Five of the best exercises to build up shoulder mass and strength

When it comes to attractiveness, there's no doubt we all like to think we're into into the intangibles. Scientific studies show we value kindness, sense of humour, intelligence, mindfulness, attentiveness, and of course – a dog owner.

Yet physical details are something that can't be denied. And according to research from Griffith University: "…upper body strength make(s) a man attractive, including having wider shoulders, being physically fit and having greater handgrip strength."

Those shoulders…if you're going to build that "V-shape" that's so desired by all sexes, work these five exercises into your weight lifting routine:

1. Overhead barbell press

This classic shoulders move has to be in every lad's gym routine, and it requires no detailed description. The beauty is it not only works the shoulders, but it requires a stable core, glutes, and legs in order to safely move weight overhead. Change it up with single arm dumbbell press, or make it a compound movement with squat thrusters - a staple in the CrossFit universe.

2. The Arnie press

Yup, it's named after the one and only, and it's similar to the standard, seated dumbbell press. The Arnie Press differs as you start with the weights at your chest with palms facing in. The rotation and push to the overhead position not only targets the anterior (front) cap of the shoulders but also the medial and posterior (back) heads – adding thickness around the entire head of the shoulder.

3. Bent over rear delt raise

Too often we only train the muscles that we see in the mirror, which not only leads to an asymmetrical frame, it's also unhealthy. Bent over raises ensure you're giving the posterior side of your shoulder some direct attention.

With slightly bent knees while being bent over with torso almost parallel to the ground and neutral posture, let dumbbells hang. The power move is lifting weights up in a reverse fly motion until arms are parallel to the ground then slowly lowering dumbbells into the starting position. You don't see this one performed too often at the gym because it's physically demanding – and it works.

4. Upright barbell rows

Rows are a beauty of a movement for the medial head of the deltoid and the traps. Load up a barbell and grab it just inside your shoulder's width with palms facing inward. Bring the weight up in front of the body with bent elbows, just below the chin. Return to beginning position for a full repetition.

5. Dumbbell burpee with a curl and shoulder press

No bodybuilding resource would include such an exercise, but it's one I love (yet hate) because this compound movement targets shoulders, chest, legs, core, triceps and biceps. Not only is it a weight bearing movement – it's also a cardiovascular exercise.


Standing with barbells in hand, drop to the floor, and kick legs out into the push up position. Perform a full push up while holding onto dumbbells, then kick legs back underneath chest. Stand while raising dumbbells, then perform a bicep curl and raise weights into an overhead press. Bring weights back to waist to complete one repetition. Flow straight into the next repetition with intensity – it's going to hurt. It's going to bring lean gains.

Not that simple

To say "shoulders" is to simplify such a complex group of muscles. This column doesn't have the space to mention every extrinsic and intrinsic muscle and the best movements for them in the gym. There's even more technique speech that needs said about form, tempo, breathing, loading, and intensity.

Yet when it comes to aesthetics – your shoulders indicate stability, and as Dr. Aaron Sell stated, "Among our ancestors, one variable that predicted both a man's genetic quality and his ability to invest was the man's formidability. Therefore, modern women should still have mate choice mechanisms that respond to cues of a man's fighting ability. One crucial component of a man's ability to fight was his upper body strength. (While only looking at the body) The rated strength of a male body accounts for a full 70 per cent of the variance in attractiveness."

The movements above will add mass to a gym goer's physique resulting in a better beach body and aptly filling out that slim fitted shirt. Put the work in at the gym while watching what ends up in the shopping cart, and that V-shape becomes less dream, more reality. And even better? For those in their 60's, weight training is linked to a 19% reduced risk of death compared to those that prefer the couch.

Look better. Live longer. By shouldering some weights.

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his "Cut The BS" diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

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