Exercise Guide to: Boulder Shoulders

5 minutes to read
Dinesh Fonseca

Dinesh Fonseca

Certified Personal Trainer and REPS (Registered Exercise Professional)


Note — The article was checked and updated March 2023.

Jump to:

If you’re looking for the illusion of boulder shoulders, you can hack your way through it by standing up straighter or working on your lats in your back which will give you the appearance of bigger shoulders.

RELATEDYour Guide to Good Posture: Tips and Exercises

If you’re looking to actually do the hard yards, here’s what you need to know.

The shoulder — function and anatomy

The shoulder capsule is actually much more complicated than what we see on the surface. Understanding how the shoulder works can aid in: 

  • Minimising shoulder injuries
  • Increasing shoulder stability
  • Maximising shoulder aesthetics

The shoulder complex is made up of the clavicle, scapula and humerus through the glenohumeral joint, AC joint, SC joint, and ST joint. 

The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the human body

Shoulder Structure - Deltoid Muscle

All of these different joints work together to aid the shoulder in internal vs external rotation, abduction and adduction, flexion and extension and circumduction. In essence, being able to move your shoulder around freely and achieve maximum movement.

Shoulder Muscles

The shoulder is made up of 3 sections

  • Anterior deltoid (front deltoid)
  • Medial deltoid (middle deltoid) 
  • Posterior deltoid (rear deltoid)

In this section we will break down the different aspects of the shoulder and recommend the best exercise for each muscle.

Anterior Deltoid

The anterior deltoid or front deltoid originates on the clavicle and is responsible for aiding in flexion and internal rotation. 

Medial Deltoid

The medial head of the deltoid originates on the acromion process of the scapula and aids in abduction.

Posterior Deltoid

The posterior head of the deltoid originates on the spine of the scapula and assists in extension and external rotation of the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint). All heads of the deltoid insert into the humerus.

To effectively train the shoulders, we need to work on all heads of the shoulder

It is recommended that you perform the isolation exercises once a week as most compound movements (these are big movements that involve multiple muscles) will use different parts of your shoulders.

Training a muscle too many times can result in it being over trained, weak from not being able to recover, and can result in an injury.

5 exercises for Anterior Deltoid

Exercises for front delts (from compound movements to isolated exercises):

  • Pushups
  • Pike pushups
  • Dips (or chair dips if normal dips are too hard)
  • Incline bench press
  • Overhead press
  • Front raise
Man doing push ups

It is suggested to rotate exercise often, and target the muscle from different angles.

Exercises for Medial Deltoid

Exercises for middle delts:

  • Lateral raises – you can use dumbbells or cables

5 exercises for Posterior Deltoid

Exercises for rear delts (from compound movements to isolated exercises):

  • Seated row
  • Pullup
  • Bent over row
  • Bodyweight rows
  • Face pulls
  • Rear delt raises or reverse flys
Man doing pull-ups

Important note

Shoulder muscles are one of the smaller muscles in our body and assist numerous times in most daily life activities and most compound movements in the gym.

To get the best out of them, it is best to train with a lighter weight and with more repetitions as this will allow you to build larger shoulders but also functional and useful shoulders.

Related Questions

1. What are the best bodyweight shoulder exercises?
The best bodyweight exercises for front delts (from compound movements to isolated exercises) are

  • Pseudo planche pushups
  • Dips
  • Planche leans

The best bodyweight exercises for middle delts are

  • Archer pushups (can be performed on knees)
  • Side to side pushups

The best bodyweight exercises for rear delts (from compound movements to isolated exercises) are

  • Bodyweight rows
  • Pullups
  • Front lever raises

Dinesh is an ex-CPA who worked in the corporate world, and today is a teacher and a personal trainer. In his workouts and training he specialises in calisthenics (bodyweight) exercises, addresses pain and injuries and provides the most efficient way to get to your goal – whatever that may be. 

Dinesh helps people feel great and move pain-free using minimal equipment. You can learn more about Dinesh and follow his work at The LifeStyle PT.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *