Shoulder and Arm Workout Routine (10 Exercises)

You can’t go wrong with a shoulder and arm workout if you want to build a muscular and strong upper body.

Your shoulders and arms are prominent body parts that contribute to functional strength and are crucial in developing an aesthetically pleasing physique.

This article outlines a great shoulder and arm workout to help you build a chiseled upper body. It is one of many premium workouts available in our workout tracker, which you can download for free using the button for your device:

Can You Train Shoulders and Arms Together?

The short answer: absolutely!

It was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite way of combining muscle groups, and it worked out somewhat OK for him.

While it might be more common to train biceps and triceps with back and chest, respectively, or even give your arms a day of their own, a shoulder and arm workout makes sense.

  • Even though your shoulders and arms (the triceps in particular) are not the small muscles many people think they are, training them doesn’t exhaust your entire body and leave you a sweaty mess like a grueling leg or back workout can. Instead, you can crush your delts, biceps, and triceps and still feel ready to jump into a leg workout the next day.
  • When you train your chest first, followed by shoulders or triceps, or perform a back and biceps workout, you’ll inevitably tire the arm muscles and won’t be able to give your all during the second half of the workout. While your shoulder and arm muscles overlap in function, training them together doesn’t produce the same fatigue, allowing you to keep your foot on the gas throughout the entire session.

Benefits of Strong Shoulders and Arms

Broad and muscular shoulders, along with well-developed arms, are often seen as the epitome of an athletic physique. These muscle groups enhance the overall visual appeal of your entire upper body.

When it comes to athletic performance, strong shoulders and arms play a vital role. Whether you’re involved in sports or any activity that demands upper-body strength, from explosive movements to supporting heavy loads, you rely on your shoulders and arms to provide the necessary power and stability for optimal exercise performance.

Enhanced Athletic Performance

  • Strong shoulders and arms are crucial in virtually all physically demanding sports, ranging from football and basketball to swimming. These muscle groups generate power for forceful pushing and pulling movements.
  • Whether you’re throwing a ball, pushing an opponent, or pulling a rope, well-developed deltoids, biceps, and triceps are paramount for optimal athletic performance.

Improved Posture

A balanced and well-developed shoulder structure promotes better posture.

  • By strengthening the muscles in your shoulders and arms, you can effectively pull your shoulders back and stand straight and tall, helping to counteract tight chest and deltoid muscles that tend to pull your shoulders forward, leading to a slouched posture.
  • Strength training enhances muscle flexibility and increases your range of motion, ultimately improving your overall posture.

Enhanced Physical Appearance

Looking your best is a welcome and undeniable aspect of developing stronger arms and shoulders.

  • A well-defined upper body, including developed shoulders and arms, significantly enhances your physical appearance.
  • Beyond the superficial aspects, feeling confident about your appearance positively impacts many parts of your life.
  • And for bodybuilders building massive arm and deltoid muscles is essential for competitive success.

Shoulder and Arm Anatomy and Function

Your shoulders and arms consist of many different muscles that together make up a significant percentage of your upper body muscle mass.

Before jumping into the shoulder and arm workout, let’s take a brief tour of the three muscles and discover how they work.

Shoulder Anatomy and Function

Contrary to what some believe, the deltoid is not a minor muscle group. It is actually one of the largest in the upper body. Its volume exceeds that of muscles like the latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major, which most people immediately consider large.

The deltoid is composed of three parts or “heads”:

  • The anterior deltoid (front delt)
  • The lateral deltoid (side delt)
  • The posterior deltoid (rear delt)

You can selectively target each part using specific exercises.

deltoid muscle anatomy
  • The primary role of the front delts is to bring your arms forward, working with your chest muscles. Exercises such as the bench press, front raises, and various shoulder presses effectively engage the front deltoids.
  • The side delts lift your arms to the sides and assist in stabilizing the shoulder joint during movements like the bench press or overhead press. To target them specifically, you should incorporate a side raise exercise, like the lateral raise, into your shoulder workout. The lateral deltoid is sometimes mistakenly called the medial deltoid, but “medial” refers to something closer to the body’s midline, not the “middle.”
  • Often overlooked, the rear deltoids contribute to the external rotation of the shoulders and aid in pulling your arms back during exercises like face pulls or rows for the upper back. The rear delts work with the latissimus dorsi in all shoulder extension movements.
  • Finally, while not part of the deltoid, the rotator cuff consists of four small muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. They play a crucial role in maintaining the stability of the upper arm within the shoulder socket.

Biceps Anatomy and Function

The bicep enjoys a popularity that far exceeds its relatively small size. If someone asks you to flex a muscle, chances are they mean your biceps.

The biceps muscle consists of two heads: the long head and the short head. These heads originate from different areas of the shoulder blades and come together at the elbow joint.

biceps anatomy for dumbbell bicep workout

The biceps perform two primary functions: flexing the elbow and rotating (supinating) the forearm. In addition, it aids in the forward flexion of the shoulder joint when raising the arm forward and upward.

  • The short head, positioned on the inner side of the arm, contributes to the width of the biceps. The long head on the outer side creates a distinctive peak when well-developed, as seen in bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • Your biceps is just one of three muscles responsible for flexing the elbow. It collaborates with the brachialis, located beneath the biceps, and the brachioradialis in the forearm. Whenever there is a call for an elbow bend, a curling motion, or a pulling movement like when doing chin ups or pull ups, they band together to flex in harmony.
  • Among the three, the brachialis is the strongest elbow flexor, while the biceps muscle is a powerful supinator but relatively less potent in elbow flexion.

Strong biceps muscles play a crucial role in various sports and activities involving lifting or pulling, such as weightlifting, climbing, and throwing. And, of course, they contribute to functional movements in everyday life.

Triceps Anatomy and Function

The triceps brachii, commonly known as the triceps, is located on the back of the upper arm, opposite the biceps. It makes up roughly two-thirds of the upper arm muscle volume and surpasses the latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major in size.

The name triceps comes from its three distinct sections, referred to as “heads,” which converge at the elbow joint: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head. It connects to the elbow and the upper arm bone (humerus).

dumbell triceps workout triceps anatomy
  • The long head makes up the most sizable part of the triceps muscle, accounting for approximately half of its volume, and extends down the back of the arm. A well-developed long head significantly contributes to your overall arm size, much more so than, for example, the biceps.
  • The lateral head and medial head of the triceps are situated on the outer and inner sides, respectively.

Your triceps have several important functions that allow you to do many things with your upper body.

  • The primary function of the triceps is elbow extension, enabling you to straighten your arm at the elbow joint. For instance, when you push a door closed, your triceps is the muscle responsible for extending the arm.
  • Moreover, the triceps aids in stabilizing the elbow joint during delicate movements of the forearm and hand, like when you’re writing or building Lego. The long head of the triceps also assists in the extension and adduction of the arm at the shoulder joint.
  • Your triceps spring into action during various everyday movements like pushing, lifting, and other activities requiring upper body strength. In the gym, having powerful triceps makes or breaks performance in exercises like push ups, bench presses, and the tricep dip.

Read more:

>> The 10 Best Tricep Exercises for Muscle & Strength

Shoulder and Arm Workout: Overview

In this shoulder and arm workout, you’ll start with your delts before moving to your biceps and triceps. You can switch the order of the muscle groups around, but that’s the default and how you’ll see it structured in our workout log.

The first exercises for each muscle group are ones where you can handle relatively heavy weights. A stronger muscle is often a bigger muscle, so placing compound movements or barbell exercises first in the workout allows you to hit each body part with heavy loads for muscle and strength gain. Afterward, you follow up with lighter isolation work for hypertrophy focus and a great pump.

The shoulder and arm workout is intended for intermediate to advanced lifters.

If you are new to strength training, take a look at the Barbell Training Program for the Beginner or the Bodybuilding for Beginners workout routine for an excellent introduction to the weights.

If you have some training experience but still consider yourself something of a beginner, you can still benefit from this shoulder and arm workout. In that case, do one set less of each exercise.

You can see the workout’s exact set and rep configuration in StrengthLog.

This strength workout requires no advanced training equipment, only an adjustable bench, a barbell, a cable pulley machine, and a set of dumbbells and weight plates suitable for your fitness level.

Shoulder Workout

You kick things off with a combination of compound and isolation exercises that target all parts of the delts for balanced development.

  1. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise
  3. Upright Row
  4. Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

Bicep Workout

For blasting your biceps, it’s all about curls. Three exercises using various rep ranges and loads will have your bis crying for mercy

  1. Barbell Curl
  2. Hammer Curl
  3. Concentration Curl

Tricep Workout

Three heads, three exercises: this selection of movements target all parts of your triceps effectively for optimal development.

  1. Barbell Lying Triceps Extension
  2. Overhead Cable Triceps Extension
  3. Tricep Pushdown

Shoulder and Arm Workout: Training Volume, Frequency, and Rest Times

As a general rule of thumb, you need at least 10-12 weekly sets per muscle group for optimal gains, according to research.1

This shoulder and arm workout routine provides most trainees enough training stimulus for optimal training volume, even if you only do it once a week.

optimal training volume bodybuilding

However, you may require 20 or more weekly sets if you are an advanced bodybuilder or lifter. If that describes you, increasing the frequency of your shoulder and arm workout to twice a week can enhance your gains.

Feel free to decide the length of your inter-set rest periods to fit your needs and time frame.

Resting two to three minutes is standard practice, but if you want to rest longer or shorter, go right ahead. 

Longer rest times allow you to use heavier weights and achieve a greater training volume, one of the primary factors regulating muscle growth. Of course, your workouts take much longer if you rest for five minutes between every set.

Most exercises in this shoulder and arm workout are isolation movements, which typically don’t require a very long rest interval between sets for adequate recovery. If you feel ready to go after a little rest, you can jump straight into the next set.

Warming Up for the Shoulder and Arm Workout

Preparing your muscles adequately before a challenging shoulder and arm workout can significantly enhance performance. A proper warm-up serves several purposes, like priming your muscles, activating your central nervous system, improving blood flow, and potentially reducing the risk of injury.

  1. Optionally, begin your warm-up routine by engaging in 5–10 minutes of light cardio, such as jogging in place or performing jumping jacks. This helps increase blood circulation, elevate your heart rate, and raise your body temperature.
  2. Next, incorporate some dynamic stretches that target the muscles you will work during your workout. These movements activate and prepare the targeted muscles for the upcoming work. Examples of dynamic stretches include arm circles, shoulder circles, and chest openers. 
  3. Finally, perform a series of ramp-up sets for the first exercise of your workout, the seated dumbbell shoulder press in this case.

The number of warm-up sets required depends on the weight you intend to use for your working sets.

The heavier the weight, the more ramp-up sets you need on the way there. 

If your work sets call for 15lb dumbbells, one or two warm-up sets with lighter ones is enough. But if you’re an advanced lifter using really heavy dumbbells, you want to start with a lighter load and gradually increase it to prepare your muscles.

The purpose of the ramp-up sets is not to exhaust you. Instead, they should leave you feeling prepared and eager to go once you reach your working weight.

Shoulder and Arm Workout: The Exercises

Time to build some muscle! This is your shoulder and arm workout, with detailed step-by-step instructions and videos showing how to perform each exercise.

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The first exercise of the shoulder and arm workout is your primary mass builder for the delts: the dumbbell shoulder press. By placing a compound exercise like the overhead press first, you can handle heavier weights and overload your delts for maximal muscle growth.

The overhead press is one of the best shoulder exercises and one of the most effective upper body exercises for muscle strength and hypertrophy. It emphasizes the front side parts of your deltoids, resulting in overall shoulder mass and width.

By performing it with a pair of dumbbells, you allow for a greater range of motion compared to other overhead press variants, like the barbell military press or the machine shoulder press. The increased range of motion can lead to improved muscle growth and development.

The seated position provides stability, allowing you to focus on your shoulder muscles without relying too much on other muscles for support. 

Muscles Worked in Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Muscles worked in seated dumbbell shoulder press

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Perform the Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  1. Sit down on a bench with a raised backrest so that your upper and lower back are fully supported. In the seated position, ready a pair of dumbbells by resting them on your legs.
  2. Lift the dumbbells to the starting position at your shoulders.
  3. Inhale and lightly brace your core and abdominal muscles for stability.
  4. Press dumbbells upwards, extending your arms straight overhead while exhaling and maintaining a tight core.
  5. Inhale at the top or while lowering the dumbbells with control back to the bottom position at your shoulders.
  6. Repeat the movement for your desired number of repetitions.

For variation, you might give the Arnold press a go. It offers a unique variation to the traditional dumbbell press, and interestingly, a small study suggested it might be more efficient in engaging the anterior and lateral deltoids.2

You begin by grasping a set of dumbbells at shoulder level but with your palms positioned toward you. You dynamically rotate your palms to face forward as you push the dumbbells overhead. Returning to the starting position involves lowering the dumbbells while turning your palms so they face your body again.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

For building full, round shoulders that stand out from your arms and give the impression of width – what bodybuilders call “capped delts” – lateral raises are in a class of their own.

The key to maximizing your results in the lateral raise is not to maximize the amount of weight you use. Instead, use lighter weights and focus on controlling the entire movement to isolate your side delts.

Here are three pro tips to ensure you zero in on your lateral delts:

  • Terminate the upward phase somewhere around shoulder level. If you raise the dumbbells further, your trapezius takes over. The trapezius plays an important role in upper body strength and gives your entire torso a powerful look, but the lateral raise is not the exercise to target it.
  • Hold the dumbbells parallel to the floor throughout the exercise. Tilting the dumbbells with your thumbs up allows the front delts to assist in the movement. Conversely, tilting them with your thumbs down internally rotates your shoulders and lets your posterior deltoids in on the action.
  • Lift the dumbbells directly out to your sides to maximize the tension on the side delts. If you raise them in front of your body in a forward arc, you activate the anterior part of your deltoid muscles more.

Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Perform Dumbbell Lateral Raises

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold the dumbbells in your hands with your palms facing your thighs.
  2. Begin the movement by lifting both arms to the sides, keeping a slight bend in your elbows, and raising the dumbbells until they reach shoulder height.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position while maintaining control.
  4. Repeat the movement for your desired number of repetitions.

Upright Row

The upright row is the only open-chain compound exercise targeting the side delts. It is a great addition to your shoulder and arm workout, a valuable exercise for developing your shoulder and trapezius muscles, and a vital movement to master in weightlifting, especially for the high pull segment of the clean.

Upright rows often receive criticism due to the potential risk of shoulder impingement caused by lifting the arms above shoulder height in an internally rotated position.

However, there is a safe approach. Avoiding excessive elevation of the upper arms beyond shoulder level during the movement can transform the upright row from potentially risky into a great exercise and effective mass builder for the entire shoulder region.

If the exercise still feels uncomfortable, or you are looking for an alternative, give the monkey row a look. It’s a classic exercise that has unfortunately disappeared into the mists of time, but it is highly effective and an excellent alternative to the upright row.

Muscles Worked in Upright Rows

Muscles worked in barbell upright row

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Perform Upright Rows

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grip a barbell with both hands using an overhand grip with your palms facing towards you and your hands positioned slightly closer than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold the barbell at waist height with your arms extended and elbows straight.
  3. Pull the barbell in a straight line up towards your chin, keeping it close to your body as you lift it. Your elbows should be pointing outwards to the sides.  Focus on lifting the barbell with your shoulders, not your biceps.
  4. When your upper arms are parallel to the floor, focus on contracting your shoulder muscles as much as possible, then slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement for your desired number of repetitions.

Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

Though not readily visible in the mirror, the rear delts play a crucial role in achieving well-rounded shoulder development.

While movements like rows indirectly engage the posterior deltoids to some extent, they are primarily exercises for your back muscles. Neglecting direct targeting may lead to underdeveloped rear delts. That’s where the dumbbell reverse fly rides to the rescue.

Although the reverse fly does not entirely isolate the rear deltoid, as the upper traps are also partially involved, it’s an effective exercise for balancing the development of both front and rear delts.

When performing the dumbbell reverse fly, select a pair of relatively light dumbbells that allow you to use good form and focus on the targeted muscles without excessive involvement of other upper body muscles.

Note: you can opt to skip this exercise and perform it on the day you train your upper back instead. Rear deltoid flyes fit just as well on back day as on shoulder day, and it’s a matter of preference and time constraints where you place them.

Muscles Worked in Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

Muscles Worked in the Reverse Dumbbell Fly

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Perform Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and your arms by your sides, palms facing each other.
  2. Bend forward at the waist, keeping your back straight until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Let your arms hang down towards the ground.
  3. Lift both arms out to the sides, with a slight bend in the elbows, until they reach shoulder level. Keep your shoulder blades retracted and focus on squeezing your rear deltoid at the top of the movement.
  4. Reverse the movement and lower the dumbbells back towards the ground, maintaining control throughout.
  5. Repeat the movement for your desired number of repetitions.

Delts done! Let’s move on to the biceps and turn those molehills into mountains.

Barbell Curl

The exercise of choice to kick off your biceps session is the good old barbell curl, the cornerstone of many bodybuilders’ arms workout.

Performing biceps curls with a barbell allows you to handle heavy weights and practice progressive overload, the number one strength training principle for building muscle and strength.

Opt for either a straight bar or an EZ bar, and ensure you maintain proper form throughout the exercise. However, don’t hesitate to introduce a controlled burst of momentum during the final repetition to initiate the bar movement.

This technique is called a “cheat curl” and can be utilized strategically to push beyond failure and complete an extra rep. By employing this method, you’re not cheating yourself but maximizing your effort. 

A little controlled “cheating” at the end of your set helps you overcome the sticking point in the movement and squeeze out an additional rep you might not have achieved otherwise. Occasional use of this method effectively overloads your biceps and stimulates muscle growth, but you should only use it sparingly for the best results.

Muscles Worked in Barbell Curls

Muscles worked in the barbell curl

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Perform the Barbell Curl

  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell with an underhand grip (the palms of your hands facing forward) at around shoulder width. Your arms should be fully extended with the barbell resting against your thighs.
  2. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, curl the barbell upward by flexing your elbows. Focus on contracting your biceps as you lift the weight.
  3. Continue curling the barbell until your forearms touch your upper arms, and squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement.
  4. Lower the barbell back down to the starting position using the same path. Maintain control of the movement and avoid allowing the weight to drop.
  5. Repeat the movement for your desired number of repetitions.

Hammer Curl

The hammer curl is a valuable variation of the bicep curl that involves holding the dumbbells with a neutral grip, palms facing each other. This exercise is highly effective for developing the long head of the biceps, as well as enhancing upper arm and forearm strength.

In addition, integrating hammer curls into your arm workouts contributes to the growth of the brachialis muscle, which lies beneath the biceps. The result: a balanced development and an aesthetically pleasing appearance of your upper arms.

An additional benefit of hammer curls is their impact on the forearm muscles compared to many other traditional bicep exercises. By engaging these muscles to a greater extent, hammer curls help improve your grip strength.

Muscles Worked in Hammer Curls

Muscles trained in the hammer curl exercise

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Perform Hammer Bicep Curls

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell with a neutral grip in each hand, meaning your palms should face your body. 
  2. Bend your elbows, lifting the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Keep your palms facing your body and your wrists straight. Ensure your upper arms remain stationary and that only your forearms move during the curl.
  3. Pause momentarily at the top of the movement when the dumbbells are near your shoulders, and contract your biceps to maximize muscle engagement.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position in a controlled manner, keeping your palms facing your body and maintaining tension in your biceps and forearms.
  5. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Concentration Curl

The concentration curl stands out as one of the top dumbbell exercises for effectively isolating the biceps by minimizing the involvement of other muscle groups.

Doing so creates a higher level of tension on the biceps to stimulate muscle growth.

In fact, a study from the American Council on Exercise found the dumbbell concentration curl to be the number one exercise for activating the biceps brachii.3

Performing concentration curls individually, one arm at a time, allows you to direct your complete attention and effort toward the targeted muscle, enhancing your mind-muscle connection and enabling better contraction during the movement.

While the shape of your biceps is primarily determined by genetics, concentration curls effectively engage the outer (long) head of the biceps, contributing to the appearance of a pronounced biceps peak.

Emphasizing the term “concentration,” remember to prioritize form and technique over ego. Opt for a lighter weight that enables a full range of motion, relying solely on the strength of your biceps. You’ll perform a slightly higher rep range to finish your biceps session with a great pump.

Muscles Worked in Concentration Curls

Muscles worked in concentration curl exercise

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Perform the Dumbbell Concentration Curl

  1. Sit on a bench or chair with your feet flat on the ground, and hold a dumbbell in your right hand with a supinated grip (palms facing up).
  2. Lean forward and place your elbow against the inside of your thigh, just above your knee. Keep your upper arm close to your body and your other hand on your opposite knee for support and stability.
  3. Curl the weight towards your shoulder while keeping your upper body, arm, and elbow stationary. All the movement should be in your elbow joint.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the movement’s top, and hold briefly before lowering the weight to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps, switch arms, and repeat the exercise on the other side.

Biceps down, triceps to go! The following triceps exercises target all three heads for optimal development of your tricep muscles.

Barbell Lying Triceps Extension

The barbell lying triceps extension stands out as an incredibly effective exercise for developing tremendous triceps. It offers the advantage of allowing you to handle heavy weights while positioning your upper arms in a manner that optimally activates all three heads of the triceps. It’s a great way to kick off your triceps session in this shoulder and arm workout.

In contrast to the skull crushers exercise, you focus on lowering the weights behind your head rather than to your forehead. By doing so, you achieve a greater range of motion, effectively targeting the long head of the triceps. This particular head is the largest among the three and plays a significant role in determining the size of your arms.

Muscles Worked in Barbell Lying Triceps Extensions

Muscles worked by lying triceps extension

Primary muscles worked:

How to Perform Barbell Lying Triceps Extensions

  1. Lie down on a flat bench with your feet on the floor and your head close to the edge.
  2. Hold a barbell over your chest with an overhand grip and your arms extended. Keep your hands relatively close together, spaced approximately 6 inches (15 cm) apart.
  3. Keep your elbows pointing straight up and lower the barbell behind your head, bending your elbows.
  4. Lower the barbell as far as you comfortably can while maintaining control and tension in your triceps muscles.
  5. Reverse the motion and extend your arms back up to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Overhead Cable Triceps Extension

The long head of the triceps is not only the largest but also plays a vital role in optimal triceps development. Its size is equivalent to the combined volume of the lateral and medial heads, underscoring the importance of targeting the long head to maximize the growth potential of your upper arm muscles.

The best way to emphasize the long head is to incorporate overhead extensions into your triceps workout routine. You will utilize a rope attachment connected to a cable pulley in this particular shoulder and arm workout. This setup ensures constant tension on your triceps throughout the exercise.

Research shows that this type of triceps extension can promote 40% greater muscle growth than performing the movement with your arm in a neutral position.4

Go for a good stretch at the bottom before forcefully extending your arms and engaging your triceps for a powerful contraction. A complete range of motion is paramount for maximizing the benefits of this exercise.

Muscles Worked in Overhead Cable Triceps Extensions

Muscles worked in Overhead Cable Triceps Extension

Primary muscles worked:

How to Perform Overhead Cable Triceps Extensions

  1. Adjust the cable pulley system to a low position and attach a rope handle to the cable pulley.
  2. Stand with your back against the pulley and position your feet shoulder-width apart for stability. Hold the rope behind your head with a neutral grip (palms facing each other). 
  3. Keep your back straight, your core engaged, and your feet firmly planted. Step forward with one leg in front for balance and stability.
  4. Lower the rope handle behind your head by bending your elbows until your forearms are parallel to the floor and you feel a stretch in your triceps.
  5. Reverse the movement and extend your arms fully overhead. Maintain a stable upper arm position and hold them close to your ears with your elbows pointing forward.
  6. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Tricep Pushdown

The tricep pushdown is widely recognized as a staple among arm exercises due to its popularity and effectiveness. It offers a straightforward execution while delivering significant results.

You’ll utilize this exercise as the final component of your shoulder and arm workout, focusing on achieving a maximum pump through high-repetition sets.

To perform the pushdown, position yourself in front of a cable machine. Keep your arms close to your sides, and concentrate the movement at the elbow joint. When extending your arms, emphasize the contraction in your triceps.

You can use either a straight bar or a rope attachment. While using a bar allows for heavier weights, rope pushdowns can be gentler on the wrists and promote a more pronounced triceps contraction. Feel free to utilize either attachment according to personal preference.

In this exercise, prioritizing proper technique takes precedence over using excessive weight. Using a lower weight and doing more reps allows you to go for the pump and finish off your shoulder and arm workout in style.

Muscles Worked in Tricep Pushdowns

Muscles worked in triceps pushdown with bar

Primary muscles worked:

How to Perform the Tricep Pushdown

  1. Stand facing a cable machine with your feet comfortably apart. Grip the bar with an overhand grip, keeping your hands about shoulder-width apart. Your elbows should be slightly bent, and your upper arms close to your sides and perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Engage your core and maintain an upright posture throughout the exercise to help stabilize your body and isolate the triceps.
  3. Start by extending your arms downward, focusing on pushing the bar down towards your thighs. Keep your upper arms close to your sides and stationary during the movement.
  4. As you lower the cable, squeeze your triceps and focus on contracting the muscle. Feel the tension in your triceps as you fully extend your arms.
  5. Return to the starting position by allowing the cable to rise back up using the same path. Maintain control throughout the ascent.
  6. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

How to Incorporate the Shoulder and Arm Workout into Your Training Split

The shoulder and arm workout fits into any three- or four-day training split. 

For example, a 3-day split implementing the shoulder and arm workout could look like this:

  • Day one: chest and back
  • Day two: quads and hamstrings
  • Day three: shoulders and arms

You can also switch the day around like this:

  • Day one: shoulders and arms
  • Day two: quads and hamstrings
  • Day three: chest and back

A 4-day split is equally viable, perhaps structured like this:

  • Day one: back
  • Day two: chest
  • Day three: lower body
  • Day four: shoulders and arms

Again, feel free to rearrange the training days. In the example above, I’ve placed muscle groups that overlap, like back & biceps and chest & shoulders, spread out with at least one rest day in between for adequate recovery.

Can You Superset the Shoulder and Arm Workout?

Indeed you can!

When you perform a superset, instead of doing just one exercise at a time and taking a break in between, you combine two different ones and do them back-to-back without resting.

In other words, it’s like doing two exercises consecutively without stopping. Once you’ve completed two sets of two different exercises back-to-back, you take a regular set rest.

The arms part of this workout is particularly suited to supersetting. The biceps and triceps are antagonists, muscle pairs with opposing actions around a joint. When your train one, the other rests, and vice versa.

For example, you’d do one set of barbell curls, immediately followed by one set of barbell lying triceps extensions. Rest up, then perform another superset, and so on, until you’ve completed all sets of these two exercises.

Afterward, you’d move on to the same superset procedure for hammer curls and overhead cable tricep extensions.

The shoulder part of the workout isn’t designed for the superset approach, but if you want to speed the training session up and are prepared for high-intensity work, you could giant-set it.

A giant set is four or more back-to-back exercises with only a little bit of rest (the time it takes to move from exercise to exercise) in between. For this workout, that means performing all four shoulder movements in a row before your set rest. You then do several more giant sets like that until you’ve completed the entire delt workout in record time and with a record pump.

Both these training techniques are time-savers but are no better for muscle gain than straight sets.

Track the Shoulder and Arm Workout in the StrengthLog App

Give this workout a go, and you’ll be on your way to building the upper body of your dreams.

It’s available exclusively in our workout log app.

A workout log is the best way to keep track of your progress. 

Remember that progressive overload is the key to consistent gains over time. To continue making progress, you must gradually increase the demands on your muscles.

A training log helps you stay consistent, set and achieve specific goals, track your progress over time, identify patterns in your training, and hold yourself accountable to your fitness goals. 

While this workout requires a premium subscription, StrengthLog is 100% free to download and use as a workout tracker and general strength training app. All the basic functionality is free – forever. It’s like a personal trainer in your pocket.

Download StrengthLog for free, keep track of your weights and reps, and try to beat your previous numbers each workout.

Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.

>> Click here to return to our list of training programs and workouts.

For more stand-alone bodybuilding workouts like this, check out these great resources:

Good luck with your training, friend!


  1. J Hum Kinet. 2022 Jan; 81: 199–210. A Systematic Review of The Effects of Different Resistance Training Volumes on Muscle Hypertrophy.
  2. Indian Journal of Public Health Research and Development 8(4):653. Comparison among the EMG Activity of the Anterior Deltoid and Medial Deltoid During Two Variations of Dumbbell Shoulder Press Exercise.
  3. ACE Prosource, August 2014.
  4. Eur J Sport Sci. 2022 Aug 11;1-11. Triceps brachii hypertrophy is substantially greater after elbow extension training performed in the overhead versus neutral arm position.
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Andreas Abelsson

Andreas is a certified nutrition coach with over three decades of training experience. He has followed and reported on the research fields of exercise, nutrition, and health for almost as long and is a specialist in metabolic health and nutrition coaching for athletes. Read more about Andreas and StrengthLog by clicking here.