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The 10 best ways to build shoulder muscles How to build bigger and broader shoulders

Die 10 Besten Wege für den Aufbau der Schultermuskeln Wie Du größere und breitere Schultern aufbauen kannst

The question

We asked 10 weight training experts the following question:

What is by far your best training tip for building shoulder mass?

The shoulders need a mix of everything

Shoulders, unlike other muscle groups that grow through a few multi-joint exercises and heavy training alone, need a lot of everything. Why? Because different areas of the shoulder muscles respond better to different stimuli.

The posterior shoulder muscles respond best to high reps and a lot of time under tension. But to develop thick, dense and massive anterior and lateral shoulder muscles, you need to do some heavy shoulder presses or neck presses.

There are two primary key aspects when it comes to building muscular shoulders: the first is variety (training from different angles) and the second is time under tension. The actual weight you move plays only a minor role when it comes to building shoulders.

I'm not saying you should do shoulder presses with 2.5 kilo dumbbells, but super controlled movements with perfect technique will take you a long way. What I like to do, as someone who hates high reps, is to do triple sets or mega sets with different angles, different tempos and different exercises. Here's an example:

Start with heavy barbell shoulder press standing. Perform the first half of the set by stopping the movement just below the ears and pausing in this position for 2 to 3 seconds. Perform the second half of the movement at a normal, steady speed. Then perform two variations of side raises - one where you lean to the side( and one where you stand upright - to train the shoulders from two different angles.

To finish, perform a high repetition posterior shoulder exercise, consciously focusing on maximum contraction at the highest point of the movement. Hold this position of maximum contraction for 2 to 3 seconds during the first half of the set. You can use the same idea and modify it based on your preferences. The options are endless.

- Amit Sapir - IFBB Pro, Powerlifting World Record Age

Focus mainly on isolation training and train the shoulders from as many angles as possible

I like to use "growth factor" sets that combine 2 to 4 isolation exercises for the shoulders, performed without rest. This will keep your shoulders under tension for at least a minute or two.

Of course, there is no doubt that heavy bench presses and heavy overhead presses with low repetitions can increase the mass of your shoulders, but these exercises tend to focus mainly on the front shoulder muscles and the stronger this area becomes, the harder it will be to fully stimulate the lateral part of the shoulder muscles, as the front shoulder muscles will always try to compensate. And the lateral shoulder muscles are more important for broad shoulders.

Although neck presses train all three muscle heads of the shoulder muscles quite well, it might be a good idea not to use too much weight in this exercise.

Try the following: Overhead press with a high number of sets of 3 repetitions with 80 to 85% of your maximum weight. Use a heavy enough weight to improve the recruitment of your fast-twitch muscle fibers and activate the nervous system, but don't go so far up with the weight that it overloads your shoulder joints. Then perform the growth factor supersets described above for the majority of your training session.

Put together your own supersets so that you keep your shoulder muscles under constant tension for one to two minutes.

The shoulder muscles are much more complex than we originally thought. There are more than three starting points. Not to mention that the shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the entire body, which makes it important to use a lot of different angles to both achieve full muscle development and maintain shoulder health.

- Christian Thibaudeau - Strength coach and performance expert

Use cable pulls in combination with traditional intensity techniques

Of course, standing barbell shoulder presses should be one of your basic exercises, but if your main goal is to develop more muscular shoulders, then you should also include cable training in your program.

It's true that most shoulder machines aren't much good. They force you into one plane of movement, which is unnatural because the shoulders don't really work that way. Cable machines, however, are a different story. Cable machines are just as good as dumbbells and in some aspects they are even better. I like the free motion shoulder machine( and similar machines.

With machines like these, you can quickly and easily manipulate all kinds of variables for shoulder growth:

  • Techniques for rapid hypertrophy - With rapid weight changes, you can use descending sets, ascending sets, partial reps, static holds, and pretty much any other proven hypertrophy technique. These machines make it very easy for you to extend the time under tension without having to get another pair of dumbbells or change the weight on the bar.
  • Switching exercises - after a set of overhead presses, you can change your position, quickly change the weight and go straight to a set of burnout side raises, front raises or side raises for the rear shoulder muscles. This also saves you from blocking multiple machines and/or weights, making such a workout great for a busy gym.
  • Grip changes - Unlike a barbell, you can change your grip in the middle of a set: wide, close, underhand, overhand or neutral grip. You can also switch from bilateral (both arms) to unilateral (one arm) exercises without pausing.
  • Angle - As an added bonus, the cable machine allows you to change the direction of pull at will and choose any angle, which is completely impossible with most other machines. I recently injured my AC joint when I had to rescue a group of nuns from a group of terrorists* It was completely impossible to use a barbell after that, but the cable machine allowed me to manipulate the angle and tension so that I could train around the injury and recover from it faster.

* Okay, I tripped over my dog....

- Chris Shugart - T Nation Chief Creative Officer

The best way to build shoulder muscles is to use triple sets The shoulder muscles are made up of 50% fast contracting and 50% slow contracting muscle fibers (Madidis et al. 2007). To target both types of muscle fibers, the following training program includes the specific repetition ranges and uses both heavy and lighter weights.

The shoulder muscles respond best to multiple exercises with short rest intervals and a variation of load and resistance mechanics (i.e. free weights, machines and cable pulleys).

Give the following triple set a shot:

  • 1A dumbbell side raises, 6-8 reps
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 1B Side raises on a machine, 10-12 repetitions
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 1C Cable side raises, 15-20 reps
  • 120 seconds rest
  • Repeat the whole thing

Would you like to make this triple set more challenging? Instead of increasing the weight, which often leads to poor technique in side raises, you can perform exercise A1 in a seated position and perform the negative repetition of the cable side raise (1B) more slowly.

When performing side raises, you should not focus on using the heaviest weight possible, but on consciously feeling every millimeter of each repetition.

- Michael Warren - Strength coach and performance expert

Try kneeling scrape the rack presses(

The disrespectful answer would be to tell you at this point to do shoulder presses and shut up. However, the problem with shoulder presses is that most people are really, REALLY bad at this exercise and end up turning this exercise into a standing version of incline bench presses - they bend their back so far back that they don't train the shoulders nearly as intensely as they'd like.

One exercise I like to use with my clients is kneeling scrape the rack presses.

When you kneel, you take the lower back out of the equation, which automatically makes this exercise more challenging as it's harder to falsify. And since you're pressing against the rack, you'll achieve greater activation of the serratus and recruitment of the posterior core will help you achieve a slightly more posterior pelvic tilt, resulting in better overall posture for the exercise execution.

I often have my clients perform a heavy set of this exercise with 6 to 8 reps followed by a lighter dumbbell variation so they can really feel their shoulder muscles working. Most exercisers have a hard time getting their shoulder muscles to grow because they use too much momentum from the whole body to support them.

After the scrape the rack presses, perform one of these two exercises using light dumbbells (5 to 10 kilos):

  • Dumbbell side raises: aim for 20 to 30 repetitions
  • Dumbbell side raises using the ladder principle:
  • perform 5 repetitions with a 5-second hold in the highest position
  • perform 4 repetitions with a 4-second hold,
  • perform 3 repetitions with a 3-second hold,
  • perform 2 repetitions with a 2-second hold,
  • perform 1 repetition

- Tony Gentilcore - Strength coach and performance expert

Perform isodynamic side raises

If you want to build muscular shoulders, keep training heavy and build strength. Then finish your training session with isodynamic side raises ( This method involves holding in the highest position of the side lift at the beginning of the set to improve your mind-muscle connection and give your muscle growth a boost - especially for the lateral head of the shoulder.

Since the lateral shoulder head is notoriously difficult to recruit, this method will help you recruit stagnant muscle fibers in their development while putting your shoulders under a ton of metabolic stress and providing plenty of tension to stimulate growth. Hold the dumbbells in this position for about 10 to 20 seconds and then perform 10 to 15 repetitions. Repeat for 3 to 5 sets with 30 to 60 seconds rest between sets.

- Eric Bach - Strength coach and performance expert

Mega sets of side raises using a 25-5-10 repetition scheme

Start with a light pair of dumbbells and perform 25 repetitions. Then immediately take a heavier pair of dumbbells and perform 15 repetitions. Then take an even heavier pair of dumbbells and perform another 10 repetitions. Rest for a few minutes while you curse yourself and then perform the next mega set. Now start with 10 repetitions, followed by 15 repetitions, followed by 25 repetitions. If you do this twice a week, you will almost certainly build some new muscle mass in the lateral shoulder muscles.

- Paul Carter - weight training and bodybuilding coach

The training tip that plays the biggest role in shoulder development consists of two parts

  • Find out how much shoulder press you can tolerate
  • Find out what supplemental training you can do to increase this tolerance

Most exercisers will experience shoulder problems at some point and even those who don't experience symptoms usually have something structurally wrong. Most people over 50 will suffer from some pathological changes to the rotator cuff, so you could make the argument that everyone is on the road to shoulder problems. This path is just a little longer for some than others.

With that in mind, the best tip for long-term shoulder development is to figure out how much shoulder press you can tolerate. Cycle shoulder presses throughout the year. Replace shoulder presses with landmine presses( or additional horizontal presses here and there.

Also remember that any bit of prevention is better than any cure. Incorporate some external rotator training at the end of your upper body workouts - just 2 to 3 sets a week can make a big difference. Do some shoulder lifts as a warm up. Use a fascia roller for your pecs, latissimus and upper body. Do more pulling exercises than pushing exercises. All of these things will increase your tolerance to shoulder presses and lead to better long-term results.

- Eric Cressey - Strength and performance coach

Perform push presses (standing shoulder presses with momentum from the legs) with emphasized negative repetitions

When it comes to building massive shoulders, the key is strategic overload, eccentric muscle damage and time under tension. Push presses with emphasized (i.e. extra slow) negative repetitions cover each of these hypertrophy-inducing mechanisms. This makes this exercise one of the most effective functional mass building exercises for the entire shoulder area including the shoulder muscles, trapezius and upper back.

Simply perform standard push presses using the strength of your lower and upper body to move the weight up overhead. Pause at the highest position for several seconds and then lower the weight over a period of 4 to 5 seconds. Pause at the lowest point of the movement before repeating for a total of 3 to 6 repetitions.

Since the weight should be about 15 to 25% heavier than the weight you typically use in a strict standing shoulder press, performing these controlled negative repetitions will increase the muscle-building benefits. Think of this exercise as heavy negative reps for the shoulders, where momentum from the legs instead of a training partner will help you move the weight up.

Aside from the hypertrophy stimulus these negative reps generate, using excessively heavy weights with strict motor control and rigid body mechanics will do wonders for your strength and neuromuscular efficiency. As a result, your weights should increase dramatically on nearly every upper body exercise, which will have a direct impact on building gigantic shoulders.

Due to the extended time under tension (each repetition should be at least 8 seconds long), a full set should last around 30 seconds. Using heavy weights in an overhead position for such a long period of time will stimulate massive muscle gains.

Want to increase the challenge a little more? Then perform your last set and then reduce the weight by half before performing more strict reps to muscle failure without rest. This will be so uncomfortable that it's almost unbearable, but the resulting shoulder growth will be worth the pain.

- Joel Seedman, Ph.D. - Strength coach and performance expert

Maximum shoulder mass requires variety

In addition to the different variations of the shoulder press and rowing upright, you should perform front raises, side raises and side raises for the posterior shoulder muscles from different positions and with different forms of resistance. My favorite methods include:

  • Descending sets of dumbbell side raises
  • Side raises with elastic bands and high repetitions using elastic bands with handles
  • Lean away side raises on the cable where you lean away from the cable
  • Side raises for the rear shoulder muscles lying on a bench
  • Reverse butterflies
  • Heavy one-arm dumbbell side raises leaning slightly forward while leaning against a wall.

If your shoulder muscles are a weak link in the chain and you are looking to improve them quickly, then you should train your shoulders three times a week with 9 sets per session.

- Bret Contreras - Strength coach and performance expert


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