This unconventional shoulder workout is perfect if you've hit a plateau or are looking for a challenge. Try it for 8 weeks and marvel at your massive shoulders!
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
    Single Muscle Group
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration8 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout45-60 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Dumbbells, Other
  • Target Gender Male & Female
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

Cannonball Delts. Boulder Shoulders. Dynamite Delts.

These are a few of the phrases that people use when it comes to describing programs designed to help you develop your shoulders.

How many times have you heard them described about yourself? Have you been struggling to make any noticeable gains in this area? Or are you a beginner simply focusing on the basics and looking for a new plan?

Whether you’ve made great progress and are looking to challenge yourself with something new, or have been stuck in a plateau and looking for a way to force some growth, this workout should breathe new life into your shoulder training.

Related: 4 Advanced Strategies for Breaking Through Plateaus

Best Shoulder Workout: Up for a Challenge?

They’ll have to create a new pun to describe how big your shoulders will get after you do this program for a couple of months.

There are some advanced tips and tricks here that should shock the muscles and force them to grow.  I’m going to give some detail about how to perform these exercises, but if you don’t understand the basics on how to do these, then you’re likely not ready for this workout. Got it? Good. Sip your pre-workout beverage of choice, pack your BCAAs, and let’s get to clanging and banging.

Rotator Cuff Warmup

You need to start by getting blood to the shoulder area and forcing your rotator cuffs and shoulder joint to produce synovial fluid so they are warmed up and primed for the onslaught about to take place.

Related: Warming up for Dummies - A Lifter's Guide to Injury Prevention

Take a fitness band and wrap it around a solid apparatus and hold each end of it. Bend your elbow so your arm makes a 90 degree angle and elevate them so your upper arm is parallel to the floor.

Using only force from your shoulder area, rotate your arms so you’re pulling the end of the band up so your arms look like you’re trying to form a letter “u”. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Do 2-3 sets of 20-25 reps with 30 seconds rest in between until your shoulders feel warmed up.

Standing Barbell Press

A lot of lifters nowadays like to do these seated or on a Smith Machine. But I think if this way was good enough for Arnold, Lou, and the boys in the Golden Era, then it should work now. If you’re asking who Arnold and Lou are, stop reading and go find a copy of Pumping Iron.

Make sure you take a wide grip of the bar, you have a solid shoulder-width stance, and you have a slight bend in the knees. Take the bar from the rack or pick it up off the floor and clean it up to shoulder level. Generate force from your legs by lowering your butt slightly.

Best Shoulder Workout: Standing barbell press

Push up through your hips to stand back up and use that force to press the barbell overhead. Normally I would say press to lockout and return to the starting position but not now. We want that tension on the shoulders and pressing to lockout would place emphasis on the triceps.

Stop short of lockout and control the weight as you lower the bar back to your starting position. If you can’t control the weight, use less weight. After a light warmup set or two, we got five sets of five reps with two minutes rest between sets.

One Arm Lateral Raise - 21 Style

You’ve heard of 21s, right? You’re probably familiar with them from barbell curls. If you’re a twisted kind of person then you’re going to love this. We’re going to focus on one lateral head at a time here.

Take a dumbbell in either hand. Hold onto a solid place like a wall or rack with the other hand. Perform seven reps but only perform the bottom half of the lift. As soon as you finish the seventh rep, perform seven full range of motion reps. This takes you to 14.

Now this is when it gets fun. When you finish the 7th rep, only lower the weight halfway down and bring it back up again. Repeat this for seven more reps. Since you’ve already performed 14 reps, this is going to be hard, but it will force some blood into your side delt.

Don’t create momentum by swinging it. Lower the amount you’re using if you have to. There’s no one arm lateral raise competition anywhere so the number on the dumbbell should mean nothing to you.

Once you complete your final set of 7, switch arms and do the same thing with the other one. Give me three sets of 21’s with 90 seconds rest between sets.

Bent Over Lateral Raise with a Twist

Bent Over Lateral Raises are awesome for the rear delt,s but there is one problem with them that I have heard several people mention. Once you get near the end of the set, your traps may take over since your rear delts start to fatigue.

This trick has helped me out and it should help you as well. Go lighter than you usually would and change your starting position so that your palms are facing away from you. It should appear like you’re using an underhand grip with the weights. Keeping only a slight bend in the elbow, raise the dumbbells out to your sides and make it a point to lift so that when you reach the top of the movement, your pinkies are toward the ceiling.

Once you get to the top, hold it there for two to three seconds for a brief static contraction and finally lower the weight to the starting position.

You’ll feel this in your rhomboids and rear delts but if you don’t allow your arms to go forward then you should NOT feel it in the traps. Start with a very light weight to get used to performing the exercise this way. After you become more familiar with it, do three sets of 15 reps with 90 seconds rest between sets.

Front Raise/Upright Row Superset

We’re coming down the home stretch. You ready to finish this workout strong? Good.

Best Shoulder Workout: Upright row supersets

Take a barbell with a shoulder width overhand grip. This is going to be a superset, but instead of alternating exercises each set, you’re going to do it with each rep.

You’ll perform a front raise up to shoulder height, holding the weight there for a second before lowering it down, then once you’re back to the starting position, doing an upright row. This is one rep. You’ve got three sets of 20 reps in this style ahead of you.

The news gets better because now you’ve only got one minute rest between each set. We’re finishing this workout with the best pump possible and this superset will recruit all three heads of the delts. The front raise will focus on the front head and your shoulder-width grip will help target both the side head and rear head as you perform the upright rows.

As you finish the sets you might get tempted to swing the weight or speed through the reps. I’m begging you not to. Yes it will burn but I’m telling you that if you do these right, your efforts will be well rewarded when you have to start buying bigger t-shirts!

The "You're Going to Get Big" Shoulders Workout

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Rotator Cuff Warmup 2-3 20-25 30 sec
Standing Barbell Press 5 5 2 min
One Arm Lateral Raise 3 "21s" 90 sec
Bent Over Lateral Raise with a Twist 3 15 90 sec
Front Raise/Upright Row Superset 3 20 1 min


You should give this workout a go once a week for around eight weeks before you start noticing some changes you will like.

The keys to this will be a strong mental focus, a willingness to leave your ego at the door, and a strong mind-muscle connection so that each rep will count.

This program targets each head of your shoulder individually and finishes up with an all-out complete shoulder onslaught. Take some measurements of your shoulders when you start this program and do the same after you do it for the last time if you want to see proof of how effective it can be.

1 Comment
James Powley
Posted on: Thu, 05/26/2016 - 15:14

So with an underhand grip (like you would use with a bicep curl) how can i get my pinkies toward the ceiling without twisting my wrist to almost an underhand grip? I assume about 10-15 lbs at most with this exercise? Do you have any vids for correct form? Thanks!