How to Get Broad Shoulders

Man with broad shoulders doing an exercise.

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Broad shoulders are a highly desirable masculine trait. They demonstrate that you’re fit, strong and capable. Some guys are born with broad shoulders thanks to an exceptional skeletal structure, but others aren’t so lucky. Most of us have to work to attain them through two essential avenues: exercise and posture. Follow this template to improve your physique and get the broad shoulders you’ve always wanted!


Exercise is the most vital step to achieving a wide upper body through the shoulders. Let’s go over the best exercises you can do to get your desired look.

1. Lateral Raises

The lateral raise is the king of isolation shoulder exercises. It targets the lateral/side head of the deltoid, which makes up the bulk of your shoulder’s muscle mass. Doing this exercise will make your shoulders get broader and fuller. Some people like to use dumbbells and others prefer cables, but we recommend you do both. Here are the benefits of each option:

  • Dumbbells: this method allows you to use more weight, which improves strength.
  • Cable: this method allows you to get a fuller range of motion, which stimulates more muscle fibers and leads to a better overall contraction.

Exhaust your shoulders with some heavy dumbbell raises, then move to a cable machine to squeeze every last fiber of the lateral head until the burn is unbearable.

2. Overhead Press

The overhead press is the best shoulder exercise in terms of weight overload. It partially hits the lateral head, but it puts the most stress on the anterior/front head. You can overhead press with a barbell or dumbbells, standing or sitting. It doesn’t matter how you prefer the exercise, as long as it remains a consistent part of your routine.

3. Face Pulls

The face pull exercise hits the posterior/rear head of the deltoid. Although this head is smaller than the anterior and lateral heads, it’s no less important. You must build a well-rounded set of delts to achieve the broad shoulder look. The rear delts are also crucial for building a complete back, which we’ll get into later.

When doing this exercise, make sure you pull with your rear delts instead of your back. It’s harder for us to feel our posterior muscles working because we can’t see them. Start with a manageable weight and do slow reps to develop the mind-muscle connection.

4. Bench Press

That’s right: the good old bench press can help you develop broad shoulders. It primarily targets the chest and triceps, but the shoulders are involved in any heavy pushing movement. Working your shoulders in heavy exercises like the flat and incline bench press makes them stronger, allowing you to lift more weight on isolation movements like the lateral raise.

The incline bench press can even replace the overhead press if you do enough accessory shoulder work to make up for it. Just make sure you angle your bench to at least 45 degrees to give the anterior head enough activation. 

5. Barbell Row

Compound pulling movements also help you develop broad shoulders. As your back gets wider and thicker, your shoulders also appear wider. The barbell row is the king of compound pulling exercises and should be the primary exercise in your back workout. 

This movement is so effective because you can change the primary muscle simply by adjusting your posture. Leaning closer to the ground targets your traps and rear delts, while a more upright position focuses on the lats. Do this exercise in both positions to build a full back and force your shoulders to keep up.


Building broad shoulders is a 24/7 task, not something you can only achieve at the gym. You have to maintain good posture throughout the day to keep your shoulders healthy and functional. Here are some general posture tips to help you:

  • Stay vigilant: get into the habit of monitoring your posture so you can notice when it breaks down and adjust accordingly.
  • Wear appropriate footwear: wear the right shoes to support your balance and take unnecessary stress off your body.
  • Adjust your work surfaces: make sure your work desk, kitchen table and other surfaces are the right height for you.

You can also improve your shoulder health and appearance by applying the following cues while sitting and standing:

  • Sitting: switch positions often, take brief walks to stretch out, make sure your feet touch the floor, don’t cross your legs, relax your shoulders, tuck in your elbows and support your lower back, thighs and hips.
  • Standing: retract your shoulders, pull in your stomach, hold your head high, keep the weight on the balls of your feet, let your arms hang naturally and keep your feet shoulder-width apart.

One of the main problems that people have today is the “desk posture.” Our heads look downward, our upper backs are overarched and our shoulders are rounded forward. This unhealthy posture makes us look shorter and narrower than we really are. Here are some stretches to help you alleviate those symptoms and unlock your body’s true posture:

  • Bridge: turn your body into an arching bridge to stretch the entire back and relieve tension from your posterior muscles.
  • Cat/Dog Pose: rotate between the cat and downward dog pose to unlock your upper body’s flexibility.
  • Dead Hangs: hang from a bar for as long as you can to stretch the lats, take the pressure off your lower back and open up your scapula.
  • Static Squat: sit in a deep squat position to open up your leg muscles and lower back.
  • Seated Spinal Twist: sit upright on the floor and twist your upper body around the opposite leg. You might hear a crack or two, but that means it’s working!

You probably noticed that these stretches revolve around opening up the back muscles. A straight back is the foundation of good posture, so you need to give it relief on a regular basis. Do at least one of these stretches every day to keep your back healthy and shoulders broad.

These stretches aren’t the only options. Your workout routine can also include yoga and other similar activities to encourage muscle growth and good posture. Do exercises that test your flexibility to ensure your body’s long-term health and experience the following benefits:

  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Reduced chance of injury
  • Fewer aches and pains
  • Enhanced athletic performance
  • Improved circulation

A wider set of shoulders is just one positive aspect of good posture. Keeping a straight back and doing the right stretches/activities will change your life.

Take Care of Your Body to Unlock Your Shoulders

A combination of exercise and good posture is the key to unlocking broad shoulders. Do the exercises we discussed, practice responsible posture habits throughout the day and start a flexibility routine to relieve your muscles. You won’t notice a change after one day or even one week, but trust the process and stick to the plan.

After a few months, you will notice that your clothes don’t fit the same way they used to. Your body will be broader and fuller through the upper body – not just the shoulders. You might even look taller. Get started today so you can reap the benefits as soon as possible!

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