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Ask The Ripped Dude: How Can I Improve My Shoulders?

QObi, my arms look great, but I have ski-slope shoulders. What do you recommend?

To build a complete physique, the sculpted sort that looks good on a magazine cover, every body part needs to hold its own—without exception.

That means giving every body part its due in the gym, even if it’s not a “glamour” body part like chest, biceps, or abs.

When I train, my objective is to work each body part a minimum of once each week and a maximum of twice each week. That same rule applies to shoulders. I always pair shoulders with a back-smashing session.

To grow big, strong shoulders, hit them with a minimum of three exercises each training session. Note the word “minimum.” If you’re strong enough, feel free to increase this to 4-5 exercises on shoulder day.

I make sure I warm up my shoulders by stretching my arms out. It’s essential to prevent injury. I start with small circles going forward for at least 30 seconds and then I reverse and go backward for 30 seconds. Then I do the same thing, only making the circles bigger.

Here’s a breakdown of two shoulder routines. I chose these exercises because collectively they work each head of the deltoid. When I mention Monday and Friday—well, that’s up to you. Just don’t train shoulders on consecutive days.

Follow this shoulder routine and they’ll grow. Trust me.

Monday

1 Dumbbell Front Raise

This isolation exercise primarily works your anterior (front) deltoid.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest your arms at your sides. Using an overhand grip, slowly raise your arms in front of you and bring the dumbbell to eye level.

Dumbbell Front Raises

Then, slowly lower the weight back down to your sides. Find yourself swinging? It’s likely that the weight you’re using is too heavy. Remember: Speed isn’t the key here. It’s all about slow, isolated exercises.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

2 Dumbbell Overhead Press

This shoulder exercise works your anterior deltoid while indirectly targeting your triceps and upper back.

Sit on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, and make sure your feet are shoulder width apart and flat on the ground. Bring your arms to shoulder level and bend at the elbows. From there, simultaneously push the dumbbells overhead and extend until they touch for a complete repetition. Lower the dumbbells back down to chest level and repeat.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

3 Barbell Upright Row

This compound exercise works the deltoids and trapezius muscles while indirectly targeting the triceps.

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell in front of you, resting it against your thighs. Pull the barbell up until it reaches the level of your clavicle.

Barbell Upright Row

At this point, your elbows should be fully pointed outward. Be sure not to swing or bounce the bar or rise to your tippy toes. Keep a steady breath, inhaling on the downward position and exhaling as you pull the bar upward.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Friday

1 Dumbbell Shoulder Shrug

This exercise works the upper trapezius muscle, helping you built titan-style traps.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip. Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart. From the starting position, squeeze together your shoulder blades while simultaneously rotating your scapula. Try to bring your shoulders to your ears (or as close as possible) while elevating your scapula.

Hold that contraction for at least two seconds before lowering your shoulders back down.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

2 Dumbbell Lateral Raise

These raises primarily work the middle head of the deltoid as well as the anterior deltoid and posterior (back) deltoid.

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart, feet firmly planted. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, and keeping a slight bend in each arm, raise your arms to shoulder height.

Slowly bring your arms down and back to your sides. Repeat.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

3 Military Press

This exercise works the entire shoulders complex, but especially the front deltoids.

Sit on a bench. With your feet firmly planted and roughly shoulder width apart, grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Extend your arms straight while lifting overhead. Try not to arch your back.

Lower the bar back down to your clavicle and repeat. Be careful not to hold your breath. Inhale while pulling down and exhale while pushing up.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

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Body Transformation: Catherine Biery Busted Into A Figure Physique!

Why I decided to transform

My weight skyrocketed during my 20s due to lifestyle choices, low self-esteem, and poor relationships. Even though I earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, I couldn’t get my weight under control. At one point, I got up to 175 pounds on my 5-foot-3 frame.

I started dating my husband in my early 30s, regained some of my lost self-esteem, and became more serious about exercise and nutrition. I became a cardio queen and steered clear of the weight room. I ran on the treadmill for hours and wondered why I didn’t lose weight. My husband later introduced me to weightlifting and I loved it. I developed a passion for strength training, slowly lost weight and eventually hit 135 pounds, which felt amazing. Rather than focusing on being skinny, I wanted to be strong.

I became pregnant at age 33 and gained weight again, but weighed less than I did in my 20s. I lost all of my pregnancy weight with continued training. I also paid attention to portion sizes by measuring food in a food journal. I was mostly fit again but wanted to take it to the next level.

Before

After

AGE 37 / HEIGHT 5’3″ / BODY FAT 25%

AGE 37 / HEIGHT 5’3″ / BODY FAT 10%

Post To Fitboard

My ultimate goal was to compete in a figure. I learned about figure competitions years before, but always assumed I wouldn’t make it to that level. The physical and mental strength required to accomplish my goal seemed inspiring and appealing.

Before my daughter turned 3 years old, something clicked. I realized I could accomplish my goal if I set my mind to do it. I wanted to set a good example for my daughter who could watch me follow through with something important. A fire was ignited inside me at age 37. I was ready to see what I was made of, so I cleaned up my diet, increased my training, and watched myself transform.

On November 16, 2013, with support from my family and friends, I competed in my first figure competition. My confidence and inner strength are through the roof. I feel better mentally and physically now than at any time in my life. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for me and am excited to compete again.

How I accomplished my goals

Accomplishing my goals felt like a rollercoaster ride with many ups and downs. When I made the commitment to compete, I was determined to follow through. I wasn’t going to let myself down.

“Rather than focusing on being skinny, I wanted to be strong.”

I vocalized my goal to my friends and family who became my support team. Having their support motivated me when times got tough. It would’ve been easy to quit if I hadn’t let those I care about join my journey. The month before my contest was tough physically and mentally. I reached out to my support team on tough days and asked them to send me their favorite motivational quotes, stories, and experiences, which helped a lot.

On tough days, I’d look to individuals I admire. I visited Erin Stern’s Facebook page often and read transformation stories on Bodybuilding.com. I also read fitness magazines for new workout tips and clean-eating ideas. Most of all, I thought about who I wanted to be for myself and my daughter. I want her to know that it’s important to chase and complete your goals, even when it’s hard and you’re afraid.

I’ve been told countless times by friends, family, and random strangers at the gym that I inspire them. If I told my 20-year-old self that one day people would say that I inspire them, I would’ve never believed it. It’s those moments that keep me motivated to push toward my future goals.

Apply Here To Be A Transformation Of The Week!

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Bodybuilding.com honors people across all transformation categories for their hard work and dedication. Learn how our featured transformers overcame obstacles and hit their goals!

Supplements that helped me through the journey

Diet plan that guided my transformation

I drink at least one gallon of water per day and increase that to two gallons per day three weeks before competition. This is my maintenance diet that keeps me running like a well-fueled machine.

  • Salad
  • Spring Greens Spring Greens

    2 cups

  • Mixed Veggies Mixed Veggies

    1 serving

  • Light Asian Sesame Dressing Light Asian Sesame Dressing

    2 tbsp

  • chicken Chicken

    5 oz

  • cottage cheese Cottage Cheese

    1/2 cup

  • Unsweetened Almond Milk Unsweetened Almond Milk

    1 cup

Training regimen that kept me on track

I strength train six days per week and work each muscle group twice per week. I also do 3-4 hours of cardio per week on the stairmaster.

What aspect challenged me the most

The most challenging part of my transformation was three weeks out from my contest date. I increased my cardio from four to seven days per week and depleted additional calories from my diet.

The combination left me with low energy and an energetic 3-year-old to keep up with. Knowing it was temporary kept me going. I leaned on my husband and support team for motivation and visualized myself on stage completing my goal.

“Don’t obsess about the number on the scale!”

My future fitness plans

I learned a lot from my first figure competition. I met many wonderful people and had fun. I’m excited to get back on stage and do it again. I have specific improvements that I want to make for my next show and will give myself a few months before I step on stage again.

Even though I have a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, I was too embarrassed to pursue my dreams and help others meet their fitness goals because I hadn’t completed mine. I now have the confidence to pursue it and plan to become a certified personal trainer when my daughter is in preschool.

Suggestions for aspiring transformers

  • Believe in yourself and make long-term changes.
  • Surround yourself with positive people to lean on when you need help.
  • Seek inspiration from others who have been there to ignite your inner fire.
  • Take progress photos.
  • Keep a food log and measure your food.
  • Don’t obsess about the number on the scale!
  • Reach for the stars!

How Bodybuilding.com helped me reach my goals

My husband and I use Bodybuilding.com for our supplementation needs because it has the best prices and fastest shipping. Bodybuilding.com keeps us happily stocked with supplements and motivates us with articles and transformation stories.

Catherine’s Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. “Shut It Down” by Pitbull (Feat. Akon)
  2. “Shake It” by Metro Station
  3. “Remember The Name” by Fort Minor (Feat. Styles Of Beyond)
  4. “Berzerk” by Eminem
  5. “Hella Good” by No Doubt

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Fitness 360: Samantha Ann Leete, Nutrition Program

Samantha’s nutrition program is simple and effective. It’s also full of food that actually tastes good! Just like she programs her workouts, Samantha programs her nutrition so the macros aren’t always the same. Her meal plan goes hand-in-hand with her goals. Whether she’s trying to lean down for a competition or build some muscle in the off-season, she knows the right combination of food to help her reach her best self. Here’s her plan!

Samantha Ann Leete Fitness 360
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Nutrition For Life

Samantha’s nutrition plan consists of clean food that makes her mind and body feel good and complements the huge amount of effort she puts in to her exercise regimen.”They say you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. I think that’s totally true,” she says. “Nutrition transforms how you feel, how you perform in the gym, and how you look.” To Samantha, nutrition is not only vital to her success as a bikini competitor, but also to her general health and well-being.

“I believe in balance,” she says. “I don’t think you need to go to any extremes to reach your goals.” Samantha practices what she preaches. She eats smaller-portioned clean meals every 2-3 hours. She prepares her food for the week so she doesn’t have to worry about how much to eat or when, and has a solid macronutrient profile for fat loss and muscle-building.

“Eating food that you enjoy will help you stick to your nutrition plan you’re on for a long time.”

“Having a healthy relationship with food is important to me,” says Samantha. Sometimes, it’s too easy to have negative associations with food, particularly if that food is considered “bad for you.” Samantha maintains that she never wants to feel bad about the food she eats. “Sharing a delicious meal with a loved one, trying new foods, and liking taste with the emotion of an exciting event are all really positive things about food. I don’t want to miss out on any of those.”

Samantha has two great pieces of advice for anyone wanting to live a healthier life: Enjoy the food you eat and create a nutrition plan based around your goals. Eating food that you enjoy will help you stick to your nutrition plan you’re on for a long time. If you hate every meal that you eat, you won’t be able to eat them for long.

“I believe in making small changes and replacing old habits with new habits that will help you perform and feel better,” says Samantha. “Moderation is key!”

Samantha’s Meal Plan

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 290 Fat: 2.2 g Carbs: 44 g Protein: 24 g

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 210 Fat: 1.9 g Carbs: 19.6 g Protein: 25 g

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 333 Fat: 4.5 g Carbs: 29.2 g Protein: 35.9 g

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 240 Fat: 13.8 g Carbs: 8 g Protein: 22 g

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 393 Fat: 19.4 g Carbs: 24.8 g Protein: 29.8 g

Directions
  1. Mix all ingredients.
  2. Spray coffee mug with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Pour ingredients into mug and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. Place in microwave 30-60 sec and top with peanut butter.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 308 Fat: 11.3 g Carbs: 15.6 g Protein: 36.4 g


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About The Author

Cassie Smith is a writer/editor for Bodybuilding.com and former professor & college athlete. Find out more about her right here.

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