As a guy, if you want a powerful and intimidating looking physique, then wide shoulders are one of the important areas to focus on. Unfortunately, this is something that is partly genetically determined. The width of your shoulders is largely going to be dictated by bone structure and there’s no way you can change that without some pretty drastic surgery.
Fortunately, you can add a couple of inches either side of your shoulders if you know how. With the right workout and the right diet strategy, you can make the very most of the frame you were born with. Here we’ll look at how you’d go about training for shoulder width and how you can accelerate the results so you start filling those suits out sooner.
There is some confusion regarding what shoulder muscles are specifically and how to train them. To clarify, your shoulder muscles are your deltoids and are located at the tops of your arms and at the ends of your upper torso.
The confusion comes from the fact that we call the whole surface along the top of our bodies our shoulders. Ironically a ‘shoulder rub’ doesn’t tend to actually focus on the anatomical shoulders at all, but instead on the traps which are the muscles that protrude on either side of the neck. To build traps you need to use shrugs and this will give you a hulking appearance, but it won’t make your shoulders any wider. That’s deltoids.
The role of the deltoids is to move the arms at the top and this includes movements such as pressing above the head and raising the arms out straight in all directions. Further confusing matters though is the fact that the deltoid has three separate ‘heads’ meaning that it is made of three distinct muscles that can all be trained independently.
These are the anterior deltoids, the medial deltoids and the posterior deltoids which are arranged at the front, middle and back like segments of an orange.
What we’re interested in here is the medial deltoid – also called the lateral deltoid – which is sandwiched between the other two and located on the outermost side. If you can build this muscle up to be larger then it will protrude outward on the sides of your arms giving you wider shoulders.
Training the Lateral Deltoids
The job of the lateral deltoids is to raise the arms out to the sides hinging at the shoulders. In other words, if you stand with your arms by your sides and then raise them directly upwards into a crucifix position, that’s using the lateral deltoids.
In terms of exercises, the movement best known to mimic this action and train the laterals is the ‘lateral raise’. Here you hold a dumbbell in your hand and raise it directly out to the side in the same manner, keeping the rest of the arm still (it’s up to you if you want to keep it straight or bent) and pivoting only at the shoulder.
Normally lateral raises are performed with very light weights owing to the relative small size and strength of the muscles involved. This can be performed either bilaterally (on both sides at once) or unilaterally (training each arm in turn).
If you want to see real growth, then it is imperative to overload the muscle with a heavier weight. This means you’ll need to brace your body on the other side (by holding onto a pole for instance) and then generate the power by slightly swinging. This is what’s called a ‘cheat’ because you’re using momentum to push past failure.
While your technique may not be so perfect here though, what you will be doing is pushing past failure and engaging the faster twitch muscle fibres/creating more microtears resulting in faster growth. Use a weight heavy enough that you can only perform eight on either side, then make sure to rest the shoulders long enough and eat enough protein to encourage hypertrophy.
Add this to your usual deltoid workout routine and you should find it encourages more rapid growth in the lateral deltoids. And as a result, your shoulders will grow wider!
Until then, why not try wearing clothes with padded shoulder blades? =)