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Build boulder shoulders

Build boulder shoulders

Shoulders are like onions. They are made up of lots of layers, from your teres minor to your deltoid anterior. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint; this means it has a huge range of motion forwards, backwards, up, down, left, right, essentially it can move in any direction. The layers of tendons, ligaments and muscles work towards controlling the shoulders movement, whilst making sure you can pack a punch.

Before you start

Due to the shoulders' great range of movement a thorough warm up is hugely important, not only to get everything fired up, but also to help prevent injury. The warm up can even be part of the session and work towards building a great shoulder shape. For example your rotator cuff muscles, which help stabilise the shoulder, don’t need to lift huge weights to be worked. Try some slow and controlled internal and external rotation of the shoulder at the start of your workout with a theraband or on the cable machine.

It is fundamental to use the correct technique and maintain good form when performing shoulder exercises. Its better to work through the full range of movement than increasing the weight, when you can do the reps properly you can move the weight up. Using a foam roller on your upper back and lats pre or post workout can work towards increasing your shoulders range and help prevent any of those layers getting caught up or not firing properly.

Exercises to build up your shoulder muscles

Now it’s on to the good stuff, how to make your shoulders grow into glorious t-shirt fillers. You’ve got to make sure you work the whole shoulder; you can’t just do lateral raises and expect to not look a little bit lopsided. It’s a good idea to pick a few exercises that work the whole shoulder, the front, the side and the back.  

Here are some examples of shoulder-building exercises that hit all the angles; Lateral raises for the side of the shoulder. Shoulder press for the front of the shoulder. High pulls for the back of the shoulder and shrugs for the top of the shoulder.

Large compound movements such as shoulder press are better off being done with less reps and heavier weights (as long as you can manage it safely and stay in control) such as 3 sets of 4-6 reps. Isolation exercises such as lateral raises where you are really focusing on one muscle in particular can include more reps and less weight such as 3 sets of 8-12. Obviously these are just guidelines and can be altered depending on your personal goals.

Make sure you control the movement during the contraction on the way up and during relaxation on the way down. There is no point swinging dumbbells around willy nilly with no intention or control, this will only lead to injury and wont help form boulders for shoulders.

Free weights are great for shoulders as it means you can activate all the little stabilizing layers whilst pushing the larger muscles to their limits to help them grow. Dumbbells also allow you to work the shoulders unilaterally (one side at a time), this can help engage your core, giving you two workouts in one.

Shoulders can easily be matched up with other body parts during your workout such as biceps and triceps. You could incorporate triceps dips into your shoulder workout as these work the triceps and the shoulders. Or you could bicep curl dumbbells then go into a shoulder press, to get a full arm pump.

Now go out there and grow my friends, lift big and lift well!

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the author

Izzy Jeffs

Izzy is a British champion javelin thrower and has competed in two Commonwealth Games finals. She has competed for Great Britain on several occasions. Izzy is a personal trainer and spends a lot of time training in the gym, building muscle. When she is not training at the track or in the gym, she is eating. You’ve got to eat big to get big! .