Unleash Your Inner Superhero With Powerful Shoulders

Peter had been a member at my gym for over a year, but I hadn’t noticed him. This pretty much sums up Peter’s big problem in life:

He didn’t stand out.

Peter felt no one saw him. When he walked in a room, no one looked. He felt that he looked much older than he was. He was self conscious about his posture.

All of this clearly took a toll on Peter’s social and professional life. He was worried that he was being overshadowed by younger, more assertive coworkers.

Now we were chatting in the gym lobby/ Peter struck me as a nice guy and we bonded over our childhood love of comic book superheroes. We’d  read a lot of the same titles as kids and we realized we appreciated the same things about our favorite good guys.

Superheroes are always the “go to” guy. They’re ridiculously strong. They have otherworldly abilities. They look and act extremely confident. They appear to stay young forever.

I was trying to describe the look of a hero when Peter nailed it;

“They just look powerful.”

It was the perfect word. It implies youth and virility. It shows confidence. It demands respect.

I was going to help Peter look powerful.

Fortunately, it didn’t take a radioactive spider bite to give Peter the presence of a hero. All it took was big, strong shoulders.

Why Shoulders?

They key to looking powerful is posture. Being curled over a keyboard 40 hours a week has your spine in constant misalignment. Over time, poor posture can lead to a host of aches and pains that make daily life agonizing.

Strong shoulders support postural muscles that keep your spine in alignment. Standing up straight makes you look taller, more confident, and younger. These are all important parts of a commanding presence.

Big, broad shoulders also build the classic V-Taper that defines a powerful physique. You are perceived as more attractive when your shoulders are noticeably wider than your waist.

The desire to look good is normal and healthy. Some people feel guilty or shallow to admit this. The word “vanity” pops into their minds. But it shouldn’t. A basic aesthetic goal can be an incredible motivator.

How Do I Build Superhero Shoulders?

To build well developed shoulders, you have to train them in different ways. You’ll need to do some heavy overhead pressing and a lot if high volume isolation work.

Overhead press:

The dumbbell overhead press is the best way to press. Free of the bar, you can keep the dumbbells in a perfect vertical path, developing all three heads of your deltoid muscles. (Your major shoulder muscles are called your anterior, middle, and posterior deltoids).

A barbell overhead press is a good substitute, but tends to be harder on the shoulder joint as well as predominantly involving the anterior delt at the exclusion of the others. This is because the bar forces you to start with your hands slightly in front of your head before pressing up and pushing your your head through.

Check out this tutorial on safe and effective overhead pressing:

Heavy pressing should be done no more than once or twice in a week. Perform 4-5 sets of 4-8 reps for optimal strength and size development.

Isolation Exercises:

Isolation exercises are meant to strengthen weak points, build stability, and add roundness to your shoulders. Focus on one of your deltoid muscles at a time. Use lighter weight and higher reps to create a pump or burning feeling in the intended muscle.

3 or 4 times per week, perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps. These muscles are smaller and recover quickly, allowing for higher training volume.

To build well-rounded shoulders; try my favorite isolation exercises:

Anterior Delts:

Middle Delts:

Posterior Delts:

If Your Shoulders Hurt

The most common shoulder health issue is called Upper Crossed Syndrome. It is caused by a combination of overactive (tight) and underactive (weak) muscles. Overactive pecs, upper traps, and lats pull your shoulders forward and down, giving you rounded hunchback posture. Weak or underactive mid-back muscles and posterior deltoid muscles fail to hold your shoulders back in proper alignment.

A combination of stretching and targeted strength training are needed to restore heroic posture.


Use these stretches before each workout. Hold each stretch 30-60 seconds.




Corrective Exercise

Mid/Low Traps:

Posterior Delt & Traps:

Up, Up, and Away

Peter got the powerful look he wanted. It took time and a seriously heroic work ethic, but when Pete was through he seemed like a different man.

He beamed. Pete looked confident, taller, and —  I swear — at least 5 years younger. When he walked in the gym people stopped what they were doing to wave and say Hi, ask how his day was going, or give him a nod.

Peter built the powerful presence he wanted. You can, too.