How to Build Shoulder Muscles For Skinny Hardgainers

Skinny hardgainer types have it pretty tough when trying to get big so how to build shoulder muscles is a common query. Perhaps this is because along with the chest muscles and biceps the shoulders are an area that is associated with strength and masculinity. Having a wide set of shoulders for a guy who is used to being slim and skinny is a way you can very quickly look bigger without having to work the entire body also.

Another great thing about building chest muscles is that many exercises you do will also exercise other muscles nearby such as the arms and core muscles and so should often be in your workout routines anyway. However a word of warning. If you choose to work on your pecs to the exclusion of other muscles you run the risk of over-training and injuring yourself or at least tiring yourself out for no good reason. You also do not want to look too top heavy as being out of proportion is less attractive and not good for your overall fitness and strength.

Click here to check out an explosive new resource for anyone struggling to build shoulder muscle that goes well beyond this article!

The shoulder muscles however should not just be worked in isolation and thankfully most exercises that do build the shoulders also work out the arms, chest and back too. As always I want to warn against over-training a particular body part like the shoulder out of disproportionate muscle gain but most because of the higher risk of injury. The shoulder is a complex joint and many weight lifters come to grief working on this area creating sore stiff shoulders and often damaging or completely tearing the rotator cuff which will set you back weeks to months to heal!

However, building bigger shoulder muscles is definitely something you should be incorporating int your workout schedules as it makes you stronger, bigger and makes you look wider than your skinny body really is!

How Your Shoulder Muscles Work

To really get the most out of your shoulder workouts you should have a clear idea of how the shoulder muscles work and how they impact with movement of your body and other anatomy facts. Once you know a bit more about this you should be able to avoid injury better also which should be a prime concern for anyone hitting the gym and lifting heavy weights.

The shoulder area has a few muscles you want to train and a few tings you need to know.

The Deltoid is the biggest and most important muscle that covers the  corner of the shoulder and is responsible for moving your arms with a shoulder action at all angles. There are three major sets of muscle fibers in the Deltoid each which control a certain action:

  • Anterior fibers – These are the deltoid muscles on the front of your shoulder. They move your arm in external rotation (away from the body). It is used in most pressing exercises such as the bench press.
  • Posterior fibers – These muscle fibers are located  on the back side of your shoulder and help in transverse extension shown in such exercises as chin ups and the inverted fly.
  • Lateral fibers – These are located on the side of the shoulder in-between the posterior and anterior fibers of the deltoid. This part is used for many actions including shoulder abduction and shoulder flexion when the shoulder is internally rotated and in shoulder transverse abduction also. These actions can be seen in such exercises involving overhead pressing movements and sideways arm raising movements.

The Trapezius is located from the shoulder to the neck and while not strictly a shoulder muscle is aids in actions that involve shrugging and moving the shoulder blade. Building this muscle can help make your neck look less skinny and can be incorporated into man shoulder exercises too.

The Rotator cuff is something you want to be aware of too. This is not a muscle but is a group of tendons that connect muscle to bone and aid in shoulder movement, it is located underneath the muscle. If you have poor weight lifting technique and push too hard you can tear the rotator cuff which can be very painful and restrict shoulder action for a long time. Some people must have surgery to fix this also making shoulder safety a big issue.

The upshot of all this knowledge is that you know the different actions to build the shoulder muscles you need to and know your limits to stop injury. This can be especially useful if you feel you are unbalanced in your shoulder muscle also as many guys over-train thier anterior muscles making them look stooped and not strong and muscular. Make sure you dedicated your time to training a good mix of deltoid areas and your trapezius which will give you the most balanced, wide and strong looking shoulders.

How to Train Your Shoulder Muscles

Training any muscle group is not just about the exercises that you do but is more about HOW you do those exercises and even more importantly what you do before and after your gym workouts. Skinny Ectomorph body types must pay very strict attention to these fundamental building blocks of bodybuilding also because a hardgainers metabolism, while great at keeping fat off, can counteract easy muscle growth that comes without much effort for other guys.


  • Diet & Nutrition – If you do just one thing as a skinny guy looking to gain muscle it should be to pay close attention to your diet. To build muscle you need energy to feed that muscle and repair it. The calories you usually consume may not be nearly enough to feed your body to do your everyday things and your workout. You also need an excess of energy and calories beyond this that if you workout properly will convert to muscle not fat.
  • Rest & Recovery – Many guys make the mistake of thinking that muscles grow when you lift weights. The truth is that your muscle growth AFTER your workouts when you are resting. This process can sometimes take a few days if you had a very intense training session. Sleeping well and giving your body time to rest between workouts is essential for maximum muscle growth
  • Lift Heavy – Forget cardio, forget doing lots of reps; this does not work when you are aiming for size. Instead you should be focusing on lifting heavy weights that will push you and your muscles to their limits. This sparks muscle growth in the smallest amount of time and is the most efficient way to get bigger muscles for your shoulders and any other muscles too.
More on Rest & Recovery …
More on Diet & Nutrition …
More on Workouts & Muscle Growth …

When it comes to the exercises themselves in your workout there are also a few rules you should follow to get the most out of each gym session.

  1. Do not over-train your deltoids and other shoulder muscles
  2. Your shoulder exercises will also workout other muscles i your back, arms and chest.
  3. Workout a range of motion to target the posterior, anterior and lateral shoulder muscles
  4. Do not spend too long on the shoulders, spark that muscle growth then move on to a new muscle group.
  5. Do a full range of motion with each exercise, do not go half way.
  6. Concentrate on good form to reduce chance of injury.

Best Shoulder Exercises

All these exercises use just a set of dumbbells

See below for video tutorial of these exercises.

Front Raises

Front Raises target the anterior Deltoid on the front of your shoulder but also recruit muscles from the lateral Deltoid, your pectorals (chest muscles), as well as your Trapezius. Do not overextend yourself doing this but do try to get the dumbbells as high as you can without ‘flinging’ the weights up as this is just cheating yourself!

Side Raises
Like the front raises but to the side of the body. You will obviously not be able to go as high because the shoulder joint does not bend beyond horizontal during this lift so aim for that. This exercise will work on the lateral Deltoid muscle but will also target the anterior Deltoid and the Trapezius.

Bent Over Raises

By bending over when you do side raises you change the focus from the lateral to the posterior Deltoid. It also incorporates some back muscles such as the Rhomboids, again works the Trapezius and also brings the lateral shoulder muscles into play as well.

Upright Rows Upright rows involve lifting dumbbells from your waist to your shoulders while bending your elbows with the vertical lift. This is another good lateral Deltoid exercise which is great for gaining muscle and giving the illusion of body width. It will also stress the Biceps, anterior Deltoids, Trapezius and the Teres minor which can b ring size and definition your pecs.
Shoulder Presses

The overhead pushing motion to this exercise will work the anterior Deltoid and the lateral Deltoid while also incorporating work from the triceps and your chest muscles making it a great upper body workout as well as a shoulder workout for size.

An excellent run down of how to build shoulder muscles by Vince Delmonte

Hi Guys, James McLain here,

jamesmclainThanks for reading my article, I hope you got something out of it. I usually recommend that hardgainers check out the No-Nonsense Muscle Building Guide by Vince Delmonte but for those of you looking for more detail on just enhancing certain body parts like your shoulders that might be giving you real troubles there is another excellent resource that has been brought to my attention.

Jeff “The Muscle Nerd” Anderson is another big name in the muscle building industry through his online work. He has excellent guides such as Hardgainer Project X and Homemade Supplement Secrets and has recently added a new specialized guide that focuses exclusively on building mass in certain areas for those guys who have really stubborn muscles.

Muscle Specialization Secrets is Jeff’s explosive new package that contains extremely well researched methods into building mass in all the areas that we want to be bigger and impressive such as the shoulders, biceps and more. This targeted strategy caught my attention as sometimes you can achieve gains in other areas but one body part seems to have some genetic tendency to stay small. For me it is was my legs that for a long time lagged well behind the rest of my body no matter what I did!

If you want to know a bit more about Jeff check out this video he did about the facts and myths of “The Pump” and you will see he knows his stuff.

The Bodybuilding PUMP: Mass Building Myth…Or Legend?!

By The “Muscle Nerd”, Jeff Anderson

Ever see those documentary television shows “Animals Gone Wild”? (no…NOT “GIRLS Gone Wild”! A-N-I-M-A-L-S!)
You know…the ones where normally docile animals scratch, claw, kick, bite, peck, gnaw, or otherwise DEVOUR another animal right before your eyes?
Well, here’s a challenge for you…
Throw a hundred fitness consultants in a room and ask them to debate whether or not that huge “PUMP” you get in the gym is REALLY building you any muscle…or if it’s just a useless ego booster…then watch them start scratching out eyes as the debate heats up! 😉
Yep…tempers flare on this topic and opinions are all over the board…so how would you like a little help from the scientific community on whether or not you should be ignoring the pump…or whether it’s your best friend in the gym?
The answer may SURPRISE you!
Amaze your friends with your bodybuilding brilliance as you bring the next “pump” argument to a screeching halt with the no-nonsense verdict you’re about to learn in this short VIDEO LESSON!

I personally think Jeff has made a very useful guide here that goes well beyond this simple snippet of his knowledge and highly recommend this new guide to anyone struggling to build shoulder muscles.

Check out Muscle Specialization Secrets here

Follow James McLain on , Facebook, or Twitter!

3 thoughts on “How to Build Shoulder Muscles For Skinny Hardgainers”

  1. Very interesting and intelligent article and resource choices, James. I have been to a conference and met Vince and I believe Jeff A also. Nice job, James!

  2. i agree with jeff that all these videos are going to let people who want to be normal and healthy have a happy life!!!!!!!!

  3. That shoulder workout looks amazing. I have the hardest time building up my shoulders. I have girl shoulders and wish I had basketball player shoulders. I am definitely going to give that a try. I’m new to this blog but will be subscribing so keep the good stuff coming!

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