Strong Man Style Lifts For Huge Shoulders

[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]our shoulders have been on standby for too long – it’s time to start training old school with strong man lifts. Getting the desired shape and incisions of the shoulder muscles is important for those with large shoulders to begin with, but for most, it’s about building the size before building definition. Strong man exercises have a wealth of benefits but are probably best used in the bodybuilding community for their ability to add mass to shoulder muscles.


Shoulders are a notorious spot for injury and that’s largely down to the fact the deltoids respond best to heavy weight, meaning that they’re usually always running a risk of injury when in training.

For the same reason, big, heavy, compound strong man style lifts are the best exercises you can do to build sheer shoulder width and mass. How often do you see a strongman competitor with small shoulders? They weren’t built with lateral raises, we can tell you that for sure.

First we’ll go over the benefits of the lifts and then show you how to integrate them into a normal routine.
Top strong man style lifts:

– Viking Press

Most people shoulder press with a pronated grip; that is, with your palms facing away from you. Not only does this increase stress on the joints, but can cause impingement at the bottom of the lift. By shoulder pressing with a neutral grip; that is, palms facing towards each other, you can generally press more weight, while preventing rotator cuff injuries. It also activates the front delts further than a traditional pronated press. It’s one of the kings of shoulder exercises but is, as you may know, rarely done. If you’ve got a Viking press machine at the gym, it’s ideal. Otherwise you can use dumbbells and do the Viking press standing.

If you’re using dumbbells to Viking press you can control the emphasis on the lift. By bringing the dumbbells slightly in front or to the side of you, you can place more emphasis on different areas. It all depends on personal preference and how it feels to you.

– Farmers Walk

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The farmers walk might not seem like a traditional shoulder workout, but you’ll feel the shoulders and traps burning during this exercise. By holding onto heavy weight you place static strain onto muscle, rather than typical training achieved by dynamic movements. This is a tactic still relatively unused in body building but is becoming more and more popular. The results, even with those whose goal is hypertrophy, are pretty good. [/column]

Most of you will not be unfamiliar with the term ‘farmer strength’, and it’s used for a reason. We’ve met 300lb farmers before who’ve never set foot in a gym,  but gain huge mass simply by carrying hay bales and heavy machinery 6 hours a day. The emphasis in this type of environment is heavy carrying and static contractions (i.e. the same effect as if you were to hold a dumbbell half way through a curl).

– One Arm Dumbbell Press

Great for shoulder press technique, balance and the stabilising muscles, this is another hard hitting shoulder exercise which is rarely seen in the gym.

If you want to make the lift a full body workout, start with the dumbbell on the floor and squat as you clean the weight before pressing.

– Barbell shoulder press

The classic shoulder press should be included in your routine. However, these days many gym goers are turning to seated dumbbell presses or shoulder presses on a smith machine. Though your max may be heavier, you’re seriously supressing potential growth by placing heavy emphasis on the front delts but not much else.

By doing barbell presses standing up and unaided, the lift requires serious stability both in the back and core, but more importantly in the muscles that stabilise the shoulder and you’ll activate more of the rear and side delts.


Strong man style lifts might not give you the definition and striations that lateral raises do, but they are essential to getting the best bang for your buck when it comes to buiding that core shoulder mass. Our suggestion is to include at least one of the lifts in your everyday workout. If you’re goal is to add size, then you’ll want to follow our mass building shoulder routine.


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