How To Get Bigger Shoulders

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3 Cable-Machine Exercises For Bigger Shoulders

Straight-arm pull-down


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Stand in front of the cable machine holding a straight bar attachment with an overhand grip. Pull the bar in a smooth arc to your thighs, then return smoothly to the start.

Reverse cable flye


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Stand in the middle of the machine holding a low-pulley D-handle in each hand. Bend from your hips, then raise your hands out to shoulder height. Return to the start.

Cable face pull


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Stand tall holding a double-rope attachment on the high pulley with straight arms. Pull the hands to either side of your head, then return under control to the start.

6 Steps For Stronger, Broader And More Stable Shoulders

1. Activate the shoulder joint

Before you go near the weights, spend three minutes doing this bodyweight superset: alternate holding a straight-arm plank position and a horizontal hang (hang from rings or a racked barbell with feet elevated).

Why it works: “This drill switches on all three heads of the deltoids – your shoulder muscles – and decompresses the shoulder joint for smoother reps once you start lifting overhead,” says trainer Tom Eastham.

2. Mobilise your rotator cuff

Include this drill in your warm-up: grasp a light kettlebell tightly by the handle with the bottom end pointing up, and slowly press it overhead.

Why it works: “The bottom-up kettlebell press is perfect for improved shoulder stability,” says Eastham. “It works your grip strength and activates your rotator cuff muscles – a common area of weakness in the shoulder.” Aim for ten controlled reps on each arm, keeping your eye on the bell throughout.

RECOMMENDED: Shoulder Exercises

3. Flex your backbone

Resist the lure of the weights for a couple more minutes to first focus on your spine. Get in a cat/camel stretch on all fours, arching your back up and down slowly. Then do iron crosses: lie on your back with arms outstretched, legs raised and bent, and move them from side to side.

Why it works: “With any overhead lift, thoracic mobility is key to unlocking shoulder strength,” says Eastham. “That’s why your spine needs to be flexed and extended regularly.”

4. Suck in your stomach

When pressing overhead, think “abs, glutes, then shoulders”. First, draw your bellybutton towards your spine to brace your abs, and squeeze your glutes. Perform the move, and don’t release the tension until you’ve put the weight down.

Why it works: “This creates a solid base for your press and protects your lumbar spine from pressure,” says Eastham. “The stronger your core, the stronger your shoulders have the potential to be.”

RECOMMENDED: Dumbbell Shoulder Workout

5. Press with perfect form

Perfect the military press before moving on to the aggressive push press or jerk. Stand with feet together, grip the bar with hands outside your shoulders, touch the bar to your collarbone and finish with your arms straight, biceps close to your ears.

Why it works: “The military press is the ultimate overhead strength lift,” says Eastham. “It lays all the essential foundations you need for success with every other shoulder move.”

6. Impress with kettlebells

For serious deltoid hypertrophy, do this drill with two kettlebells: 12 strict presses, nine push presses, 60m overhead carry. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat, doing as many rounds as possible in 12 minutes.

Why it works: “Kettlebells allow for greater range of movement around the shoulder joint, allowing for a smoother, more functional action and a greater workout for every fibre in your muscles,” says Eastham.

RECOMMENDED: Kettlebell Workout Guide

Joe Warner
Former editor of Men’s Fitness UK

Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.