Is it possible for a skinny guy to build broader shoulders? If you’re a naturally thin “ectomorph,” chances are you have a thinner bone structure, which often includes having narrower shoulders. Perhaps that’s why you’re interested in finding out if you can build broader shoulders.

Wanting to build broader shoulders isn’t unique to us skinny guys. Lots of men are trying to make their shoulders broader. Lots of those men succeed. However, for those of us with shorter collarbones, the path there can see a little different.

Inside we’ll discuss why so many guys want bigger, broader shoulders, what we can control and what we can’t, and then we’ll give you a step-by-step guide to help you add a few inches to your shoulder circumference.


Illustration of man with narrow shoulders building broader shoulder muscles

Why do men want broad shoulders?

Both men and women find broad shoulders combined with a lean waist to be ideal (study, study, study). Men want to build broader and bigger shoulders, and women find those broader shoulders incredibly attractive. This effect is so exaggerated that your shoulder-to-waist ratio is actually the most important aspect of your physique according to both women and other men. To understand why that is, we can try to understand what broad shoulders signal to others.

It’s clear that it’s a masculine trait to have wide shoulders. Testosterone causes our shoulders to grow broader, whereas estrogen causes our hips to grow broader. Men have more testosterone and less estrogen than women, so this causes women to naturally develop more of an hourglass physique, whereas men naturally develop more of a V-tapered physique. This means that men have naturally wider shoulders than women on average, not only in terms of sheer size, but also proportionally (study).

In addition to this, more masculine men naturally have more androgen receptors around their shoulder girdle, making them develop bigger muscles in their upper backs, chests and shoulders. And as we become stronger, this only becomes more and more pronounced. This means that in men, broad and big shoulders are also an incredible symbol of full-body strength. (In women, hips tend to be a better indicator of strength.)

Finally, because men tend to store most of their fat in their stomach, having broad shoulders compared to our waists means that we’re shaped more by muscle than by fat. This is a great signal that we’re healthy.

The ideal shoulder circumference for men

In this study, body proportions that signaled fitness and strength were the biggest indicators of attractiveness. Things like how big your waist was (to signal how lean you are), your waist-to-chest ratio (to signal how much muscle you have), and your weight-to-height ratio (again giving hints about leanness and strength).

This later study tested the same hypothesis using 3D models, again confirming that women preferred the men with more muscular upper bodies and smaller waists (study). They dubbed this v-tapered physique the “inverted triangle shape.”

The study continued by saying that this inverted triangle shape was so attractive because it signalled physical strength and muscle development in the upper body. So keeping a lean waist while building up your upper body is key.

So why do men want broader and bigger shoulders? Researchers believe that a V-shaped physique is considered so universally attractive because it signals masculinity, strength, health, and virility. So it’s not too much of a stretch to think that men want to be as strong, masculine, and healthy as possible. Or maybe we just want women to find us more attractive. In either case, learning how to build broader shoulders will help.

The good news for us narrow-framed guys is that, these studies don’t measure shoulder width, they measure shoulder girth—shoulder circumference. These studies also mention how attractive it is to have a high chest-to-waist ratio. This means that more than anything, these results give evidence that it’s our upper body strength and mass that matters, not how long our collarbones are.

This is good news because we can build up our chest and shoulder circumference by gaining muscle in our chests, shoulders, and backs. This will make our shoulders look far wider and broader, but also thicker and rounder. We’ll look stronger, more masculine, and more attractive from every angle.

But more on that later.

First, what we can’t control

Let’s first distinguish between having a broad bone structure and having heavily muscled shoulders. There’s a big difference between the two.

You can’t change your bone structure

Bone structure is almost entirely determined by your genetics, and once it’s established, there’s nothing that you can do to change it. Research shows that your clavicles (collarbones) are already ossifying at just 5 1/2 weeks old! There is steady growth from then up to about age 12 for boys. By 12, boys have reached around 80% of their total clavicle length, and then the final growth picks up at an even faster pace. By 18 years old, your clavicle growth has reached 100% of its final length. The clavicle continues to ossify until around age 26, but your shoulders won’t grow any broader (study). This means that if you’re 18 or older, the only way to build broader shoulders is to gain muscle in your upper body.

Some people are blessed with good genetics, naturally growing long clavicles and narrow hips. They can capitalize on the the attractiveness boost without needing to gain as much muscle—although remember that muscularity is arguably more important than how long your collarbones are.

You’ll even find a lot of ectomorphs who have broad shoulders compared to their waists once they develop a decent amount of muscle. Here you can see the swimmer Michael Phelps, the Korean Actor RAIN, and Shane. After gaining some muscle (Shane had gained roughly 40 pounds by this point), it’s clear that their bone structures actually feature longer clavicles and narrower hips.

Naturally Wide Bone Structure

You might think that you have naturally narrow shoulders, but it’s possible that you just haven’t made the most of your physique yet.

Ectomorphs aren’t in the best (or worst) position

When it comes to building broader shoulders, we ectomorphs are in neutral standing. We don’t have a genetic advantage or disadvantage.

It’s a mesomorphic trait to have broad shoulders and narrow hips (v-shaped physique), and it’s an endomorphic trait to have narrower shoulders and wider hips (pear-shaped physique). Ectomorphs tend to be shaped like a rectangle, with neither broad nor narrow shoulders. More on the male body types here.

This means that we often need to build quite a lot of upper body muscle to build a v-tapered shape, but our bone structures will almost always allow it.

Wide Shoulders, Mesomorphs, Ectomorphs, and Endomorphs

Keep in mind that these are just generalizations. People like Shane, Phelps and Rain have longer clavicles but are still fairly classic ectomorphs (long limbs, very thin bones, fast metabolisms, etc.). If you’re curious about your own genetics, You can learn more about whether you have a thin bone structure here. Shane will teach you how to measure your bone structure so that you can see if you have naturally narrow or broad shoulders.

If you’ve got narrow shoulders and you’re feeling a bit envious, keep in mind that ectomorphs with wide clavicles suffer by never being able to comfortably sleep on their sides…

On a more serious note, your clavicle length is just one aspect of your overall frame. We all struggle with different issues. And if your main concern is attractiveness, it’s important to realize what an amazing gift it is that we even have healthy bodies that give us every opportunity to lift weights and build muscle.

Building muscle isn’t easy, but everyone—including skinny ectomorph hardgainers—can build muscle if they learn how to exercise and eat a bulking diet that suits their body type.

The good news: what we can control

Alright, now for the skinny guys with naturally narrow shoulders—guys like myself. The good news is that our shoulder muscles have a ton of growth potential—far more than most of our other muscles. 

It’s possible to build the fronts of your shoulders (anterior deltoids) up to 5 times the size of the average guy, and it’s possible to build the sides of your shoulders up to 3 times the size of the average guy. That’s enough growth potential that you can build up impressively broad shoulders even with extremely short clavicles.

Second, we live in a three-dimensional world where our overall upper-body width and size is considered. In addition to bulking up our shoulders, we can also change the shape of our bodies by building up bigger chests and upper backs, and also making sure that our waists are lean.

Adding lots of mass to your upper body

Increasing your overall shoulder circumference means building muscle mass primarily in your upper body—and lots of it.

Consider this scenario: we have three ectomorphs, all with the exact same bone structure underneath. One is skinny-fat and rounder in the mid-section, one is a classically skinny ectomorph, and the last one has gained twenty pounds of muscle mass, primarily around his shoulder girdle.

The skinny-fat guy will have a high waist-to-chest ratio (pear shape), the skinny guy will have a neutral shape (rectangle), and the guy who’s gained twenty pounds will have a prominent V-taper. He’s still an ectomorph because of his bone structure, but most people will mistakenly assume that he’s a mesomorph because of his now-broad shoulders.

Skinny-Fat Ectomorph, Skinny Ectomorph, And Ripped Ectomorph

Why twenty pounds? We’ve found that, generally, gaining twenty pounds of lean mass will bump you up a t-shirt size. So if you’re wearing a size small right now, adding twenty pounds will get your t-shirt up to a medium.

When I was 23, I added 5.5 inches in my shoulder measurements during my first 90 days of bulking. This brought me from a small size tee to a medium.

Today I’m now 44 pounds heavier than when I first started (130 pounds to 174 pounds), and I’ve moved up to wearing size large.

If you need help building lean mass, I’d highly recommend checking out all of our free content and our full Bony to Beastly Bulking Program. In our experience, most skinny beginners are able to gain at least twenty pounds within just three months. As you do that, we put extra emphasis on building broader shoulders, so you can expect to gain several inches on your shoulders within that timeframe. In fact, our bulking program now has even more shoulder emphasis than when I tested it, so you can expect even more shoulder growth than I got.

If you choose to follow another program, just be careful to choose one that lines up with your goals. The vast majority of bulking programs are not designed to emphasize shoulder growth. In fact, many lifting programs are heavily weighted towards bulking up your lower body. Bulking down, so to speak.

A lower-body emphasis is especially common with strength-training programs, as the main strength lifts are the low-bar squat, the deadlift, and the bench press. That’s already 66% lower body, and because most of the assistance exercises will be centred around improving your squat and deadlift, your lower body will just be emphasized all the more.

You see the same thing in most modern bodybuilding programs. Back in the “golden age” of bodybuilding, when guys like Steve Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Frank Zane were the big icons, there was an emphasis on building a V-taper physique, with broad shoulders and a strong, but not bulky, lower body. Nowadays, the “X-taper” physique is more popular with bodybuilders, where the lower body is supposed to be just as big as the upper body.

In either case, when combined with a muscle-building diet, your muscle mass will go to where it’s being told it’s needed—to your lower body. Since our program is designed to build a classically masculine, athletic and attractive physique, we put most of our bulking priority on your upper body, which is actually where most guys need extra muscle the most. When you’re carrying furniture, carrying groceries, or even carrying people, you’ll probably struggle because of your grip, back, biceps or shoulder strength—upper-body issues.

We also designed our program to help you look good, so we’ve put even more emphasis on your shoulders, chest and upper back. Besides, looking as attractive as possible is “functional” in its own way, and it’s also a visual signal that you’re building a balanced, healthy, masculine physique—that’s why it looks so good in the first place. So we consider building broad shoulders incredibly important.

Also keep in mind that posture plays a big role in how broad your shoulders look. If your upper back is rounding forward and your shoulders are caving inwards, it will make your shoulders look far narrower than they actually are. (We emphasize posture in our program as well.)

How to build bigger shoulders

Your shoulders are a group of three muscles: the front delts (anterior deltoids), middle delts (lateral deltoids), and rear delts (posterior deltoids). Building up your strength and size in all three sets of fibres will allow you to add quite a few inches to your shoulders. If you’re a skinny guy, you’ll probably be able to gain 5–10 inches in your shoulders.

However, unlike most other muscle groups, these three shoulder muscles have different functions. For example, the front delts push stuff away, whereas the rear delts pull stuff in. This means that building broader shoulders requires more than just overhead pressing.

Furthermore, many people have terrible overhead mobility, often due to spending most of their day sitting and working at their desks. This causes their shoulders to cave in forwards, making it far harder to press weight overhead, and thus far more difficult to build broader shoulders.

Everyone has seen crazy-looking cannonball shoulders that look extremely round. And they look great because of what it signals: optimal shoulder health and strength. They have strength in all ranges of motion, and that well-rounded strength shows. We often fall into the trap of only targeting the muscles we can see in the mirror, so keep in mind that we shouldn’t neglect our rear deltoids and our other postural muscles, such as the external rotators.

The bulk of your shoulder width will come from your front and side delts, and these muscles can be trained with heavy pressing, both horizontally (bench pressing) and vertically (overhead pressing). As we mentioned above, these are very strong, beefy muscles with a ton of growth potential, as you can see above. They’ll grow the quickest when you combine heavy compound movements (such as the overhead press) with some shoulder isolation lifts (such as the lateral raise).

Your rear deltoids are smaller, and they have less growth potential, but they’re incredibly important as well. Once you get them strong enough, they’ll help hold your shoulders in the right place, which will make your shoulders look far better, improve your range of motion, and reduce the risk of injuring your shoulders (and lower back). They’ll even add some of that round “pop” to your shoulders from the side view.

How to build bigger shoulders: shoulder anatomy deltoid front side back anterior posterior lateral

In terms of exercises, fairly heavy bench pressing and overhead pressing will stimulate the fronts and sides of your shoulders quite well, and then push-ups and lateral raises make for a good lighter lifts to do afterwards.

Your rear delts are best stimulated with bigger compound movements first, like heavy rowing and chin-ups. Then they can be targeted with the lighter assistance lifts, like face-pulls and rear-delt flyes.

Face-pulls are less common but incredibly effectiveso here’s how you can do the Face-pull if you have access to a cable machine. What makes the face-pull so great is that it will help bring your shoulders back into a neutral position, which we discuss in the next section.

If you don’t have access to a cable machine or if you’re working out from home, you can do the bent-over face-pull as a dumbbell alternative:

Overall, the overhead press is the best exercise for building up your shoulders, provided there’s no crazy compensations happening (such as bending your lower back). The idea is to move the most weight that you can with your muscles (muscle recruitment) with a heavy compound movement like the overhead press, then hit your muscles a bit more with some isolation work, adding volume.

Now, what’s interesting is that while the overhead barbell press is great, it’s actually the overhead dumbbell press that seems to stimulate your shoulder muscles the most effectively. Both are similarly effective, but don’t worry if you only have access to dumbbells—you can still build broader shoulders perfectly well.

If you’re someone who struggles with shoulder mobility, and you can’t do proper overhead presses without bending in your lower back, start with the landmine press instead. It’s great for building muscle safely, and it hardly requires any shoulder mobility. When combined with postural exercises like the facepull, soon you should be able to progress to a full overhead press.

Bring your internally rotated shoulders back to neutral

Again, because the modern lifestyle can involve so much time spent sitting at a desk, it’s common to develop internally rotated shoulders, which is shaving inches off of your shoulder breadth. The best thing you can do to improve your posture is to develop the muscular strength required to hold your body in the proper position. But you also need to work on your range of motion and movement patterns, so it often helps to do correctional exercises like the ones Marco demonstrates here and here

Best of all, you could follow an intelligently programmed muscle-building program, like ours, where we focus on gaining size and strength in a way that also considers posture.

Fixing up your posture ties back into the earlier section on the roundness of your shoulders. Once you’re able to lift heavy weights through a full range of motion with good form, your shoulders will get rounder and more aesthetic because you’ll be using the entire length of your muscle fibres when lifting. (This is also why learning to use a deeper range of motion when squatting will lead to better leg development.)

Your call: how big do you want your traps?

Some bros on the internet advise limiting the growth of your trapezius “trap” muscles. Your traps are the muscles that connect your shoulders to your neck. They argue that having small traps will make your shoulders look squarer instead of rounder. Maybe there’s some truth to that.

However, if broad shoulders are so attractive because they symbolize strength and masculinity, then the exact same thing should be true with your traps. Men have a disproportionately large amount of androgen receptors in their entire shoulder girdle, meaning that the more masculine a guy is, the bigger his shoulders and traps will be.

Broad Shoulders and Trapezius Muscles

So you could say that mountainous traps, like broad shoulders, can give you a distinctly masculine look. Plus, if you get good at carrying heavy things—which you most definitely should do—then your traps will grow accordingly. As such, the traps are one of the best muscles to signify functional strength.

Also keep in mind that most skinny guys have naturally thinner necks, and building up bigger trap muscles is one of the best ways for a skinny guy to build up a thicker, stronger neck. (Look at how the above illustration changes the shape of the guy’s neck even though his neck muscles haven’t been enlarged.)

Your call.

Bonus: the fit of your clothes

Given that having an inverted triangle body shape will make you look more attractive, it also helps if you choose clothes that give you a v-tapered silhouette. Most t-shirts are cut to fit like a box, so building up bigger shoulders and upper body muscles can cause your shirts to drape more loosely around your waist. Your shoulders will still appear broad compared to your head and legs, so your hard work will still be visible, but it won’t be emphasized.

Some people recommend getting your tees tailored to remove the extra material around your waist. Some recommend buying shirts with an athletic or slim-fit cut. And some other people tuck in their shirts (which is what Shane does). This saves him the cost and hassle of tailoring. It does, however, leave him with a tucked in tee…


We really hope that this article helps you build broader, bigger shoulders, and gives you some peace of mind if you’ve been worrying about having a narrow bone structure. Wherever you find yourself, you have quite a lot of control over your shoulder-to-waist ratio. It just might mean choosing a weightlifting program that puts more emphasis on your shoulders relative to your hips and legs.

And as a bonus, by the time you finish building broad shoulders, you’ll also be a truly strong man.

To summarize, here are our four tips for building bigger, broader shoulders:

  • Even if you’re a skinny guy with short clavicles, you can still build up far broader shoulders. But keep in mind that your three-dimensional (3D) body shape matters too, meaning that you can improve your shoulder-to-waist ratio even more by also bulking up your back and chest.
  • Work on your shoulders with a variety of compound and isolation exercises to make them bigger.
  • Improve your overall posture and shoulder mobility so that your shoulders become rounder and more aesthetic. This will also stop your shoulders from caving in forwards, which makes them appear narrower.
  • If you want broader and bigger shoulders, you can build them. Be grateful that this is something largely under your control.

And if you’re a naturally skinny guy who wants to be walked through this entire process, you’ll love the Bony to Beastly Bulking Program. We specialize in skinny guys, hardgainers, and ectomorphs. We also know how important building broad shoulders is, so we’ve heavily emphasized shoulder growth in our workout programming.

Looking to learn even more about this? We’ve developed this free guide you can download below.

About Jared Polowick

Jared Polowick, BDes, has a degree in design from York University. He co-founded Bony to Beastly, Bony to Bombshell, and Outlive, where he translates complex academic research reviews about strength, fat loss, and health into easy-to-read and visual formats that anyone can understand.

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  1. DavidG on April 15, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Another awesome article. Thanks Jared!

    It can’t be stressed enough that, in addition to aesthetics and strength, the b2B program is all about health. You touched on it in your write up, but I wanted to highlight the point. My back and shoulders still thank you every day 🙂

    • Jared Polowick on April 15, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks for reading and for the kind words David. Makes me so happy you’ve had a good experience and that your back/shoulders are feeling solid!

      • What's your waist? on April 24, 2018 at 10:25 am

        Great progress, Jared! I want to add, that from your first picture to the last, your bones have also grown. Not grown in length they way kids’ bones do. But bones grow much like muscles get bigger and stronger:

        What’s your waist size? Studies have shown women prefer a ratio between the waist and shoulders to be around 0.6.

        I am guessing a bigger chest will “force out” the arms, thereby also creating the impression of having wider shoulders.

        • Jared Polowick on May 8, 2018 at 11:20 am

          Yes! We talk about this in our Ectomorph Aesthetics article, the ratio being 0.618. My waist is about 30.5 inches and my shoulders are 47 inches at the moment, so I need to pop on 2 more inches to reach the optimal ratio.

  2. Nodetails on April 17, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Is there a good way to measure clavicle length or be able to instantly tell if you have a long or short clavicle? Checking that study, it mentions the mean / SD clavicle length being 161 +- 11 mm, which are very small increments making it difficult to get the actual result if the starting / ending positions are slightly off.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Jared Polowick on April 18, 2017 at 9:50 am

      In one of the studies, I believe they used a computer to measure radiographs (x-rays) of the clavicles because they can be hard to measure because of their shape. It’s also common to use a osteometric board (photo) and tape measure.

      So I think our best bet is to use a tape measure, it’s a real tool. But just realize it won’t be 100% accurate since we can’t take our bones out of our body and measure it several different ways. But it’s still pretty good.

      Clavicle length was defined as the straight distance between the lateral-most point of the clavicle in the acromioclavicular joint (closest to your arm) and the medial-most point of the clavicle in the sternoclavicular joint (your sternum).

      It might be helpful to take a marker, and make a little notch on your body at the points where you think it’s widest. Then measure those points with the measuring tape.

      One other thing to keep in mind is your left and right clavicle may not be symmetrical. In this study, it found that almost 30% of people had asymmetrical clavicles. If you’re asymmetrical, it’s your call, but I’d be more tempted to use the longer clavicle as my base… you could also add up both clavicle lengths and divide it by 2 and get the average of them.

      I hope that helps a bit!

  3. Dave Francis on April 24, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    No doubt about, broader shoulders are definitely a confidence builder. I’m still havin issues eliminating my midsection, but the growth of my shoulders definitely gives that V-taper impression with the right clothing.

    In regards to the tuck in/tailor debate – tailor, definitely. If you’ve been a lifelong skinny fella, putting on a tailored T for the first time afte growth in the chest/back/traps/shoulders area feels glorious!!!

    • Jared Polowick on April 25, 2017 at 10:50 am


      I’m sure you’ve seen our skinny-fat article Dave? Best to tackle one thing at a time. Building up your upper body and shoulders is nice to have first though, that way you don’t feel like you’re just getting smaller when you decide to cut the fat off.

      I’ve yet to personally get a boxy-tee tailored, but I do know that a nicely cut/athletic shaped tee does make a difference. Glad to hear you’ve got something good working for you 🙂

  4. RB on May 4, 2017 at 4:04 am

    Great article Jared, and your shoulder gains are immense!

    Just to encourage anyone struggling with their shoulders that while the medial deltoids/middle shoulder muscles contribute the most to adding shoulder width, they are also amongst the slowest muscles to respond to training and develop. This is because their primary physiological function is not to be strong, but to move the arms around. While your pecs, biceps and lats will start to grow noticeably after a short amount of training, it takes much longer for your medial deltoids to develop. With this in mind, don’t be tempted to compensate by over-training your shoulders or lifting weights that you find very heavy, causing clicking, popping, or forcing your core to move out of a strong neutral stance. The shoulders are complex joints and highly vulnerable to injury. Train with weights that allow you to complete 8-12 reps and in the meantime do plenty of pull ups – these will widen your back and contribute to your v-taper before your medial deltoids step up.

  5. Will Chou on July 10, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    I enjoyed this. Thanks!

  6. Medical News Today: The best men's health blogs | Health News on September 7, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    […] blog is full of interesting reads and cool graphics in posts such as how to build broader shoulders when you have a thinner bone structure build, how to bolster your upper back, and how to overcome […]

  7. Alex on October 26, 2017 at 5:27 am

    Yes broader shoulder men are more handsome according to women. But if you are bit bony it’s hard to gain some weight and get some broader shoulders. This article is complete and very helpful guide for broader shoulders. Thank for the sharing with us. Will be a lot of help for guys out there.

  8. Mark on December 4, 2017 at 5:48 am

    A set of broad shoulders isn’t the only marker of a man’s masculinity, but it is a powerful one.

  9. Ahmed on April 29, 2018 at 5:49 am

    How do u measure shoulders?

    1) Delt to delt


    2) Wrap tape around chest and shoulders both?

    Can someone clear this up?

    • Jared Polowick on May 3, 2018 at 1:41 pm

      We measure the total shoulder circumference. So it’ll include your chest and back.

      • Ahmed on May 5, 2018 at 6:08 am

        Thanks. So basically the measurement will include shoulder, chest, and back? I take it the tape should be above nipple but below clavicle?

        • Ahmed on May 6, 2018 at 4:13 am

          Also another thing.

          1) What is considered wide shoulders (at least approximately) for 32inch waist?

          2) I’ve heard it’s 52inch, but isn’t this extremely hard for ectomorphs to achieve?

          3) Also ectomorphs usually the skinnyfat type have wide hips (which cannot be altered despite losing fat), so wouldn’t this also affect v taper despite wide shoulders?

          • Jared Polowick on May 8, 2018 at 11:18 am

            1. According to studies (that we discuss in our Aesthetics article), the best ratio is 1.618 to 1 for shoulder-to-waist. So if you have a 32 inch waist, your shoulder measurement should be: 52 inches.

            2. Shane has as a 31 inch waist and 51-inch shoulders, so he’s not only hitting the ratio, he’s beyond it. But, you could say that he started with a decent clavicle/waist bone structure in terms of ratio.

            But for myself, I would say I’ve got very naturally narrow shoulders when it comes to bone structure. I fit into small sized shirts, I didn’t have a problem fitting into stadium or airplane seats, and everything seems to be built for a wider shouldered person—even right down to guitars (since I made the switching to shorter neck guitars, it’s been much funner to play.) With my waist being 30.5 inches, the ratio would put the ideal shoulder measurement at 49 inches. Right now I’m at 47 inches, only 2 inches away. It’d be an understatement to say I haven’t ever trained my shoulders hard. My shoulders are a bit cranky, especially when it comes to overhead pressing, and I’m still working on it. It’s a leftover problem due to getting crazy hunchback posture (kyphosis) back when I was a skinny 14 year old designing and coding websites with every moment of my free time. Plus, there’s lots more room to grow on my chest/back.

            So to answer your question, I think it’s totally realistic, because I think most guys are starting in a better spot than me. But it will likely take skinny guys longer than a year of training to get there, unless they’ve got a head start with bone structure.

            3. Yes, you can’t change your hip size. From my understanding of the research, we value a lean waist with large shoulders because it signifies health and robustness. That’s why it looks good. So if you’ve got a wider hip bone structure, you can still get a lean waist and big shoulders, and the ratio would still apply. The v-taper would go down to the hips. And if you really feel like there’s too much contrast between your hips and your waist, you could try working on building up bigger obliques.

        • Jared Polowick on May 8, 2018 at 10:09 am

          We measure at the widest measurement we can get, so that often means below the clavicle and above the nipple, yep.

          • Em on June 16, 2019 at 10:29 pm

            This article is on the right lines but not entirely accurate, the widest part of human shoulder bone structure is the acromion, from which the bone should be measured, not the clavicles, hence why you may see the terms ‘biacromial’ width being used in studies instead, the average biacromial width being about 15.75 inches across, I believe Shane’s to be 15.9, the difference between an ectomorph with wide shoulders and an actual mesomorph however, is the mesomorph’s relatively larger but tapered ribcage, which is often overlooked in regards to defining the V-taper

  10. Ahmed on May 8, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Jared, thanks so much for explaining this to me in detail. Means a lot to me. I just have one doubt, though.

    Even if the waist is small (and shoulders broad), as long as the hip is wide, wouldn’t a v taper be impossible? Because no matter how broad the shoulder is/lean the waist is, compared to the hip wouldn’t they still be relatively narrow?

    I am not sure how to explain it. It’s a visual thing.

    • Jared Polowick on May 29, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      As far as I’ve seen, the v-taper is more of an upper body thing. It goes down to your hips, at which point it starts getting wide again. Most strong men have strong glutes, and so they’ll had a wider hip circumference, anyways, which stops the V shape. (Seems like there are some miscers on talking about Y-taper vs V-Taper and the lat insertion point and some structural differences. Kind of neat debate.)

      I totally hear what you’re saying. And I suppose you could make a point for online photos, where you can’t see that person in 3D. At which point, you can do poses to really push things. An example that comes to mind is Frank Zane, where his shoulders are square to the photo to look their widest, but his core are rotated to appear even thinner.

      So online, maybe a case could be made. But in person and in 3D, the shoulder to waist ratio is sending all the health signals that it’s supposed to be.

      One idea to think about would be to try and bulk up your obliques. That way your waist at it’s narrowest point and your hips are a little less hourglass-ey.

  11. Andrew on May 22, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    Totally Agree with Ahmed.

    It’s all about visual impression, and if a man has really wide hip bone, even decent shoulders cannot remove this “visual thing”. Even it’s just a bone(not fat), it makes your silhouette look a bit awful.

    • Jared Polowick on May 29, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      Maybe in elite bodybuilding. There will be those who genetically will rise to the top and look remarkable even among the fittest people like Steve Reeves. But among the general population, building up a strong upper body and keeping a lean waist will put you in the top percentage as it’s so rare, and definitely send all the fit/capable/resourceful/healthy signals you want to send.

  12. Faith on May 29, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Will this program work for women as well??

    • Jared Polowick on May 29, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      Hi Faith,

      We heard this question a lot so we developed Bony to Bombshell, our sister program, from the ground up just for women. You can check it out here 🙂

  13. mas on June 17, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Just FYI, the paragraph “You see the same thing in most modern bodybuilding programs. Back in the “golden age” of bodybuilding, when guys like Steve Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Frank Zane were the big icons, there was an emphasis on building a V-taper physique, with broad shoulders and a strong, but not bulky, lower body. Nowadays, the “X-taper” physique is more popular with bodybuilders, where the lower body is supposed to be just as big as the lower body.”
    I think you meant to say (where the lower body is supposed to be just as big as the upper body.)

    • Jared Polowick on July 9, 2018 at 10:31 am

      Thanks Mas! Fixed up.

  14. Julius on August 26, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Nice Article btw,

    in your article, You say that if you are older than 18 you have no chance of changing your bone structure. but let’s say you where younger, how could you change your bone structure.

    • Jared Polowick on September 7, 2018 at 9:20 am

      That’s a great question Julius. I’m not sure. Just looking into it a bit now. Here’s a good excerpt from a 2006 study:

      Prudent recommendations (Department of Health, 1998; World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization, 2003) are the same as those for adults, i.e. to consume a Ca intake close to the reference nutrient intake, optimise vitamin D status through adequate summer sunshine exposure (and diet supplementation where appropriate), be physically active, have a body weight in the healthy range, restrict salt intake and consume plenty of fruit and vegetables.

      So eat enough calories (Ca), get enough sunlight or take vitamin D throughout the whole year, exercise/play sports, and eat lots of fruits and veggies. I’d probably add to focus on your sleep quantity and quality as well. Teenagers are notorious for bad sleeping habits now and they need quite a lot of sleep. So that means putting the phone down and TV away an hour or more before bed. Go to bed early enough to give yourself enough time to sleep, sleep in a dark and cool room, etc.

  15. Paul on December 28, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    I’ve found that working in an abbreviated routine has done wonders for my shoulders, and physique in general. Simply put, I work each muscle directly 3 times every 2 weeks. A combination of heavy bb/dB shoulder presses and alternating lateral raises and upright rows (lifted to nipple level only) have been all that’s necessary. 3 sets of 6-8 reps works best for me. When I started out, I used 4×10 with lightish weight and absolutely nothing happened. Trial and error is a big component of bodybuilding I think, but it also leads to confusion from conflicting advice and numerous online arguments. I’d say stick to the basics, work out the set/rep range that your body reacts to, ignore the gimmicks, eat right, be consistent and don’t give up. Putting on muscle gets easier with age, despite what many ‘experts’ say.

    • Jared on May 22, 2019 at 9:52 am

      Dumbbell shoulder presses is one of the best exercises you can use to develop your shoulders, I can see why that has been helping you out a lot 🙂 I’ve been really enjoying face pulls and cable lateral raises for the last little bit.

      I agree that there’s definitely a lot of conflicting advice out there, although science has been shedding more and more light on how building muscle actually works. We’re able to design more optimized routines for different levels of lifters, starting points, and age. Now the hardest part is getting people to take action and to stick with it 😉

  16. Mark on January 25, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    The most hardgaineriest? Very familiar with that, I was 5’11” and 115 pounds when I went into the military at 17. At 45 I was six feet and 135. Even at 60 I am still 6 feet and 155 pounds. Several times over the decades I have tried to gain weight, had a weight room installed in my house, drank protein till it was coming out of my pores. Even did testosterone supplements from my doctor. At one point with HGC but that was so ridiculously expensive I could not keep it up.

    I am not a hard gainer, in all those attempts I never gained a single pound. People at body building sites just do not believe me and say some of the meanest things because as even you say ANYONE can gain weight. And I just want to tell you that is not true, most people can gain weight, but not all.

    Most recently last July I was embarrassed by my shape when an old friend came to visit and he had gone from portly to slim muscular. So I started working out again in earnest, and the doctor has again put me on T. Agian 7 months later, and mind you I have been also doing SARMS and other supps like epicatechin and creatine, L Arginine, DHEA, and cutting back on fats and almost complete abstinence from alcohol, making sure I am getting adequate sleep and ZIP! In fact 7 months later negative zip, I have lost 6 pounds.

    I feel good though. I guess that is just the best I can ever hope for. Just please stop saying if you can’t gain you are either doing it wrong or are lazy. It just is not so.

    • Shane Duquette on February 18, 2019 at 5:56 pm

      Hey Mark, that sounds so unbelievably frustrating. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. I failed several times before I finally succeeded, but that was over the course of just a few years, not over the course of an entire lifetime.

      We could add caveats to our statement that anyone can gain weight. For example, if you don’t have access to enough calories, you can’t gain weight. That immediately closes the door for all the starving people out there who simply don’t have access to enough food. I’m sure there are other exceptions as well—if someone is born without any muscle, without the ability to store fat, their throat isn’t connected to their stomach, or etc.

      But for the vast majority of people, that’s simply not the case. Being able to store extra calories as body-fat is incredibly vital to our survival. Almost everyone has the ability to store body-fat. The same is true with our ability to grow stronger muscles and denser bones. These are essential aspects of survival. And given the fact that you, for example, were able to learn how to walk, you clearly have the ability to develop muscle size and strength in response to the activities you engage in.

      Most of us hardgainers and ectomorphs are naturally skinny guys who are otherwise healthy. I mean, we might have some issues—irritable bowel syndrome is common, as are food allergies, as are small stomachs, as are small appetites, as are all number of conditions and unfortunate circumstances—but that doesn’t make gaining weight impossible, it just means that we have some issues that we need to work around. Almost everyone has some sort of health issue. We simply have to work around them.

      As for experimenting with steroids, steroids don’t actually cause weight gain. They often lead to weight gain in the sense that they tend to make people hungrier, which drives them into a calorie surplus, which causes them to gain weight, but they don’t directly cause weight gain. It’s the calorie surplus that causes the weight gain. Having tried steroids doesn’t mean that you can’t gain weight, it just means that the steroids weren’t enough to coax you into eating in a calorie surplus.

      I know that you have no reason to believe me, especially given that your life experience has taught you otherwise, but I’m confident that unless you have an extremely rare medical condition that I’ve never heard of, you could have gained weight and you still can.

  17. Tarun on May 7, 2019 at 1:41 am

    I would like to correct this ratio at 1.618 ,that is the golden ratio or the most attractive as shoulder-to-waist ratio.

  18. […] Here’s Ariel’s transformation, showing that ectomorphs can indeed build broader shoulders: […]

  19. […] that are great for stimulating muscle growth. If you want bigger biceps, do curls. If you want to build broader shoulders, do lateral […]

  20. […] It’s also better to have the freedom to use weights when weights clearly provide an advantage. For example, yes, you could do handstand push-ups for your shoulders, but you’re going to waste a lot of time getting used to the rising blood pressure in your head, you’re going to waste a lot of energy trying to get your balance right, and when you do finally master the lift, you’ll be too strong for it anyway. It’s much easier to grab a dumbbell or barbell and do some overhead pressing, using progressively heavier weights as your shoulders grow bigger and stronger. (Speaking of which, here’s how to build broader shoulders.) […]

  21. The "Big 5" Bulking Lifts - Outlift on August 31, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    […] can use that same approach. If we care about building broader shoulders, then the best lift to use as a metric for shoulder size is the push press. So what we can do is go […]

  22. What's the Best Type of Lifting for Skinny Guys? on September 6, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    […] Lateral raises to build broader shoulders. […]

  23. Bony to Beastly—Jeff's 5-Week Progress Update on September 11, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    […] shoulders are much broader, his chest is bigger, he’s quite visibly developing beastly core strength, and, although you […]

  24. […] How to Build Broader Shoulders […]

  25. How to Bulk Up a Bony Upper Back | Bony to Beastly on September 22, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    […] not that the push-up is actually going to bulk up your back muscles, but it will certainly strengthen your shoulder muscles and serratus muscles, which will build up the stabilizer muscles in your shoulder […]

  26. […] so much as your degree of muscularity, making this more about how big your chest, upper back, and shoulders […]

  27. […] prepare for chin-ups. (We also start getting people’s shoulders ready for pressing overhead, broadening their shoulders with lateral […]

  28. […] presses, rows), and then finish the workouts with some lighter accessory lifts for your abs, arms, shoulders, chest, and upper […]

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