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9 Best Muscle Building Exercises for Wider Shoulders

Add these into your training if you want to build bigger and stronger boulder shoulders.

Add these into your training if you want to build bigger and stronger boulder shoulders.

What are the Benefits of Strong Shoulders?

Strong shoulders offer several benefits, both in terms of aesthetics and functional abilities. Here are some of the key benefits of having strong shoulders:

Improved posture: Strong shoulder muscles, particularly the upper back and rear deltoids, help maintain good posture by pulling the shoulders back and countering the forward slouching posture common in today’s sedentary lifestyle. Proper posture not only improves your appearance but also reduces the risk of developing musculoskeletal issues.

Increased upper body strength: The shoulders play a crucial role in many upper body movements and exercises. Developing strong shoulders enhances your overall upper body strength, allowing you to perform tasks that involve pushing, pulling, lifting, or carrying with greater ease and efficiency.

Enhanced athletic performance: Whether you participate in sports, weightlifting, or other physical activities, strong shoulders contribute to improved athletic performance. Strong and stable shoulders provide a solid foundation for various movements, such as throwing, swinging, and lifting, thereby enhancing power, accuracy, and control.

Injury prevention: Strengthening the muscles around the shoulders, including the deltoids, rotator cuff muscles, and upper back muscles, helps stabilize the shoulder joint. This stability reduces the risk of shoulder injuries, such as strains, sprains, and dislocations. Additionally, strong shoulders can alleviate stress on other joints, such as the neck and lower back, reducing the likelihood of related injuries.

bodyweight emom workoutsSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Increased shoulder mobility: While strength is important, so is maintaining proper range of motion and flexibility in the shoulder joint. Strong shoulders, combined with regular stretching and mobility exercises, can help improve shoulder flexibility and prevent stiffness or restricted movement. This can be particularly beneficial for activities that require overhead movements or reaching across various planes.

Balanced physique: Well-developed shoulders contribute to a balanced and aesthetically pleasing physique. Strong shoulders can create the appearance of broader, more defined upper body proportions, enhancing the overall symmetry and appeal of your physique.

Functional daily activities: Strong shoulders are essential for performing everyday activities like lifting heavy objects, carrying groceries, or even reaching overhead to grab something from a shelf. By strengthening your shoulder muscles, you improve your ability to handle these tasks effectively and reduce the risk of strain or injury.

Remember that when training your shoulders or any other muscle group, it’s important to maintain a balanced workout routine that targets all major muscle groups to promote overall strength, stability, and prevent muscular imbalances.

Shoulder Exercises

1. Lateral raise 0:48

2. Bent over reverse cable fly 2:44

2a. Bent arm lateral raises 3:25

3. The reverse dumbbell fly 4:58

4. Leaning lateral raise 6:08

5. High cable reverse flyes 7:18

6. Cable lateral raise 7:56

7. High cable reverse flyes variant 8:17

8. Crossed lateral raises 8:55

9. Incline lateral raise 9:39

Exercises Explained (Video)

What are the Muscles of the Shoulders?

The shoulders are a complex joint comprised of several muscles that work together to provide stability, strength, and mobility. The major muscles of the shoulders include:

Deltoids: The deltoid muscle is the largest and most visible muscle of the shoulder. It has three distinct heads:

Anterior deltoid: Located at the front of the shoulder, it assists in flexion and medial rotation of the arm.

Middle deltoid: Situated in the middle of the shoulder, it aids in abduction or lifting the arm to the side.

Posterior deltoid: Positioned at the back of the shoulder, it helps in extension and lateral rotation of the arm.

Rotator cuff muscles: The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint and facilitate rotational movements. These muscles include:

  • Supraspinatus: Initiates abduction of the arm and assists in shoulder stabilization.
  • Infraspinatus: Performs external rotation of the arm and aids in shoulder stability.
  • Teres minor: Assists in external rotation and adduction of the arm.
  • Subscapularis: Facilitates internal rotation and stabilization of the shoulder.

Trapezius: The trapezius is a large muscle that extends from the base of the skull down to the middle of the back. It helps with shoulder movement and scapular stabilization. It is divided into three parts: upper, middle, and lower trapezius.

Rhomboids: The rhomboid muscles (major and minor) are located between the shoulder blades. They retract and rotate the scapulae, helping to maintain proper posture and stabilize the shoulders.

Serratus anterior: Situated on the lateral sides of the rib cage, the serratus anterior muscle assists in protracting and stabilizing the scapulae, allowing for proper shoulder movement and stability.

Levator scapulae: This muscle connects the upper cervical spine to the scapula. It assists in elevating the scapula and rotating it downward.

CrossFit Online Semifinal WorkoutsSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Pectoralis major and minor: Although primarily chest muscles, the pectoralis major and minor also play a role in shoulder movements such as flexion, adduction, and internal rotation.

These are the major muscles involved in shoulder movement and stability. It’s important to note that proper strength and coordination among these muscles are crucial for optimal shoulder function and injury prevention.

What are the Best Reps and Sets to Build Muscle?

The optimal number of reps and sets to build muscle can vary depending on factors such as individual goals, training experience, and personal preferences. However, there are some general guidelines that can be followed. Here are a few approaches commonly used to stimulate muscle growth:

Moderate to high volume: Building muscle typically requires an adequate amount of volume, which refers to the total number of sets and reps performed. Higher volume workouts are often effective for hypertrophy (muscle growth). This can be achieved through multiple sets and repetitions.

Repetition range: For muscle growth, a common repetition range is around 8 to 12 reps per set. This range is often considered a balance between strength and hypertrophy. It stimulates both muscle fibres associated with strength (type II) and muscle fibres associated with endurance (type I). However, varying rep ranges can be beneficial for overall muscle development.

Progressive overload: Progressively increasing the intensity or load on the muscles over time is crucial for muscle growth. This can be done by gradually increasing the weight lifted, the number of reps performed, or the difficulty of the exercise. Progressive overload challenges the muscles and stimulates adaptation, leading to muscle growth.

Sets per exercise: Performing multiple sets of an exercise allows for sufficient muscle stimulation. A common approach is to perform 3 to 4 sets per exercise. This provides an adequate training stimulus while also allowing for sufficient recovery.

Rest between sets: Adequate rest between sets is essential to allow for muscle recovery and replenishment of energy stores. Generally, rest periods of 1 to 2 minutes between sets are common for muscle growth. Adjust the rest periods based on the intensity and difficulty of the exercise.

Training frequency: Consistency and frequency of training sessions are important for muscle growth. Aim for training each muscle group at least 2 to 3 times per week, allowing for adequate recovery between sessions.

It’s important to note that individual responses to training may vary, and what works for one person may not work as effectively for another. Experimenting with different rep and set ranges, and adjusting your training program based on your progress and individual needs, can help determine the best approach for building muscle in your specific case.

Why is Protein Vital for Muscle Growth?

Protein is vital for muscle growth because it provides the building blocks necessary for muscle repair, recovery, and synthesis. Here are several reasons why protein is essential for muscle growth:

Amino acids for protein synthesis: Proteins are made up of amino acids, and these amino acids are crucial for muscle protein synthesis—the process by which new muscle proteins are created. When you consume protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids, which are then used to repair and build new muscle tissue.

Stimulates muscle protein synthesis: Protein consumption stimulates muscle protein synthesis, especially when combined with resistance exercise. Resistance exercise creates micro-tears in muscle fibres, and protein provides the necessary amino acids to repair and rebuild these damaged fibres, leading to muscle growth over time.

Supports muscle recovery: Intense workouts, especially resistance training, can cause muscle damage and inflammation. Protein consumption helps to reduce muscle damage and support the recovery process by providing the amino acids required for repair and minimizing muscle breakdown.

Muscle maintenance during calorie deficit: When trying to lose body fat or during periods of calorie restriction, protein becomes even more crucial. Adequate protein intake helps preserve lean muscle mass while losing fat, preventing excessive muscle breakdown and maintaining metabolic function.

Increased satiety and muscle preservation during weight loss: Protein is more satiating than carbohydrates or fats, meaning it helps you feel full and satisfied for longer periods. When combined with resistance training during weight loss, a higher protein intake can help preserve muscle mass while promoting fat loss.

Energy source: While carbohydrates are the primary fuel source during exercise, protein can also be used for energy, particularly during prolonged or intense workouts. Consuming enough protein can spare muscle protein breakdown for energy, helping to preserve muscle mass.

Hormone regulation: Protein plays a role in regulating hormones related to muscle growth and repair, such as insulin and growth factors like insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). These hormones contribute to muscle protein synthesis and the overall anabolic response to exercise and protein intake.

To support muscle growth, it’s generally recommended to consume an adequate amount of high-quality protein sources throughout the day. The specific protein requirements can vary depending on factors such as body weight, activity level, and individual goals. Consulting with a registered dietitian or nutritionist can help determine the appropriate protein intake for your needs.

Why is Sleep Important for Muscle Recovery and Hypertrophy?

Sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and hypertrophy (muscle growth) due to several key reasons:

Growth hormone release: During deep sleep stages, the body releases higher levels of growth hormone, which plays a significant role in muscle repair, recovery, and growth. Growth hormone promotes protein synthesis, stimulates the growth of new muscle tissue, and aids in the repair of damaged muscles.

Testosterone production: Testosterone, an anabolic hormone, is essential for muscle growth. Sleep deprivation can negatively affect testosterone levels, impairing muscle recovery and potentially hindering muscle growth. Sufficient sleep ensures optimal testosterone production, supporting muscle repair and hypertrophy.

shoulder exercisesSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Muscle protein synthesis: Sleep promotes muscle protein synthesis, the process by which new muscle proteins are created and muscle tissue is repaired. During sleep, the body utilizes the amino acids obtained from dietary protein to rebuild and strengthen muscle fibres damaged during exercise.

Reduction of cortisol levels: Cortisol is a stress hormone that, when chronically elevated due to lack of sleep, can have catabolic (muscle breakdown) effects and hinder muscle growth. Sufficient sleep helps regulate cortisol levels, minimizing its muscle-wasting effects and promoting an anabolic environment conducive to muscle recovery and growth.

Restoration of energy stores: Adequate sleep allows for replenishment of energy stores, such as glycogen, in the muscles. Glycogen is the primary fuel source during intense exercise, and proper replenishment ensures optimal energy availability for subsequent workouts and overall muscle recovery.

Central nervous system recovery: Intense workouts and resistance training stress the central nervous system (CNS). Sleep provides an essential period for the CNS to recover, restoring neural function and allowing for efficient muscle coordination and performance during subsequent training sessions.

Reduction of inflammation: Sleep has anti-inflammatory effects, and lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of inflammation in the body. Inflammation can hinder muscle recovery and impede muscle growth. Sufficient sleep helps regulate inflammation, promoting a favourable environment for muscle repair and hypertrophy.

To optimize muscle recovery and growth, aim for a consistent sleep schedule and prioritize quality sleep. Most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but individual needs can vary. Establishing a bedtime routine, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and practicing good sleep hygiene can all contribute to better sleep quality and support muscle recovery and hypertrophy.

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