If you’re looking to build that tapered V shape made popular by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane, then having a broad set of muscular shoulders is an absolute must.
In addition, large delts will also improve the appearance of your arms and biceps, making them look bigger and more defined, as well as preventing them from looking like two pathetic snooker balls in a sock.
Inevitably, if you hit your shoulders hard you’ll have women fawning over your athletic frame and men giving you the silent nod of approval as you make your way across the weights room.
Skip them and you’ll end up looking more like Johnny Rotten than Johnny Bravo.
However, many gym-goers, despite training their shoulders regularly and diligently, fail to make any true progress or end up causing themselves a lot of shoulder pain in the process.
So, here are some tips which you can employ to take your shoulder development to the next level and safely build deltoids which are the size of cannonballs.
The Military Press, or Overhead Press, is the number 1 way to build those huge, solid deltoids.
Certainly from my experience, hitting the front of my shoulders (anterior deltoids) hard with heavy weights on the overhead press has been the gift that keeps on giving.
In the past I’ve had success with the 5×5 protocol, but your body may respond better with 4-5 sets of 10-12 reps.
Don’t bother substituting the Military Press with another shoulder press exercise (dumbbell shoulder press, Arnie press), just hit this compound exercise hard and consistently and feel the burn!
Also, in order to prevent injury and maintain a healthy set of shoulders, ensure that you only include one major overhead pressing exercise per session.
Build a thicker chest and back
Building shoulders that are as broad and impressive as a large oak wardrobe will also depend on the development of your chest and back.
For example, if you have an underdeveloped back and an overdeveloped chest, your shoulders will arch forward, which is certainly not the look that you want to work towards!
By building up a solid chest and back, your deltoids will look all the more wider and well proportioned.
Ensure you are hitting the ‘Big Daddy’ compound lifts which target your back (deadlift, bent over row, wide grip pull ups) and chest (flat bench, incline and decline bench) and you’ll be well on your way to building the perfect foundation for those cannonball delts to rest on.
However, ensure you are being sensible when planning your workout split.
Keep everything balanced – for example, try not to hit your shoulders the day after a monster chest session as your workout will suffer, for many chest exercises, such as the bench press, will indirectly target your delts.
Sculpting the shoulder
There are lots of other exercises that you can do to sculpt the other areas of your shoulders (rear and side) and bring out a definition that wouldn’t look out of place in an impressionist painting.
These ‘secondary’ exercises can comprise:
1) Upright Rows
Upright rows mainly target the lateral head of the deltoid, which will build the caps on your shoulders, allowing for that sculpted, rounded and fuller look.
Ensure that you are not bringing the weight above shoulder level as this will minimise the risk of injury.
2) Lateral Raises
I perform lateral raises lying down to isolate my rear delts and lateral to front raises to hit the medial and frontal head of the deltoids.
For the rear deltoids you can also use a reverse pecdec or cable rear delt pulls.
Use lighter weights, 12-15 reps per set, and keep your rest intervals short.
Shrugs are a great exercise for targeting the traps and the width of your upper back.
Ensure that you stretch your neck out after performing shrugs in order to prevent uncomfortable tightness from developing.
Also, your traps, like your quads or calves, respond better to higher rep work.
So leave your ego at the door, lighten the weight, and pound those traps into submission with 3 sets of 20+ reps.
Wrapping it up
So, there we have it, a range of actionable tips which you can start introducing into your workout regime to build a solid set of delts.
With hard work, consistency, and a good diet, that V shape that you’ve been dreaming of is certainly achievable.
Good luck – and if you have any thoughts or questions I’d love to hear from you, just hit me up with a comment below.
Henry is a fitness junkie with a passion for heavy squats and the Martial Arts. You can find him blogging about fitness, strength training and bodybuilding over at GymTalk.