8 Reasons Your Shoulders Are NOT Growing

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By robb the singh

8 Reasons Shoulders muscle NOT Growing

Threedimensional calflike shoulders help form a V-shaped appearance for your upper body, making you appear leaner, more attractive, and more athletic.

It also helps your arms look significantly more muscular when you have pronounced shoulders that appear to separate from the rest of the muscles in your arms.

8 Reasons Your Shoulders Are NOT Growing

Unfortunately, many guys make the same common mistakes that prevent them from adding any meaningful mass to their shoulders at all.

So today I want to go over eight of the most common mistakes that are holding you back in terms of bulking up those shoulders.

I see all the time that most people don’t train through a full range of motion, especially when doing exercises like overhead presses.

If you’re someone that does go all the way down when you do overhead presses, next time you go to the gym, take a look at how most people perform their barbell, dumbbell, and machine overhead presses. 

You’ll see that most people don’t lower the weight further than the point where their upper arms are parallel to the floor before pressing the weight back up. 

What you want to do instead is lower the weight down until your hands are at least at ear level, and you can go even lower than that until the dumbbells are about the same height as your shoulders.

The upper part, on the other hand, is largely a function of the triceps. 

If we divide the motion of an overhead press into a lower, middle, and an upper portion, we can see that the triceps are heavily involved in locking out the weight during that upper portion. 

Not so much your shoulders. Your shoulders fire fully in the lower and middle portions of this exercise. On top of the fact that your shoulders are more active in the lower and the middle section. 

Research also indicates that in general, training through a greater range of motion is better for muscle growth.

For example- studies show that full squats cause more glute and adductor growth than partial squats, and a full range of motion curls produce more bicep growth when compared to partial curls. 

2- Focusing on Front delt

Another common mistake is focusing too much on the front delts, but not enough on the side and rear delts. That is usually done unintentionally, and this issue can even affect advanced bodybuilders. 

  1. One of the staple shoulder exercises in everyone’s routine is the overhead press. Unfortunately, the overhead press, as great of an exercise as it is, focuses primarily on the front delts. Meanwhile, the side and especially the rear delts get much less activation. 
  2. The bigger issue is the fact that you already trained your front delts quite a bit during all your horizontal pressing exercises like the dumbbell and barbell bench press.

So when you train your chest, you inadvertently also train the front part of your shoulders a lot. Even your rear delts will get recruited to a decent extent when you perform different pulling exercises like pullups, rows, and especially bent over high rows. 

But that’s not the case for the side delts, which are especially important for giving your shoulders that wide look. Except for upright rows, which can lead to shoulder impingement, your side delts are not activated to a significant extent from most other compound exercises, including the bench press, pullups, and rows. 

That’s why you want to put extra emphasis on training your side delts during your shoulder workouts. There are pretty much no lifters that need to do isolation exercises for their front delts, like dumbbell frontal races, for example. 

However, pretty much every lifter can benefit by adding more side and rear delt exercises like dumbbell lateral raises and cable reverse flies. 

Now, on top of the aesthetic benefits, focusing on the side and rear delts is also beneficial from a posture and shoulder health perspective. 

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Biomechanics found that strengthening the posterior head of the deltoid helps to ensure shoulder joint integrity and reduces the likelihood of a shoulder injury.

3- Saving Shoulder exercise

The mistake of saving your shoulder exercises till the end of your workout or simply hitting shoulders too late in your workout. 

Many studies, including a randomized controlled trial, show that exercises and muscle groups that you train first in a workout are the ones that the most gain from. 

However, a lot of people that are trying to grow their shoulders don’t train their shoulders first. If your split training routine combines chest, shoulders, and triceps. 

For example- In one push workout, you’re most likely starting your workout with exercises like bench presses and dumbbell presses, which means you’ll exhaust your shoulders quite a bit before you finally get to your shoulder exercises. 

That works just fine if your primary goal is to grow your chest. But if you primarily want to grow your shoulders, it would be better to hit them at the beginning of your workout. 

That is why I like to combine shoulders, biceps, and triceps into one arm workout on a separate day from my chest and back workout. 

Having an arms-specific day where you can start fresh with shoulder exercises that target your mid and rear deltoids, like bent arm lateral raises and dumbbell reverse lies, can wind up being extremely beneficial for balancing out the shape of your shoulders. 

Even if you start the workout with overhead presses, which target more of your front delt, starting with shoulder exercises can help you lift significantly more weight than if you were to finish with shoulder exercises, and that in turn will benefit muscle growth.

4- Allowing Traps

Another mistake is allowing your traps to take over for your delts. This isn’t the case for everyone, but some people feel shoulder exercises and especially side delt exercises more in their traps than they do in their shoulders. 

Due to this increased level of trap activation, their traps grow like crazy while their shoulders get left behind. 

This can be a tricky situation because unfortunately, it’s impossible to stimulate your delts without also having your traps involved in the movement. 

But the good news is that there are a couple of things you can do to reduce trap recruitment.

  1. You can static stretch your traps before you do your shoulder workout. Various studies show that stretching a muscle for 60 seconds or longer decreases subsequent muscle activation during exercise. 
  2. You can effectively stretch your traps by simply bending one arm and putting it behind your back as you take your opposite hand and pull your head down to the sides towards your shoulder. 

You’ll want to hold that position for 60 seconds on each side for one to two sets before training your shoulders. 

Another great way to train your side delts while reducing trap involvement is to focus on pushing your dumbbells as far away to your sides as possible as you bring them up during a lateral raise, rather than just focusing on lifting them straight up. 

5- Not Applying Progressive overload

We have the common problem of not applying progressive overload. It’s interesting when it comes to the bench press.

Many lifters try to beat the amount of weight that they lifted the week beforehand or the month beforehand, which is a good thing because increasing the amount of stress you place on your muscles stimulates growth.

Few people are focused on trying to increase the amount of weight that they can use on compound shoulder exercises like overhead presses, and especially on isolation exercises like lateral raises.

That’s a big mistake when doing shoulder exercises, or any other exercise, you want to focus on progressive overload.

That means that you have to gradually increase the amount of workload that you put on a muscle. It doesn’t have to be a huge increase.

Small, little increments will add up to large increments over time. So focus on just increasing the amount of weight you can lift by even two and a half pounds in one month.

If you’re doing a weight load for ten reps and not hitting failure, increase that weight load until you’re doing like six or seven reps before hitting failure.

Then work on getting your rep count back up to nine or ten reps before upping the weight load again and repeating that entire process.

That is also why it could be highly beneficial for you to keep track of your workouts so that you know how much weight you used during your last couple of workouts and how many reps able to do with that weight.
This way, you always have a tangible number that you can try to beat over time.

6- Not doing Enough Training

Another issue you might be running into, aside from just not upping your weight load is you’re not doing enough overall training volume.

If you only train your shoulders once per week, or you only do a couple of sets here and there, that’s likely the reason why your shoulders aren’t growing. To maximize muscle growth, you have to do enough training volume.

The meta-analysis found a dose-response relationship between training volume and muscle growth in train lifters, the more sets the participants did, the more muscle they gained.

Also, looking closely at another eight-week study where participants did either one, three, or five sets per exercise, the results once again show that there was a dose-response relationship where higher training volumes led to more muscle growth.

So if your shoulders aren’t growing, consider doing more sets for that muscle every week. So if you’re currently doing, let’s say, nine sets for shoulders per week, try twelve or 15 sets per week and see if that helps you break through your plateau.

Now, even though I’ve just been talking about your shoulder workouts, one of the main reasons you might be struggling to add mass to your shoulders is that you’re not consuming enough calories.

7- Not consuming enough calories

Consuming enough calories is crucial if you want to maximize muscle growth. So if your shoulders aren’t growing, make sure to check whether you are in fact, in a calorie surplus. If not, that could be the fix that you need to get your shoulders growing again.

You don’t have to go crazy stuffing yourself with as much food as possible to maximize muscle growth.

You don’t need that big of a calorie surplus. A huge surplus can do more bad than good. That was proven in a study where a scientist compared muscle growth and fat gain in individuals that consume different calorie surpluses.

While one group consumed a regular calorie surplus, the other group went 600 calories above the regular calorie surplus group.

After twelve weeks, both groups gained a statistically similar amount of muscle, but the group that consumed an additional 600 calories gained more than five times the amount of fat.

So if you want to keep it stupid simple, I recommend that you consume a calorie surplus target of around five to 8% above maintenance per day.

That’ll be enough to maximize muscle growth while minimizing fat gain.

8- Not eating enough protein

Finally, last but not least, you may not be eating enough protein. So not only is getting enough calories important for muscle growth, but you also want to consume enough protein.

That’s because the amino acids found in protein form the foundation of our muscle mass.

Muscle growth is all about building up more protein in a muscle compared to what gets broken down daily. If you can accomplish that, your muscles will grow.

Now, just like with the calorie surplus, more is not necessarily more. A 2018 Meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that you only need zero 73 grams/lb of body weight per day.

That equals about 131 grams of protein for a 180-pound person. You can, of course, eat more protein than that amount, but based on the scientific evidence, it won’t have much more of an effect on your muscle-building progress.

Instead, I recommend saving those additional calories for fats and carbs that can make your diet more enjoyable.

You’ll get a customized diet plan, a six-week progressive workout plan, a recipe book, and a coach to answer any questions and make any adjustments.


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