The shoulder muscles are some of the first that people see when they look at you. Strong, broad shoulders in men can say a lot about you and even help you to exhibit more confidence. In women, and set of defined shoulders can send the message that you care about your body. How exactly can you build shoulder muscles? Through targeted training.
The shoulder muscles are primarily involved in, or linked to pushing motions. The most common ‘push’ exercises to develop the shoulders are the bench press (as a secondary muscle), the shoulder press, and the behind-the neck shoulder press:
Performing a standard bench press with a wider grip allows you to place more emphasis on developing the shoulders and outer chest. Pressing those fists to the sky with a good shoulder raise (with dumbbells or on a machine) is a great way to get those shoulders burning and growing. The behind-the-neck press, though is a personal favorite as it really pinpoints the tops of the shoulders as you press up.
The shoulders are also a big part of raising motions. Other exercises like the lateral raise and forward raise are also great for building a set of solid shoulders. I like using these types of exercises to sculpt the shoulders (pulley machine or dumbbells work just fine). I’ve found that going too heavy on these exercises, before you’re ready, is a quick way to injury road and time off from the gym (if you’re not careful). Starting out, don’t focus so much on lifting big weights with these as much as using a controllable weight with good technique.
So now you know some of the exercises that help you to build your shoulders, but that doesn’t exactly answer the question. How do you build shoulder muscles? Training is a LARGE part of the equation, but how you train is a big part of it as well.
It wasn’t until I started adding heaver weights to the push exercises, like the behind-the-neck-press that I started to see my shoulders grow. Instead of doing the standard 3-4 sets of 10 that most people use as their rule of thumb. I loaded enough weight on the barbell that allowed me to only complete 4-5 sets of 4-5 reps. I would rest for 2-2.5 minutes, and then do another set. A lot of people feel like maybe they didn’t work as hard when they do sets with a lower number of reps, but trust me, if you’re doing it right, you’ll feel these. Keep this rule in mind: heavier weights mean bigger muscles.
Another factor to keep in mind in order to grow your shoulders is rest time. Working out is important but so too is recovery time. I have often heard the bodybuilding mantra that muscles grow outside of the gym. The hardcore workouts, the pumps, the reps, the sets, the sweat, the fatigue, that’s all a part of tearing down the muscles. Resting gives the muscles time to heal and hypertrophy (the thickening of muscles as they heal due to increased cell size).
The final factor for building your shoulder muscles is getting PLENTY of protein and amino acids. If you have the protein in your diet to support muscle repair, and/or the amino acids for protein synthesis, your muscles will get bigger with your training.
Combining 1) heavy, hardcore shoulder training, with 2) proper rest, and 3) sufficient protein and amino acids will put you on the fast track to shoulders that would make the Hulk self-conscious!*
*Okay, if you’re just starting out, maybe Hulk shoulders shouldn’t be the goal. Unless of course you have high levels of gamma energy in your blood.