Want to look wider and appear to have broader, stronger shoulders? Here's how to do it.
For many men out there, it's a lifelong dream to achieve the look of broad shoulders and a strong, wide frame.
Having this look helps to create a sense of power and physical capacity, and is important for you to have nailed down if you want to develop a fit, strong and impressive physique.
But how exactly do you get to this point?
It's certainly not easy, otherwise every man on the planet would be walking around with broad shoulders!
In this post I'll cover the important muscles that you need to be working on, the the best approach to training them and a couple of other strategies that you can use to create that look of stronger, broader shoulders.
What Are the Muscles You Need to Develop to Get Broader Shoulders?
There are certain muscle groups on your body that you need to nail down and properly develop if you're wanting to achieve the look of broader shoulders.
These main muscle groups are:
your shoulders (obviously)
Focus on Your Shoulders
Building up your shoulders is obviously going to help you achieve that look of broader shoulders.
Your shoulders (deltoids or delts) have 3 heads;
the front or anterior delt (colored red)
the middle or medial delt (colored green)
the rear or posterior delt. (colored blue)
All three heads of the delts are going to be important to work if you want to look big and strong.
However, the medial delt is perhaps the most important head for you to be focusing on if you want to achieve broader shoulders.
This is due to the location of the medial delts, and the effect that growing them in size would have on your appearance.
The medial delt is the head that goes furthest out to the side, which also happens to be the direction that your shoulders go out in.
So training your medial delts is going to go a long way in helping you achieve the look of broader shoulders.
Build Up the Back Muscles
The size of your back muscles is also going to have a big influence on how broad your shoulders look.
When you train your back (specifically your lats and teres muscles), you're going to push your frame to be wider and create the look of wider, strong shoulders.
The lats are the widest muscles on your body, and it's impertinent to train them if you want to look broad.
As you can see from the image above, having a wide, muscular back definitely helps to push out your shoulders and create the look of a broader upper body.
In fact, having a strong, wide back is equally important to developing broad shoulders as the shoulder muscles themselves.
As for the teres, they're slightly smaller muscles right next to the lats that basically do the same thing.
You'll want to try and develop them as well, to take advantage of all the muscles you have on the upper body that would contribute to broader shoulders.
It should be noted that basically any exercise you use the lats for is also going to work your teres muscles, so you don't need to try and do any direct isolation work for them. Not that you would be able to in the first place.
Work on Your Chest Muscles
Believe it or not, working the muscles of your chest is also going to contribute to that look of broader shoulders.
When you build muscle mass in your chest, you further help to increase the size of your upper body and increase the 'fullness' of your torso.
When your chest is well developed, you're going to have a fuller looking upper body and have visibly broader shoulders as a result of this as well.
You should look to build up both the upper and lower portions of your chest, to create a fuller look.
Incorporate both flat and incline pressing movements into your workout programs, as well as some chest isolation exercises such as flyes and pec deck machines to really burn out the chest muscles at the end of your workouts.
Now that you know the muscles you need to be training to develop broader shoulders, it's important for you to know and understand something.
Click here to learn about the golden era chest workout.
You Genetics Also Influence How Broad Your Shoulders Are
The width of your shoulders is actually also largely determined by your genetics.
Some people are naturally going to have wider and broader shoulders than others, simply due to a difference in bone structure.
Some people will naturally be born with wider shoulder bones than others, meaning they will naturally look wider without any extra effort put into their physical appearance.
For example, I was always a skinny guy growing up. At age 16 I weighed about 58-60kg (128-132lb), even after two years of rowing and intense fitness (although not bodybuilding or real strength training).
Even after I began to take weight training and muscle building more seriously, I still had narrower shoulders than some of my friends who hasn't trained a day in their lives. Ever.
Bear in mind at this point I had worked up to an 85kg (187lb) bench and a 155kg (353lb) deadlift. So I definitely wasn't too weak considering my bodyweight either.
These difference simply came down to a different in genetics and bone structure.
Bear in mind you can still build up the right muscles to help create more width across your shoulders.
Just because your genetics might not be the most optimal, doesn't mean that you can't work around it and still make good gains.
So What Exercises Should You Do For Broader Shoulders?
In case you're wondering what the best exercises are for building broader shoulders, they're going to primarily be your heavy compound exercises. (Click the link to learn the importance of compound exercises).
I'll give you two important exercises for each of the muscle groups that I suggested you focus your attention on.
Let's start with the shoulders.
Barbell Military Press
The barbell military press is a great shoulder exercise that you can do to build up your overall strength and muscle mass in your upper body.
The barbell military press is going to be the heaviest free weight exercise you can do directly for your shoulders, and should be a staple in your routine if you're wanting to develop a wider looking frame and torso.
It's great for hitting both the front and medial heads of the delt, which are the two heads that contribute the most to the width of your shoulders.
Here's how to do it:
Either sit on a bench or stand at a squat rack.
Get your hands under the barbell with palms facing up.
Grip onto the barbell with a grip just outside of shoulder width.
Brace your core and arch your back slightly.
Press the weight up with force by driving your hands up into the air.
Lockout the elbows at the top and poke your head forward through your arms.
Lower the weight back down with control until the bar reaches your collarbone.
Check out the video below by Scott Herman to see a demonstration of this exercise!
Side Cable Lateral Raises
This is an isolation exercise for the middle or medial head of the deltoids, which do happen to be the most important head to have in check if you're wanting to achieve broader shoulders.
Lateral raises are the only way you can isolate your medial delts, and doing them with cables is the best way to do them if you're worried about the size of your shoulders.
Now we'll move onto the best exercises for the back.
Pull ups are a great exercise that you can do to build up your lats and achieve that look of a wider set of shoulders.
They're a versatile exercise that can be done basically anywhere you can hang comfortably from, and also give you some great bicep activation to round off the upper body!
Here's how to do them:
Hang on a pull up bar with a double overhand grip, just outside of shoulder width.
Draw the shoulder blades down and back. You should immediately feel tension in your back.
Pull yourself up by thinking about drawing your elbows down and together, into the side of your hips.
Pull yourself up until your chest reaches just below the bar.
Try to not kick with your legs or generate any momentum to cheat.
Lower yourself back down with control.
Of course, there are many variations of the pull up that are each great for their own reasons. However, the pull up is going to be the one that's the most basic, and probably the best choice for most people looking to build strength and muscle specifically in the back.
To see a demonstration of the pull up, watch the video below by CrossFit®!
Reverse Grip Barbell Rows
Reverse grip barbell rows are a great way to build overall strength and muscle in your back, whilst taxing the spinal erectors and biceps to a relatively large degree at the same time.
Taking a reverse grip is going to allow you to tuck your elbows in closer to your body, which lines up better with the fibers of the lats.
This is going to put the lats in their most advantageous position and really give you the best lat activation that you can get from a barbell row.
This is a great exercise that's going to allow you to really overload the lats, and get them growing stronger from week to week as fats as possible!
Here's how to perform them:
Start with the barbell on the ground again.
Take an approximately shoulder width and underhand grip.
Keeping your spine neutral, deadlift the weight up and stay in the lockout position.
Bend the knees slightly and push your hips back until your hamstrings feel a stretch.
Keep the spine neutral and allow the weight to drop down.
Drive the weight up into your sternum area, keeping your elbows tucked in as close to your side as possible.
Squeeze the shoulder blades hard for a second.
Lower the weight with control.
Check out James Harrison's video below to see what this looks like!
And lastly, we'll move onto the chest.
Barbell Bench Press
The barbell bench press is one of the most classic strength training exercises out there.
Almost everybody that's set foot in a gym knows what a barbell bench press is. And for good reason too.
It's regarded by many to be the best foundational exercise that you can do for your upper body, due to its versatility in both building strength and muscle in the fastest way possible.
It's great for building up your chest, shoulders and triceps, and is one of the staple 7 exercises that you should learn to do in the gym.
Here's how to do it:
Ensure you have an experienced spotter with you if you're going heavy, or if this is your first time.
Lay down on the bench, back completely flat. You should be completely relaxed to start with.
Grab the bar with a strong grip just outside of shoulder width. Wrap your thumb around the bar to enclose and help secure your grip.
Arch your back slightly to create a small gap between your spine and the bench.
Place your feet firmly on the ground.
Lift the bar off the rack, and bring it to just over your collarbone.
Lower the bar until it gently touches your lower chest area (sternum).
Press back up by drive your elbows forward, and lock them out at the top.
Keep your head and glutes on the bench, as well as feet on the ground at all times.
Check out this video by CrossFit® on YouTube to see what it looks like!
The Incline Bench Press
This should also be a staple in your workout program if you're wanting to build a full and strong looking chest.
The incline bench press is going to target your upper chest, and really help to fill out the front side of your upper body.
Here's how to perform the incline bench press:
Set the rack to shoulder height.
Step behind the bar, gripping it in front of you, almost like you would do in a front squat.
Walk the bar out slowly one foot at a time.
Breathe in and brace your core.
Press the bar upwards, directly over your head. You may have to push your head back slightly to get it out of the way.
Lock out your elbows at the top.
Lower the bar back down to your collarbone in a controlled manner, and repeat.
See the video below by Rogue Fitness to see what this looks like!
Now that you know the best exercises to do if you want to broaden up your shoulders, I'll get into a couple more tips that can help you look wider.
Having a Slimmer Waist Helps You Look Wider
Creating the look of broad shoulders isn't all just about building muscle in the upper body.
Losing weight and trimming down the fat around your midsection can and will also help you look wider. At least, when you're not wearing a shirt.
Having a slimmer waist is going to accentuate the width of your shoulders, and cause you to look wider without actually being wider.
It's going to make your upper body look more like a 'V' shape, which highlights the width at the shoulders and makes you look far stronger and fitter.
Even if you haven't got visible abs.
So How Do You Achieve a Slimmer Waist?
Well, this mainly comes down to losing weight and being lean enough to cut down your body fat at the midsection.
You can do this through a calorie deficit, and maintaining this for a relatively long period of time.
However, the size of your waist is also largely determined by your genetics.
Some people are naturally going to be born with blockier and thicker waists than others.
And even if they tried to change it, they'd have a very tough time trying to get their waist to look significantly slimmer.
It might not be something that you can do a whole lot about, but just know that the size of your waist does have an influence on how wide your shoulders look.
Your Posture Also Affects How Broad Your Shoulders Are
Standing up tall and making sure that you've got good posture goes a long way in helping you look broader at the shoulders.
When you stand with correct posture and push your chest out, it makes your shoulders look broader and stronger.
Go give it a try right now!
Stand up straight, push your chest up and let your shoulders hang loose (but don't let them round or droop forwards).
If you previously hadn't been sitting or standing with the right posture, you'll immediately feel and see the difference.
Your shoulders will look much broader.
So just whenever you can, sit and stand with the right posture.
It makes a world of a difference when it comes to the visible width of your shoulders.
To Wrap It Up
Getting broad shoulders is a lifelong dream for many men out there.
And although it's definitely not easy, it can be done, and definitely can be achieved if you follow the right training methods and procedures.
If you do it right, results definitely can be seen in just three months.
It's all about hard work, consistency, and having the right information. Just follow the tips in this article, and make sure to work hard!
You'll see a set of stronger, broader shoulders in no time.
Are you wanting to have broader shoulders?
Let me know down in the comments below!