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The best shoulder and tricep workout routine for mass

Build your delts and tris with this mass-building shoulder and tricep workout routine.
Written By  James Jackson
Last Updated on 2nd May 2022
A man demonstrating the best shoulder and tricep workout for mass

Doing a shoulder and tricep workout is a great idea seeing as many deltoid exercises already train the triceps. 

But creating the optimal shoulder tricep workout isn’t as simple as just throwing a few exercises together and calling it a routine; you need to put as much thought into creating the workout as you would put physical effort into performing the actual session.

Thankfully, I’ve already used my expertise to create a mass-building shoulders and triceps workout routine that has the perfect balance of heavy compound lifts and muscle-sculpting isolation exercises.

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The best shoulder and tricep workout for mass

This muscle-building triceps and shoulders workout makes use of barbells, dumbbells, and cables so that you can create the strongest possible hypertrophy stimulus and get those upper body gains.

Of course, depending on your equipment availability, you’ll naturally want to switch some exercises out for a close variation.

But if you have access to a fully equipped gym, then I definitely recommend following this routine as is. Optionally, you can do some rear delt isolation work at the end of the session, although many lifters, including me, prefer to train their posterior delts with their back.

Rest 2-3 minutes between sets of presses and 1-2 minutes between the isolation supersets. Here’s what that would look like:

Compound press > 2-3 minutes rest > compound press

Overhead extension > lateral raise > 1-2 minutes rest > repeat

Exercise 1: Close grip bench press — 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps

A man performing a close grip bench press

If you want to add slabs of mass to your triceps while dramatically improving your pressing power in the process, then the close grip bench press is just about the best exercise for the job.

The CGBP is an especially good addition to a tricep shoulder workout because it takes the chest out of the movement to a very large degree. As such, the prime movers in a CGBP are your triceps and front delts, two very important pushing muscles.

As for the form, touching the bar to your chest is optional. If you want to train both your front delts and triceps as optimally as possible, then you’ll want to bring the bar all the way down to your chest so that you can put your shoulders under a deeper stretch.

Alternatively, you can stop a few inches short of your chest to reduce the activation of your front delts. However, seeing as you’re doing a triceps and shoulders workout, I recommend the first option.

  1. Load some weight onto an Olympic bar and lie back on the bench.
  2. Grab the bar just inside shoulder-width and pin your shoulder blades back.
  3. Tighten your core and unrack the bar.
  4. Tuck your elbows in slightly and then slowly lower the bar to your chest.
  5. Once the bar touches your chest, press it back up by flexing your triceps forcefully and aggressively pushing your hands into the barbell.
  6. Keep pushing until your elbows reach lockout, then repeat for 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps.

Exercise 2: Dumbbell shoulder press — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

A man doing a dumbbell shoulder press

By making you lift two independent weights, the dumbbell shoulder press will naturally help you to develop deltoids that are both symmetrical and muscular.

While I recommend starting this tricep and shoulder workout with the close grip bench press seeing as it’s better suited to heavy, low rep lifting, you can also open the session with a shoulder press if your deltoids are lagging behind your triceps.

In terms of technique, you want to bring the dumbbells as low as you comfortably can during the eccentric phase of the rep so that you can put your delts under a growth-stimulating muscle stretch.

In practice, this generally means bringing the weights just below where your elbows form a 90-degree angle.

  1. Set the backrest of your weight bench to the highest setting.
  2. Grab a pair of weights, and then sit on the bench with the dumbbells on your knees.
  3. Fling the dumbbells up using your legs so that they’re over your shoulders.
  4. Tuck your elbows in at a 45-degree angle and arch your upper back slightly.
  5. Press the weights over your head by flexing your triceps and shoulders.
  6. Keep pushing until your elbows reach complete extension.
  7. Lower the dumbbells in a controlled manner until you feel a deep stretch in your front delts.
  8. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.

Exercise 3A: Dumbbell overhead extension — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps

A man performing a standing dumbbell overhead tricep extension exercise

Absolutely no good deltoid and tricep workout is complete without some kind of overhead extension. 

Bold claim? I don’t think so.

The simple reason for my bold claim is that the long head of the triceps is the only head of the triceps that crosses the shoulder joint. Therefore, it has to be trained with overhead work in order to receive the stimulation that it needs to grow to its full potential.

Obviously, your triceps don’t care whether you’re standing up, sitting down, or lying on a bench; the important thing is that you’re performing a tricep extension with your shoulders in a high degree of flexion.

So while the standing overhead extension is a great exercise, you can also do a lying tricep extension and get the same results if you lower the weights behind your head rather than directly to your face.

  1. Cup both of your hands around one end of a dumbbell.
  2. Press the weight over your head, and then tuck your elbows in slightly.
  3. Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your neck. Keep going until you feel a strong stretch in the backs of your arms (in the long head of your triceps).
  4. Reverse the motion by forcefully flexing your triceps until your elbows reach full extension.
  5. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

Exercise 3B: Dumbbell lateral raise — 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps

A man doing a dumbbell lateral raise

Performing shoulder and tricep supersets is a great time-saving way to add intensity to your workouts. After all, it’s not like overhead extensions and lateral raises work the same muscles, so why not pair these relatively easy exercises together?

While you can do compound exercises in a superset fashion, your cardiovascular fitness can quickly become the limiting factor, so I prefer to use supersets for isolation exercises only.

As for the lateral raise, it’s easily the best exercise for training your side delts, which is a very important deltoid muscle for making your shoulders look wider.

  1. Grab a relatively light pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip.
  2. With the dumbbells by your sides, raise them out to the sides until your upper arms form a 90-degree angle with your torso.
  3. Hold the contraction for a split second and then slowly lower the weights back down.
  4. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps.

Exercise 4A: Cable upright row — 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps

A man doing a cable upright row

The penultimate exercise in our shoulder tricep workout is the highly underrated cable upright row. This muscle-pumping movement challenges your side delts and upper traps with constant cable tension, which naturally results in a powerful muscle pump.

To work your side delts more than your traps, use a wider grip and pull to where your upper arms make a 90-degree angle with your torso.

If you want to put more tension on your upper traps, use a narrow grip (a rope is ideal here) and row as high as you comfortably can.

  1. Connect your attachment of choice to a low pulley.
  2. Grab the attachment and row it up toward your chin by flexing your side delts and upper traps.
  3. Hold the peak contraction for a moment, and then lower the attachment under control until your elbows are almost locked out.
  4. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps.

Exercise 4B: Tricep pushdown — 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps

A man doing a standing cable tricep pushdown exercise with a rope attachment during his workout

It would be a weird shoulder triceps workout if you didn’t do some kind of pushdown, wouldn’t it?

The cable pushdown is the classic tricep isolation exercise and one that comes with more built-in versatility than any bodybuilder could ask for.

If you want to train for the pump and contraction (a great way to end a delt and tricep workout), use a rope and split the ends as you lock your elbows out to intensify the triceps peak contraction.

To lift as heavy as possible, use a bar attachment with a pronated grip. This option will naturally put a bit more stress on your wrists, but it’ll enable you to overload your triceps with more resistance.

As you can see, I’ve paired pushdowns with cable upright rows so that you can easily perform both exercises in a superset fashion.

  1. Connect your desired attachment to a high pulley.
  2. Grab the attachment, and then take a step away from the cable station.
  3. Move your shoulders back so that they’re level with your torso, then bend over at the waist slightly.
  4. Push the rope/bar down toward the floor by flexing your triceps forcefully. Keep pushing until your elbows are locked out.
  5. Hold the peak contraction for a moment and then allow the bar to move back up.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 sets of 12-15 reps.

Should you train your shoulders and triceps together on the same day?

A man performing a tricep and shoulder workout routine

Should you train your triceps and shoulders together or not? It can be highly beneficial to work your shoulders and triceps on the same day because shoulder presses already train the triceps via elbow extension.

Of course, you could argue that your triceps will be tired after doing a shoulder press, which is true to a degree. However, shoulder presses don’t fatigue your triceps that much, so you’ll still have plenty of strength left to give your tricep extensions and pushdowns everything that you’ve got.

Related: Shoulder back and bicep workout

Conclusion: What makes a great tricep and shoulder workout?

A weight lifter doing a shoulder tricep workout

The best shoulder and tricep workout naturally includes both compound movements and isolation exercises so that you can work your delts and tris from a variety of angles while targeting a broad spectrum of fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers.

In practice, you want to do a shoulder press, a lateral raise, and an overhead extension at a minimum. You can get by without close grip bench presses or pushdowns if you already do plenty of heavy presses in your routine.

However, in order to maximize your gains, you’ll definitely want to do more than just overhead extensions for your triceps work.

I hope that you make some great gains from my shoulders and triceps workout routine. I think that it’s a solid mass-building template, but you’re more than welcome to modify it as you see fit.

References

  1. Speakman, D. (2021, January 28). Developing The Back of Your Arm | Long Head Triceps Exercises | MYPROTEINTM. MYPROTEIN. https://www.myprotein.com/thezone/training/developing-the-back-of-your-arm-long-head-triceps/
  2. Muscle fibre | biology. (2022). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/muscle-fiber
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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