Originally Published in this Issue (May 1992)
Photo Courtesy of Muscle Memory
Growing Up to Your Hips:
Broadening the Shoulders
by "The Editor"
At this time, John Grimek was listed as editor and Gord Venables as managing editor.
Basically, the legs, hips and low back are the real seat of power . . . but only when one grows up to and develops his upper body in proportion to his hip size. As, for example, in early childhood the basic shape is quite square, with little or no difference between the shoulder breadth and the width of the hips. However, as the youngster grows and develops, especially the male, the upper body begins to broaden, the chest gets bigger and deeper, and though the hips do grow, they do so at a much slower rate, which starts giving the body that tapered, V-shaped appearance.
Females, on the other hand, develop and grow rounder in the hip area, giving them the female characteristics nature intended for child-bearing. And although their shoulders develop they still remain relatively smaller by comparison. Consequently, women, especially hard working women, will often have amazing power in the legs and hips, and frequently are much stronger in this area than the average male. In pushing tests, for example, such women have been known to out-push the male quite easily even though the man may outweigh the woman by many pounds. This is because the woman's hip structure is more compatible to its related size than those of the male, who may have large hips only because he is overweight.
It's not natural for the male to have oversized hips . . . his structure is not suited to this. However, the man who has a heavy hip structure and succeeds in developing his shoulders in proportion to his hip size does indeed have a great potential for gaining size and immense power!
As the youngster begins to approach puberty his body chemistry begins to stimulate body growth. Height begins to increase, as do the limbs and other structures, with the whole body undergoing changes. In the male the shoulders begin to broaden and, with the right type of exercise done during this time to give nature an additional boost, shoulder width can be stimulated. And even though the hips do grow, they grow at a much slower pace and remain proportionately smaller in relation to the upper body.
Basically there are three main exercise groups that influence body growth. They are:
Chest Expanding Movements
Let's define each group separately.
Group 1: Leg Work
Leg work is needed to produce a state of breathlessness that will force the lungs to inflate to capacity and thus exert greater pressure on the chest walls from within. However, this can only be accomplished when adequate repetitions are performed to produce a breathless state. Moreover, heavy weights are not a factor. Instead, moderate poundages should be used that will allow the individual to do at least 15 consecutive counts (reps), although in some cases 20 to 25 reps might be even better. The whole idea behind the higher reps is to stimulate the respiratory and circulatory systems to their maximum, followed immediately with some chest expanding exercise that will supplement the needed oxygen created by the high repetition leg work. This, coupled with the chest expanding movements, will help to lift the rib cage and, in the process, increase the rib-box capacity, thus resulting in a bigger, deeper and wider chest.
3 to 5 sets might be necessary to achieve a complete leg and chest workout, but with each additional set of leg work resistance should be increased while the repetitions are decreased, such as:
Ist set -- 15-25 reps
2nd set -- 12 reps, more weight
3rd set -- 9, more weight
4th set -- 6, more weight
5th set -- 3, more weight
Note: I'm betting this was Grimek writing.
To be more effective, each set of squats must be followed by a set of a chest expanding movement, such as will be explained in the chest work phase. Moreover, for those who feel they want to increase leg power, 3 to 5 additional single attempts in the squat should be done, using maximum weight so that not only does the chest structure benefit, but increased leg power is also acquired in the process.
Group 2: Chest Work for Chest Expansion
After each set of squats one or more of the chest expanding exercises mentioned here should be included to aid rib-box expansion. Bear in mind that while some resistance is necessary to induce greater expansion, resistance in this case plays only a minor role. Because, if too much resistance is employed, greater muscular mass becomes activated, and this in turn restricts rib-box expansion.
For example, if the pullover is employed, which is one of the simplest yet very effective movements, a barbell weighing 25 to 40 pounds should prove ample, and less if you are an inexperienced beginner. The whole idea is to permit full action of the ribs though deep inhalations, but if the resistance is too great, muscle action is involved and this constricts the ribs and prevents maximum expansion, thus full capacity expansion is not realized. So, remember, in all chest expanding movements resistance is only secondary, but achieving full movement is vitally important.
Other exercises in this category are the lateral raise, and this exercise can be done in the supine, incline, and decline positions; dislocates that articulate the shoulder scapulae and rib cage can also be done at supine, decline, and incline levels, as well as extending the arms overhead such as in regular pressing. In any exercise that is used primarily for chest expanding, only a minimum amount of resistance is needed, and this, you'll find out, works better and produces faster results than if maximum resistance is employed.
In terms of repetitions for chest expansion, employ anywhere from 15 to 18 counts, breathing deeply and exhaling as much as possible with each rep. And, to reiterate, best results will be achieved only when such chest expanding movements are done immediately after leg work, leg work that has created a demand for the oxygen causing the lungs to inspire and expire more fully. But this can only be achieved through reasonably high repetitions. Don't forget that!
Group 3: Shoulder Stimulation
It might be mentioned that when you succeed in expanding your chest, making it larger, your shoulders also grow and become wider in the process, simply because as the rib-box expands the scapulae, which are located on the back of the rib-box, move farther apart and add length to the clavicular area . . . and this is especially true when exercise is done during the growing period before full maturity sets in. Therefore, it's a good idea to include such exercise that articulates the shoulders because such action has a direct influence in aiding shoulder broadening.
Such simple exercises as chinning, particularly when done with a very wide grip, activates the clavicular area and can stimulate growth, as will the stunt that's known as "skinning the cat" which articulates the scapulae shoulder blades strongly. Another type of novel exercise is to arrange some way in which the legs are held, on a support or in a loop while holding onto some support with one hand, while the other hand holds a weight. The idea is to S-T-R-E-T-C-H the shoulders; the weight held in one hand helps to pull the shoulder attachments and can add additional width. This stretching exercise should be done after your regular workout for best results.
Also, hanging by your knees or ankles and doing "dislocated" while in this inverted position is also invaluable for chest deepening and inducing shoulder width. However, don't expect to see any great changes within a few days. Increasing shoulder width takes time . . . a lot of time, so be patient and keep working.
Other exercises that react beneficially on shoulder broadening are done with chest exapanders. These exercises move the scapulae even better than do weights. In fact practically all cable exercise favors the shoulders. For example, the overhead pulldown to shoulders with cables is a fine shoulder exercise that can stimulate broadening. The back press in which the cables are pressed out to arms' length behind the back, then with the arms extended the shoulders are shrugged, squeezed together and then expanded while rounding the back, reacts very favorably on shoulder breadth. However, for additional details I suggest you refer to Bob Hoffman's books on Broader Shoulders (currently out of print), and Big Chest. Many exercises are suggested and explained that would be too long to discuss here.
"Broad Shoulders" in 15 Parts, starting here:
"Big Chest" in 13 Parts, starting here:
I'd like to mention two outstanding examples of increased shoulder width while still keeping the hips proportionately small. They are Steve Reeves and Reg Park. Both have done ample leg work, although Reeves, while training in York for the Mr. Universe contest, only did the Hack lift.
But Reeves always had good shoulder breadth naturally though he lacked chest depth. Had he employed full squats more often, his torso depth would have increased dramatically.
Reg Park, on the other hand, always squatted with heavy weights, so developed not only broader shoulders but a huge massive chest.
Just remember, that in spite of the reports that you hear about squats, none are true. Squats, if done in sufficient numbers, WILL NOT enlarge the hips, but may if only a minimum number of reps are done in a workout. But when 50 or more reps are done in a workout, the hips remain strong, firm and amazingly small. We have numerous Olympic lifting champs to prove that, while powerlifters, who use only a minimum number of reps, invariably get heavy in this area, which proves my point: high reps keep the hips in proportion, while low counts will increase hip size.
You should do leg work if you want to increase your shoulder width. It just takes a little work. Do it now while you're young and still growing . . . it's much easier that way.
Enjoy Your Lifting!