Hardgainer Shoulders | the Ultimate Shoulder Workout

Hardgainer shoulders? One of the most frustrating things for a hardgainer (besides being a hardgainer) is having small bony shoulders which makes your overall physique look skinnier. The best way to fix this is through a specialized shoulder workout that targets the anterior, lateral and posterior deltoid.

If you are reading this article then you are likely searching for hardgainer specific articles which means that you consider yourself to be a hardgainer. If that is the case then chances are you have a smaller than average bone structure.

When it comes to building muscle and ultimately building a physique one of the most important things to do to drastically improve your physique is to build your shoulders.

Why Broad Shoulders Will Improve Your Physique

Hardgainer Shoulders (Bodies By Byrne)

Broad shoulders not only display a powerful and dense physique but they create the illusion of the coveted v-taper, the more drastic your shoulder to waist ratio the more muscular your physique will look. 

It’s all about creating a ratio and illusion for the v-taper and this will start with building up your shoulder muscles. 

Not only are broad shoulders a sign of overall strength and musculature but in males there are more androgen receptors around the shoulder girdle and the shoulder muscles are made up of a larger proportion of fast twitch muscle fibres. 

What this means is that the shoulders are actually primed for muscle growth, you might have bony shoulders with no visible muscle mass at the minute but do not be disheartened by that. Whilst shoulders are not the largest muscle group in the body they are receptive to weight training. 

You hear about having stubborn calves or small arms however it is rare that someone says they have stubborn shoulders that won’t grow. Progress will slow down the more advanced you get but as a hardgainer you should be focusing on getting broad shoulders to improve your physique quickly

The Role of Genetics

Before embarking on your journey for broader shoulders it’s important to know the role genetics play in this. As with most things when it comes to training genetics, it will play a significant part in the outcome. 

One of the keys to a broad shoulder is clavicle (collar bone) length, a shorter clavicle will mean that you need to build more muscle around the shoulders in order to create the same visual end goal as someone with a long bone structure of the clavicle.

When starting out as a hardgainer you might think that you have a small bone structure however, the key reasoning behind this is because you will lack significant levels of muscle mass in order to truly demonstrate your potential. 

You might have a small upper body now but by adding 20lb – 30lb of muscle over your first year of training then this will have a seriously different outcome to how you view your physique now. 

Don’t be deterred by your current physique, you won’t know your genetic potential until you start to build muscle mass and targeting your shoulders is a great priority besides building overall strength. 

The Essentials of Shoulder Anatomy

I don’t want to bore you with a science lesson however it is essential that you understand some of the key functions of the shoulder when you are looking to start a specific program to improve them. 

The following are the key points that you need to be aware off:

Ball and Socket Joint

The shoulders function around a joint known as a ball and socket joint, this is an incredibly mobile joint and can move in a variety of positions and angles. 

This sounds like a great thing however with increased mobility of a joint comes a loss of stability for the joint. 

It’s important that at any point during training that you should be practicing safe methods and correct form however with the added vulnerability of the shoulder joint you need to be particularly cautious when performing certain movements. 

I’ll only be recommending exercises that keep the joint in a strong and stable position however be aware of any additional stress you place on this joint, and example would be pressing overhead from a starting position of the bar resting on the collar bone. 

You will see people recommend full range of motion but if you don’t have the flexibility or mobility to get into that position without weight then adding a load and forcing it into this position is a recipe for injury.

The Three Heads of the Shoulder

The shoulder muscle, better known as the deltoid, is made up of three heads. The anterior deltoid (front), lateral deltoid (side) and posterior deltoid (rear) are the three heads that make up the shoulder and are not all stimulated by the same exercises. 

An overhead press is the most common shoulder movement however this only targets the anterior delt with some carryover to the lateral delt. Many people often get caught up in training the mirror muscles and the rear delt is usually underdeveloped in a lot of gym goers so do not make the same mistake. 

Targeting all three heads of the shoulder is the key to building up your shoulders as a hardgainer. 

Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is a small group of muscles and tendons that keep the ball of your humerous (upper arm) in the shoulder socket and It also helps you raise and rotate your arm. 

The rotator cuff is therefore essential to keeping strong, healthy and injury free shoulders so committing a small period of time to strengthening it every week or two is needed for longevity and progress.

How Do You Fix Bony Shoulders 

The key to fixing bony shoulders is going to be to add some serious muscle mass to your frame, improving muscle mass is always the key to improving your physique, especially as a hardgainer. 

This sounds obvious but the reason I mention it is because people get caught up in fads and the latest program ideas, it’s easy to say you are focused on building muscle but most of the time your actions can show otherwise!

The basics are of course consuming a calorie surplus on a daily basis in order to gain weight, training hard with a focus on progressive overload and getting stronger to stimulate muscle growth and finally getting sufficient rest and recovery to allow you muscles to repair and grow. 

These are the basics of building a physique and apply to a hardgainer just as much as the average Joe. 

To fix bony shoulders you need to be following a program that focuses on targeting all heads of the delts, with a priority on shoulders it means that the rest of your muscle groups need to go into maintenance mode. 

You still want to stimulate your other muscle groups to ensure protein synthesis and that you stay in a muscle building state but you are not hammering them with exercise after exercise, set after set. You will be in maintenance mode for the rest of your muscle groups whilst you focus on building up your shoulders. 

The key to building shoulders is not too complicated, below is an example workout plan that you can follow to start to bulk up your bony shoulders.

Hardgainer Shoulders Workout Plan

The following is a shoulder routine that involves two dedicated sessions per week for shoulder development, these are labeled workout A and workout B.

The key is going to be to master the form and make sure you are feeling the exercise in the desired head of the delt (I’ll indicate how you should feel this) and that you are getting stronger over time. 

The delt is a relatively small muscle group so do not be entirely focused on jumping up the weight as quickly as possible for most, the only one you should be looking to get stronger in is the compound presses. 

Workout A

Dumbbell incline Y raise – 4 sets x 12 reps

Barbell overhead press – 3 sets x 6 reps

Plate front raise with 3 second hold at the top – 3 sets x 12 reps

Dumbbell side lateral raise with drop set – 3 sets x 8 – 12 reps

Reverse pec dec fly – 4 sets x 15 reps

Barbell shrugs – 4 sets x 12 reps

** Notes **

  • Get stronger in the barbell overhead press each session
  • For the plate front raise hold the weight for 3 seconds in front of your eyeline
  • For the dumbbell lateral raise pick three weights (25lb, 20lb, 15lb as an example), with the 25lb perform 8 reps, immediately perform 8 more with the 20lb and finish with as many as you can at 15lb. This is 1 set, the shoulders respond well to lactic acid build up which is the purpose of this drop set. 

Workout B

Cable internal rotation – 3 sets x 10 reps

Cable external rotation – 3 sets x 10 reps

Seated dumbbell overhead press – 3 sets x 8 – 12 reps

Cable front raise – 3 sets x 12 reps

Leaning dumbbell side lateral raise – 4 sets x 12 reps

Incline reverse dumbbell raise – 4 sets x 12 reps

Cable rope face pulls – 3 sets x 8 reps

** Notes **

  • Internal and external rotation is to warm up and strengthen the rotator cuffs
  • For the leaning dumbbell side lateral raise grab a rack or machine and lean sideways to a 45 degree angle, performing your side lateral like this will make the movement more difficult at the top end of the movement
  • For incline reverse dumbbell raises set the bench to a 45 degree angle and lie face down on it with your chest at the top of the bench.

Also check out the shoulder routine that I wrote for GoNutrition as well as a guide to getting stronger as a hardgainer.

V-Taper shoulder routine
Get stronger as a hardgainer

What Next

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