How To Build Big Broad Shoulders That Demand Respect
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Stefano Pizzo, MD
Shoulder width is – to some extent – determined by your genetics and hormone levels during puberty, but this doesn’t automatically mean that you can’t learn how to build big shoulders that are wider, stronger, and more aesthetically pleasing afterward with proper training methods.
Some men are born with narrow shoulders, others with medium width, and some just happen to be well-framed since day one. Like everything in life, we play with the hand we’re dealt.
And when it comes to building big shoulders, no matter what your starting point is, the improvements that can be achieved with optimal training habits in a proper hormonal (anabolic) environment are often mind-blowing.
This provided that you a) know what you’re doing b) actually put in the work c) don’t expect miracles in the a short amount of time.
Learning How to Build Big Shoulders Fast
The male upper body – especially the traps and shoulders – are extremely dense in androgen receptors, thus their growth is significantly accelerated by androgens (testosterone and DHT).
The muscles of the shoulder area are referred to as deltoids or “delts”, these include three distinct sets of muscle fibers;
- Anterior deltoid, which is the front part of the shoulder.
- Medial deltoid, which is the middle part of the shoulder.
- And posterior deltoid, which is the rear part of the shoulder.
When building an aesthetically pleasing set of shoulders which look good from all angles (front, side, and back), you simply have to focus on maximizing the size and strength of these three groups of muscle fibers.
Building big shoulders are not only a true sign of strength and masculinity, they are also guaranteed to assume respect among other men and get glaring views from the opposite sex (that’s right, an Australian study suggests that a wide set of shoulders is even more important “quality” in men than height or dick size).
The questions are: how exactly should you train these deltoids to make them wide and big? How often and with heavy or light weights? Also, what are the best movements?
Shoulder Training Frequency and Optimal Set/Rep Patterns
The possible set and rep patterns to choose from are endless, and there isn’t really one that would be “optimal” as different styles fit different goals. It’s also good to remember that variety and periodization is the key to constant progress, and constant progress is the key to gains in both strength and muscle mass.
The general view for the number of reps is that 2-6 reps per set would make you gain “strength”, whereas 8-12 is the zone for gaining the maximum amount of “muscle mass”.
Smart lifters know that you should be using both ranges in your training for optimal central nervous system strength and muscular gains that occur from the expansion of muscle glycogen stores.
The way that has worked wonders for me and apparently millions of other people (and is proven to work extremely well in scientific studies) is to choose 1-2 multi-joint exercises as your “main exercises” and pick 2-3 isolation exercises as your “assistance exercises”, then you would use the “strength rep range” of 2-6 reps/set for the main lifts, and the glycogen store expanding “mass rep range” of 8-12 reps/set for assistance lifts.
When it comes to the number of sets, it’s all about your goals again, more sets obviously mean more volume, and with fewer sets, you can maximize the intensity (I personally prefer the latter). Generally speaking, your amount of sets per exercise should, however, fall between 2-5 (more than that and you’re really just overtaxing the nervous system).
Here’s an example of what this could look like in practice;
- Main exercise 5×2
- Assistance exercise 8×3
- Another assistance exercise 12×2
- Yet another assistance exercise 10×3
Although the possibilities of different set/rep schemes is endless, the basic guidelines of using the 2-6 rep range for main lifts and 8-12 for assistance work while hitting the shoulders 2-3 times a week should reap massive benefits for most lifters.
Best Movements for Anterior, Medial, and Posterior Delts…
If we combine the knowledge from certified expert trainers with years of experience and the findings of scientific studies, we should come up with a foolproof plan to naturally build big shoulders fast.
Surprisingly enough, the knowledge of the trainers aligns one-to-one with the findings of scientific studies (mainly the types where muscle activation is measured by EMG).
The majority of the trainers have for years recommended doing heavy pressing work for main exercises to hit all of the deltoid heads (but mostly front) and then using lateral raises and reverse raises/flyes to further work the side and rear delts.
In EMG-studies. it was confirmed that this type of movement selection also activates the largest amount of muscle mass.
- Best movements to activate anterior deltoid (main lifts);
- Best movements to activate medial deltoid (assistance lifts);
- Best movements to activate posterior deltoid (assistance lifts);
NOTE: Click the links above to see demonstration videos of the exercises.
Since the shoulder area responds so well to increased testosterone (due to having high levels of androgen receptors) THOR-program, which is designed to elicit maximal hormonal response from training, fits like a nose to the head for sculpting those jaw-dropping wide shoulders.
Here’s an example shoulder workout using the guidelines found in this article (reps/set, rest time 60-90 seconds between sets);
- Standing overhead press with barbell 5×3
- Lateral raise with dumbbells 12×3
- Rear delt flyes with dumbells 10×2
- Face pulls 10×2
Building big shoulders is not rocket science, and although some people try to make it sound like it would be astronomically complex, the reality is that you just need to properly work those three deltoid heads, anterior, posterior, and medial.
You don’t need fancy drop-sets, no muscle confusion bullshit, or any other weird trickery. Just hit the shoulders a few times a week with focus and intensity following the above guidelines and you’ll grow. Also note that as the male upper body is so dense in androgen receptors, shoulders respond extremely well to high levels of testosterone and DHT…