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How to Get Smaller Shoulders

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
How to Get Smaller Shoulders
Closeup of woman's shoulder. Photo Credit Image Source/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Broad shoulders present fashion challenges and can make you feel self-conscious, but the size of your shoulders is based on genetics. Unless you're overweight, shrinking your shoulders is nearly impossible. Even if you lose weight and your body shrinks, the inverted triangle shape of your torso will remain because you lose weight proportionally. You can't exercise away a certain body part. Once you're at a healthy weight, create the illusion of smaller shoulders by emphasizing other body parts with muscle development and your clothing.

Spot Training Is a Myth

You can't make a body body part smaller, be it your abs, legs or butt, by exercising it or eating certain foods. Fat covering muscles and bones doesn't melt away when you work the area. A study published in a 2013 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that participants who did up to 1,000 leg presses on one leg three times per week for 12 weeks experienced no change in the fat on that leg compared to the one that wasn't exercised. This confirmed research published in a 1971 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine showing that tennis players' strong, oft-used dominant arms do not have less subcutaneous fat than their nondominant arms.

Your body does use fat for energy, but only when it's been converted to glycerol and free fatty acids that circulate in your blood stream. Where in your body the fat is broken down and metabolized at any given moment varies. It's dependent on the genetic way your body stores and loses fat. You can't direct your body to remove fat from your shoulders only.

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A Shoulder's Tissue Makeup

The shoulders aren't typically a place you store a lot of fat tissue. They're mainly made up of bones, which have a genetically determined size, as well as connective tissue and muscle. Some subcutaneous fat lies right under the skin, and when you lose weight, it may help your shoulders reduce in size along with the rest of your body.

You build broad shoulders by growing the muscle tissue with moves such as lateral shoulder raises, military presses, pushups, front-arm raises and rear deltoid flyes. If you've built a lot of muscle mass in your shoulders, it will atrophy if you shift your workout program to lift lighter weights and less often. Don't skip training your upper body for fear of making your shoulders larger, though. Overall body health requires you to strength train all the major muscle groups, including the chest, shoulders and back, at least twice per week with one set of eight to 12 repetitions.

If you don't weight train and are of a healthy weight, the size of your shoulders isn't due to extensive muscle mass or fat tissue, but to the bone structure in your upper body. You can't change your bones.

Weight Loss for Smaller Shoulders

If you need to lose fat to help your shoulders trim down along with the rest of your body, adopt a low-calorie meal plan along with regular cardiovascular exercise. Determine your daily calorie burn by using an online calculator that takes into account your size, age, gender and level of activity. Then, create a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day by eating less and moving more; this daily deficit helps you lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.

A simple way to trim calories is to reduce your intake of sugary soft drinks and refined grains, such as white bread or pasta. These foods offer little nutritional value and lots of extra calories. Design your meals and snacks so they contain moderate portions of lean proteins, whole grains and vegetables instead. Choose low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit and nuts as snacks instead of processed foods.

Create the Illusion of Smaller Shoulders

What you wear can accentuate broad shoulders -- especially strapless dresses and tops. Skip highly fitted blazers that pull across your back or ones with shoulder pads. Wearing a skirt or dress with a cinched waist calls attention to the width of your shoulders. Opt instead for tanks with wide straps and shirts with scoop- or V-necks. These break up your upper body so it appears less broad. Full skirts and wide-leg pants give your body a proportional look.

Physically, you can do little to change the inverted triangle shape of your upper body. But, you can focus on building muscle and definition in your lower body so that it balances out your physique. As part of your comprehensive training plan, perform exercises such as squats, deadlifts, step ups and lunges to build the muscles in your legs and backside. When you fill this area out with healthy muscle mass, you create a solid physique so your shoulders don't appear out of balance.

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