Having big and wide shoulders gives you an aesthetically-pleasing V-taper, making you look more attractive, healthier, and more balanced. It makes shirts fit you better, and gives your lover more shoulder to lean on.


On the more functional side, having big and strong shoulders gives you more power with any movement involving the arms. You can lift more on the bench press, do more dips, load more weight on weighted pull-ups, and power clean heavier weights if you regularly work your shoulders. You’ll be less prone to injuries due to having weak shoulders working in support of the larger muscle groups.


The shoulders are very straightforward to train. You can use these three movements as the foundation of your routine:


1. Overhead barbell press. You just need to load up a bar, get in front of it, and then push it up over your head. You can do this either seated or standing – you’ll be engaging more muscles and thus be able to use more weight doing the standing variation. You can do three sets of six to eight repetitions for maximum gains on strength.


Lifting a heavy barbell over your head is sure to grow your shoulders.

Lifting a heavy barbell over your head is sure to grow your shoulders.


2. Hanging cleans. Doing heavy power cleans is not necessary after working your shoulders with the last exercise. What you need to do is work the other muscle groups forming the shoulder girdle. Hanging cleans will work your traps and upper back muscles to maintain balance with your shoulders and upper chest muscles.


3. Overhead dumbbell press. After you’ve done the heavy overhead presses and the cleans, you can do lighter assistance work for your shoulders. This time, dumbbells will be used. You won’t need to use as much weight so you can focus on doing more repetitions and resting less between sets for best results. It is very important that you do this AFTER your barbell presses since you don’t want to fatigue your shoulders before lifting heavy weight. However, you can use lighter dumbbells to warm up for your barbell presses.


Alternatively, you can use dumbbells instead of a barbell for your heavy shoulder work. But after that, instead of doing regular overhead presses with a barbell, you can do Arnold Presses, which is more of an assistance exercise. Use lighter dumbbells to allow you to do more repetitions.


Instead of hanging cleans, you can also use upright rows to work the front shoulders more. Take note that you will need to balance out your front shoulder work so that you develop evenly.


The shoulders, being a smaller muscle group, seems to respond best to moderate repetition ranges – anywhere from 6-12 repetitions can produce excellent results as long as fatigue and recovery is managed well. This means limiting the workout volume so that your shoulders can recover quickly in between sessions.


You can try the following workout template for your future shoulder or alternate upper-body workouts:

A. Overhead barbell press – 3 sets of eight repetitions
B. Hanging cleans – 3 sets of ten repetitions
C. Overhead dumbbell press – 2 sets of twelve repetitions


Stop focusing too much on your chest and get to working your shoulders as well. You can work out with a partner to motivate you to train harder and more importantly spot you when doing heavy pressing movements. Here is an article on Working Out with a Partner.


Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net