You’re a dude. A real manly man. You want big shoulders. Let’s face it, without them, you’re just another set of biceps and pectorals at the bar hitting on every chick withing 100 yards. But with them? Suddenly you’re wide as a house and they’re hitting on you. Suddenly you actually fit that Extra-Medium shirt that you squeeze your belly and biceps into before heading out for the evening on the town. Suddenly, you go from 2- to 3-dimensional. And that, my friend, is why having properly developed shoulders is important. You start looking like a muscle man instead of just acting like one. Shoulders – big ones – are the true legtimizers of all that is manly.
Sure, there are more reasons. We all know that a fully developed physique (which includes cannonball deltoids for shoulders) helps to prevent injuries and, if you are in the competitive realm, will help you to do much better in the bodybuilding shows. Having well rounded strength in your shoulder area obviously gives you a better bench press and helps with many other movements. But for the sake of this discussion, we’ll put it all to ego – you want to LOOK like a bodybuilder, you need some seriously impressive shoulders.
There are a million (okay, maybe only dozens of) exercises out there which hit the shoulders in one way or another, and it certainly can get confusing for the bodybuilder trying to decide which movements to attempt. One easy way to look at it is this – if you see skinny women and the little old guys doing a movement – you probably should skip it! You don’t see them throwing around heavy barbells and dumbbells very often. Rather, this ilk of under-shouldered gym goers will be seen attached to things with cables and shiny pink or chrome dumbbells. You’re a guy. Run from this. Quickly!
Instead, you should find yourself in the dankest, darkest corner of your gym, where cables and machines are rarely found. This is the free weight area. Sure, occasionally you’ll see one of the aforementioned softies enter this area, but for the most part it’ll be men being men – lifting heavy, unforgiving steel, which is never all that comfortable. Let’s look at a few of the movements you should select once you do enter this realm, for optimal shoulder mass growth.
Seated Dumbbell Presses
Without a doubt, this needs to be the first movement you attempt. Grab one of the benches normally used for incline bench pressing (conveniently known as an incline bench) and bump it up to 80 degrees – but not 90 degrees. Going all the way up (to 90 degrees) places some serious stress upon your AC and RC joints. You can be *almost* vertical with a very steep incline of 80 degrees and still burn up your shoulders, but you’ll avoid a hospital stay as well. Keep your reps in the 6 to 8 range, going up to 10 or 12 on the earlier warm-up sets and down to 4 to 6 on your heaviest sets. This movement will torch your entire shoulder region.
Seated Military Barbell Press
Okay, you’ll be using a machine on this one, but it’ll be a Smith Machine. It will contain some of the stabilization you require, which can be helpful at this point, since your deltoids should already be in some serious pain from your seated dumbbell press lifting. Keep the rep range in the 8 to 12 range, and keep the reps slow and steady. You’ll see some real pump in the muscle group at this point – and it’s time to move on to the dumbbells.
Dumbbell Raises (multiple angles)
Finally it will be time to get those dumbbells swinging. Okay, in actuality, it don’t mean a thing if it’s got that swing. You’ll need to control the movement of the dumbbells to ensure you actually work your shoulder muscles, and not just your back tendons controlling heavy iron which is just plain too heavy for you. You can use side, fronts, and 45 degree angle dumbbell raises with moderate weight to hit your shoulders adequately. Rep range of 10 to 15 is good now.
As you can see, lifting shoulders like a man doesn’t require all that much brainpower which is good because, well, you’re a dude. You like things simple. Keep on showing up to the gym once a week for shoulder day, spend 50 or 60 minutes killing it on these simple movements with some heavy iron, and your shoulders will get a lot bigger and thicker. Forget about the cables and machines – you can use those in 40 years when you’re that little old guy. For now, the name of the game is muscle, and you belong in the free weight area. Good luck!