Narrow Shoulders

Narrow Shoulders

What do most people consider narrow shoulders? Can you make narrow shoulders wider? How do you fix them? We cover it all inside this guide.

Bone Structure Versus Muscle Mass

There are ways to improve your overall shoulder measurement through adding muscle mass by building up muscle mass in the shoulders (anterior/lateral/posterior deltoids).

But first let’s look at bone structure and narrow vs broad shoulders.

The clavicle is a bone that lies horizontally that connects your chest (sternum) to your shoulder blade.

This is what people are talking about when discussing if someone has narrow shoulders or broad shoulders.

Narrow Vs Broad Shoulders And The Clavicle

You can be skinny and broad-shouldered through bone, like my business partner Shane Duquette on the left side of this photo.

Even before he gained a lot of muscle on his shoulders, you can see how his elbows are away from his pelvis due to long clavicles.

Or you can be skinny and have narrow-shoulders. I am on the right and you can see my forearm collides with my pelvis due to my narrow shoulders. This photo is from when I was about forty pounds lighter than I am now.

Broad Shouldered vs Narrow Shouldered

Narrow Shoulders Is A Ratio Of Shoulder-Span-To Pelvis

The “look” of having narrow or broad shoulders is not your objective measurements of your clavicles. 

For example, you could have a guy like Yao Ming, the tallest All-Star NBA player at 7’6 feet tall. He might objectively have a very long clavicle, but when compared to his pelvis, he has a normal shoulder width and he looks a bit narrow.

So the look of having narrow shoulders is smaller shoulder-span-to-pelvis ratio. Broader shoulders is a larger shoulder-span-to-pelvis ratio

What is an optimal shoulder-span-to-pelvis ratio for attractiveness? I haven’t found anything official published in research. (If you know of something, please drop a link in the comments!)

Estimating The Shoulder-Span-To-Pelvis Ratio

Statue of David Shoulder Span

The statue of David from Michelangelo is known to be a picture of optimal health and form. When I lay some measurements on him, he has a ratio of 1.39.

David Broad Shoulders Statue

Steve Reeves Shoulder Span

Steve Reeves Broad Shoulders

Steve Reeves was famous for walking on the beach and having people follow him because they had never seen anyone look like this before. He was extremely broad-shouldered in both bone structure and in mass. Reeves has a shoulder-span-to-pelvis ratio of 1.47.

In his era, the saying was to “train wide to get wide” and it certainly worked for him.

My Narrow Shoulder Span

Jared Polowick Narrow Shoulder Span

Here is a photo of me when I was skinny and about 40 pounds lighter than I am now. My shoulder-span-to-pelvis ratio is 1.27 and I’d say I have narrow shoulders.

Shoulder-Span-To-Pelvis Ratio Guide

So I propose, maybe it’s something like:

  • Narrow Shoulders: 1.27 and below
  • Normal Shoulders: 1.32
  • Broad Shoulders: 1.38
  • Head-Turning Broad Shoulders: 1.42
  • Crowd-Gathering Broad Shoulders: 1.47+

What do you think?

The Mystery of Bone Changes

It is largely accepted that once bone is grown and “ossified,” it is set. However, there are some interesting cases to think about.

The first is that Eric Cressey, one of the most famous trainers and now works with the New York Yankees, has noticed the collarbone differences in swimmers versus pitchers. Take a look:

Eric Cressey

Now we are presented with the chicken and egg scenario. Did someone get into swimming because they were broad-shouldered, and it was easy for them to excel? Or did getting into swimming develop broad shoulders?

My business partner Shane Duquette, while skinny, was a big swimmer.

And similarly, we see many people who want the swimmer’s physique, like Michael Phelps. When you look at swimmer’s they all, tend to have broad shoulders.

Can You Make Narrow Shoulders Wider And Change Bone?

Can we manipulate bone? In an extreme case, there in Joseph Merrick in the 19th century. Scientists still don’t know what disease he had, but his replica bones are on display at the Royal London Hospital Museum and Archives. It’s clear that his bones were changing as his disease progressed.

Joseph Merrick Bone Elephant

There’s also the case of Stephen Hawking’s facial bones changing due to his disease.

As far as I can see, muscles pulling on bones have some sort of influence on their shape. Perhaps if you want the swimmer’s body with broader shoulders, you should try doing a lot of swimming. If it doesn’t work, at least you’ll have definitely a lot of cardiovascular fitness from all the swimming 😉

How Do You Fix Narrow Shoulders?

Aside from doing a lot of swimming (maybe?) the next best thing is to improve your shoulder-to-waist ratio through muscle mass. This will help give the appearance of having broad shoulders.

There is something called the shoulder-to-waist ratio, and the golden ratio is 1.618 for optimal attractiveness.

That means if you have a 32″ waist, you will need a shoulder circumference of at least 52″ to beat that ratio.

Many researchers believe that men want upper body strength and wide shoulders is because it signals strength. Being more muscular and heavier, particularly with strong arms and a thick neck, then you will look more capable of violence because you would better able to defend yourself.

This is why someone with a narrow bone structure, like myself, will still want to build muscle mass, especially in the shoulders and the neck. People see us in 3D, and getting stronger and heavier will help in a fight.

Gained 5.5 Inches Of Shoulder Mass On My Narrow Shoulders In Three Months

Here I am gaining over 5.5 inches on my shoulder circumference in just three months.

Building Muscle Made Me Healthier

And here I am more recently after spending a lot of time building up muscle mass in my upper body, now gaining over 6.25+ inches on my shoulder measurements. It does give the impression of being wider. At the very least, I look stronger.

Jared Polowick Skinny Ectomorph Transformation Before and After

If you want help learning how to build up muscle mass in your upper body, like your shoulders and your neck, check out our programs or read my article on building up shoulder mass.