I have found that training chest and shoulders together is an effective technique for building overall upper-body muscle. The ultimate goal of this workout is to gain that quality, lean muscle that we all strive for—through lots of volume!
Some exercises call for high reps, some are heavier sets with fewer reps, and there are dropsets, as well. You’ll start by working upper chest with lots of incline work and move down to the lower chest. The second half of the workout hits shoulders, and by the time you’re finished, you should feel fatigued. I like to insert this workout into my routine about once every two weeks.
Let’s get to work!
Incline Barbell Bench Press
We’ll start with the incline barbell bench press. You’ll notice in the video I’m not going all the way down, and I’m not coming all the way up either. That keeps the tension on the upper chest the entire time and keeps your arms from taking over.
Close-Grip Incline Dumbbell Press/Incline Single-Dumbbell Press
For the close-grip incline dumbbell press, I use one dumbbell in the video because I didn’t have the dumbbells I wanted here; usually, I use two dumbbells. Sometimes you have to improvise in the gym. You’ll see I raise the dumbbell in an arc motion, rather than straight up, in order to get an extra squeeze on my upper chest and focus on the inner pec, as well.
Incline Dumbbell Fly
You’ll probably notice that I make a slight twist of my wrist at the top of the motion on incline dumbbell flyes. This is also a trick for getting an extra squeeze, as well as forcing more blood into the chest. Crazy how one small motion can make all the difference, but it does!
Dumbbell Fly Press
I’m a big fan of this movement because I really like coming down on the flyes and feeling that stretch as well as the squeeze from the press at the top. With this exercise, start like you’re doing a flat dumbbell fly, but at the top of the motion, finish it as if it was a press. So, at the midrange, twist your wrists before finishing with a press.
Machine Chest Press
You’ll do 3 total sets for this exercise. On the first set, start with 6 reps, drop the weight and do 12 reps, then drop the weight again and finish with 20 reps. I prefer to do these on the machine, but if your gym does not have a chest press machine, you can use dumbbells, cable presses, or the bench press instead. If you watch closely, you’ll notice that I’m keeping constant tension on the muscle throughout the set.
Single-Arm Cable Fly
For these, do 10 reps on one arm while holding the opposite arm at the end position of the fly. Do 10 with the opposite arm, and when you’re finished, repeat for 8, 6, 4, and 2 reps per side, going back and forth, with no rest between. When you complete the final two reps, superset with 10 cable chest presses.
Cable Chest Press
I like to do an isometric hold on these because it forces blood into the pecs. This is the last chest exercise, so you need to give it your all to get everything you can out of it. Repeat this entire superset three times with about a minute between supersets.
Smith Machine Behind-the-Neck Press
I recommend doing these on a Smith machine over doing them with a regular barbell to reduce your chance of injury. Keep your head straight and look straight on—do not look down and do not angle your neck down either. You want to come down to where your elbows are at 90 degrees and keep your grip no farther than shoulder-width apart.
Wide-Grip Upright Row
The next two exercises are a superset. The wide-grip upright rows will hit your side delts really heavy, and then the lateral raises will force more blood into the muscle. On the wide-grip upright rows, lean forward slightly and make sure you’re pulling with your elbows. Holding your grip wide enough is key here!
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
You’ll notice that I’m sitting back in the seat on these. That way it hits a different part of my side delts. After you complete the first 10 reps, lean forward and do another 10. Bring the dumbbells a little farther in front of you and make sure at the top of the motion that you are angling the dumbbells down slightly, almost as if you’re holding two bottles in your hands and pouring them out at the top.
The parallel press is one of my favorite exercises for shoulders. I like doing it as opposed to the regular military press because it’s a great way to build a better upper chest and front delts at the same time.
Reverse Pec-Deck Fly
Now it’s time to burn out the rear delts with a superset. You’ll do reverse pec-deck flyes for 4 sets total. On each set, hit 12 reps, then increase, or pyramid, the weight rather than decrease it and do another 8 reps—it’s like a reverse dropset. Tip: When you grip the machine, let the handle hang in your hand and push more with your elbows rather than gripping it tight. That way you focus on squeezing the rear delt and not putting tension on your forearms. After each complete set of reverse pec-deck flyes, superset dumbbell rear-delt flyes for 15 reps.
Dumbbell Rear-Delt Fly
When performing rear-delt flyes, just as with the reverse pec-deck flyes, try not to squeeze the dumbbells too hard. Let the dumbbells almost hang in your hands so you can get a better squeeze on the rear delts. Try not to bring your elbows too far back either. I’ve noticed on rear-delt training that it’s crucial to focus on the negative of the rep and bring the weights down slowly, rather than just trying to get through the set quickly. Really let it burn!