How To Build Huge Shoulders (Your Blueprint For Quick Gains)

So you are wanting to know how to build huge shoulders?  Then buckle up as I am going to take you through everything you need to know, followed by a shoulder routine that will accelerate your gains.

Shoulders, the one muscle group that can really make or break a physique.  If you have them, then there is no covering them up.  Regardless of what you wear, a wide and full set of delts will always shine through.  But in truth why would you want to hide them away anyway.  A good set of shoulders can transfer an average and timid looking physique into an extremely powerful looking one that others in the gym will be in awe of.  Shoulders should be a set of muscles near the top of everyone’s wish list, both men and women.  Why?  Well, for one thing, a wide set of delts will automatically make your waist look smaller, and there is not one person in the world who wouldn’t want that, right?


What Are The Common Mistakes?  To Much Front Delt Work

One of the most common things you will see in the gym these days, apart from people with overpowering upper bodies and zero leg development, is unbalanced shoulders.  Due to people not really understanding the makeup of the shoulders, you will see many with hugely overdeveloped front delts, average medial delts and rear delts that are non-existent.

Why is this such a common thing to see?  It’s simple, out of all the heads that make up the shoulders (anterior, medial and posterior), its the anterior delts that are worked the hardest when doing any pushing movements.  This not only includes overhead barbell or dumbbell pressing, but also flat bench pressing and all the other angle variations.

Animated male athlete flat barbell pressing demonstrating how the front delts are used frequently.

So not only are you overloading your front delts when training shoulders, but also when you are training chest.  Couple this with bad technique on isolation exercises like lateral raises which are designed to really stimulate the medial delts, then you have a recipe for a set of really imbalanced shoulders.


Heavy Lifting And Low Volume VS Moderate Lifting And High Volume

This is definitely one of those cases where it’s not one or the other.  Both styles can play a huge role when looking to build your delts.  Studies have been done showing the delts are made up of 50% slow and 50% fast twitch muscle fibres (Madidis et al. 2007).  This straight away indicates that both heavy lifting and higher volume with more moderate weights should play a role in your shoulder program.

Heavy pressing 100% has its place and can really aid in building a huge set of shoulders, but as said above this really does focus mainly on the front delts.  The problem is if you just focused on this, because your front delts will become so overdeveloped, it then becomes harder and harder to stimulate your mid and rear delts.  Getting the right balance between pressing heavy and isolation exercises to really target the mid and read delts is key to building an all-around big, wide and strong set of shoulders.


Variety, Time Under Tention And Short Rest Periods Work Best

Due to the shoulders being made up of three separate heads, it’s important to come at them with all types of angles.  As I said before, just pressing and doing badly formed lateral raises aren’t going to cut it.  You will have bulging front delts, but zero width and lets not even go into what your rear delts would look like.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great slugging heavy weights around, maybe not so much for your joints but definitely for your ego.  However, shoulder’s are the one muscle group that will really benefit from you doing everything in perfect form.  Especially when it comes to isolating the rear and mid delts.

Shoulders really do benefit from a lot of time under tension.  This can be produced with a high volume approach and short rest intervals.  Even when doing your heavy pressing.

Another technique that is really great at building the delts and keeping the muscles under tension for longer, is supersets, tri-sets and growth factor sets (4 exercises back to back on the same muscle group).

As I have said before you don’t need to cut out your heavy pressing, but make sure everything is performed perfectly, as actual weight definitely plays a secondary role when it comes to building your shoulders.  Time under tension is key.


Prioritise Delts By Training Them Twice A Week

So the most common split you will see in the gym is the bro split.  What’s this?  Well, it’s split that lets you hit each muscle group just once a week.  It will look something like this.

  • Monday – Chest
  • Tuesday – Back
  • Wednesday – Shoulders
  • Thursday – Legs
  • Friday – Arms
  • Saturday – Day Off
  • Sunday – Day Off

This is a perfectly good split and one I have phases of doing myself, especially when doing a more strength focused plan.  However, the body didn’t come up with a 7 day week.  That’s something us as humans did.  It will take maybe 4 days for the muscles to recover from doms, so why not hit certain muscle groups, especially weak points with a little more frequency.

This doesn’t have to be forever.  You could focus on adding an extra shoulder session into your week for say an 8 to 10 week period.  I will regularly train each and every muscle group twice a week, heck back in the 70s athletes like Arnie would train them 3 times a week.  So doing one muscle group twice a week and the rest once will not have any negative effects.


Make Sure You Look After Those Rotator Cuffs

The most common injuries in the gym are caused by weak and unactivated shoulder stabilisers.  In fact, injuries felt in other parts of the body are often caused by weak shoulder stabilisers.

These are the muscles you can’t see but at the same time, they are so important for shoulder health and preventing injuries.  Although I am not going to include the exercises within the program below, it’s incredibly important that you tackle these 2 to 3 times a week.  Yes, I know they are boring to train, but you will thank me later on down the line when you not only have a great looking set of delts, but also a healthy and injury free set of delts.

Below is a fantastic video showing you 10 of the very best exercises you can do to strengthen your rotator cuffs.  You can do variations of these exercises using dumbbells and cable machines.


How To Build Huge Shoulders – The Program

It’s time to show you the program.  This is just one of many variations you can do, however, all the principles talked about above are included.

If you are used to training each muscle group just once a week, then add a second shoulder session in for 8 to 10 weeks.  However, once you go back to doing shoulders just once a week, still use the same principles.  A mix of heavy lifting, time under tension and short rest intervals.  A usual bro split program with a second shoulder session added in could look something like this.

  • Monday – Chest
  • Tuesday – Back
  • Wednesday – Shoulders
  • Thursday – Legs
  • Friday – Arms
  • Saturday – Shoulders
  • Sunday – Day Off

If you wanted to stick to just 5 days training a week, then your training week could look like this.

  • Monday – Shoulders
  • Tuesday – Back and Biceps
  • Wednesday – Chest and Triceps
  • Thursday – Legs
  • Friday – Shoulders
  • Saturday – Day Off
  • Sunday – Day Off

Shoulders Day 1

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period
ASeated Dumbbell Press10330 Seconds
BBarbell Upright Rows8830 Seconds
C1Behind The Neck Barbell Press5810 to 15 Seconds
C2Lateral Raises5810 to 15 Seconds
C345 degree bench reverse flyes5810 to 15 Seconds

Session Notes

  1. Each movement should have a controlled powerful concentric phase followed by a slow controlled eccentric phase (3 to 4 seconds)
  2. Do not lock out your joints on any pushing movement.  This will keep constant tension through the muscles.
  3. C1, C2 and C3 are done as a tri-set.  Take 15 seconds rest between each exercise and once the 1st round is complete rest for 30 seconds before repeating again.
  4. You should only be reaching failure by the last 2 or 3 sets of each exercise.
  5. Make sure you use perfect form on each exercise.
  6. Use a stopwatch to time your rest.  It’s far to easy to sit there too long without one, which will cause you to lose the desired training effect and pump.

Shoulders Day 2

ExerciseSetsRepsRest Period
ABehind The Neck Press101030 Seconds
BBarbell Upright Rows8830 Seconds
C1Cable Lat Raises8830 Seconds
C245 degree bench Reverse flyes8810 to 15 Seconds
C3Cable Reverse Flyes8830 Seconds

Session Notes

  1. Each movement should have a controlled powerful concentric phase followed by a slow controlled eccentric phase (3 to 4 seconds)
  2. Do not lock out your joints on any pushing movement.  This will keep constant tension through the muscles.
  3. You should only be reaching failure by the last 2 or 3 sets of each exercise.
  4. Make sure you use perfect form on each exercise.
  5. Use a stopwatch to time your rest.  It’s far to easy to sit there too long without one, which will cause you to lose the desired training effect and pump.

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT

Please please please watch this video before attempting to train your rear delts.  It’s a fantastic video I have found and shows exactly the correct way you should be doing 45-degree bench reverse flyes.


How To Progress The Training

It’s incredibly important that you keep moving forward and progressing.  The way I want you to do that with your shoulder routine is not by adding extra weight straight away, but by reducing your rest periods between each set.

Once you can complete each set of an exercise without failing, you then reduce your rest time down from 30 seconds to 25 seconds.  The same rule applies again, once you can do all sets without failing, you then give yourself only 20 seconds rest.  You do this one more time until you are only having 15 seconds rest between each set.

You then add more weight and move your rest time back up to 30 seconds between each set.

Doing this will constantly allow you to work harder and get more work in, in a shorter space of time.  This will really explode your results.


How Does This Work With The Tri-Sets?

Once you are at 10 seconds rest between each exercise, you then look at starting to reduce the 30 seconds rest time down after each tri-set using the same method as above.  You do this until it is down to just 10 seconds.  Below is what a tri-set will look like once all rest time is down to just 10 seconds

Set 1

Behind The Neck Press – 8 Reps

10 seconds rest

Lateral Raise – 8 Reps

10 seconds rest

45-degree Reverse Bench Flyes

10 seconds Rest

Set 2

Behind The Neck Press – 8 Reps

10 seconds rest

Lateral Raise – 8 Reps

10 seconds rest

45-degree Reverse Bench Flyes

10 seconds Rest

Keep Repeating until all 5 rounds are complete.


How To Build Huge Shoulders Key Takeaways

There you have it.  by focusing on this program above you will not only build those wide and think shoulders you have always wanted, but you will have proper balance to the muscles as well.  Your mid and rear delts will look just as impressive as your front delts.

Remember, due to the 3 separate heads, shoulders need training at a lot of different angles to get a balanced look.  They also react extremely well to a lot of time under tension and need to be trained in good form, especially exercises used to isolate your mid and rear delts.  This way those over dominating front delts who be doing all the work.


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