Big shoulders are one of the most important things to ensure any gym-goer has a great aesthetic physique. Training shoulders can often be neglected in favor of chest and arms, but this should not be the case. Let’s take a look at 5 exercises that can really help you put on some shoulder mass and strength.
Exercises For Shoulders
#1 Dumbbell Shoulder Press
This is a great exercise to put on some real mass on your shoulders. One advantage of using dumbbells over a barbell is that you will notice any imbalance between your left and right side when pressing. It can be the case that you lead with your stronger side, so right side if your right handed and left side if your left handed. When using a barbell you can do this without even realizing, but with dumbbells it will be very obvious if this is happening.
It is a good idea to perform shoulder press in front of a mirror so you can make sure you are performing each rep with good form. At the top of every rep try and push your head forward to make sure your shoulders are taking the weight and not your chest. Focus on an explosive movement up and a slow, controlled movement when returning the dumbbells to the start position.
Note: It will be beneficial having a spotter for this exercise to make sure you’re completing that final rep
5 sets, 8-12 reps, 90 seconds rest
#2 Dumbbell Arnold Press
This is another great shoulder exercise named after the bodybuilding legend himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is a variation of the standard shoulder press.
It involves holding the dumbbells with your palms facing towards you, with the dumbbells at chest height. Then rotate the weight out as you move the weights up into the regular shoulder press position and without pausing drive the weight up to complete one repetition. Then slowly lower the weight back to the start position rotating the weight so your palms are once again facing towards your body.
4 sets, 8-12 reps, 90 seconds rest
#3 Upright Barbell Row
This is a great way to work your traps. Take a Barbell or an EZ bar and grip it narrower than should width. The start position will see you holding the weight in front of your body. To perform each rep pull the weight up keeping it close to your body, finishing with the bar below your chin. Then lower the weight in a controlled manner.
On this exercise you are going to perform 5 sets of 8-12 reps, but the last set will be a drop set, so after completing your 5th set, drop the weight on the bar by around 30-50% and perform as many reps as you can until failure to completely fatigue the muscle.
5 sets, 8-12 reps, 90 seconds rest
#4 Lateral Raise
Take a dumbbell in either hand and raise the dumbbells up. With this exercise, if you haven’t performed it much, it is very easy to use too much weight and not complete any proper repetitions. Make sure you’re using a weight which you can lift so your arms are parallel with your shoulders, hold for 1 second and then release the weight back to the start position with your arms by your sides. Really focus on the squeeze at the top of the movement.
Note: Your arms should be moving up together
5 sets, 12 reps, 90 seconds rest
#5 Dumbbell Shrugs, Drop Set
This is a great finisher to work your traps to complete fatigue. Big traps are great for aesthetics. We would recommend using dumbbells for this exercise, as using a barbell can limit you range of motion and stop you from completely contracting your traps. You need to go heavy on the weight to get the greatest benefit from this exercise, but not so heavy that you can’t complete a proper repetition. After completing one set of 15 reps, drop the weight by about 30% and complete another 15 reps without any rest. You should really start to feel the burn in those traps!
Note: Sometimes your grip gives out before your traps do. If this affects you then it may be worth investing in some padded lifting straps as these will make sure you work your traps to fatigue and it is not your grip strength that let’s you down.
3 drop sets, 15 reps, 90 seconds rest
Take Home Message
So there you have it, five exercises to build up your shoulders. The most important thing to remember is TUT (time under tension) making sure to slowly return the weight to the start position to maintain tension on the shoulder muscle. Also pay close attention to your rest times and try not to aim for 90 seconds, and do not exceed 2 minutes. Keeping the intensity will work your muscles harder and lead to greater muscle growth.