Maximum Shoulder Width by Jim Haislop

“When I think back on my early years of bodybuilding, I can recall the physiques that impressed me most. These physiques were men I had seen starring as Hercules in the movies. The main thing that stayed firmly planted in my mind, other than their muscles mass was their great width. I think that everyone admires someone with wide shoulders. This seems to be the mark of manhood. Whenever someone is telling me about somebody they know that lifts weights or is naturally strong, they always say, “Boy that guy is a yard wide.” This seems to be the statement that is always used then a point of great strength is trying to be brought forth.

I can remember when I was younger I would listen to strongmen stories with my playmates. As an exciting point was told we would draw in a deep breath and raise our shoulders to make them wide. This we did imitating the strongman’s appearance.

Today the width of the shoulders is till an asset in a physique contest. Whenever the contestants appear in a group on stage the men with the wide shoulders always stand out above the other contestants.

The only way you can increase your shoulder width is to develop your deltoids. You may say your shoulders are already wide enough so you will spend more time on other body-parts. While you may have good width due to naturally long clavicle bones, you will be much more impressive with well developed deltoids that give your shoulders that powerful look.

Complete deltoid development also adds roundness and fullness to the shoulders. Fully developed deltoids are only obtained when a variety of exercises are used. Too many bodybuilders do only one exercise for their deltoids which results in a poorly shaped deltoid that lacks thickness. You should include an exercise for the front, rear and side of your shoulders.

The best exercise for specializing on the deltoids are, up-right rowing and front raises for the front of the shoulders. Seated and standing presses give you over-all roundness and laterals work the sides. Laterals to the rear combined with chins and pulldowns work the rear deltoid. There are many other exercises that involve the deltoids but these are designed specifically for deltoid specialization. I favor them in my shoulder routine. I personally like to do four sets of each exercise. I always try to get around ten repetitions to a set.

In every training session, even in a home gym by yourself, you can obtain a maximum shoulder workout. This is because you do not need a training partner for shoulder work when you increase the weight. This is not true with other body parts.

I have noticed that many bodybuilders tend to use a cheating action in all of their deltoid exercises. The exercises that are done incorrectly most are the lateral movement.

Everyone seems to be throwing the weight up rather than keeping a tension on the muscle at all times. Remember this type of training will only delay your progress so perform every repetition in strict style.

Be patient and remember to give any series of deltoid exercises you select a chance to prove their worth. Don’t expect miracles overnight. The leading physique stars of today and in the past spend many years of obtaining complete deltoid development.

While it is true everyone will not obtain deltoid development like the drawing of Hercules, everyone can improve.

No matter what degree of shoulder development you achieve through your training efforts, you will be successful if you will concentrate on every movement and perform it correctly.

I like to train my shoulders after chest work. By working my chest prior to my deltoids I get an adequate warm up in the entire shoulders area. I always train shoulders on my upper body day, keeping the blood congested in one general area. It is important for you to finish training one area of the shoulders before going on to another. By this I mean you should do all your anterior (front) exercises before going on to your lateral (side ) and posterior (rear) one.

I will start with the anterior portion of the deltoid and explain the correct method of training for its development. I will also give you a few hints I have picked up through exercising the deltoids up through exercising the deltoids in my past years of training.

Anterior (front deltoid)
Upright rowing has always been one of my favorite exercises. It gives you separation in the front deltoid like no other exercises can. To perform this exercise hold a bar in front of you with your hands about three inches apart and your arms extended downward. Stand very erect and pull the bar steadily upward until it touches the bottom of your chin. Lower the bar and repeat this action for ten repetitions.

I have found if I pick out a spot on the ceiling and look upward while performing this exercise I am able to do each repetition stricter. This also helps me to concentrate and I get a higher pull on the upward movement.

Front Raises

I have used the front raise for my shoulder development in one form or another for many years. I am now doing it with dumbbells alternately and find it works best for me. Use a pair of dumbbells that will allow you to do from eight to ten repetitions without swinging or arching your back. To perform front dumbbell raises hold a pair of dumbbells at your side, raise and lower them alternately to a position slightly above horizontal. Always keep the dumbbells turned upward and your palms facing each other.

Lateral (side deltoid)

Side lateral raises can be done in many variations but I prefer to do them on an incline bench about 45 degrees from the floor and one arm at a time. To perform the lateral raise lie on your side on an incline bench with your arms hanging vertical to the floor.

Raise your arm up slowly until it is over head and again in a vertical position. Return your arms to the starting position and repeat this action for ten repetitions. When you have finished one shoulder turn over on your other side and work it in the same manner. Be sure to do four sets for each shoulder. If you prefer to work both shoulders at one time you can do so by using two dumbbells while standing upright.

Posterior (rear deltoid)
The rear deltoid are worked in almost the same way as the side deltoids. The main difference is that you will raise the dumbbell toward the rear while on the inclined bench.

You will bend over from the waist when using two dumbbells in a standing position. The rear of the deltoids are also worked extensively while doing chins and pulldowns to the back of the neck. Even though the former two exercisers are primarily for the latissimus dorsi muscles they should not be overlooked for complete deltoid development.

Seated Press (dumbbell or barbell)

The seated press behind the neck is not only a great deltoid developer but also gives added strength and power to the shoulders. I have always done this exercise seated because it puts a direct stress on the shoulders and limits the chance for any back injury.

I am currently using dumbbells for my press and I find they are more beneficial than the straight bar because they can be lowered further, thus giving a more complete development.

The seated press is a very simple exercise to perform. Choose a bar or a pair of dumbbells that will allow you to get from eight to ten repetitions. You will need a box or a chair to sit on so that your legs will be in a 90 degree position. This angle is important because if it is less than 90 degrees you are likely to get a cramp in either hip when pressing.

Throughout this article I have mentioned various shoulder specialization exercises. However, if you are a beginner you should concentrate mainly on the basic exercises.

I suggest that you employ upright rowing and press behind the neck. These two are fundamental and will give the beginner a solid foundation for future deltoid work.

Such a foundation is necessary so that ligament and tendon injury is avoided.

Therefore, if you follow the above suggestions you can obtain the symmetry and deltoid contour that you desire.”

photos by Doug White

Leave a comment

Consent Management Platform by Real Cookie Banner