Build it up: How to increase your shoulder size

Sep 05, 2016 • By • 63 Views

When it comes to shoulders, there are many exercises that you could do. But which ones are the most effective? Before we talk exercises, let’s discuss the general makeup of the muscles that form your shoulder.

There are three sections to the shoulder- front, middle, and rear deltoids. Different exercises work different parts of the shoulder. Most people have good front or anterior deltoids, because they get worked a lot on chest day. And no one skips chest day. No one.  

The middle (median) and rear (posterior) deltoids on the other hand often don’t receive the same attention as their forward counterpart. This leaves a void in the shape of the shoulder, looking rounded instead of full and broad.

No matter what your fitness goals, it’s important to strengthen shoulder muscle groups evenly. This not only improves the overall look; it helps reduce injury by reducing the load on one particular section.

Don’t worry, we’d never leave you to navigate the unknown without some guidance.  Below are some of our favorite shoulder exercises to help you obtain the fully rounded muscular shoulders you’ve always dreamed of.

Top 5 Shoulder Exercises

Overhead or military press is the foundation of strong shoulders. The great thing about this exercise is you can vary it in multiple ways to suit your skill level. Whether you use dumbbells, barbells or machines, seated or standing, in front or behind the head- the combinations are many. Performed standing or seated, this exercise is sure to give your shoulders some “oomph.”

Form pointer:  Make sure to maintain a strong base by tightening your core and protecting your lower back.


Raises are another great exercise that can target the middle and rear deltoids in addition to the front. Front and side raises can target the front and median deltoids respectively, while the bent-over raise focuses on the rear. These are traditionally performed with free weights, but can also be done with cables or resistance bands.

Form reminder:  Stand tall.  If you bend over this shoulder exercise will become a back exercise.  Even though strong backs are equally important, you want to make sure you’re targeting the correct muscles.


Rows are generally associated with back day, but there are a few versions that keep you challenged and those shoulder muscles engaged and working hard. Upright rows work the front deltoids. For the rear deltoids, pronated standing rows and seated bent over rows will help build the section of the shoulder often over looked. Cables and machines can also be added into the rotation to mix up your workouts to help focus on form.

Form Reminder:  Perform rows for less repetitions and really focus on using your shoulder muscles to move the weight load.  Use lighter weight at first to perfect your form.

Cable Rear Deltoid Fly

As the name suggests, this exercise is done using a cable machine with the pulleys set up high. The rear section of the deltoids really feel the work with this move. Experiment with different pulley angles to develop the shoulder evenly.

Form Reminder: Provide a stable base by engaging your core and working with a soft bend in your knees.  This helps evenly distribute the weight load.  Without this, you’ll look like the guy carrying in all of the groceries with just one arm.

Reverse Machine Fly

Reverse machine fly is a great way to strengthen both the middle and rear delts. Although similar to a bent over rear raise or cable rear delt fly, the reverse machine fly allows you to push back in an upright position.

Form reminder:  Keep your elbows in line with your shoulders and parallel to the floor.  This will help to ensure that the weight is moving across the correct plane.  This will open up your range of motion and enable to fully engage your rear delts.

Working out isn’t just about the exercises you do but also about HOW you do them.  Now that you’re armed with the best shoulder exercises, here are some tips that my help you make gains in areas you’ve been lacking.

  • Pre-Exhaust Workouts – The idea behind this is by working multi-joint exercises first, you tire non target muscles like the triceps, which aid in doing moves such as the overhead press. Toward the end of your workout switch to single-joint exercises to focus on particular shoulder are
  • Warm-up – don’t forget to include warm-up sets into your routine. Doing some light weight sets will help prevent injury and prepare your muscles to lift heavy and help get you closer to your goals.

Next time it’s shoulder day remember these tips and CRUSH IT.  Building the muscles in your shoulders evenly is essential to gaining the lean and defined look that everyone wants.  You’ll be taking gym selfies showing off your massive shoulders in no time.

Be sure to change your routine up at least every 6-8 weeks. Experimenting with different kinds of weights, angles and positions can offer challenge and fight boredom and the dreaded plateau.  In addition to combating boredom, changing up your routine will keep your muscles working to fit for every inch of growth.  Between the gains and the challenge, you won’t run into those motivation problems that also keep you from training the way you want.

It’s important to keep in mind that when working your shoulders, they aren’t fully isolated.  Other muscles are recruited to help do the work.  Make sure to plan your workouts so that those supporting muscles have plenty of time to rest.  It you don’t, it’s like taking 4 naps during the day instead of sleeping all night.  I don’t know about you, but my college days are over.

Most importantly have fun and focus on your plan.  Stick with it.  Commit to your goals.  Achieve success…and really awesome shoulders.

See you at the gym

About the Author

Makayla Leazott Makayla Leazott

Content Curator, at The Adulting Guru. MaKayla enjoys sharing her knowledge with others to help them be happy and fit. As a Personal Trainer...