Contributing blogger Troy Meyers is a certified personal trainer and sports conditioner with more than 10 years of experience. He owns Atlanta-based JockBoyLocker.com and contributes to the site’s Lockerroom Blog.
Building bigger shoulders is a balance between positioning, stress and overstressing the shoulder joint.
Your shoulder has the largest range of motion of all of your joints. It relies on muscles and ligaments for stability, instead of the skeletal structure, though the downside is that this expansive range of motion also makes the shoulder more susceptible to injury than other joints. The challenge is to keep your shoulders healthy and at optimum performance to increase both strength and flexibility.
The anterior deltoid is often over-trained. Keep in mind that all chest and shoulder exercises will recruit the anterior deltoid. Bodybuilder’s target the anterior deltoid with dumbbell front raises, but they aren’t necessary since side lateral raises, chest presses (particularly the incline chest press), chest flies and all shoulder exercises target the anterior deltoid.
The lateral deltoid is stressed in barbell, dumbbell and machine shoulder presses and dumbbell side lateral raises. To maximize stress on the lateral deltoid during shoulder presses, keep the elbows flared at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock —elbows directly out to the side. This is ideal for stressing the lateral deltoid, though some athletes find it difficult to get their elbows in this position. If this is the case, try 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock—elbows slightly in front of the body—or 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock to reduce the stress on the shoulder capsule.
The more the elbows move anterior to the shoulder, the less stress on the lateral head. The same is true regardless of whether you use barbells, dumbbells or machines. The difference is in the stability of the shoulder press. Machines afford the greatest stability, which is preferable for beginners. Advanced athletes will need dumbbells to make the exercises less stable and therefore place more stress on the shoulder’s stabilizer muscles.