and press a lot


Your shoulders aren’t just trained by doing shoulder press. They are also recruited a lot with bench press, especially incline bench press which places more emphasis on your front delts. By doing a lot of bench press, incline bench press and shoulder press combined your shoulders will get a lot of volume and will have no other option but to grow and get bigger. So don’t be one dimensional. Do a variety of pressing exercises. It’s not just shoulder press that you should be doing.


If you only did shoulder press then that would require you to do 10 sets of shoulder press every week (I’m using beginners as an example here). But if you did incline bench press as well then you could split your shoulder volume in half with 5 sets on shoulder press and 5 sets on incline bench press. This saves you time since you’re killing two birds with one stone by training your chest and shoulders simultaneously and it makes your training more varied by doing more than just one exercise for your shoulders.


2. Train every part of your shoulder


There are three major muscles in your shoulders: your front delts, side delts and rear delts and each of these shoulder muscles can be isolated in your workouts. Now of course these exercises shouldn’t replace shoulder press and bench press if you’re trying to build bigger shoulders, however they are necessary for maximizing your shoulder gains.


Your front delts can be trained with front raises and there are many different ways you can do front raises with different pieces of equipment that provide a different type of resistance of your front delts. You can do front raises with dumbbells, cables, barbells, kettlebells, medicine balls and resistance bands. Personally my favourites are cables because the resistance and tension felt in your front delts is maintained for longer throughout the entire range of motion when you’re using cables compared to when you’re using dumbbells. Specifically, you don’t feel tension in your front delts when you’re lowering dumbbells on front raises whereas you do feel tension in your front delts when you’re lowering cables. Therefore it’s probably easier for you to feel a mind muscle connection by starting off with cables for front raises and then progressing onto dumbbells when you start using negatives and slowing down the lowering phase of the reps on front raises.


Your side delts can be trained with, unsurprisingly, side raises. Just like with front raises, cables are better than dumbbells for maximizing tension throughout the entire range of motion during a side raise. You should move onto dumbbells when you start using negatives to slow down the lowering phase of the rep as this is the only way to feel tension during the lowering phase on shoulder raises.


As for rear delts you can train them with several exercises including dumbbell rear delt flyes, machine rear delt flyes, deadlifts and barbell rows. You probably didn’t think that the last two exercises train your rear delts but they do a lot, especially when you train in the lower rep ranges. Do bear in mind that you won’t be anywhere near as strong on rear delt flyes compared to front raises and lateral raises. Your focus should be on the mind muscle connection and feeling the muscle contracting rather than your traps or lats taking over. Your traps and lats would only take over if you start lifting too heavy, so keep the weight light and feel the contraction in your rear delts.


3. Use advanced training techniques


Nothing forces a muscle to grow more than advanced training techniques. The best advanced training techniques for building huge shoulders include drop sets and negatives. Drop sets cause blood pooling and lactic acid accumulation which cause micro tears in your shoulders causing more muscle hypertrophy compared to just doing “3 x 12 reps” for example. For drop sets to work on shoulder exercises, I highly recommend only using them on the isolation exercises outlined above. Your goal on dumbbell and barbell shoulder press is to get stronger since these are big movements that train your entire shoulders. The one caveat of advanced training techniques is they aren’t focused on building strength (which leads to size long term). Advanced training techniques are focused on maximizing the muscle pump and size from added volume with drop sets and tempo changes with reps performed.


Since you won’t ever be strong on isolation exercises for your shoulders (compared to shoulder compound exercises) it makes sense for you to save the advanced training techniques for side raises, front raises and rear delt flyes where you can focus purely on size in these areas of your shoulders. These techniques are what really creates impressive, aesthetic shoulders that you see your favourite movie stars showing off all the time.


4. Increase your shoulder training frequency


Most people can handle a lot of volume with their side delts and rear delts. Your front delts get a hammering with bench press so I wouldn’t worry about doing too many isolation exercises for them (still do them obviously, just do less volume compared to your side and rear delts). The great thing about side and rear delt raises is they don’t fatigue you that much since not a lot of muscle mass is involved in moving the resistance. This means you should be able to train them more often every week. As a beginner I wouldn’t worry about increasing your volume past 10 sets for your shoulders, but you want to be trying to increase this over time. I discuss volume in more detail here. Make sure you read that to get a better understanding of how to increase your volume over time.


Here’s a summary of the take home points:


  • Do a lot of pressing. Not just dumbbell and barbell shoulder press, but also bench press and incline bench press.
  • Train every part of your shoulder.
  • Use advanced training techniques on the isolation exercises for your shoulders. Not the compound exercises.
  • Increase your training frequency and volume over time for the isolation exercises like side raises and rear delt flyes.


But that’s not all. There is more to it. It’s not as easy as just simply choosing the right exercises and strategies. You need to be using progression schemes. You need a system that takes you from A to B with zero setbacks or plateaus. The Spartan Program is the first program in my Skinny to Size system. With the Spartan Program you’ll build your first 5-10lbs of muscle, get 15 inch biceps and a 40 inch chest.


It’s the real deal.


It’s what you need to take your body to the next level.



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