T Nation

Shoulder Routine


Is this too much volume for a shoulder workout? I'm a sort-of-beginner (trainng for more than 6 months, but havn't put on much mass) and am trying to put together a good workout for building shoulder size;

Dumbell OR Barbell Military Press x 3 8 - 10 reps
Upright Row OR Dumbell Press x 3 8 - 10 reps
Side Lateral Raises x 3 8 - 12 reps
Bent-Over Rear Lateral Raises x 3 8 - 12 reps

I don't train traps directly, as I figure they get fairly well worked with shoulder exercises and with back exercises, nor do I train front delts, as I figure they get well trained with chest.

I'm wondering if 12 sets is too much volume, and whether or not I've got a good selection of exercises or if I should drop anything from the programme there. Would it even be an idea to do just 2 sets for one or two of the exercises?? If anybody has any opinions, I'd be grateful to hear them.


Hey Watermelon,

I'd be glad to throw my opinion in here if you'd like. First off I'm impressed by the fact you train your post delt (90% of meat heads train only the things they see in the mirror) But as a guy that can proudly say that shoulders are my favorite body part to train, here are a few things I'd like to share.

1) Size:
It won't matter what exercises your doing, if you're trying to gain MASS. Then you need two things, heavy reps and heavier caloric intake. Eat like a monster and train HEAVY.

2) Rep Range:
I like the 8 to 10. But I'll tell you what, if you haven't gained mass it's because you're not going heavy enough. Increase the intensity and decrease the volume. Go for sets of 5-8 and make damn sure that by that 5th rep you're burn'n. If you COULD hit 9 Then that weight's too light brotha.

3)# of Sets
There are three factors that go into you wondering if you're training enough sets on shoulder day. a) Am I getting bigger? b) Am I sore the next day? c) Did I nail every muscle fiber in the shoulder complex on the head?

From what I can see from your program it looks like there's no's across all three. SO here's the fix. MORE, yes i said MORE sets. Believe it or not 5 sets of 5 would be optimum. Here's the reason. Say you're doing military press for 3x10 w/45 lb. DB's. Thats thirty reps with 45 lbs which means you moved 1450 lbs worth of total weight. Now go 5x5 w/65 lb. DB's. Thats 25 reps with 65 lbs. which means 1625 lbs were moved. yep, that's nearly 200 lbs more weight that your muscles had to endure which = Growth.

Now I really like the exercises you've chosen here. Only a couple things. One, Overhead DB press and Upright row are def not interchangeable. If you want a pure mass building exercise for those traps(which I greatly recommend you train on shoulder day) old school shrugs my friend. Heavy and stick that at it's highest point for a full second each rep. Remember this IS shoulder day. So don't worry about what may or may not of been worked on other days.

Hit everything. Anterior/Med/Post head of the delt. Upper and middle traps, Rotator cuff. Now granted we're at different places in our training experience perhaps, but let me put my shoulder workout on here and if you have anymore questions I'd be happy to help out anyway i can. Or if you dont like what i said tell me to eat it. haha either way here it is.

Warm-up with rotator cuff and scap work
Seated DB over head press
Standing BB Push Press
DB Lateral Raise
Superset: BB Front Raise with DB Rear Delt
BB Power Shrugs
Towel Grip Up-right Rows
Manual neck work with partner.


Charles Poliquin advises little or no direct shoulder, but I understand that it is your explicit goal to build up your shoulders. Given that fact I would follow Thibs thinking on the subject. If I am not mistaken it is his feeling that the push press is the best general mass builder for the shoulder.

Since I am from the Poliquin school of thought on shoulder work, I will refrain from commenting on your current program. However, I advice that you consult the following article by Thibs as I think they will be very helpful in designing your shoulder program.


Good Luck!


"nor do I train front delts, as I figure they get well trained with chest."

I second the Push Press. And I have to ask what your intent is when doing Military or DB Presses, as you say that you don't do any direct front delt training....



Ha ha ha, your username is very funny.


The watermelon thing???


Something I picked up out of a Milo magazine... It might be too advanced, but I doubt it. Pre fatigue your shoulders, but don't use a sissy isolation exercise. Try Seated DB overhead presses for a set of 8-10 reps immediately followed by a set of push presses emphasizing the most leg drive possible to lift the heaviest load you can for 3-5 reps.

I would use something like my 3RM for my Strict military press for the push presses. I promise if you do this on your shoulder day for a couple of weeks you will see improvement.