Shoulders are a very delicate muscle group.
They are majorly involved and connected to your chest from the front and your lats from the back.
The Front, side, and rear delts are all small muscles but the shoulder as a whole is a big one.
If you have poor shoulders you are doing something wrong that is detrimental to your shoulder growth, training-wise.
I know this because for years I suffered from small delts.
I used to go to the gym and bang shoulder presses with some serious heavyweights.
Many months would go and I’d still see the same smaller underdeveloped shoulder muscles.
It annoyed the heck out of me.
Because (if you ever saw me) I have a dominant chest.
I used to look really awkward having a big bulging chest but small delts. So I filled my t-shirts depth-wise but not width-wise!
But finally, after many experiments, I figured out how to bring up my stubborn deltoid muscles.
Today, the shoulders are one of my most developed muscle groups. They are my favorite workout days.
In this post, I’ll give you 10 tips you can apply to your shoulder training in order to grow them properly.
This is not an ultimate guide to train your shoulders or how to workout your delts for beginners.
This post is for those who already know how to train but not seeing the results they are looking for.
Those who have lagging shoulders and want to build boulder ones.
Let’s get to it.
13 Tips To Build Bigger Delts
Here are 13 tips to incorporate into your shoulders routine.
You will notice there is not much focus on certain movements. But rather tweaks and modifications to improve the deltoid engagement.
Start with the rear and finish with the front.
Exercise order matters. I learned this the hard way after many trials and errors.
Do the rear deltoid first, then the side, and finally finish with the front delts.
Focus on The Rear Delts.
This might be counterintuitive at the beginning.
If you really want to unlock your shoulders size and width and develop a 3D look,…
“Punish” your rear delt!
There are a variety of exercises you can do, for example:
- Reverse fly pec-deck is a great one.
- Cable and dumbbell raises are great too.
- Face pull is excellent as well.
Pick 3 exercises and do 5 sets each. In each set, do anywhere from 50 reps to 15 reps!
Lighten the weight and focus on your form to establish the mind-muscle connection.
Especially for the rear and side delts.
More sets, and more reps. Go beyond failure and make your delts scream for mercy.
Train your shoulders at least twice a week, preferably three if they are really weak.
One or two separate days. Then train the rear delt on your back (start with 5 light sets before doing back) and train your side and front delt on the chest day (3-4 sets after you finish the chest workout).
Intensity also matters.
Incorporate these training techniques, especially for the side delt:
Drop sets: Do 15 – 10 reps with moderate weight. Lighten the weight and immediately do another 10-12 reps. Lighten the weight and do another 10-8 reps immediately.
Cluster sets: do 8 to 6 reps. Take 10-20 second rest, then do 4 – 6 reps using the same weight. Rest for another 10 – 20 seconds. Then, with the same weight do 2 – 4 reps.
Supersets: Mix and match between two exercises in a row with no rest in between. For example, do dumbbell rear delt raises, followed by face pulls.
Lighten the weight, lighten the weight, and lighten the weight!
Don’t use momentum much. It’s ok to cheat in a few sets but if you want to grow your shoulders you have to isolate them by using lighter weights.
Don’t shrug. Don’t let your trapezoid take over your delt movement. Let the delts do the work.
Do not use momentum. Bending your arms to raising the dumbbells above your shoulder levels will engage the traps and shift the tension away from your side delts.
Correct Form. straighten your arms with a slight bend. Raise the dumbbells until you reach the shoulder levels. Sit down when possible to remove momentum.
Incorporate partial reps for ear and side raise.
There is a place for heavy weights. Partials!
Use 30% heavier dumbbells than you normally use for the full range of motion. And perform the lowest third of the movement. Do as many reps as you can. Make your delts burn so bad.
Then lighten the weight and do the upper 2/3rd of the movement for as many reps.
Incorporate partials. Perform the lowest third of the movement only, followed by the upper 2/3 rd.
Increase the range of motion.
Incorporating cable exercises will help you keep the tension on the muscle throughout the whole movement, especially the stretching/negative part.
This is especially for the rear and side delts. Use the cable, and cross over your arms to increase the range of motion.
Alternatively, you can use one side of the cable machine and stand away from that end.
Correct Form. Cross over your arms on the cable to generate maximum stretch in your delts.
Go Easy on Shoulder Presses.
I prefer to do presses on the last exercise after my shoulders have been warm with blood flow. Sometimes skipping them altogether, though, that’s not recommended if you’re a beginner.
This is because:
- Shoulder presses target primarily the front delts and front raises could be a good substitute.
- You will, at some point in your lifting journey, suffer from a rotator cuff injury by doing them. No matter how experienced you are. And …
- They are not recommended for the long-term health of your shoulders, especially for behind-the-neck barbell presses.
Make the front raises your exercise of choice for the Front Delt.
As we mentioned above, front delts are developed for most lifters. They also receive a ton of activation and exhaustion on the chest day.
For those reasons, do more front raises with dumbbells, cable, or barbells, preferably seated.
When doing shoulder presses, don’t flare your elbows!
Correct Form. Make a 45-degree angle between your arms and your body by bringing your elbows in front of you, Perform the presses on a machine if possible.
If you choose to do shoulder presses, form 45 degrees from your body. Keep your elbows in front of you, not to the side. But also not tucked in.
Machines over free Weights when doing shoulder presses.
I know this is controversial. But trust me, you can perform the presses in a much safer position with a machine than free weights.
You can also do drop sets, cluster sets, or superset much easier with the presses machine.
Shorten rest between the sets.
Since you are using lighter weights, shorten the rest between the sets. 1-2 minutes should be enough.
If you notice, the main theme here if you want to build big shoulders is to focus on isolation movements. Focus on the rear and side delts. Make your shoulder days more intense with high volume.
Follow these tips and watch the size of your delts explode in the next 6 months!