When it comes to building an impressive upper body, most lifters focus on building bigger pecs and biceps. But, if you truly want to create an aesthetic physique and develop the vaunted V-taper, you need to prioritize shoulder development.
Wider shoulders make your frame look proportional, and it can even make your waist look smaller too!
Here are 3 expert tips for maximum shoulder development!
3 Expert Tips for Maximum Shoulder Development
#1 Focus on the Rear Delts
To truly get that 3D look to your shoulders, you can’t just focus on the overhead press. You need to pay equal (if not more) attention to your rear delts.
Now, we understand that rear delt training isn’t very sexy on account of the fact that you can’t load a barbell with a ton of weight. On top of that, most people don’t know how to target the rear delts, which gives the perfect recipe for pathetic, weak, and underdeveloped rear delts.
Simply put, well-built rear delts are essential to achieving “boulder shoulders” as well as your upper body power and overall shoulder health. They play a key role in stabilizing the shoulder for all the other upper body exercises that you do. Plus, having weak rear delts will ultimately limit your ability to progress in other compound lifts like bench press, overhead press, and rows.
To develop bigger, stronger rear delts (like the kind that give you the 3D shape you’re after), you need to stop training them at the end of your workout and place them at the beginning of your workout when you're fresh.
By doing so, you will be able to dedicate more effort, energy, and focus, which helps impose greater stimulation on the fibers of the rear delts for more gains!
Finally, the rear delts are a small muscle group that recover quickly and can handle a high amount of volume. As such, don’t only train your rear delts once a week. You should hit them at least twice per week using a variety of exercises -- bent over raises, reverse pec dec, face pulls, rear delt rows, etc.
Speaking of variety this brings us to our next point...
#2 Use a Variety of Angles & Rep Ranges
The delts are composed of a mixture of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers, and to effectively stimulate both types of fibers, you’ll want to utilize a variety of exercises that attack the three heads of the delts from different angles with different loading.
Put into practice, this means performing some exercises (like overhead or high-incline presses) with heavier loads and lower reps (6-10 reps) as well as some exercises (like laterals, rear delt flyes, and face pulls) with lower loads and higher reps (12-20 reps).
While we’re on the subject, you don’t need any isolation exercises for the front delts (i.e. front delt raises). The reason for this is that most lifters get more than enough front delt work with all the pressing movement for the chest and shoulders already included in their training programs.
#3 Milk Every Rep
This point is of particular import during your isolation exercises like side laterals and rear delt flys. The shoulders are a relatively small muscle group and go through a limited range of motion. That means if you’re going through your reps all herky jerky, the fibers aren’t under tension for all that long, which means they’re not going to do much growing.
Choose a weight that you can control through the entire range of motion using good technique -- no kipping, swinging, or tossing the weight up and letting gravity pull it back down.
Contract the muscle fibers to raise the weight and fight like hell against gravity on the way down. You may not be able to go as heavy as you’re used to (especially on the isolation exercises), but there’s no trophies for the highest 1-rep max on side laterals.
Remember, you’re in the gym to grow bigger, broader shoulders. As such, make sure it’s your muscles doing the work and not your joints, ligaments and connective tissue.