Essential Strategies for Bigger and Broader Shoulders

Broader Shoulders

Building bigger and stronger shoulders is a difficult task, some people never manage it. Others do manage it, but it takes them longer than it should have.

If you follow a stupid program long enough you will eventually get results! But hopefully you aren’t planning on following a stupid program, and you are looking for a efficient program that will get you good results in a short time.

To build any muscle there are three things you must consider, these are:

  • Training Program
  • Diet
  • Sleep

Most people pay close attention to training, some people work on both training and diet, but very few pay any attention to sleep.

Study after study has shown that sleep plays a massive role in boosting growth hormones and testosterone [1], improving athletic performance [2], and improving mood [3]. It is also during sleep that Muscle Protein Synthesis operates at peak levels (particularly if you take Casein before bed)[4].

Nutrition Strategy for Shoulders

When it comes to building bigger shoulders you are probably going to need to increase calories, if you’re worried that you aren’t lean enough then that’s fine but you should change your goals.

Stop worrying about shoulders and start training/dieting to get as lean as possible.

For those of you who are ready to build bigger shoulders, accept that you are going to have to ‘bulk‘ to increase muscle size.

We’re not talking about adding 1,000 calories to your diet tomorrow, just adding extra protein to your diet to allow Muscle Protein Synthesis to work at an optimal level [5].

Training Strategies for Shoulders

There are a lot of different ways to effectively train shoulders, some gym goers swear by German Volume Training or 5×5, others believe in super-sets or training to fatigue with drop sets and triple drop sets.

Here we will be looking at a few strategies that work, but you don’t have to follow all of the advice at once, just pick what works for you.

Strategy #1. Eccentric Training

Eccentric training involves only training the muscles when they are lengthening, for example an eccentric bicep curl would only involve you lowering the weight back down from the top of the movement. The concentric ‘curl‘ would be ignored.

This allows you to use a much heavier weight as your muscles are stronger during the eccentric part [6].

There are many benefits to eccentric training, it lowers injury risk [7], increases flexibility [8], and most importantly of all eccentric training can increase muscle Hypertrophy [9].

Eccentric training would work well with seated shoulder pressing, but you would need a spotter to help place the weights in your hands at the top of the movement.

Strategy #2. Use Drop Sets

Training to muscle fatigue can be a very effective training strategy, so long as it is used for short term. Doing it non-stop will slowly lower its effectiveness.

Adding it to the end of a session for a few weeks will ensure you get the most out of drop sets.

An excellent use of drop sets would be adding them in to a machine shoulder press, perform as many reps as you can on a heavy weight, and then immediately lower the weight to 50% of the total.

Strategy #3. Use Free Weights over Machines

Obviously you shouldn’t ignore machines completely, we just looked at a great use for the shoulder press machine!

But, free weights should make up the majority of your shoulder exercises.

This is because free weights activate more muscle fibres than machines do, and produce a greater hormonal response [10].

Strategy #4. Follow a Full Body Routine

Rather than training shoulders on their own once per week, you will find that you get better results when you train them multiple times per week [11] as part of a full-body routine.

This will allow you to train them maximally in one session, then rest until the next session where you can train them maximally again.

Trying to complete all shoulder exercises one after the other will leave you fatigued after two exercises, do you think that you will be able to get the most out of the third exercise after destroying your delts during the first two?

Strategy #5. Don’t Neglect your Rear Delts

The Deltoid muscle is made up of three heads, these heads are known as the Anterior (front) Deltoid, Lateral (Middle) Deltoid, and Posterior (Rear) Deltoid.

When you perform bench presses or shoulder presses, or front raises you are working the Anterior Deltoid head.

When you are performing lateral raises you are working the Lateral head, and when you perform rear delt flyes, bent over rows, or face pulls you are working the Posterior head.

As you can see the front delt is the most commonly worked muscle, and most Bodybuilders put a lot of work into the Lateral Deltoid as they believe it makes their shoulders look wider, but the rear delt often gets neglected.

Even when people do train it, it is usually done as an afterthought if they have time left at the end of the session. Instead, treat them as the most important muscle and train them during the ‘back‘ part of your workout.

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[1] Born, J., Fehm, H. 2000. The neuroendocrine recovery function of sleep. Noise Health 2(7): 25-37
[2] Mah, C., Mah, K., Dement, W. 2007. The Effects of Extra Sleep on Mood and Athletic Performance amongst Collegiate Athletes. Sleep 30[suppl]
[3] Mah, C., Mah, K., Dement, W. 2008. Extended Sleep and the Effects on Mood and Athletic Performance in Collegiate Swimmers. Sleep 31[Suppl]
[4] Res, P., Groen, B., Pennings, B., Beelen, M., Wallis, G., Gijsen, A., Senden, J., Van loon, L. 2012. Protein ingestion before sleep improves post-exercise overnight recovery. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 44(8): 1560-9
[5] Hoffman, J., Ratamess, N., Tranchina, C., Rashti, S., Kang, J., Faigenbaum, A. 2009. Effect of protein-supplement timing on strength, power, and body-composition changes in resistance-trained men. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 19: 172-185
[6] Kelly, S., Brown, L., Hooker, S., Swan, P., Buman, M., Alvar, B., Black, L. 2015. Comparison of concentric and eccentric bench press repetitions to failure. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 29(4): 1027-32
[7] Petersen, J., Thorborg, K., Nielsen, M., Budtz-Jorgensen, Holmich, P. 2011. Preventative effect of eccentric training on acute hamstring injuries in men’s soccer: a cluster-randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Sports Medicine 39(11): 2296-303
[8] Nelson, R., Bandy, W. 2004. Eccentric Training and Static Stretching Improve Hamstring Flexibility of High School Males. Journal of Athletic Training 39(3): 254-258
[9] Pope, Z., Willardson, J., Schoenfeld, B., Emmett, J., Owen, J. 2015. Hypertrophic and Strength Response to Eccentric Resistance Training with Blood Flow Restriction: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching 10(5): 919-931
[10] Shaner, A., Vingren, J., Hatfield, D., Budnar, R., Duplanty, A., Hill, D. 2014. The Acute Hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(4): 1032-40
[11] Schoenfeld, B., Ratamess, N., Peterson, M., Contreras, B., Tiryaki-Sonmez, R. 2015. Influence on Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Adaptations in Well-Trained Men. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 29(7): 1821-1829

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