Posted 19 September 2012 by Rosie Chee, BExSpSc

Women: Building

Beautiful Shoulders

So you have the sexy abs and the fitness model booty, but you want the shoulders to make your waist seem even smaller, to give you that desirable hourglass shape. In order to do that, you must build up your shoulders, capping your lateral delts, having a nice round curve, front to back.

There are many muscles that originate or insert into the shoulder joint, and for well balanced shoulders each must be developed to some degree, but the most important muscle to concentrate on as far as AESTHETICS is the DELTOID, the most superficial of the muscles encompassing the shoulder. To build beautiful shoulders, you have to target each “section” or “head” of the multipennate deltoid muscle:

1. Anterior Deltoid - the area of the deltoid seen from the front;
2. Lateral Deltoid - also known as the “middle” deltoid; and
3. Posterior Deltoid - the area of the deltoid seen from the rear.

Training Exercises

Many exercises use all of the deltoid, although most often, focus on one area of it more specifically than the others.

Exercises for the posterior deltoid include, but are not limited to:  Behind-the-neck barbell military press (seated or standing), bent over dumbbell or low-pulley lateral raises (seated or standing), high-pulley lateral raises, and pec dec rear delt laterals.

Exercises for the anterior deltoid include, but are not limited to: Military barbell press (seated or standing), barbell or dumbbell shoulder press (seated or standing), Arnold dumbbell press (seated or standing), front dumbbell press (seated or standing), barbell or one-dumbbell front raises, dumbbell or low-pulley front raises (single arm or both arms at once), and dumbbell or low-pulley hammer raises (alternating, single arm, or both arms at once).

Exercises for the lateral deltoid include, but are not limited to: Dumbbell or low-pulley lateral raises (seated or standing; alternating, single arm, or both arms at once), and side-lying lateral raises, nautilus lateral raises.

Sample Training Programme for Shoulders

There are so many exercises that you can do for shoulders, so how do you go about selecting the best one and creating a programme that will target each muscle?

For a start, you do not have to be complicated or use a wide assortment of exercises - the “basic staples” are enough, but that is not to say you cannot do more.

The following session is very basic and what I started with a year ago when I began concentrating seriously on building up my shoulders. Doing this has worked extremely well for me in building up the muscle in my shoulders.

Shoulders (1 minute recovery between sets):

  1. Behind-the-neck Barbell Military Press: 4 sets of 8 - 15 reps (sometimes doing in a pyramid fashion re 15, 12, 18, 8 reps, etc., increasing weight in each consecutive set)
  2. BB Military Press: 4 sets of 8-12 reps (sometimes doing in a pyramid fashion re 12, 18, 9, 8, etc., increasing weight in each consecutive set)
  3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 4 sets of 12 - 15 reps.

As with everything, you do not just stay with the same session forever, and after a while, over the months, I added to this basic session to increase intensity (i.e. increase weight or decrease recovery time between sets, including supersets, etc.) AND volume (i.e. adding more sets per exercise, etc.), adapting it re injuries (since there have been quite a few affecting my shoulders in the last few months) or as I progress and find what works better and better in developing and maintaining my shoulder mass.

You can see what my CURRENT shoulder sessions looks like in the “example week of training for me” section of my Interview with - Workout Routine: Rosie Chee.

It takes time, but if you stick at it consistently, always improving and “building” on the session you did the week before, whether it be as small as increasing the weight lifted for only a single set on one exercises, then you WILL build up your shoulders to enhance your figure.


Delavier, F. (2006). Strength training anatomy (2nd ed.). France: Human Kinetics.

Marieb, E. N. (2004). Human anatomy and physiology (6th ed.). San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Photo Credit: Tony Mitchell, Dan Ray

Written by Rosie Chee, BExSpSc


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