Shoulder Workout for Mass, Definition, and Size - FTM Fitness

Feel free to save this image and use it next time you have shoulder day.

I just wrapped up my third 12 week bulk of 2017 and now it is time for me to slightly tweak my training to more of a maintenance and conditioning plan. This shoulder workout is phenomenal at achieving a definition boosting pump. If you push yourself and go as heavy as you can (while still maintaining good form and steady movements), you will definitely notice a difference in the way your shoulders look by the end of this workout.


  • Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press: Start off with warm up sets. Pick a weight that you can push up for 20-25 reps for set 1. Set 2, choose a weight for 15 reps. For your 3 working sets, pick a weight that you can push for 10-12 reps. Those last reps should be hard, so push yourself! You can choose to sit completely upright (do not use the back rest) if you want to specifically target the top cap of the shoulder. If you want to target the front of the cap (good for filling in the top of the chest) have the seat all the way up using the back rest. This will put you at a slight incline.
  • Single Arm Dumbbell Lateral Raise: These are great at isolating the lats and not relying so much on the traps to lift the weight. Stand straight with a dumbbell in one hand. Raise that arm up and out to your side. You can slightly bend your elbow. Focus on the top cap of your shoulder lifting to the ceiling. Try your best not to swing but rather lift controlled. Pick a weight that you can do for 10-12 reps, repeat on the other side. Do a total of 3 sets.
  • Barbell Behind the Neck Press: I love doing these standing for a total body movement that engages the core for balance. Choose a barbell weight that you can lift up for a total of 10-12 controlled reps. Stand up straight with legs apart for balance. Grab the barbell about shoulder width apart for your grip. Raise up and over your head. Come down slowly with the bar going behind your neck and then back up. Adjust your grip as needed so there is no strain on your elbow joints. Do a total of 3 sets.
  • Barbell or Dumbbell Shrugs: I stuck this giant set right in the middle of the workout to get some serious blood flow going and wake you up during training. This is not typical, normally you see a burnout towards the end but this is a nice way to add a surge of energy into the routine. Using a barbell is nice for quick loading of weight. Stand with feet slightly apart and grip the weights at your sides or barbell in front of you. Shrug your shoulders up slowly, envision them touching your ears. Slowly drop down, don't jerk or use momentum. Choose a weight for the warm up set 1 where you can do 20 reps or so. Warm up 2, choose a weight that you can shrug 15 times. Heavy set, choose a weight for 8 reps. For your 3 working sets, aim to hit 10-12 reps each set. You should be burning in the traps after this.
  • Shoulder Press Machine: Now that you're nice and hot, time to overload. Go to the shoulder press machine (seated barbell military press would work as well). Choose either a wide grip or close grip (I do mine close grip) on the machine. Push yourself here, do not think that because your muscles are exhausted from the shrugs that they will be out of gas... they are ready to go now. Pick a weight that you can press 8-10 reps, do 3 sets with a decent amount of rest in between. Again, slow and steady movements for these.
  • Seated Single Arm Front Raise: Last shoulder move! I love these. I used to do alternating front raises standing and found that I was straining muscles that I didn't want to be using. Here's where the incline bench comes in handy. Put a bench at an incline and sit forward on it (straddle the seat and your chest will be against the back rest). Take one dumbbell in your right hand and grip the top of the head rest with your left hand. Really plant down your body and get secure. Raise the weight slowly up and forward in front of you (like you are pulling a band off the ground). Come down and pause just slightly before repeating. Trick is not to "swing" but "lift". Choose a weight that you can do 10-12 reps each arm. Repeat 3 total sets each side.
  • Abs or Calves: Finish off this training session by training either calves or abs. You could also do a mini leg workout if you wanted to put in extra leg work. A finishing session should be made up of at least 3-4 exercises for 3 working sets each. For example... Barbell Calf Raise 20 reps x 3 sets, Dumbbell Calf Raise 20 reps x 3 sets, and Calf Machine 20 reps x 3 sets. Try to work in the 15-20 rep range for these exercises. 
  • Cardio (Optional): Now that I'm in maintenance and conditioning (versus bulking) I add on cardio to the end of my training sessions. This could be 20min on treadmill, stairs, or bike.

Try this workout for your next Shoulder training session. It is great for building muscle and working multiple areas of the shoulders. This workout can be done for all levels of lifters.

If you are unfamiliar with any of the moves, check out the database on Every exercise can be found by searching for it by name. 

*I am not a certified personal trainer. My experience is limited to myself. If you are new to lifting, please seek out resources online and the help of a trainer or experienced friend before embarking on a new fitness regime.

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