Basketball-sized Shoulders: Here’s how to get ’em

So, you want boulder shoulders huh? You press, you flail, you lateral raise and still nothing. “Where’s my shoulders??” you scream. You want bigger, boulder shoulders? This is your guide to bigger and wider shoulders with the best shoulder workouts. Keep reading.

Let’s take it back to basics.

Your shoulder is comprised of 3 “heads”. Just like your triceps have three, and biceps two, you shoulder has three different heads. There’s the front delt (used in many pressing movements), side or lateral delt (used in lateral raises) and the rear delt (used in many back exercises).

Shoulder muscle anatomy

Best Shoulder Exercises To Get Big

Barbell Shoulder Press

Oh baby. Nothing else makes you feel like a monster than lifting some heavy-ass weight over your head.

The barbell shoulder press is a mass-building exercise that you need in your program if you want big shoulders. Nothing says “that guy lifts” than huge basketball-sized shoulders.

The barbell shoulder press, either standing with a barbell or seated in a smith machine, works the front deltoid (hint hint thats the part you want bigger!)

For best results, load it up with heavy weight. Get your small accessory shoulder work in (lateral raises, rear delt flyes, etc) and go apeshit on the barbell shoulder press.

Front delts respond best to heavy weight, usually under 12 reps. Any more than that and it’s more of an exercise in pain tolerance.

A proper workout program should also include specific warm ups for each exercise too, as a way to reduce injury and prepare the body for lifting.

Behind The Neck Barbell Shoulder Press

Nothing else made my shoulders feel so good than behind the neck barbell pressing. If you have crappy mobility, this is not an exercise for you.

Just as barbell shoulder press, the difference here is that the bar is lowed to behind your neck (usually to about ear level). For some, this is more of a natural pressing movement since you’re pressing the weight straight up instead of in-front of you (normal barbell press).

Behind the neck pressing nails your shoulders that barbell shoulder press may not. Since it’s force you to come “back” more (rather than having the bar in front of you), it hits more of your lateral and posterior (side and rear) delt more.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Next to the barbell shoulder press, the dumbbell shoulder press is the second best choice for getting huge, boulder shoulders.

This exercise is great because it helps you build stabilizing muscles, making any pressing movement easier and more efficient on your joints. You can do this exercises seated, but you can do it standing for an ultimate gym power move (don’t say that though).

Dumbbell Front Raise

If you want a rock-solid pump, the dumbbell front raise for you. Since it’s not a pressing movement, this exercise is best done in the higher rep range (15-25 reps).

Alternate reps but you’ll get a mind blowing pump. Aim for 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps with a good moveable weight. It’s a smart idea to get heavy pressing movements in for shoulders and fill in the gaps with high-rep shoulder work.

How Many Times Should I Workout Shoulders?

This, like all other questions pertaining to frequency of workouts, will always be subject to change. To cut the BS and give you an actual answer is once or twice a week.

Your front delts will get taxed in pressing movements (think bench press) so you’ll be hitting shoulders on chest day. That leaves the rest of the week.

If you demolish your shoulders, your chest work will suffer. Stick to higher rep work if exercising shoulders affect your chest workouts.

Rear and side (lateral) delts are used much less in lifting, unless you’re doing specific exercises that also use the muscle, such as upright rows. Depending on how well you recover, rear and lateral delts can be hit 2-6 times per week.

Rear delts, like biceps, can be hard to biomechanically target. Having said that, it makes it difficult to overload and annihilate the muscle.

Side delts have a very fast recovery, allowing you to hit the muscle group even by the next day. That’s not to say if you did heavy lateral raises you can hit it again the next day. Listen to your body and recover appropriately.

If you stick with the original recommendation of working out shoulders once or twice a week, you can structure your program in such a way that you get heavy pressing work in one day (front delts), then higher rep work on another day (rear and lateral). This way your workout program is balanced and you hit all heads of the shoulder, thus creating that mass you’re after.

What Workouts Cause Shoulder Impingements?

All of them unless you warm up properly and have proper form.

Unless you are somehow prone to shoulder impingements, usually it’s a sign of improper technique and/or not enough warming up. It could also relate to limited mobility, which could cause improper form due to muscle tightness or imbalances.

Looking over my lifting career, I use to damage my shoulders and then I’d be out of the gym for a while. Looking at it now, I can realize my warm up program sucked. Now I perform some rotator cuff exercises as well as some lighter shoulder exercises (band pull aparts, front raises) and I’m injured much less.

Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

This is a tricky one that isn’t as easy to target the shoulders with just bodyweight. Since shoulders are primarily used for pressing movements, with just bodyweight there’s not much to press.

Handstand Pushups

Certainly not the easiest to perform, but by the far most effective for bodyweight shoulder exercises. The body position of a handstand pushup is the upside down version of the position you’d be in if you were dumbbell pressing. The trick here is getting yourself up the wall…and not falling over.

The set up for the handstand push up is easy: facing away from a wall, walk yourself up the wall with your feet. Keep your legs straight as possible, leaning slightly against the wall. Keep hands at outside of shoulder width and press!