Building big shoulders is a desire that every person that steps foot in the gym encounters. We all want big, bulky caps on the end of our clavicles that make us have to turn sideways to get through a doorway. Achieving these goals will not come without hard work and the proper exercises done correctly to get those puny shoulders into cannonball sized deltoids!
Exercise #1: Military Press
One of the greatest mass builders when it comes to the shoulder muscle is the overhead military press done with the barbell. You’ve probably seen images and clips of the golden age guys like Frank Zane or Serge Nubret doing military presses. As you can see, their shoulders reaped the benefits of it.
Hitting the anterior and lateral heads of the deltoid, this compound movement is a great movement for the shoulder muscle to hit. Hit this exercise in the beginning of your shoulder routine as it’s a compound movement that does require a lot of energy to perform at a high level.
- Start with either a bench at 90 degree to support back or standing within a squat rack
- Un-rack the barbell from the front position keeping the tension on the anterior delt
- Press the weight up and slightly back, poking your head forward at end of the movement
- Lower the weight slowly back down in front of face and repeat
Sets and Reps for Mass: 5 x 6-8
Top Tip: With doing a barbell press there is a lot of talk about rotator cuff injuries when done behind the head. This is true to some degree, depending on your overall shoulder health and flexibility. Doing either behind-the-head presses or front presses are both equally as beneficial- it just depends on what feels comfortable and doesn’t put the shoulder under too much strain and stress.
Exercise #2: Handstand Pushups
The ultimate shoulder bodyweight exercise is without a doubt the handstand pushup. Not only is the handstand a difficult move, but you will have to be able to press your bodyweight while stabilizing all of your core and shoulder girdle muscles.
This move is not for a beginner but can be done with a spotter if not strong enough to do on your own. To all those who say you can’t build muscle with just bodyweight exercises, look at a CrossFitter’s shoulders next time they’re doing handstand pushups – yes you can!
- Start this movement with feet about 1 foot away from a wall
- Put hands slightly further than shoulder-width apart and kick up into handstand position
- Using the wall to keep you from falling forward, inhale as you lower your head to the ground
- Exhale as you press yourself back to the starting position
Sets and Reps for Mass: 4 x AMRAP (As many reps as possible)
Top Tip: If you’re not strong enough to perform movement on your own, have someone in the gym help assist in the movement by holding your feet/legs and spotting you to achieve more repetitions.
Exercise #3: Clean and Press
People are consumed with isolation exercises to create a great pump, but many forget the basic compound movements that are the basis for overall mass building. From the day Arnold started training till the last day he stepped on stage, compound lifts were a staple in his routine – in fact the clean and press was one of his favorites for shoulders. Don’t get caught up on only performing isolation exercises – go all out with the clean and press and work all areas of the shoulder.
- With a shoulder width grip, bend down to floor and pick up barbell to where the starting position is bar at mid-shin.
- Keeping your back flat, pull the weight up by shrugging as high as possible then clean the weight with your body underneath the bar.
- With the weight at chest-level, simultaneously jump and press the weight up overhead and finish with weight slightly behind torso for maximum extension.
Sets and Reps: 4 x 10-12
Top Tip: This exercise is a taxing one so perform this early on in your routine. However, you can wait until the end, lighten the weight a bit and get a massive pump throughout all areas of the delts as well as the traps.
Knowing that shoulders can be more than just front and lateral raises, take your training to the next level with heavy compound movements that demand those deltoids to grow. Concentrate on your form first and the weight will come as you go and you’ll be well on your way to a great set of shoulders!