There are several ways to characterize shoulder appearance including by muscle size, muscle shape, bone structure, including clavicle length, posture, etc…. Each of these aspects of shoulder appearance can compensate for deficits in the other aspects. For example, Samir Bannout’s shoulders, in this early photo, probably at around age 15, don’t appear particularly wide structurally for his age, but Samir soon developed significantly capped delts to the extent that, it’s hard to believe that this is the basic structure under what Samir Bannout later became. After looking at hundreds of photos of Bannout, it’s hard to find a single photo where he’s not flexing or sticking his arms out to some degree, as opposed to Arnold Schwarzenegger, where there are plenty of photos of him totally relaxing his arms, as well as shots of him on less PEDs. As a result, you can get a good sense of Arnold’s underlying bone structure, but less so with Bannout Unless you see a bodybuilder in a neutral, relaxed pose, it’s hard to grasp a clear understanding of their shoulder’s skeletal, or even muscular, structure.
Francois Benfatto and Gary Strydom had delt dominant physiques, unlike Steve Reeves. Reeves had a wide shoulder structure but also more of a flow between chest and shoulders, his delts didn’t overpower his chest or the rest of his body. Reeves could be photographed off guard, and his bone structure had his back, so to speak. He didn’t have to be hyper aware of sticking his arms out at all times to create the illusion of a wider shoulder structure, like a few pro bodybuilders do. Reeves had a straight, non-sloping shoulder structure, and a decent amount of delt muscle, which blended in well with his wide chest structure. The border of his lower pecs mirrored the straight line of his clavicles, creating a rectangular look, as opposed to a round bulbous, boobish look which bodybuilders like Arnold and Oliva had, a look that was compounded by the effects of gravity on their massive pecs. Here’s a relaxed shot of Oliva. He didn’t have the structural shoulder slopeness of Arnold but he had large traps, rounded pecs, and not an excessively wide shoulder structure, which combined, gave him an Arnold-ish chest-dominant hanging shoulder look. The same can be said of Lee Haney. Back to Strydom and Benfatto, here are rare, relaxed, non posed shots of Gary. Even though he was known for shoulder dominance, his actual shoulder structure doesn’t appear particularly wide. A bodybuilder always being photographed raising, and or rotating, their humerus, changes the public’s perception of their bone structure and muscle structure. In this photo, Benfatto is raising his humerus, like a mini shrug, giving the appearance of shoulders that are a little out of proportion to the rest of his body. He isn’t raising his humerus quite so high in this photo and his delts flow more with the rest of his body as a result.
Larry Scott had a narrower shoulder structure but had very round, full muscles. His muscle size and shape compensated greatly for his bone structure. Casey Viator also had a narrowish shoulder structure. His wider ribcage, waist structure, and not particularly wide chest structure may have added to that look. Like Reeves, Dillet was another good example of a wide shoulder structure but, like Arnold, he also had sloping shoulders, although Dillet’s shoulders started sloping near the sternum. But, again like Reeves, Paul Dillett had wide, more rectangular pecs, except they mirrored his sloping clavicles by sloping a bit at the lower pec border. Unlike Reeves, Dillett’s delts were massively capped, the radical difference at least partially due to what was available in their different eras. Frank Zane, Jim Haislop, and Don Howorth were like Dillett and Reeves as far as their bone structures factoring in heavily to their shoulder width. Pete Grymkowski had a wide, straight shoulder structure along with well developed delts.
In this Terminator 2 shot, you can see that, unlike Paul Dillett, Arnold’s clavicles are straighter across but the head of his humerus dips down enough to give him a sloped shouldered appearance. His trap development and hanging pecs were contributing factors to this look. At the 1980 Mr Olympia, Arnold appeared to have less of a sloped posture. This may have been a result of how he consciously started carrying himself. He seemed more aware of his posture, raising his humerus a little higher, as well as having less rounded pecs that year. He seemed to be going for more upper, outer chest, less lower chest development, as well as a less sloped posture. Could Arnold have been influenced, to some degree, by straight shouldered, less rounded pecked, Frank Zane, who won the Mr Olympia title the previous three years.