Targeting the Deltoids, Minimizing the Traps

Q: I've read your article about shoulder workouts as well as many others, and I have a question. I really appreciate if you can spare some time to answer it.

I heard from almost everywhere that you can get wider shoulders by working out. I have a very slim body (56 kg, 172 cm tall, 24 year old male) and very narrow shoulders. The width of my shoulders is only two times of the width of my head (1/2). I checked this ratio by measuring photos of a man with broad shoulders, and this ratio is usually 1/3.

I know it has a lot to do with genetics, but how much exactly can you add to your shoulder size by workout? Someone told me that you can add 2 centimeters to each side at a total of 4 cm maximum. Even if that's true, by working out my deltoids I will also work my trapezius muscles as well, even if I don't want to. And the growth of the trapezius makes your shoulders look narrow, because it gives your shoulders an angle to the ground rather than being nearly parallel to the ground.

I also don't want to lose my neck, because of the growth of the trapezius makes you look shorter. So is it worth it to work on the deltoids? Is there any exercise that will eliminate the trapezius while working the deltoids? What is the maximum width you can add to your shoulders by working out?

I've been working out for half a year really hard. So if you can help me to finally put my fears away about deltoids and trapezius, I will give them the workout they have been craving for.

Thank you very much in advance for all your help.

Best wishes
- Faruk

My Answer: Any shoulder work will invariably hit the trapezius to some degree. Stressing that area is unavoidable when you do upper body work. But what you can do is to perform exercises that stress the deltoids more and the traps less.

Avoid direct trap work, such as shrugs and narrow grip upright rows. Avoid exercises where the traps are stabilizers, such as deadlifts, barbell rows, T-bar rows and rack pulls.

Include direct work on the deltoids, such as lateral raises and wide grip upright rows. As long as you perform these exercises correctly (no shrugging of the traps), then you should be able to hit the delts with minimal emphasis on the trapezius muscles.

An exercise I suggest you include is the lean away lateral, since it minimizes trap involvement and stresses the medial delt more:


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