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Building Great Shoulders

Solid, well-developed shoulders look great on a guy. They make him look balanced and powerful.

When women reach their genetic potential with shoulder development, their entire figure is enhanced. This effect has to do with how the eye follows an outline. This effect is why women's clothes often have shoulder pads. And just try buying a man's suit without shoulder pads--it's probably not going to happen.

Men and women can both ditch the shoulder pads and look great. What happens when you are wearing something, say, a tank top, that doesn't have pads? With proper shoulder development, you can ensure you always have that powerful shoulder look. Because it will be part of you, not part of something fake like shoulder pads.

If you go to a gym, look around. What you don't see are well-developed, cut shoulders. You do see large front delts from cheating on the bench press, but that's about it. In this article, I'm going to explain how you can have impressive shoulders.

At left are photos taken shortly after my 50th birthday. These photos show what's possible with the right kind of workout and the right kind of diet and supplementation.

Some things these photos show:

  • The shoulder "cuts" or striations very clearly. I'm at 5% body fat here, so that's one reason why. The other reason why is my shoulders are very muscular--and yours can be, also.
  • The triceps "fork" is very pronounced. While I lack the symmetry of a pro body builder, I do engage in a full program that builds all of my muscles. I don't focus on, say, shoulders, and then pretend to be a guru. Catch those pecs, too....
  • Vascularity is fairly evident here, and you get that through working intensely.
  • You can see (in some shots) a large rear deltoid. This is what prevents rotator cuff injuries.


Next, let's look at how to get impressive shoulders. That information is just below the pictures that are just a below this paragraph (you may need to page down). If you look at the pictures, you'll see different things in each one. Things that are achievable for you. And I'll explain how to achieve them......


Photographer: Aaron Lindberg,


Many people think the way to build those impressive shoulders is to just do more shoulder exercises. This does not work. I don't do a lot of shoulder exercises. The exercises that I do, however, really count.

This may surprise you, but the core of my shoulder program is the front squat. I do several sets of these, twice a month (I can't handle a higher frequency, because these are brutal). When I see people cranking out 3 sets of 8 - 12 reps, I know those people are not working intensely. You simply cannot go 8 - 12 reps if you are making your reps count. So I might do a sets of 6, 4, 4, and 3 before reducing the weight. Next sets might be 5, 3, and 3.

Squats greatly boost your testosterone, which is what tells your body to build muscle. Don't boost your T, and you won't build muscle. It's really that simple.

On shoulder day (I work back/biceps, chest/triceps, and shoulders on different days). I usually do this routine:

  • Overhead press. Never, ever do this behind the neck. Use a weight that's comfortable for you and focus on moving it slowly. Very slowly. 10 seconds up, 15 seconds down. Really. Go even slower, if you can.

    Arnold had a variation on this movement, in which he added a twist. That does improve the workout, but only if you understand how to do it. When doing the twist, you keep the shoulder under tension. During this lift, and the lowering, you should feel every inch of your shoulders. If you don't get a burn by the third rep, you are doing something wrong.
  • Modified front dumbbell raises. The modification is I don't hold them straight out in front. That's not a natural movement.
  • Side lateral raises. To get maximum benefit from this, squeeze just a little at the top. Most people swing the weights up and down, making their "workout" a complete waste of time. What you want to do is feel that muscle struggle to move the weight up and then burn as you let it down.
  • Bentover deltoid raises. This is much like a rowing motion. Hold the weight with your thumbs pointing down and your elbows up. Start with something very light, on the order of 5 lbs.

What about diet? We have other articles on eating right, and it may help you to read one a day until you master the subject. There is no reason for any man to have double digit body fat. Period. the high body fat levels in this country are why we have the high cancer rates. Body fat control is largely a matter of reducing your portions to the size that's right for you. You also need to eat nutrient-dense, calorie-light foods. Eat six small meals per day.




Article Authorship

The articles on this site are authoritative, because:

  • Every contributor is an expert in his or her field.
  • The articles comply with the accepted principles of the bodybuilder literature.
  • The articles comply with the teachings of such luminaries as 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.

 Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.

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