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Is it okay to have 12 inch shoulders?

Are 12 inch shoulders too small for a healthy adult?
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 15th June 2022
A woman showing her 12 inch shoulders

If you have 12 inch shoulders, then you have a very small shoulder to shoulder measurement. But is this necessarily a bad thing?

As you’re about to learn, it pretty much depends exclusively on your age. This is to say that there aren’t many adults who have 12″ shoulders of any description.

See How Your Shoulders Compare:

What do 12 inch shoulders look like?

A young girl who has 12 inch shoulders

What do 12 inch shoulders look like? In the vast majority of cases, 12 inch shoulders look extremely narrow and skinny on an adult. Indeed, children who are still growing are usually the only people who have 12 in shoulders.

If you have 12 inch shoulders, then I assume that you measured bone to bone, which is known as your biacromial breadth. If your shoulders, in their entirety, measured 12 inches, then that would be extremely narrow.

Still, 12″ shoulders are 2.5 inches smaller than average for a woman and over 4 inches narrower than normal for a man. Knowing this, it seems highly unlikely that any healthy adult would have a 12 inch shoulder width—except for those who have really small frames.

What kind of people have 12 inch shoulders?

A happy child with a 12 inch shoulder width

As mentioned, the only people who have 12 inch shoulders in real life are growing children. Specifically, the data points to 12 inch wide shoulders being normal for boys and girls aged 9-10, so it seems hard to believe that a healthy adult could have the same shoulder measurement as a child this young.

Of course, some grown adults really do have tiny builds, which I suppose could result in a 12 inch shoulder width.

But there’s also a chance that people who think they have 12 inch shoulders could have just measured themselves incorrectly. After all, finding your acromion can be tricky at first if you don’t know what to look for (or if you have a lot of fat/muscle around your deltoids and shoulder blade).

Is it bad to only have 12 inch shoulders?

A model with 12 in shoulders

Unless your 12 inch shoulders are indicative of some kind of health problem, then no, there’s nothing inherently wrong with having 12″ shoulders, particularly if you’re a short female with a really small frame.

Of course, some people are worried that their shoulders are too narrow, which can make them feel bad about themselves. If this is you, then you can always broaden your shoulders by adding muscle to your deltoids and upper back.

Additionally, the clavicles, which are the bones that constitute most of your shoulder width, can keep growing until you’re well into your 20s. So don’t worry if your child, for example, only has 12″ shoulders because it’s likely that their clavicles haven’t finished growing yet, certainly not if they’re under 18.

How can you widen your 12″ shoulders?

A woman doing a shoulder press at the gym

You can widen your 12 inch shoulders by doing exercises that train your upper back muscles and deltoids. In addition to increasing the physical width of your shoulders, building upper body muscle will help you to fill out your frame and make your physique look broader.

Pull-ups, pulldowns, lat pushdowns, rows, and face pulls are all great exercises for working your back.

Conversely, lateral raises, shoulder presses, front raises, and rear delt flys will make your shoulders wider and rounder.

Also, try to just generally eat more calories and more protein. While detailed dietary advice is beyond the scope of this article, you need to consume a protein-rich diet if you want to build muscle, and you ideally need to slowly increase your body mass as well by eating in a moderate calorie surplus.

In conclusion

A woman with 12 inch shoulders

So now you know how 12 inch shoulders stack up; a bit smaller than usual for women, significantly smaller than normal for a man, and just right for growing children.

Many people are, of course, concerned about their shoulders, especially since they’re quite a visible body part. But it’s not like people can see your specific shoulder measurement when they meet you, so you shouldn’t worry too much about the number.

If you’re healthy and you’re happy with your body, that’s what counts the most.

James Jackson
James Jackson is a personal trainer who uses his expertise in strength and conditioning to create helpful workout tutorials that show fitness enthusiasts how to build muscle while staying safe in the gym. He draws on the latest sports science data as well as tried and tested training techniques to get the best results for his clients without them having to live in the gym.
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