Being broad and boorish is the look a lot of men are striving for. But are you doing the right exercises to achieve the look you want? I have seen men go from looking like a pear to looking like an upside-down Dorito. This is a complete redefining of how they look, as well as how they view themselves.
Of course, there are tons of exercises to help someone get boulder shoulders, and those exercises are a great place to start. If your shoulders aren’t big enough to warrant showing off, why broaden your body and push them even further out?
So, my first recommendation is to make sure your shoulders are big enough already to justify putting them out there for the whole world to see.
If you think you are right on the cusp don’t worry, the exercises below will also help grow your shoulders like nothing before. The goal here is to create an upper body wide enough that regardless of if you have a 36-inch waist, it looks small in comparison.
If you have decided it’s time to stop looking like a 15-year-old boy or 70-year-old woman and want to redefine your physique, read on.
1. Shoulder lateral raises should be a staple exercise if your goal is to create width throughout your upper body.
You want to look less like a spruce tree and more like a Dragons Blood Tree. Focus all your energy on growth in the right direction through the right muscle groups up top.
Your shoulders have three parts (or three heads). The anterior (front delt), lateral or medial (side delt) and posterior (rear delt). Each plays an integral role in defining the shape and integrity of the shoulder musculature. Often when guys are trying to get big shoulders, they do tons of overhead pressing movements, possibly to a fault.
Overhead pressing is extremely good for overall shoulder health and stability but is it the best movement for shoulder width? I would argue it is not. Lateral raises target the lateral head of the deltoids. This incurs growth then on the part of the shoulder that sticks outwards in the frontal plane, therefore changing your appearance and physique to create a wider upper body.
If you’ve been doing these and not noticing a change you are doing them wrong. It is well known to use light weight for shoulder lateral raises due to the amount of torque placed on the shoulders when the weight is held far away from the body in the final position.
Do I see guys using light weights though? No, I do not.
What I do see is guys with less than average shoulder musculature picking up 30-pound dumbbells and using momentum to lift them instead of their shoulders. Or they bend over backwards to get them all the way up, therefore incorporating the larger stronger front delts and deactivating the side delt. Leaning too far forward to lift the weight with the help of your traps and rear delts, again takes the focus away from the target muscle, the side delts.
To properly perform the lateral raise, keep the weight light, although heavy enough to induce muscle damage, and get close to fatigue but not heavy enough to put your shoulders in danger of injury.
Stand tall with a proud chest, lift the weights directly to your sides with a focus on keeping your pinky finger slightly higher than your pointer finger. Lift with purpose, keeping the focus on feeling the weight fatigue your lateral delt to the point where you feel like you can no longer continue with good form, then stop.
To create sufficient tension throughout the muscle itself I recommend using a single arm approach on a cable machine.
With your feet close to the machine, you will grab the vertical bar with your other hand to hold yourself while you lean away and pull the cable coming from ground height to a position parallel to the shoulder doing the lifting. Dumbbells are also great for lateral raises, but cables are superior as they maintain the same amount of tension throughout the entire course of the movement. Whereas the tension from a dumbbell will change throughout the movement.
To get stronger you workout movements, to change your physique you workout muscles.
Therefore, the goal with the lateral raise is not to gain shoulder strength, you’re going to gain plenty of strength if you continue doing your overhead presses. The goal of the lateral raise is to isolate the lateral part of the deltoid to increase size in a specific muscle group to illicit change in body composition. You’re going to look different.
2. Lat pulldowns are the second exercise on the list to grow shoulders that make people think they are looking at the side of a bus when you come walking towards them.
Thought the list was going to be all shoulder exercises? Shoulders are hardly the only factor in truly gaining width through the upper body.
To see real physique change, more than one muscle group will be targeted for a specific goal of creating width where you want it. If you think only bodybuilders use words like physique and can change the way their musculature forms their appearance, there is no wonder you haven’t been successful yet.
To keep things simple, I am not going to describe every origin and insertion of the latissimus dorsi muscles. I will tell you they connect to your humorous to manipulate your arm in pulling motions and go down as far as your pelvis. That is an enormous muscle that is not utilized enough by the average man in recognition of upper body width.
So, what really gets those lats ‘flaring’ out, making you look like an eagle that’s about to take off? Pulldowns are one of the simplest exercises to do that almost every gym-goer recognizes as a back exercise.
There are a few ways to do a proper pulldown, single arm, single arm alternating, two arm wide grip, two arm close grip and two arm reverse grip to name a few. As much argument as surrounds the differing effects of a wide grip and a shoulder width grip (what most people would call close grip), there really isn’t a whole lot of difference in aftereffects relating to physique.
A wider grip does not equate to wider lats. In fact, it stretches them less at the top of the movement as opposed to a closer grip and especially a reverse grip. The stretch at the top of the movement is part of the effect you are looking for in an effective lat pulldown.
To perform the movement properly your arms should be directly overhead at the top of the movement and recoiled all the way to your chest at the bottom.
A smooth movement with no swinging/momentum, excessive backward leaning, or internal rotation at the bottom of the movement. 8-12 methodical repetitions of this with a specific focus on lat engagement and you’ll be flying away in no time.
The lats are a prime muscle when it comes to gaining broadness in the upper body. So again, don’t work movements trying to pull as much weight as possible. For a superior burn, focus on pulling specifically with your lats and squeezing your back together at the bottom of the movement; compared to others who fly through their reps with too heavy of a weight, while swinging their body back and forth like a fish out of water.
3. Chest Flies are number three on our list today.
I would be surprised if anybody in the gym looking to increase size or strength throughout their upper body told me they weren’t doing at least some form of chest fly.
The benefits of this exercise are twofold. Firstly, the size of your chest plays a large role in the width of your upper body. Secondly, the motion of a chest fly in and of itself forces you to stretch a muscle that when tight, pulls your shoulders forward/inward thus creating the opposite effect and decreasing how wide you appear to be.
Let’s talk about number one first. Pectoral musculature is a huge factor in redefining your true attainable width. The larger your chest, the bigger your upper body will look. Chest flies are a great exercise for adding mass to your chest and growing a muscle large enough to support the look of a wide frame.
Secondly, the stretching effect chest flies have on the muscle allow your chest to grow without tightening and causing a negative effect on your wider appearance by pulling your shoulders inward.
The greatest way to give yourself the biggest stretch possible, while maintaining shoulder integrity and safety, is to use the pec deck.
If your goal is to grow your shoulders and width through your upper body, you should already know what the pec deck is. This machine guides your arms along a straight pathway allowing you to use more weight and focus on real chest activation as opposed to dumbbells.
Dumbbells are a great alternative if you don’t have access to a pec deck, but they will cause more stress on the shoulder joint. So, you will be forced to use lighter weights than your chest really needs to grow. Cables are a better second option than dumbbells, but the pec deck is superior to all!
To properly do a chest fly you want to keep your head and shoulders back, again put yourself in a proud chest position, this refers to puffing your chest up and forcing your shoulders back.
If your shoulders are forward you are going to engage your front delt and defeat the entire purpose of this exercise. Methodically pull the weight in front of yourself, around chest height or lower, if it is too high you are going to be using too much front delt again. At the height of the movement make sure to squeeze your chest together as hard as you can, when you let the weight out allow it to stretch your chest then contract again with a focus on chest activation purposefully squeezing your chest together by flexing the muscles, not just rolling your shoulders forward.
If you do these three exercises regularly and focus on proper muscle activation and engagement instead of just blasting through the movement using brute force, I guarantee you will cause yourself to change for the wider.
When width is your goal, focus on the muscles that bring about the most change in that department.
As a simple word of warning. I will say that two out of the three exercises mentioned above are heavy internal rotators. What this means is the chest and lats when overworked compared to other important muscles can cause your shoulders to roll forward.
To achieve true width these are the muscles to focus on growing and developing. But like any good program you must incorporate accessory movements to counteract the overdevelopment in your width increasing muscles. Make sure your program incorporates face pulls and rear delt flies as well as the above three primary widening exercises, and you won’t fall short of your goal of having to turn sideways through door frames!