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The Only Shoulder and Chest Workout You Need For Muscle Growth

 Written by 

Mauro Castillo

 Last updated on 

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If you’re tired of looking for the best upper-body workout, look no further. As we all know, an essential part of everyone’s fitness journey is having a solid frame from massive shoulders and chests. 

This is the only chest and shoulder workout you need for muscle growth. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro bodybuilder or a beginner; this routine will keep you coming from more and more.

A man does incline barbell press
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Some of the exercises you’ll be performing are:

  • Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Overhead Barbell Press
  • Chest Fly
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raises
  • Cable Crossover Machine 

After following a proper warm-up (see below), you can skyrocket your muscle gains and keep injury risk at a minimum. You’ll also learn about the benefits and anatomy of the shoulders and chest musculature. 

Let’s dive in! 

Chest And Shoulder Warm-Up Routine

The best way of ensuring a high-quality workout and keeping injuries at bay is through an effective and efficient warm-up. Next, we’ll go through a two-part warm-up: passive and active.

Passive Warm-Up

The passive warm-up is made to access and prime the mobility you already possess. It will help the muscle’s tone to go down (relax), so we gain some range of motion. Then, with the active warm-up, we’ll increase the tone again to prime the body for the workout.

Foam Rolling

According to Wiewelhove et al., foam rolling increases muscular physical performance and flexibility and alleviates muscle fatigue and soreness. 

Foam rolling is believed to be more effective than dynamic and passive stretching in increasing flexibility and may be recommended as part of the warm-up for young adults (1)

Pick a foam roller of your preference and lay it on the floor. Make sure to foam roll your lats and pecs since they both affect your shoulder’s natural position. You can spend around 20 seconds per muscle, and you’ll soon notice a slight gain in the range of motion.

Fascia Release

The fascia is a thin casin of connective tissue that surrounds every organ and muscle (2). Sometimes, this fascia tightens up and makes the muscles and joints feel rigid and stiff. Although this is okay, it can limit the needed range of motion for an effective chest and shoulder workout.

Some tools you can use to release the fascia around the shoulder and chest muscles are the following:

  • Lacrosse balls
  • Baseball/Softballs 
  • Acumobility balls 
  • Sticks 

These tools work in a very similar way as the foam rolling. You can have them on the floor or pressed against a wall. Look for trigger points around the chest, shoulders, lats, and trapezius area. Wherever you feel a slight discomfort, apply pressure for a few seconds and release. 

After a few tries, you’ll feel a slight improvement in your range of motion.


Although passive stretches are not recommended before a workout because they may impair performance (3), they can undoubtedly help to lengthen critical muscles such as the latissimus dorsi (lats), which creates an advantageous position of the humerus (arm bone) concerning the pressing angle for chest and shoulder exercises. 

A woman does chin-ups
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Source: Grace Brown Fitness

Some helpful stretching exercises are:

Dead hangs
Lean away lateral line stretch 
Lat-inhibition hang

You can hold each stretch for 20 seconds each while breathing in and out. This will help you gain a key range of motion for the following workout.

Active Warm-Up

Once done with the passive warm-up, your shoulder joints and chest muscles should feel better positioned to withstand more active and dynamic exercises. A few examples you can include in your warm-ups are the following:

Pick 2-3 exercises and perform two rounds of 6-8 reps each. Make sure to pick a light and manageable weight and move with intention. Once you’re done, your shoulders and chest muscles will be primed for the workout.

Chest And Shoulder Workout

Now that your joints and muscles are primed, it’s time to attack the workout. Before diving in, please know that these workouts are merely examples and can be modified to adapt to your current fitness levels. Weights, series, and reps can all be changed to serve your specific goals.

If you’re feeling pain or discomfort with one or more exercises, please feel free to change them or skip them. Your health should be your priority. 

Block A

  • 1) Flat Bench Press
  • 2) Incline Bench Press
  • 3) Overhead Press

You can perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for these three movements, each with a challenging heavy weight. Make sure the starting position for these exercises is rock solid. The bench should be stable, and you should have 5 points of contact before engaging with the movement (both feet, glutes, upper back, and head.)

The overhead press will target the deltoid muscles but try to keep your back from overarching by squeezing your glutes and bracing your core while keeping your feet shoulder width. The incline bench press will target your upper chest (clavicular heads), while the flat bench press will work the middle portion of your chest muscles.

For all these exercises, use an overhand grip (palms facing away from you.)

Block B

  • 1) Dumbbell Bench Press
  • 2) Decline Barbell Bench
  • 3) Cable Crossover Machine

These three exercises are crucial components for developing your entire chest and shoulders. You can perform 2-3 sets per muscle group of 8-12 reps with still heavy weights but lighter than the first block. 

Like Block A, proper form is vital to make the most out of these movements and build that upper body muscle. The decline barbell bench will target the lower portion of your chest muscles, while the cable crossover machine is an excellent tool for building overall mass to your pectoral and front deltoids.

Maintaining constant tension throughout the execution is key for inducing the right stress for muscle building.

Block C

  • 1) Dumbbell Chest Fly
  • 2) Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • 3) Lateral Raises
  • 4) Rear Delt Flyes 
A man does chest flies in a gym
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This last block will have you perform 1-2 sets of the exercises above until you hit muscle failure (as many reps as possible), so pick a lightweight to avoid any risk of injury.

The dumbbell shoulder press will have you in a seated position, preferably resting your back against the bench, and press up while keeping your elbows pointing at a 45-degree angle.

The rear delt flyes (reverse dumbbell fly) are fantastic exercises to target the posterior deltoids and traps. Lateral raises are also a main ingredient for hitting your deltoids’ lateral head and giving you that “boulder shoulder” look.

These exercises and movements will create a terrific upper-body workout that fits your fitness journey. They are almost all compound movements, meaning they will target more than one major muscle per repetition, which is good news if you’re looking to build muscle mass.

Please slow down if you’re experiencing shoulder pain during these exercises. There’s a possibility your shoulder mobility is still subpar, and other upper-body exercises should be included to correct any shoulder imbalances.

Reviewing Chest And Shoulder Anatomy

An enormous part of a successful weight training experience is understanding the basics of anatomy for the relevant body parts. This will help you get more involved with the process and enjoy the rewards even more.

Anatomy: Chest

The chest muscles are the primary muscle group targeted in pectoral workouts like this. These are a fan-shaped group consisting of two portions:

  • Pectoralis major 
  • Pectoralis minor 

These two portions have three heads combined: the clavicle, sternal, and costal heads. The primary function of the chest is to adduct the arms (bring them closer together), although they also internally rotate the humerus and play a role in flexing the shoulder.

Almost all chest movements and press presses will induce muscle gain if the time under tension is right (down slow, explode up).

Anatomy: Shoulders

The shoulders are the most mobile joint in the human body. It can move through a 360-degree motion with relative ease. There are many muscles responsible for stabilizing the joint, but the primary muscle group is conformed by:

  • Anterior deltoid 
  • Medial deltoid
  • Posterior delts (Rear deltoids)

These three muscles are mainly responsible for flexing, abducting, and extending the shoulder joint. The plate pinch press explicitly targets the anterior deltoid (shoulder flexion), which keeps the weight plate chest level while performing the movement.

Benefits Of Healthy And Muscular Chest And Shoulders

Having a healthy and muscular chest and shoulders is one of the best things you can do for your body. It opens many doors physically and mentally, whether you are an athlete or a general population. 

Minimize Upper Body Injuries

One of the most common upper body injuries in fitness activities is shoulders. The shoulder complex has the most mobile joint in the body, moving 360 degrees in all directions, which is why it is so injury-prone. 

Strengthening the muscles from the rotator cuff (four shoulder muscles responsible for stabilization) is crucial to keeping the shoulders healthy and strong. Training these muscles at the same rate you’d train your deltoids is essential. This will increase your joint longevity and keep injuries at a minimum. 

A coach and his student doing crossfit
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Source: Shift Movement Science

Improved Posture & Aesthetics

Posture will say a lot about someone’s body language before any word is spoken. Solid shoulders and chest play a crucial role in posture and aesthetics. Retracting the shoulder blades and sticking your chest out can showcase healthy self-esteem and confidence. 

Rounded shoulders and chiseled pectoral muscles are staples of an aesthetic physique for both men and women. For that reason, it’s crucial to include them both in your regular strength training routine.

Enhanced Performance

Most sports and hobbies require steady and robust shoulders to enjoy them fully. Whether playing baseball, tennis, swimming, basketball, or just regularly hitting the gym, your performance and upper body strength will increase.

Most of these sports and hobbies will feed off a healthy range of motion at the shoulder joint. Working the rotator cuff at the gym should be a priority for anyone playing any sports (recreational or not) because it will increase stability at the joint and translate to a healthy enjoyment of such activities. 


Can I Do Chest And Shoulders Together?

Yes, you can do chest and shoulders together. Many prefer this split since it allows them to target the most considerable upper body pressing muscles on the same day. You can work the chest first and then the shoulders or target both muscle groups within the same block.

How Do You Build A Big Chest And Shoulders?

A calorie surplus is crucial to building a big chest and shoulders. Make sure you’re eating enough food to push your muscles to grow. Once you’ve tackled this, aim to train both muscle groups at least twice weekly. You could have one day of high volume and intensity and another day of low volume and intensity. Try to increase the weight week by week progressively.

Should I Do a Shoulder Workout First Or Chest?

Many experts recommend working the chest muscles first and then the shoulders. This is because almost all chest exercises revolve around the shoulders, so if your shoulders are already tired, it could compromise your technique with the chest workout. Other experts suggest working the shoulders first since it is a warm-up for the following chest workout. Try both ways and stick with what works better for you and your goals. 

Featured image source : Fit Life Regime


I've been in the world of CrossFit since 2016. Started as a client, later became a coach, and eventually bought an affiliate with two friends from January 2020 to January 2022. In 2018 I won 1st place at a local competition in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After I sold my shares in January 2022 I moved then to another city to run as the general manager of another affiliate STI CrossFit.

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