How To Get Proper Rock & Boulders / Shoulders

Combine compound & isolation exercises

For an explanation on the difference between compound and isolation exercises see our article 11 Ways To Get Proper Scotch Eggs / Legs . The key to developing functionally strong, defined and striated shoulders (anatomical term is Deltoids aka Delts) is to get the right balance between multi-joint compound moves and single joint isolation exercises, if you manage this you will achieve full looking, separated Delts which will not only fill out your shirt, but give you that much sought after X shape.

It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between multi-joint and single joint exercises for your Delts because you’re almost always recruiting your elbows, so for the sake of clarity we consider the elbow and shoulder joint as one. The Delts consist of 3 sections namely the anterior deltoid (front); the middle deltoid (side) and the posterior deltoid (back), which means certain exercises target certain Deltoid heads.

Compound Delt Exercises

-         Clean and Jerks (Whole Delts and full body workout)

Isolation Delt Exercises

-         Shoulder Presses (works anterior (front) Delts)

-         Arnold Presses (full Delt workout)

-         Side to front raises (Anterior (front) and Medial (side) Delts) - Bring dumbells out to your side, return to start position and instantlyraise them out in front of you.

-         Bent over dumbbell raises (Posterior (rear) Delts)

-         Upright Rows (Posterior and secondary Anterior Delts)

-         Lateral Raises (Medial Delts)

-         Front Raises (Anterior Delts)


Get the weight and rep range right

The weight and rep range inevitably varies depending on whether you want to gain size, strength, power, endurance or definition. Despite this, the general rule is the same…build a foundation of enduring strength first of all, it’s no use trying to lift heavy weights if there is no base of endurance as you will only fail during your sets before you reach your growth threshold, basically you finish prematurely, and that my friends is never good! Therefore my advice is to start with a weight that allows you to complete a rep range of approximately 10-12; this is trial and error at first and will help you to gauge the perfect weight for you (if you’re honest with yourself of course). If you find you are completing the reps without adequate muscle pump or fatigue then don’t be tempted to increase the reps, increase the weight instead maintaining the 10-12 rep range.

If strength is your aim then reduce the rep range to approx 6-8 and lift a weight that allows you to complete the reps so that you are close to failure at the end. Remember that the Delts are a smaller muscle group and therefore factor the weight accordingly.

Don’t forget your Rotator Cuffs!

The Rotator Cuff muscles include:

- Supraspinatus

- Infraspinatus


-Teres Minor


These are located around the shoulder joint and work as a unit to stabalise and strengthen the shoulder joint. Therefore it would be rather reckless to not train this vital muscle group. Unfortunately the term ‘out of sight, out of mind’ resonates here, just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be trained. After all, strong, dense and aesthetic muscles must grow from the root, plus if your injured (which happens all too often with the Rotator Cuffs) you can’t train anyway!

Try these rotator cuff exercises:

Get the balance right

Notoriously, the hardest of the three Delts to work are the posterior (rear) Delts. Consequently they are frequently neglected which starts off a vicious cycle, because the more you train the anterior (front) and medial (side) Delts the tighter they become, this overstretches the posterior Delts which makes them weaker still! So do not forget to perform bent over dumbbell raises (read back to number 1 on this list) and full Delt exercises such as Arnold Presses to ensure you achieve muscular balance and avoid those Neolithic man esque rounded shoulder!


Your shoulders are a small muscle group which require tender loving care. A poorly recovered Delt or rotator cuff muscle is highly likely to become strained or torn due to the lack of supporting muscles. To limit the risk of injury whilst helping to promote growth, the supplement of choice is whey protein. Try Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey and XL Nutrition Xtra Whey Protein for a 70-80% protein that mixes great and tastes even better. Reduce the onset of ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’ (DOMS), the dreaded stiffness that follows a training session by adding in some Glutamine. Glutamine is very important to our muscles, in fact, over 90% of the body’s Glutamine is stored within skeletal muscle. According to Llewellyn, (2009) the body’s Glutamine stores deplete after a heavy training session, meaning the replenishment of the Glutamine pools can go some way to stunting catabolism (muscle breakdown) and aid recovery for the next day’s session. Consequently, Glutamine is one of the most effective supplements out there for reducing muscle soreness, injury and the onset of the dreaded overtraining syndrome!


Llewellyn, W. (2009). Sport Supplement Reference Guide. FL: Molecular Nutrition.

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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