Last Updated: Feb 2, 2018
Including a solid shoulder workout in your overall muscle building program is critical if you want thick, wide, muscular shoulders which contribute to the V-tapered upper body physique all lifters strive for. In this article we'll cover some tips to performing an effective shoulder workout to build muscle and end up with balanced shoulder strength and muscle gains (if you want a full pre-made program to train all muscle groups check out our recommended muscle-building programs).
Your shoulder muscles are made up of three main parts. The anterior region (front), medial region (middle), and the posterior region (rear). Your body uses these muscles to lift and rotate your arms. For the best shoulder workout to stimulate these muscles to grow effectively, you must include two basic movements in your weight lifting program: a simple overhead pressing movement, and a raising movement.
An overhead press should be the focus of your shoulder muscle workout. Nothing can beat the effectiveness of this compound movement for your shoulders. When the overhead press is done properly then you will stimulate your shoulder muscles like no other exercise.
There are different variations of the overhead press, and you could use either dumbbells or a barbell. I would recommend using dumbbells as they require you to press the weight up AND control the movement of the dumbbells, which takes more effort and stimulates your shoulder muscles that little bit more than a barbell would. Using a barbell also shifts some of the stress to your upper chest.
As for the actual way to perform the overhead press, I would recommend the Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press. Sit on a bench with the back support at 90 degrees, and push a pair of dumbbells straight upwards until your elbows are just about to lock out, and then slowly lower the dumbbells back to shoulder height. Keep your back straight and your abs tight.
The next most important weight training exercise for your shoulders would have to be lateral raises. They are done with dumbbells and are an isolation movement which concentrates the stress on the medial head of the shoulders. Lateral raises will help in building wider shoulders.
The way you perform lateral raises is properly known as Standing Side Lateral Raises. With your knees bent slightly, stand and hold a pair of dumbbells with the palms of your hands facing inwards towards your hips. Raise the dumbbells to both sides of your body all the way up until you reach shoulder level, and then slowly lower the dumbbells back to your side. Allow your arms to bend a little whilst doing the raise.
These two exercises should be the bread and butter of your shoulder workout routine. Quite a few lifters unknowningly may be over-training their shoulders which could lead to hindered muscle gains, getting a shoulder injury which is unfortunately quit common, or creating an inbalance physique which could lead to posture problems further down the road.
You need to understand that you are working your shoulder muscles either directly OR indirectly when you perform the majority of upper body exercises out there.
Therefore, shoulders don't actually need a lot of direct stimulation. Meaning, you don't have to slave away doing endless sets of shoulders all the time to stimulate growth if you're doing everything else right in your muscle-building workout routine.
Here is a sample shoulder workout example you could include in your weight training for getting well-built, wider shoulders over a period of time:
Make sure you use a weight that is heavy enough so that the range of 5-8 reps is challenging, and aim for continual progression of your lifts over time to build size and strength. For detailed, professional instructional videos on these key exercises plus all of the other crucial exercises to build the ultimate balanced physique see the complete workout programs.