Training the chest and shoulders together is a smart move because many of the exercises that work the chest will also target the shoulders. Combining the two into one workout will save you time and allow both muscles equal time to recover.
This chest and shoulder workout will include exercise descriptions and inform you of the muscles worked for each exercise.
Chest and Shoulder Workout Routine
Here is a chest and shoulder workout routine that you can follow the next time you are in the gym. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets, and perform each rep at a slow tempo:
|Dumbbell Bench Press||3||8 – 12|
|Incline Dumbbell Fly||2||15|
|Barbell Push Press||3||10|
Perform the following three exercises as a circuit:
- Dumbbell Front Raises two sets of 10 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raises two sets of 10 reps
- Dumbbell Bent Over Rear Delt Flyes 2 sets of 10 reps
This section will look at four chest exercises that you can incorporate into your chest and shoulder workout.
The push-up is possibly the best bodyweight exercise for the upper body, except perhaps the pull-up. It works the chest, the shoulders, and the triceps, and push-ups can be adapted into hundreds of variations.
- Place both hands shoulder-width apart and flat on the ground. Place your feet close together with your legs straight.
- Raise your hips off the ground to be in a plank position, with arms fully extended.
- Take a deep breath and lower your chest down towards the ground, pausing before it touches.
- Drive your chest until your arms are almost fully extended again.
Muscles Worked: Pectorals, deltoids, triceps, core muscles
Dumbbell Bench Press
The barbell bench press is more popular compound exercise, but the dumbbell bench press allows a greater range of motion and is more forgiving for beginners. Many variations, including incline and decline bench presses; Smith Machine bench presses are also great for new lifters.
- Sit on the edge of an exercise bench with a dumbbell resting on each knee.
- Use your knees to (one at a time) push the dumbbells up to shoulder height, then lie back on the bench.
- Bring your elbows out to 45 degrees from your sides, and push the dumbbells up in the air until they are resting above your chest.
- Take a deep breath and lower the dumbbells down to your chest, with your elbows remaining at a 45-degree angle from your sides.
- Pause when the dumbbells touch your chest, then drive them back upwards and slightly together to meet above the centre of your chest.
Muscles Worked: Pectorals, deltoids, triceps
Dips are the most underrated chest exercise, but they can be challenging for new lifters to perform. If you are strong enough to perform bodyweight or even weighted dips, there is no need to use the assisted dip machine. But if you are a beginner, follow these instructions:
- Set the assisted dip machine up. The weight is a counterweight, so the more weight you add, the easier it gets. If you weigh 90kg and set the counterweight to 50kg, you are only lifting 40kg of your body.
- Once the weight is set up, place your knees onto the knee pad, and put a hand on each handle.
- Lower yourself until your chest is almost in line with the handles. Make sure that you perform this slowly.
- Pause, and then explosively drive yourself back upwards until you reach your starting position.
Muscles Worked: Pectorals, deltoids, triceps, core muscles
Incline Dumbbell Flyes
The fly is an excellent chest isolation exercise, and it has many variations. The incline dumbbell version is a firm favourite and suits a busy gym better than the cable fly.
- Set an exercise bench to a 45-degree angle
- Lie back on the bench holding a small dumbbell in each hand using a neutral grip
- Hold both dumbbells directly over your chest; your arms should have a slight bend in them
- Pull your arms apart like a bird spreading its wings, and keep going until the dumbbells are parallel to the floor.
- Pause to feel the stretch in your chest, and then pull the dumbbells back together as if you are performing a giant clap.
Muscles Worked: Pectorals
This section will look at five shoulder exercises to add to your chest and shoulder workout.
This is an excellent warm-up exercise and perfect for protecting the muscles in your shoulders. Face pulls are best performed with a rope attachment and a cable machine.
- Attach a rope to your cable machine and set it so that the top of the rope is around forehead height
- Grab a handle in each hand using an overhand grip, then walk backwards until there is tension on the rope.
- Once you are in position (one foot in front of the other for balance), stay upright and pull the rope handles either side of your ears.
- Keep your elbows high throughout. Pause when you can feel a stretch in your rear delts or when the middle of the rope is about to touch the bridge of your nose.
- Pause and slowly return the handles to the starting position.
Muscles Worked: Rear deltoids, trapezius, teres minor
Barbell Push Press
The barbell push press is a fun shoulder exercise perfect for beginners and experienced lifters.
- Hold a barbell at shoulder height using an overhand grip. Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees very slightly, and then straighten them. Use this momentum to help you drive the barbell up over your head. Stopping when your arms are almost fully extended.
- Pause, lower the barbell back down to shoulder height, then bend your knees to initiate a second rep.
Muscles Worked: Deltoids, triceps, core muscles, quadriceps
Dumbbell Front Raises
The front deltoid muscles tend to get a lot of attention during a chest and shoulder workout, so this exercise is perhaps overkill. It is tough to leave front raises out of your training because they are enjoyable and effective.
- Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip. Rest your arms in front of you, with the dumbbells on your upper thighs.
- Push your shoulders back and raise your right arm until the dumbbell is parallel with the floor.
- Pause, and then lower it down. As you do so, raise your left arm until the dumbbell is parallel.
Muscles Worked: Deltoids, core muscles
Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Lateral raises are performed identically to front raises, but you simultaneously bring your arms out to each side.
- Stand upright with chest pushed out and shoulders back. The feet should be shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest them by your sides.
- Take a deep breath and then raise both dumbbells sideways until they are parallel with the floor.
- Pause, and then slowly lower them back down to your sides.
Muscles Worked: Deltoids
Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear Delt Flyes
Another rear-delt targeting exercise and a great finisher to the workout. The rear delt fly can be performed on a bench or with cables. But the dumbbell bent-over fly is ideal for busy gyms.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend forwards, push out your chest and pull your shoulders back.
- Your arms should be hanging down below your chest. With a bend in each arm, pull your arms out wide like a bird spreading its wings.
- Pause when you feel the tension in the back of your shoulders, and then slowly return your arms to the starting position.
Muscles Worked: Deltoids
Sets and Reps
The sets and reps in the above workout are based on hypertrophy (building bigger muscles). You could remove a few exercises and reduce the reps to lift heavier weights to build strength.
If you want to burn fat, you could increase the reps further and shorten your rest period to 30 seconds.
Chest and Shoulder Muscles: Quick Overview
The chest muscles are called pectorals; they are fan-shaped muscles. Though people talk about the upper chest, lower chest, and middle chest as if they were separate, they all comprise the same muscle.
When people talk about shoulders, they often speak about upper back muscles such as the trapezius, but your traps are best left to upper back workouts instead.
The shoulders are comprised of deltoids, teres major and minor, and the infraspinatus muscles.
As with pectorals, people talk about the deltoids as three separate muscles: front, side, and rear. But the deltoids are one muscle with three heads.
When you perform a rear-delt exercise, for example, you are working the whole deltoid, but there is more emphasis on the lateral head. Exercises such as the barbell push press will work the entire deltoids, but they tend to emphasise the front head of the deltoids.
- When performing any chest or shoulder exercise, it is important to use a full range of motion. If you cannot manage this, then lower the weight or reduce the number of reps.
- Exercises that target the rear delts such as bent over rear delt flyes or face pulls may require more mobility than you currently have. In this case, a shortened range of motion is okay. Don’t force it.
- Tempo is crucial if you want to build big and strong muscles. If you are rushing the movement, bouncing the weight, or allowing your arms to drop during the eccentric part, you are not working your muscles properly. Lower the weight, and be mindful of how you move the weights.
- Proper rest is important when lifting weights; if your goal is hypertrophy, you want at least 60 seconds of rest between sets. If you find you are ready after 20-30 seconds, then you may not be lifting a heavy enough weight or using a good tempo.
This chest and shoulder workout is perfect for new lifters but excellent for experienced gym-goers. Feel free to increase the difficulty of the exercises to suit your needs. Add in some back exercises (and remove a few chest and shoulder exercises), and you have a great upper body workout.