Top tips for building boulder shoulders

If you’re looking to step up your training for the summer months ahead, you’ll no doubt want to build a symmetrical, muscular, and aesthetic physique. This means that all body parts should be treated and trained equally, at least, that’s assuming you’re already fairly symmetrical. If however, you perhaps have different sized muscle groups, you may wish to work additionally hard on the muscle groups that need bringing up. For example, if you have a very large chest and back, with proportionately smaller shoulders, to improve your physique, you will need to bring up your shoulders. Building a set of boulder shoulders however, is far from simple, as there are so many different parts of the deltoids to train. You have your anterior deltoid (front), posterior deltoid (rear), lateral deltoid, plus your trapezius, which also form part of the shoulders. To build powerful, muscular, and symmetrical shoulders, all four sections of your deltoids must be trained. If your shoulders could need to be brought up to match the rest of your physique, here are some tried and tested tips for building powerful boulder shoulders.

Pair rear delts with your back

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A lot of people will often train rear delts as part of their overall shoulder training session, and this isn’t always the best route to take. You see, a lot of people nowadays are training their rear delts with their backs, and when you think why, it makes perfect sense. During the pulling and rowing motions used to train the back, your rear delts will be picking up some of the slack and will be working. Of course you aren’t targeting them directly, but they are working. To really get the most from your training, consider training your rear delts at the same time as you train your back. You can still train rear delts on shoulder day as well, but if you are training them with your back, you can lower the volume as they will be getting worked at least twice per week.

Consider an additional shoulder session

When you have body parts that are lagging, rather than simply ignoring them, you should instead work them extra hard. If your shoulders are lagging in comparison with the rest of your body, obviously you shouldn’t cut back on training other parts to let them catch up. Instead, you should work your shoulders harder than usual, and what better way to do so than to increase the volume and include an additional shoulder training session. You could spend an extra day in the gym, focussing primarily on the deltoids, or you could perhaps include a few extra shoulder training exercises during certain workouts. If you want the shoulders to grow, you need to shock them, and to shock them, increased volume may be required.

Train traps with shoulders

As mentioned, though a lot of people don’t realize it, the trapezius muscles are actually a part of your deltoids, and so should be trained with your shoulders. Most people train traps when they train back, but this isn’t always effective. When you perform tried and tested shoulder favourites such as upright rows, and lateral raises, you will be recruiting the upper traps quite a bit already. Why not get the most out of this by adding a few trap-specific exercises. Of course, you can’t go wrong with shrugs when training the traps, so just bear that in mind when you’re training your deltoids.

Press to the front when going heavy

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To really shock the muscles and induce hypertrophy, heavy loads may be required, which is why barbell military presses are so popular. If you are training heavy however, make sure you always perform these exercises to the front, rather than doing behind the neck variations. A lot of people think that front and rear presses are interchangeable and are virtually identical, but this is not the case at all. When training the shoulders, if you are going heavy, you must make sure you are always protecting your rotator cuffs. Behind the neck variations can place extra stress upon the rotator cuff, so going heavy is never recommended. By all means perform behind the neck variations of military presses, but make sure the weight is manageable, and perhaps think about increasing the number of reps performed instead.

Switch up your presses

Believe it or not, but when most people train their shoulders, they will only include one pressing exercise, yet this is not always effective. You see, although pressing exercises are similar, different variants will provide different results as they target different parts of the shoulders. If for example, you begin with seated dumbbell shoulder presses, do not be afraid to then move onto standing barbell military presses, or even seated machine shoulder presses. Not only is it okay to perform more than one press, it is also recommended that you try different variations, using different pieces of equipment. If you perform standing barbell presses one day, you could try standing dumbbell shoulder presses the next time. There are Arnold presses, machine presses, seated presses, standing presses, behind the neck presses, and more besides. For packing on muscle mass, you can’t go wrong with presses.

Try not to extend your elbows during lateral raises

Lateral raises are another example of exercises that are regularly found in many shoulder training routines, and rightfully so. If you perform dumbbell lateral raises however, you must make sure that you do not fully extend your elbows when performing the exercise. Your elbows should always be slightly bent as this will help you to isolate the shoulder, rather than recruiting other muscle groups to assist with the lift. By fully locking out the elbows, your triceps will also assist with the lift, which is all fine and dandy if you’re training triceps, but you aren’t, you’re training shoulders. Leaving your elbows just ever so slightly bent during the exercise, will mean that the shoulders do pretty much all of the work.

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