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How to Build Shoulder Muscle

Looking to beef up those shoulder muscles? Or do you just want to work out as many muscle groupings as possible, and shoulders happen to fall into that category? Either way, there are numerous exercises and machines geared specifically to developing the muscles in your shoulders.


Before you move on to free weights, it’s wise to try a few exercises to develop your shoulder muscles. You’ll minimize the chances of injury and prepare your body for more intensive workouts. You may also discover that you prefer these exercises to the use of machines or free weights, as they can be performed virtually anywhere, with some exceptions. Consult a qualified personal trainer — he or she will be able to give you step-by-step instructions and check your form.

There are also many sports and outdoor activities you can use to build up shoulder muscle. Anything that requires the use of overhead gestures with your arms will work. These include basketball, football, tennis, badminton, volleyball, squash and swimming. The more you have to extend your arms above your head, the harder your shoulders will have to work.


There are several machines that are specifically geared toward building up shoulder muscles. These include:

Shoulder press machines
Chest press machines
Side lateral raise machines
Front lateral pull-down machines
Rowing machines, which may be the best choice for a beginner
Regardless of where you start or what combination of machines you use, start off with a minimum of reps and sets. Ten reps and two sets on a given machine is an optimal starting point, and as your shoulder muscles develop you can add more weight, more reps, and more sets. Always consult a professional, or at least read a manual, before using any of these machines – incorrect usage may instead damage your shoulders.

Free weights

There are numerous free weight exercises that will strengthen your shoulder muscles. A few of these include

Seated or standing presses
Lateral rises
Upright barbell rows
Most work with free weights will develop your shoulder muscles, though any which force you to lift the weights with your rotator cuffs more than your biceps will show more progress. Be careful not to take on too much weight when dealing with free weights, as there are no safety mechanisms to catch the weight if your muscles spasm or your arms get too tired. If you decide to use heavy weights in excess of 150 to 200 pounds, particularly if you’re a beginner, get a spotter.

Regardless of your method of muscle development, you need to space out your exercises. Most shoulder workouts involve the rotator cuff, which is one of the most flexible and easily-damaged muscle groups in your body. Strain these muscles too much and you’ll have trouble moving normally, let alone lifting weights. Strive to develop a full body workout rather than focusing solely on your shoulders.