Exercises to Do to Increase Shoulder Width

How to Create the Appearance of Broad Shoulders

Broad shoulders are a highly desirable physical trait. For men, they define masculinity and convey the appearance of strength. For women, they create an upturned triangle, making the upper body appear wider and the waist look narrower. In both genders, broad shoulders are associated with an athletic build.

Plus, wide shoulders don’t just make you look stronger; they actually do make you stronger, as you’ll have more muscle mass in your upper body, which can simplify a wide range of tasks, like picking up heavy items, chopping down trees, and opening up those stubborn jars of pickles, jellies, and jams.

Given the benefits that are associated with broad shoulders, if this part of your body is naturally narrow, you may be wondering if there is anything that you can do to enhance them. A lot of people assume that shoulder width is determined by genetics, as they’re defined by the structure of the bones. While that may be true, there are actually ways that you can make them appear wider – and improve your upper body strength. How? Read on to find out.

boulder shoulders

Anatomy of the Deltoids

 Before we dive in and share tips that you can use to improve the girth of your upper body, it’s first important to have a basic understanding of shoulder anatomy. The muscles in your shoulders are known as deltoids; the round muscles that are situated at the top of the arms.

The deltoids are divided into three different “heads” (picture the slices of an orange). All of these heads work together to elevate the arm via a process known as “glenohumeral elevation”. They also have direct impact on the movement and the overall stability of the shoulder joint itself, as well as the upper arm. The three heads of the deltoid muscle also have specific functions. The names of these heads and the specific functions are as follows:

  1. Anterior deltoid. This part sits at the front of the shoulder and rotates it medially, as it draws the arm inward, allowing the arm to move forward.
  2. Lateral deltoid. Also referred to as the “medial” deltoid, this muscle head sits in the middle of the shoulder and rotates the joint laterally, enabling the outward motion of the arm in a process known as “abduction”.
  3. Posterior deltoid. The posterior deltoid sits at the back of the shoulder and enables the arm to move backward and outward.

While the width of your shoulders is partly determined by the structure of your bones, the deltoid muscles, like other muscles throughout the body, can be “beefed-up”, which will not only increase your upper body strength, but will also help to improve the broadness of your shoulders and boost the aesthetic appeal of your physique. How? Here’s a look at some simple exercises that you can do to strengthen your deltoid muscles and make your shoulders appear wider.

Shoulder Broadening Exercises

The following exercises, when done one to three times per week (allowing for one day of rest in between workouts), can help to effectively increase the broadness and strength of your shoulders. We recommend that you start out with light to moderate weights and increase the duration and intensity as you go, so as to reduce the risk of injuring yourself.

Seated Rear Lateral Raise

  • With dumbbells positioned on either side, sit on the end of a bench
  • Hold your feet flat on the floor and lean forward so that your torso rests on your thighs while keeping your back flat
  • With your elbows slightly bent and your hands tilted forward, gradually lift the weights up and out to the side until your elbows reach shoulder height
  • Hold the pose for a few seconds
  • Gradually lower your arms back to the starting position

Complete 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 reps of the above steps.

Dumbbell Front Raise

  • Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand
  • Position your hands out in front of you with your palms directed toward your thighs
  • Secure your torso (it shouldn’t move) and lift up one dumbbell while maintaining a slight bend in the elbow and keeping the palm face-down
  • Lift up your arm until it’s a bit higher than parallel to the floor
  • Pause for a moment and then gently lower the arm back to the starting position
  • Repeat the above steps on the opposite side

Complete 2 to 3 sets of 16 to 20 reps.

Overhead Shoulder Press

  • Stand with your back straight and hold a barbell just slightly higher than your upper chest; your hands should be positioned just a bit wider than the width of your shoulders
  • While keeping your elbows drawn in, lift the barbell straight up toward the ceiling
  • Maintain your balance by holding your body weight in your lower back, legs, and core
  • Lower your arms back to the starting position

Complete 2 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps.

45-Degree Incline Row

  • Lie down on your stomach on a 45-degree incline bench
  • While holding a dumbbell in each of your hands, let your arms hang straight down
  • Lift your arms by bending your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together
  • Maintain your upper arms so that they’re perpendicular to your body while you move them
  • Stop at the top of the movement for a moment
  • Gradually lower the weights until they’re returned to starting position

Complete 2 to 3 steps of 6 to 12 reps.

When Can You Expect Results?

Just like when you work out any other part of your body, you’ll feel the results of the above-mentioned exercises before you see them. There are several factors that will impact how long it will take to see visible results, including your body fat, body size, and what you eat. With that said, however, if you’re diligent and workout at least two times a week for a totally of 20 minutes, you can expect to see your deltoids strengthen and your shoulders broaden within a few weeks or a few months.

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