A little known trick among body builders is that the bigger your shoulders are, the more muscular the rest of your body looks. It’s one of those optical illusions that make others see your chest, arms and lats more pumped than if your shoulders were underdeveloped. Getting your traps and delts bulked up is a great way to start in developing the muscular frame you want.
Here are some great exercises for shaping your shoulders.
Military Press: Whether you use free weights or a machine, the military press is one of the oldest exercises and it’s still around because it works. Performing the military press correctly will not only bulk your deltoids but also work the traps, lats and biceps. You can use a barbell or dumbbells for this exercise. Seated on a bench, raise the bar above your head to full extension and then lower it behind your head until it touches your neck. Do not bounce the bar when raising it again. This not only cheats the exercise but can also cause damage to your neck. Use slow, controlled pressing movements and have a spotter behind you to assist.
Dumbbell Lateral Flys / Front Raises: A good combination exercise is the dumbbell fly and front raise. Take a pair of dumbbells and stand straight with your legs shoulder-width apart. Let the dumbbells hang at your side. First, raise the dumbbells laterally to the side with your palms facing downward. Bring the dumbbells back down, pause, and then raise the dumbbells laterally to the front. Stop when the dumbbells reach the height of your shoulders. Repeat the raises by alternating lifts to the side and to the front. This exercise works the front and rear of your deltoid muscles and also touches on the traps.
Upright Rows: Don’t forget to work your traps when doing shoulders. Some body builders will dedicate workouts solely to traps but you can include it with shoulders since the traps flow into the delts and by doing an exercise like upright rows you get full development. You can do upright rows with a barbell or with cables. Hold the bar at your mid-section and with your hands on the bar shoulder-width apart slowly raise the bar straight up until you reach your chin with your hands. Lower the bar slowly and pause just before reaching full extension.
Shrugs: Another shoulder exercise that can be performed with barbells, dumbbells or cables is shoulder shrugs. Start with the barbell at your midsection and slowly shrug your shoulders up until you achieve a hunched look. Lower the bar to the starting position and repeat. You will feel the burn in both your traps (again) and your shoulders as you reach higher repetitions. Aim for 10-15 reps per set.
Take your time and get the motions right for each exercise that involves your shoulders. Since many of these exercises hit other body parts including the traps, biceps and lats you need to be careful not to overdo it and tire other muscle groups.