Muscle for life

The Ultimate Shoulder Workout: The Best Shoulder Exercises for Big Delts

The Ultimate Shoulder Workout: The Best Shoulder Exercises for Big Delts

If you want big, strong, round delts that pop, then you want to do these shoulder exercises and workouts.


No matter how big your arms, chest, or back are…an upper body just isn’t complete without well-developed shoulders.

For example, check out this picture of Greg Plitt, who had one of the greatest physiques I’ve ever seen:

shoulder workout routine

Great chest, great traps, good lats, but shoulders are lacking. He knew that, though, and after several years of work, here is what he achieved:

shoulder workout for mass

#lifegoals 😉

Now, if you’re reading this article, I don’t think I have to do much to convince you to build bigger, stronger shoulders. You’re sold. You just need to know how.

I bet you’ve tried too. You’ve poured who knows how many hours of time and gallons of sweat into your delts only to be disappointed. I know how that goes

The reality is anyone who says building impressive shoulders is easy is lying. It takes a lot of work–the right work–and patience. It can be done though. And this article is going to show you how.

So, let’s first take a quick look at the anatomy of the shoulders so we understand what we’re trying to achieve in our shoulder workouts and then we’ll talk about how to build size and strength.

Understanding Shoulder Anatomy

Your shoulders are comprised of three major muscles known as deltoids, and here’s how they look:

It’s very important to develop all three heads of this muscle, because if one is lagging, it will be painfully obvious.

In most cases, the lateral and posterior deltoids need the most work because the anterior deltoids do get trained to some degree in a good chest workout, and nobody skips chest day. Chest training doesn’t adequately train the other two deltoid heads though.

Let’s use my own physique as an example. First, check out the following picture taken about 7 years ago, before I knew what I was doing with my training and dieting:


Look at my left shoulder and how small it is compared to the middle of my upper arm and how much it’s overpowered by my chest (as you can see, I never skipped chest day). And let’s not talk about my calves. 😉

Keep in mind that I was training shoulders at that time. I was doing a lot of sets of pressing and raises as a part of a traditional bodybuilder workout that focused on isolation exercises, the 10 to 12+ rep reange, fancy rep schemes including drop sets, supersets, etc., and so forth.

Soon after I took that picture, I threw away the muscle mags and began truly educating myself on how to build muscle and strength and lose fat.

After about a year of this new style of eating and training, which I teach in my books, I looked like this:


It’s quite an improvement, of course (I was thrilled), but let’s focus again on that left shoulder because it’s still lagging. The lateral head in particular lacked size–it didn’t protrude enough to balance the size of my triceps.

I kept working at it, however, and here’s a shot of me taken a couple years later:


My shoulders need a bit more work but I think you’ll agree they have greatly improved and are now fairly proportional to my arms, chest, and back.

I’ve learned quite a bit along the way, of course, and that’s what I’m going to share with you here in this article.

Would you rather listen to this article? Click the play button below!

Want to listen to more stuff like this? Check out my podcast!

The Simple Science of Effective Shoulder Training

The two biggest mistakes most people make in their shoulder workouts are:

1. Focusing on the wrong shoulder exercises.

Many people focus too much on machines and isolation exercises, which are of secondary importance in building big, round delts.

2. Focusing on high-rep training.

This mistake will stunt the growth of every major muscle group in the body and is particularly detrimental in a smaller muscle group like the shoulders.

If those two points go against a lot of what you’ve heard and/or assumed about shoulder training, I understand.

I used to do every shoulder machine in the gym and used to think that smaller muscle groups responded better to lower weights and higher reps.

Well, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about lifting and building muscle naturally is the more you emphasize compound movements and heavy lifting (80 to 85% of 1RM and higher), the better your results.

[Read: The Best Way to Stimulate Muscle Hypertrophy (Build Muscle)]

And in terms of training the shoulders, that means a lot of heavy barbell and dumbbell pressing with supplementary work for the side and rear delts.

“But wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “[SHREDDED FITNESS MODEL] does a billion reps in his shoulder workouts and has cannonball shoulders… What gives?”

If only you had his #dedication. All 2 grams of it that he injects every week.

I know, that might sound cynical, but it’s true.

When the right steroids enter the picture, achieving muscle growth is mind-numbingly simple: sit in the gym for a few hours every day doing rep after rep after rep, exercise after exercise, and muscles get bigger and bigger.

In fact, when steroids are involved, focusing on high-rep training is generally recommended.

Steroids cause muscles to grow rapidly but don’t help tendons and ligaments keep up, so weights that feel manageable can simply be too much for connective tissues. 

This is a common way that steroid users screw up their joints.

There’s another reason why steroids produce abnormally large shoulders, traps, and upper chest regions.

These areas of the body are quite dense in androgen receptors, which are special types of proteins in cells that respond to certain hormones in the blood (including anabolic hormones like testosterone).

Thus, when large amounts of anabolic hormones are introduced into the body, the shoulders, traps, and pecs are hyper-responsive and grow very quickly and can reach freaky levels of size.

Don’t be discouraged, though.

You can build a great set of shoulders without drugs. It just takes a bit of know-how, hard work, and patience. The strategy is simple enough:

1. Focus on lifting heavy weights in your shoulder workouts.

If you want your shoulders to get big and strong, you’ll want to focus on the 4 to 6 or 5 to 7 rep range.

2. Focus on the shoulder exercises that safely allow for progressive overload.

As a natural weightlifter, you can take this to the bank: if you don’t continue to get stronger, you won’t continue to get bigger.

The number one rule of natural muscle building is progressive overload, which means adding weight to the bar over time.

Well, certain exercises don’t lend themselves well to both heavy lifting and progressive overload. Upright rows, for example, increase the risk of shoulder impingement. Behind-the-neck presses are dicey too.

Another aspect of your shoulder training that you have to get right is volume, or the total amount of reps you do each week.

This is especially important when you’re doing a lot of heavy weightlifting because the general rule is this:

The heavier the reps, the fewer you can do each week.

Heavier weights necessitate more recovery, which means you can’t do as many every week without risking overtraining.

I’ve tried many different splits and frequency schemes and what I’ve found works best is in line two extensive reviews on the subject.

When your training emphasizes heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

This not only applies to the shoulders but to every other major muscle group as well.

Alright, now that we have basic training theory under our belts, let’s look at the best shoulder exercises for building muscle and strength.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

 The Best Shoulder Exercises

best shoulder workout for definition

Like with most muscle groups, there are scores of shoulder exercises you can choose from but only a small handful are really necessary.

These are the exercises I’ve used to dramatically improve my shoulders. They will help you do the same.

1. Seated or Standing Military Press

Barbell and dumbbell pressing is the most effective way to build your shoulders because although it focuses on the anterior head of the deltoid, it also involves the other two, and it allows you to push heavy weight without risking injury.

EMG research has shown that dumbbell pressing may activate the shoulder muscles slightly more than barbell pressing, but the effects seen were small and EMG data isn’t exactly rock solid.

Practically speaking, I wouldn’t say the dumbbell military press is better than the barbell press or vice versa.

Like the bench press, I’ve found dumbbell and barbell pressing to be complementary and have included both in my workout routines for some time now. Both require strength and stability and both produce good results, and I recommend you alternate between them.

What I like to do is 6 to 8 weeks of heavy barbell pressing followed by 6 to 8 weeks of heavy dumbbell pressing.

Now, there are two variations of the military press–standing and seated.

Give them a try and you’ll quickly learn that the standing military press (also known as the overhead press) is significantly harder than the seated. And harder usually means better.

The same EMG study I cited earlier supports this, showing that the standing presses (both dumbbell and barbell) activated the shoulder muscles slightly more than their seated counterparts.

Furthermore, many well-informed fitness experts say the standing barbell press is the superior choice and I don’t necessarily disagree. In terms of whole-body training, there’s no question that the standing press is superior.

That said, there are two drawbacks to the standing military press that you should be aware of:

  • Your 1RM will be lower.
  • You have to be more careful when you’re trying to move heavy weights (80%+ of 1RM).

You see, the standing press places a lot more stress on the lower back and core than the seated press, which means you won’t be able to lift as much weight and you’ll be at a higher risk of injury if your form is sloppy.

These disadvantages are especially true with the standing dumbbell press, which really doesn’t lend itself to heavy pressing.

This makes the overhead press a better whole-body exercise but if you’re trying to maximally overload your shoulders, the seated press allows you to “target” your shoulders with heavier weights.

My personal preference is the seated military press (barbell and dumbbell) because I feel that my heavy deadlifting and squatting is more than enough for my core and back.

That said, I do like to alternate between standing (barbell) and seated (dumbbell and barbell) military pressing.

I prefer the seated military press because the standing variation requires quite a bit of balance and lower back stability to perform, and as I squat and deadlift heavy every week, I don’t feel I need any more lower back training.

Here’s how to properly do the seated barbell military press:

And here’s the dumbbell press:

Here’s how to do the standing barbell military press correctly:

And the standing dumbbell press:

2. Arnold Press

The Arnold press is a variation of the traditional dumbbell press that increases the range of motion.

Here’s how to do it:

3. Dumbbell Front Raise

The dumbbell front raise is an effective exercise for targeting the anterior deltoid.

Here’s how to do it:

4. Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

The dumbbell side lateral raise is the most effective exercise for building the lateral deltoid, which needs targeted work to keep up with the anterior head. Pressing alone won’t get the job done.

Here’s how to do it:

As your shoulders get stronger, you’ll find it harder to maintain proper form when trying to lift both dumbbells simultaneously.

An effective way to get around this without cheating is to do a hanging variant of the exercise:

5. Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise

The posterior (rear) deltoid is the smallest and weakest of the three heads of the shoulders, but it shouldn’t be neglected.

If you want “three-dimensional” shoulders that don’t fall completely flat in the back, you want to train your rear delts. And the dumbbell rear lateral raise is a great exercise for this.

Here’s how to do it:

You can also do a standing variation of this exercise:

6. Barbell Rear Delt Row

The barbell rear lateral row is another great exercise for targeting the posterior deltoids. Here’s how to do it:

7. Face Pull

The face pull is a great exercise for strengthening both the posterior deltoids and the rotator cuff muscles.

Here’s how it’s done:

Remember–Progression is the Key to Muscle Growth

That’s it on the exercises. Out of all the dozens and dozens you could do, these seven are all you need to build strong, full, and functional shoulders.

The key, however, isn’t just doing the above exercises. It’s progressing on them. That is, increasing the amount of weight you can handle over time.

[Read: How to Create the Ultimate Muscle Building Workout]

Remember that as a natural weightlifter looking to get bigger, you must focus on getting stronger.

The Ultimate Shoulder Workout

best shoulder workout routine

A good shoulder workout trains all three heads of the muscle and focuses on heavy lifting.

Just like any other muscle group, shoulders can benefit from higher-rep work, but you have to emphasize heavy weightlifting if you want the best possible results.

So, here’s what I want you to do for the next 8 weeks, once every 5 to 7 days:

Seated or Standing Military Press

Warm up and 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (80 to 85% of 1RM)

Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps or 6 to 8 reps (75 to 80% of 1RM) if you can’t maintain proper form with 4 to 6

Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise or Barbell Rear Delt Row

3 sets of 6 to 8 reps

Face Pull

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps (70 to 75% of 1RM)

That’s it. And trust me–it’s harder than it looks.

A few odds and ends:

  • Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

For instance, if push out 6 reps on your first set of the military press, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can press it for 6 reps, and so forth.

  • Rest 3 minutes in between each 4-to-6-rep set, 2 minutes in between 6-to-8-rep sets, and 1 minute in between 8-to-10-rep sets.

Getting adequate rest in between sets is important because it allows your muscles to fully recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

  • Make sure you’re eating enough food.

Most people know that high protein intake is necessary to maximize muscle growth but don’t know that calorie intake also plays a major role.

Learn more here.

This type of training is the core of my Bigger Leaner Stronger (for men) and Thinner Leaner Stronger (for women) programs and I have hundreds of success stories that prove its effectiveness.

If you give this workout a go and like it, I highly recommend you check out BLS/TLS because you’re going to love it.

Happy training!

What About Supplements?

strong woman is drinking sports nutrition

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

[Read: The Ultimate Guide to the Best (and Worst) Workout Supplements]

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your shoulder (and other) workouts.


Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- and long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)


WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors.
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.


Want More Ultimate Workouts?

The Ultimate Chest Workout

best chest workout

The Ultimate Arms Workout


The Ultimate Back Workout


The Ultimate Abs Workout


The Ultimate Legs Workout

Arnold Schwarzenegger squatting deep.

The Ultimate Calves Workout


The Ultimate Butt Workout


The Ultimate Forearm Workout


The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout

Man doing push-ups on kettlebells.


What’s your take on shoulder workouts? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

admin admin

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.


If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Want more awesome stuff like this? Enter your email address to get the weekly newsletter.
LIKE MUSCLE FOR LIFE? Let Google know!
Leave a Comment!
  • Sajith Bandara

    Hey Mike,

    I wanted to get your input on something. I injured my left shoulder a few years ago and it never fully healed/I haven’t regained strength in it fully. I’m fairly new to weight lifting (been on your program for a little over 6 months) and I’m pretty cautious towards lifting too heavy with my weakened shoulder (my right one is fine though). Do you think I should still do heavy lifting to rebuild strength in that shoulder? I’ve been doing some raises with light “pause” reps in the meantime with slightly higher reps.

    • Michael Matthews

      I would definitely go easy on it. Have you done any rehab?

      • Sajith Bandara

        No, it’s one of those things that went largely unnoticed for a few years so I never did anything for it so I’m assuming there was some atrophy there. My dad who’s a physical therapist recommended that I do a series of lateral and front raises with light weight for awhile until I get strength back. Apparently my shoulder may have some alignment issues so I might try some flexibility exercises as well.

        • Rick

          Hey just to let you know I injured my left shoulder to, it was not noticed due to head injuries and thats where most of the tests were. Over time it became worse so I went to the docs, I had an MRI scan on it and it came back with wear and tear and also swollen tendons. It used to be my weak shoulder but now I can lift as much if not more than my right! I had a cortezone injection in it but lots of people told me they do more harm than good in the long run so i never bothered with anymore. I now find that if i dont do anything that it becomes aggrivated and sore, but if I work out its pain free and has full range of movement.Hope this gives you some encouragment!!

          • Rick

            I also went to a sports therapist and had some intensive massage which also helped loads!!!

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks for sharing!

        • Michael Matthews

          Yes that sound sensible. This can help:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com /how-to-improve-shoulder-flexibility-and-mobility/

  • Alex

    Hey mike what kind of workouts would you recommend for a lagging upper chest mine is the left upper chest

    • Michael Matthews

      Search for “chest” and you’ll find an article on it!

  • Well developed shoulders are absolutely key to that fitness-model look. Mine have been developing well but I haven’t seen strength progressing much at all. The vids here have shown me a thing or two and I can’t wait until Weds. Great article!

    • Michael Matthews

      Agreed and cool, let me know how it goes!

  • Joel Miller

    So i have to do this training once every week? for 8 weeks long?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup, once per week and if you do it for 8 weeks, you will make good gains (so long as you’re eating right).

  • Aidan Cook

    I love working shoulders, my favourite day. What about the traps though? I do shrugs although I don’t want my traps too big and make me look hunched.

    • Michael Matthews

      Me too. Yeah you can add shrugs to shoulders or back day. Up to you. I don’t train traps anymore because I don’t want them to be any bigger.

  • Burç

    Hi Mike,
    I have some problems with my back that I should not load too much weight on to my spine during the workouts, my orthopedist says. And as I see above, most of the shoulder exercises put the weight directly on to the spine. (I guess the weights compresses the body or the spine vertically, in these exercises, which I should keep away from…) Do you think there are some shoulder exercises which do not put the weight on to the body vertically? Thanks a lot.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm what if you stuck with raises? Front side and rear?

      • Burç

        According to the doc, I shouldn’t be carrying any weights when I’m standing up, which will compress the body vertically. So he proposed me to do chin-ups, dips, push-ups and so on. But I could not find such an exercise for the shoulders.

        • Michael Matthews

          Oh okay. Okay I’m getting fancy: shoulder pushups and handstand pushups?

          • Adam Clancey

            I’ve found that military press puts too much pressure on my spine too, I don’t know why but I can’t help but really arch my spine when I’m standing. Seated press is fine for me though, it helps me keep my back straight.

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah cool stick with seated. I also prefer it.

  • Mark

    Mike, thanks for the instructional videos. I picked up a few tips to make my shoulder exercises more effective. BTW, YOU should be in those videos and showing the proper form (and get the credit!). 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Great, I’m glad you liked it! I know, I need to do instructional vids!

      • Luke

        I think that would be great. Based on your writing I think that something I could link to a lot of the younger guys around my gym that could use some walkthroughs especially since lots end up using the often suspect or slightly lacking methods of the hiss master himself scott herman.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah it’s on the list. It will be a little bit of a project as I will want them to be nice, but I will be able to dedicate time to it after I’ve finished up some writing projects. Should be another couple of months.

          Hiss master, lmfao.

  • Chris Parkhill

    Hi mike, thanks for all the great articles. What do you think of face-pulls for rear delts?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! It’s a good exercise. I forgot to add that!

  • Texan

    I’m very happy with the weight I’m pressing on the seated dumbbell military press (60 LB dumbells). But getting the dumbells up to a pressing position is a huge problem. Any tips?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah it’s a pain. You have to start with them on your knees and kick them one at a time into position.

      • Pasquale L Nocito Jr

        I find that having a patner for shoulder can really give you an advantage. especially if you have weak wrists or you don’t want to put you shoulders in an awkward position on the way up… You burn a crapload of energy if you straining on getting them up. A simple write or elbow spot can save you world of energy and potential energy. Right MIke?

        • Michael Matthews


    • Chris

      Something I’ve tried that works, but you need to watch your balance – you can perform a half clean-and-press while standing in order to get the dumbbells to “rest” on your shoulders. Then, carefully, step back into a sitting position on an upright bench.

      • Michael Matthews

        Yes, that’s workable.

        • Paul

          Mike. My biggest problem in this area is lying back on an upright bench to do dumbell chest presses. Once I flick the weights up with my knees like I’m going to do shoulder presses it’s very difficult (and scary) to lay back with two 30 kg (65lbs) dumbells in your hand. Any advice?

  • Jonas

    Mike why is the rep range in that we want to progress so small (4-6 -> only 2 reps of “rep improvement”) and not higher like 4-8 repetitions?

    • Michael Matthews

      Because once you hit 6 reps, you’re able to add weight and do 4.

  • Brannan Steele Mirr

    I am a personal trainer and bikini competitor. And while it is not necessary for me to develop a very rounded cap on my shoulders, it has become a recent goal of mine. I absolutely loved your article! I also read through a few other articles you have written and was extremely pleased with the knowledge I gained while fighting with insomnia last night 😉 I also downloaded the first 3 chapters of your book and am anxious to order it to read the rest. I LOVE how you explain the WHY behind everything rather than just staying the WHAT TO DO. You are very informative, thank you!!!

    • Brannan Steele Mirr

      *Stating* not staying

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for the comment! I’m really glad you like my work and appreciate your support! Write anytime if you have any questions! I’m happy to help.

  • Tanya

    Thanks Mike! Another great article.

    What are your thoughts on upright rows and where do they fit in?


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’m not a fan because when you start getting heavy, they place a lot of stress on the shoulder joint.

  • Carmine Pari

    I really enjoyed The Ultimate Shoulder Workout. I read it and watched the videos twice. This article is one of your best. Though I am an experienced lifter, I still learned a few new things, and I will use them tonight at the gym. Thank you for the help.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Carmine! I really appreciate it!

  • Huzaif Mistry

    For anyone with even a hint of skepticism, I started following this plan last year and it made a massive difference. My delts and traps got noticeably bigger and my shoulders as a whole got significantly stronger, leading to better results in other exercises. I injured my shoulder a few years back and when I started doing these exercises it’s gotten better. My shoulder lifts are lower in weight compared to other body parts but they look just as good and I don’t have shoulder pain like I used to.

    P.S. Mike I’m glad you used one of the Buff Dudes instructional videos, I’ve been following them for those and some of the recipes when I started the BLS plan last year. They’re awesome!

    You should collaborate with them, the guy in the video was Kratos in that live-action God of War commercial

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome Huzaif! I’m really glad to hear it.

      Yeah the Buff Dudes channel seems great! I’m not a big YTer but I should definitely start networking more.

  • Kyle

    Hey Mike that’s actually the program I’ve been using. Makes me feel good about my knowledge. That being said maybe you can help me some more. In the mirror it looks like I have a shoulder imbalance and that my left shoulder is broader than my right. I don’t look like a freak or anything but it’s something I notice. I realize it’s probably partially genetic but I have to believe there’s something that can help. Any ideas? Maybe some unilateral training? Thanks in advance. By the way I suggest Powerhooks by Country Power Inc.for heavy dumbbells.

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome Kyle! That rocks.

      This is common and it usually resolves with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging parts.

  • Derrick

    Do you or can you incorporate rotator cuff exercises into you work out? Would doing them with shoulders be best or could you do them another day?

  • Shaun Mitchem

    Hi Mike – this series has been really helpful (though i agree that it should be you on the videos!). I assume you are going to do legs next? If so, could you provide an answer to what exercises to do if you don’t go to the gym and have access to leg press machines etc – Squats, Romanian Dead Lifts and …. I have tried Hack Squats with the bar behind me but that is just downright dangerous as far as i can see – only a matter of time before i topple backwards over the bar!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Shaun! Yup legs is up!

      Yeah hack behind the back sucks. If I were training at home with only a barbell setup I would just do a lot of squats (parallel, full, and squat-pauses) and barbell lunges.

  • Adam Clancey

    Mike, what weight do you lift for side raises and read delts? I’m at a bit of a sticking point at 12kg dumbells, but I see big guys in the gym using 6’s or 8’s for this exercise. I’m guessing it’s taken them ages to get decent shoulders with this weight so I’m interested to know what you are up to?

    • Adam Clancey

      Also, is there something I can add to shoulder day to increase shoulder flexibility for getting a closer grip on squats?

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m currently using 55s on side raises for sets of 5-6 (I do leaning side raises so I can isolate each arm and cut down on the momentum).

      For rears I’m on 40s I believe.

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Arms Workout: The Best Arm Exercises for Big Guns | Muscle For Life()

  • Travis

    I love your articles and appreciate the no-BS way you go about everything. Very nice to see in the fitness industry. I have ordered your book and should be getting it soon but just had a quick question for you because Im not sure if your book will address it.

    I have heard (also backed up by a few studies) that if you only train one body part once a week (5-7 day) like you suggest that it is almost to long to wait in between training that muscle group, and waiting that long could cause muscle loss from no training. And on top of that, waiting that long will greatly inhibit any gains because of the long wait period. Do you completely disagree with that? Im guessing you do, Im just curios why? vs apposed to maybe each muscle group twice a week?

    One other question I have is do you think it is necessary to have a workout split equally between horizontal push/vertical push and horizontal pull/vertical pull types of exercises during each workout session to maximize gains?

    Im sorry If you discuss these things in your book, and once again thanks for all the great articles and advice.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Travis! I really appreciate it.

      Like “ideal” rep ranges, optimal training frequency is a hotly debated subject. The bottom line is it boils down to workout intensity and volume. The lighter the weights and fewer the sets, the more often you can train the muscle group.

      In the case of BLS, you hit your muscles hard, with about 50-60 reps per workout, with all reps recruiting maximum muscle fibers (due to the load). The reality is unless you have superhuman recovery, you just won’t be able to do these workouts more than once per 5 days. Once per 7 days is probably a LITTLE more rest than some people need, but I think it’s better to err on that side than the side of overtraining.

      The bottom line is EVERYONE that follows the program makes rapid strength and size gains. Even long-time lifters.

      No, you don’t have to split horizontal and vertical push/pull movements. Some people get WAY too fancy with things.

      • Travis

        Thanks for the quick reply I really appreciate it!

        Im looking forward to reading the book in the next few days!

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure! Let me know how it goes!

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Back Workout: The Best Back Exercises for a Thick, Wide Back | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: 11 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Bench Press | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: How to Build a Kick-Ass (and Affordable!) Home Gym | Muscle For Life()

  • Mark

    Hey man so I don’t know if I’m doing it wrong or something but I don’t really feel that tired after these workouts. I don’t really like the rear dumbbell raises so I just did the military press, the side raises, the front raises and then arnold press and a machine shoulder press. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not lifting hard enough or if i’m just used to other work outs. I’m pretty used to super sets over the last two months so this is a bit new to me. maybe that’s the reason? i’m just fearful of not training enough because I think I have this idea that if I’m not burnt out or if I don’t feel sore the next day, then I didn’t lift hard enough. Like for the back work out for instance, my lower back was sore since I haven’t done deadlifts in years but I wasn’t really that sore for my upper back the next day and I was afraid that it meant i didn’t work out hard enough and that I wasn’t growing muscles.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup you’re not going to feel exhausted/crushed by the workouts. You don’t need to be.

      Don’t neglect the rear head. You want it to grow as well.

      High-rep superset workouts are garbage unless you’re on drugs.

      Soreness isn’t necessarily an indicator of a good workout. Genetics, nutrition, and conditioning all play a role.

      Check out my article on this:


      As long as you’re getting in your 9-12 heavy sets per workout with good form, you’re doing it right. And you should see results to prove it–your strength should go up and you should gain muscle. That said, if you’ve been training for quite some time, I recommend bumping the workouts up by 3 more sets. Just add one more exercise, and do 3 sets.

  • Lily Kennex

    Mike, thanks for the article! It’s very helpful. My only question is this: for girls, if I wanna increase delts and get that rounded shape, would you recommend 8-10 reps, like in the TLS, or 5-7? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      My pleasure! If you’re strong enough, 5-7, but most women need to work with the 8-10 range for at least 6 months before they feel comfortable enough to work in the 4-6 or 5-7.

  • Julien

    Hi Mike,

    Is there a good way to build the lateral deltoids without doing lateral raises? As this exercise aggravates my shoulder injury.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm what about the side lat raise machine?

  • Julien

    Since going to the gym I’ve noticed my posture change and not in a good way. My shoulders have started to roll forward a bit. I’m guessing that this is due to a muscle imbalance, therefore do you recommend I drop doing chest and shoulder workouts and focus on back and rear delts to fix the posture issue. Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Are you training your back as hard as your chest and shoulders?

      • Julien

        That must be it, i’ve been guilty of focussing on the ‘pretty muscle’ whilst neglecting other key areas.

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha it happens. Now you know how to fix it. 🙂

  • Chris

    Hi Mike, great articles as always. I’ve been putting several of your ideas & workouts into my routine and have been pleased 🙂 One question though, which order do you recommend the muscle groups to be worked? I’m currently Chest on Monday, Back on Tuesday, Legs on Wednesday, Arms on Thursday, and Shoulders on Friday, resting on the weekend. Thanks for any advice, and keep up the great work.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Chris! I’m glad to hear it.

      Good question. Here’s what I do and like:


      Gives everything time to recovery before getting hammered again. 🙂

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Nad

    Any advice on what kind of split I could use this with? I lift 4 days a week, M-W and Friday. Cardio on Thursday and Saturday usually.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I would do…

      Chest & tris
      Back & bis

      • Nad

        OK that sounds doable! Thoughts on switching leg day with Back/Bis day?

        • Michael Matthews

          You could but you might have trouble deadlifting…

          • Nad

            Ok, gonna try your recommended split this week. Will see how it goes!

          • Michael Matthews

            Great, thanks!

  • Rodrigo Quezada

    Im not sure about one point. If I made 6 reps in the first set, for the second set I should increase the weight in 10lbs and try to do 4-6 reps? That means that I must be -2 at least from failure in the first set…

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes. But you’ll get 4 after the increase. You won’t get 6.

  • John B

    Mike, I noticed the people in the videos on this article do very strict form for lateral and rear raises. I saw your shoulder workout and you use a little bit of momentum for those exercises. Which way do you currently recommend?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah it’s kind of inevitable as you get heavier but I’ve been working on really keeping my body as still as possible recently.

  • kris

    Alright mate what order would I perform each dayshoulders arms back legs chest?

    • Michael Matthews

      I do this:

      Weak Point Day (currently a little extra shoulders and lats)

      • Gavin Akins

        Unless I misread, you’re saying you work out each muscle group one day a week?

        • Michael Matthews

          That’s correct. My shoulders and lats are 2 x though.

  • Renier

    Have you ever tried the
    Single-Arm Linear Jammer exercise? and If so, what do you think about it?, and one more thing, do you still do your Weak Point Day? and if so what exercises do you do on that day?(for example for shoulders and lats).
    What do you think about this split:
    mond: chest
    tuesday: back
    wednesday: shoulders
    thursday: arms
    friday: legs
    saturday: weak point day( shoulders and lats for me too)
    sunday: rest

    • Michael Matthews

      No I haven’t. I’ve never heard of it.

      I don’t do weak point training ATM because I’m cutting and it’s too much for the body but otherwise yes I would be.

      Perfect on your setup.

  • Scott


    Thank you for all the helpful advice. I am fairly new to lifting weights, so articles like these are helpful. I have a few quick questions for you if you don’t mind. I understand that basic 4-6 rep concept, which is what I do. Hypothetically, say you do an exercise and are able to do 6 reps on first set, but only 4 reps on the 2nd and 3rd set – is this still getting a good workout? And the next time I lift that body part, do I start at the weight I was able to do 6 at, or the one I did 4 at?

    Finally, you don’t mention anything about cardio, is it mandatory for building size/muscle?

    Thanks much!

  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide to Mobility Exercises: Improve Flexibility, Function, and Strength | Muscle For Life()

  • 1888

    Hi mike I read bigger leaner stronger and it helped me to solve a lot of my problems(I had read far too many different opinions and just confused myself) one thing I’m still curious about is slow twitch and fast twitch muscles, can u tell me anything in your strait to the point way! Many thanks

  • 1888

    Hi mike good article, but I’m still a little curious. Is it an advantage or even possible to work the fast twitch and slow twitch muscles? Are they seperate fibres, ordo they become either fast or slow twitch dependingon how you work them? Thanks in advance, I’m aware this question might sound dumb

  • hfhfh

    this is everything ever told you about shoulders. nothing special.

  • Hi Mike, great article, thanks for posting. I was curious about what meals you eat regularly, could you say something about that?

  • The Arnold Press video in this article recommends it for warm-up.

    What are your thoughts on doing the Arnold Press a one of the main exercises and going heavy? I like the Arnold Press and can get heavy on it. I’m thinking about doing it instead of Military Press.

    Thanks, Sean

    • Michael Matthews

      I’ve always gone heavy and liked it. I wouldn’t say it’s a replacement for the mil press though.

  • Pingback: Confused About Muscle Confusion Workouts? Here Are the Straight Facts | Muscle For Life()

  • Einstein

    the first video is a rowing video not a seated press

    • Michael Matthews

      Huh? It’s me doing a Seated Military Press?

  • Pingback: Do Your Research! | Dumbbell Diaries()

  • disqus_NJrWTTwj5f

    What do you think off the big 8 exercises for beginners

  • disqus_NJrWTTwj5f

    Is kettlebell swings good aerobic exegesis,

    • Michael Matthews


  • disqus_NJrWTTwj5f

    What do you think off the big 8 exercises

    • Michael Matthews

      What are the big 8?

  • frametheory

    I do the rear lateral barbell row for back on my back day. Would i do it again for shoulder day? Looks like the same exercise.

    • Michael Matthews

      They’re different. Check out BB.com’s videos. The spine angle is different.

  • Pingback: The Top 5 Best Shoulder ExercisesHealth & Fitness For a Better Life()

  • c.Louise

    I’m a female bikini bodybuilding competitor and struggle with getting my rear delts to grow, great article will be trying to increase weight and focus on lower sets as opposed to higher sets on same weight
    Good article

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah rear delts are a real pain. Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • wayneo

    Is there any advantage to doing upright rows? I always enjoyed doing them, and going heavy, but I don’t see them on the list.

    • Michael Matthews

      I actually don’t like them because as you start going heavy, they place and uncomfortable amount of stress on the joint.

  • paudie

    Hi Mike, great article.. Due to sporting commitments i only have time for 3 workouts a week, so i alternate upper/lower/upper and lower/upper/lower each week. Would you be able to reccomend a workout that allows me to train all my upper in one go, focusing on imroving my physique and also strength gains? thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s not a bad way of going about it. Check this out:


      • paudie

        Do you also cover this workout in your book? only came across this website recently but I’m seriously thinking about buying the ebook, due to the price and the quality of these articles and responces

        • Michael Matthews

          I do give a 3-day program in the book yes. Thanks brother. 🙂

  • Jake Seongmin Choe

    Hi. Mike. Thanks for your workout plan~ It is really nice and simple, even effective and efficient. But I wonder something if I can do your 5 workouts (chest, back, arms, legs, shoulders) in 5 days in a row and then another 5 days’ workout without rest?? It is the first question. And If I need to do 2 workouts in one day, can I do shoulders in the morning and chest at night? Thanks. Jake.

    • Michael Matthews

      My pleasure!

      You could get away with that for maybe a month or two but you’ll end up feeling a bit rundown after that. I do recommend you take 1-2 days off the weights each week.

      You could do that if you wanted to rearrange things for pushing 2 x per week.

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Leg Workout: The Best Leg Exercises for Big Wheels | Muscle For Life()

  • G2

    Hi Mike! I understand your point about progressive overload, but what is your suggestion regarding side lateral raises? Doesn’t it reach a point where heavy side laterals become harmful? How heavy of a weight do you suggest? I have been reading advice on forums warning about heavy side laterals causing damage to the rotator cuff, etc. Other advice says that 25lbs is already pushing it and heavy weight should be applied to military press instead. Personally, I can bang out 4-6 reps of decent form using 35’s to 40’s… and started pushing at 45’s ‘without’ proper form (which you suggest 6-8 reps) but I feel as if I may be doing more harm than good. I’d appreciate your opinion. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Maybe, but it takes a LONG time to get there. I’ve been working hard on my side raises for years and I’ve never broken 65 pounds for 6 reps. Never had any issues either.

  • Leo Quattro

    no exercises for the traps?

    • Michael Matthews

      I find that heavy pulling is enough for traps but if you want more, shrugs work.

  • Pingback: shoulder workout bikini | Fitness Motivation()

  • Pingback: shoulder workout day | Fitness Motivation()

  • Joy McReynolds Bradford

    One of my shoulders is higher than the other. I do not have scoliosis or any spinal problems. The chiropractor and massage therapist said that I carry all my stress in that shoulder. The physical therapist said I am in the habit of contracting that shoulder and need to consciously untense and lower it all the time. None of that seems to be working. I was wondering if you have any advice as far fixing this problem, or if you know if a muscle imbalance may be causing it? Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Interesting. I’ve never heard of something like this. Could it be related to your posture throughout the day?

      • Joy McReynolds Bradford

        It is higher than the other shoulder by about an inch, and forward slightly as well. I do spend a lot of time at the computer, so I’m sure my posture is contributing. Even when I consciously try to lower the shoulder and push it back into place, it is difficult, and that shoulder is really tight. So I was wondering if maybe I have a tight muscle and a weak muscle, but not sure how to figure which muscle is tight and which is weak, or how to fix it. I added barbell rows to specifically target my traps, thinking that maybe my traps are weak, but it’s only been a week, so I’ve only done them twice so far.

  • Raj

    Hi Mike ..
    Can you suggest me Combination of workout for everyday ?? Like Shoulder & biceps …. chest & triceps … I am scared I would mess up doing that …

    Thanks. ..

    • Michael Matthews

      I like doing it like this:

      Day 1: Chest
      Day 2: Back
      Day 3: Shoulders
      Day 4: Arms & additional chest if you think necessary (lighter sets here though)
      Day 5: Legs

      • LifeForMuscle

        Would that work for a beginner? I did full body workout for 3 months and I think that’s enough should I go for this split( if not what split do you advice). I have been only training for 3 months. What do you think?

        Thanks mike for everything. Seriously! I don’t know how to thank you.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah that split works great if you focus on heavy, compound lifting.

          I’m not a big fan of full-body workouts:


          My pleasure!

          • Connor

            The only reason I disagree with that split, Mike, is because I find no reason to not give your upper body a rest by putting legs somewhere between all that upper body…

          • Which split?

      • Paul

        I’ve been doing a variation of this for 6 weeks now with your 4-6 progressive overload heavy lifting. I’ve also been cutting with my diet and doing HIIT four days a week on a treadmill and as I hadn’t hit the gym for maybe 5 years before this (having kids and that) the body recomp has been incredible. I know people say that you’re going to body recomp no matter what you do when you first begin, but I can’t imagine any other program being this quick with gains. Thanks a lot Mike. I see people in the gym making the mistakes you write about and I feel like giving them your URL.

        • Awesome! I’m really glad to hear it. Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

          • Paul

            Thanks for getting back to me so fast Mike. I was just looking through my records and I did my back workout last night. In a little under three months my deadlift weight has increased 100% to 110kg. There is no way I could have lifted that in April.

          • YW! Damn! You’ve made a lot of progress in just three months. You’re killing it!

            LMK if you have any questions along the way. I’m happy to help. 🙂

  • Rich

    Hey Mike, I read Bigger Leaner Stronger and I’ve definitely seen an improvement over the past two months. I have two bad shoulders. I tore my right labrum while wrestling in high school, had surgery, dislocated it a dozen more times, but now it’s doing better and is more stable since I started working out 1.5 years ago. My left shoulder has issues with lateral movements. I can get through all the Bigger Leaner Stronger workout routines with the exception of shoulders. Would you recommend I still stick to the 4-6 rep range or should I increase the rep volume for my shoulders due to my pre-existing injuries?

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Chest Workout: Chest Exercises for Awesome Pecs | Muscle For Life()

  • Nick

    DO you mix in different workouts each week? Say supplement the Arnold Press for Military Press one week, then back to Mil Press the next? Or just stick to those 3 main lifts you’ve listed?

    • Michael Matthews

      Nope I change my routine every 8-10 weeks and always keep the big compounds in (squat, dead, bench and military press)

  • Pingback: 6 "Everyday" Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, Weak, and Frustrated | Muscle For Life()

  • Chad

    Hello, Mike – I just found your site recently and am really enjoying everything I see; thanks so much for all the information you share! One thing I don’t see in your shoulder workout is any shrug work for traps, or face pulls, etc in back – what is your thinking on working the upper back? I appreciate your time.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Chad! I really appreciate it.

      I prefer training traps on my back/pull day and shrugs work well for this. Face pulls are for rear delts.

  • Julio

    Hi Mike! First of all, I would like to thank you all your hard work you are doing helping lots of people.

    I’ve been following BLS for 2 months and I am really happy with my progress in strength and muscle, although I’ve been training seriously for a year.

    However, my upper chest and medial delts are progressing slower than the rest of the body. I’m going to add another 3 sets of incline pressing on day 4 as you sugest, and I was thinking on adding 3 more sets of cable lateral raises instead of shrugs, as my traps are growing really fast.

    What do you think of this changes? Thanks for your advice!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Julio! That’s great you’re on the program and making gains!

      I like this plan. Personally I would add the lat raises to Friday (legs).

      • Julio

        Thanks for your answer Mike, I’ll follow your advice!

        • Michael Matthews

          Great! LMK how it goes.

  • Gab

    Hello, Mike!

    Whenever I use 10-pound dumbbells for the Side Lateral Raise exercise, I can get more than 12 repetitions, but then when I move on to the 15-pound dumbbells, I can’t do more than 3 repetitions. How do I fix this? Thank you!

    • Michael Matthews


      Try this:


      One arm at a time can help you stabilize. I like hanging one-arm raises too (the hand not holding weight holds onto the vertical post of a power cage or smith machine and you incline to about 30-40 degrees off the side).

      • Gab

        Thank you, Michael! Can’t wait for your next book (if you’re making one)!

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks! I am! Second editions of BLS and TLS are on the way as well as a new cookbook (one-pot cooking).

          • Gab


          • Michael Matthews


  • Dude

    Holy crap, quite a progress I have to say, well done

    • Michael Matthews


  • Fernando

    Hey Mike, whats the difference between Standing Military Press and Overhead Press, do you involve the same muscles?

    Thank you!

    • Michael Matthews

      Same lifts.

  • Carlos Arteaga

    Hi Mike, when you say the optional 3 sets, should I include them only if I feel strong enough to or add it every day?
    I’m not sure if I explain myself here haha

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha yeah that’s all. If you feel you’ve left something in the tank, hit ’em.

  • Viraj

    Great article!!

    • Michael Matthews


  • ClintDiCaprio

    Hello Michael great article!
    Just wondering how much you bench press ? And I bench press 95kg but I’ve been stuck on it for a while now.. Can’t seem to get to 100 any suggestions?

  • Jay

    Mike, I am not a fan of gyms, and I prefer to work out at home with my dumbbells and intense bodyweight exercises for the HIIT portion. I find that it’s easier for me to be consistent when I don’t have to worry about driving and packing a gym bag,… But I know a lot of the moves you mention in you TLS book require you being at the gym. Do you think in the long haul, I may be missing out on some benefits by not having access to cables or barbells, etc…?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s cool. Yeah no barbells is a bit of a handicap but you can make do. Your back and legs get hit the most though because no squatting and deadlifting isn’t optimal.

  • Jennie Watson

    Wow…. my boyfriend is really helped with this blog. It is awesome and I just want to say thank you to you guys. earlier he was too fluffy but he is so toned!! he is also helped by this video… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th1ZOkg91EY

  • Oriol Bel Marata

    Hi Mike,
    Although I’ve been following your work for months, this is the first time I comment to ask you a question about your progressive overload method.
    I’ve been stuck with the same weight in side lateral dumbbell raises for a while. I can perform the exercise with perfect form with 10kg (20lb) dumbbells for 10 or more reps. However, when I go up to 12,5kg (25lb) dumbbells I cannot get any rep with good form. Using momentum I am able to go to 7-8 reps at 25lb, but I can’t get any of them with good form.

    What would you do to break this plateau?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man!

      This exercise in particular can be tricky. Try the hanging one-arm raise variant. It helps maintain form, especially when raising weight.

      • Oriol Bel Marata

        Thank you for your reply Michael. I’ve been using the hanging one-arm variant since I read this article a few weeks ago, but I find the same problem. In fact, I find it sometimes difficult to go up in weight in exercises that don’t allow you to lift much weight (such as this one or EZ skullcrushers, for example), where adding 5lbs is quite a change. Have you ever found the same issue?

        • Michael Matthews


          Interesting. Yes I’ve run into this in the past and honestly just keep at it and broke through.

          That said, are you making progress on other lifts?

          This may help you too:


          • Oriol Bel Marata

            Thank you for your replies, Mike. Yeah, I have been following your program for some months and the results have been great so far. I don’t stop getting stronger and each time I get stuck I use the advice in your books to break through plateaus.
            I guess I’ll just keep getting stronger at other exercises such as the military press until I can handle this weight with ease (and do negative reps to get used to it).

            Keep up with the great work, man! 🙂

          • Michael Matthews


            Awesome man. I’m really glad to hear it.

            If you’re making progress on your big lifts, you’re doing well. I’ve definitely run into the same issue before–big lifts progressing, isolation movements stuck. They often unstuck for no apparent reason. Odd.

  • Gab

    Hey, Michael, is it okay to hang under a pull-up bar in between sets? I want to get tall.

    • Michael Matthews

      Sure. I don’t know if it will make you taller though.

      • Gab

        Do you know any way I can get taller, Michael?

        • Michael Matthews

          No, sorry.

          • Gab

            Alright. Thanks, anyways!

          • Michael Matthews


          • Chris Cusimano

            this made me smile

          • 😀

  • baby jesus

    Hi Mike what is better drop sets or pyramid? been doing drop sets for a year now with chest bench body weight 90kg 12 reps and 140 for 1

  • Juan

    Hey Mike. I purchased Bigger Leaner Stronger and just finished reading it. I have a newbie question. Usually at the Gym, the barbells are usually taken. Usually there is just 1 and some bulky guy is always using it. Can I replace all of the barbell exercises with dumbbells? I know that my form might be a bit bad, but what if I have a spotter? Will I still get the same results by changing all of the bench presses and barbell exercises with dumbbells?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      Haha that sucks. Yeah you can but personally I like BB shoulder pressing more than DB. DB gets unstable when you really start getting heavy.

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • NeverBeMoved

    Interesting stuff here. I’ve only been doing heavy weight/low reps on my military press (I do behind the head as I feel more comfortable for some reason). Should I not be doing it this way?

    My dumbbell work has always been in the 6-8 rep range but will try some heavier weights tomorrow and lower the reps to see how it goes.

    Also never tried a rear dumbbell lateral. Looking forward to trying it out.

    • Most people are going to find behind the head very uncomfortable but some can get away with it. I don’t recommend it to anyone when going heavy.

      Rear lat raises are a simple way to train the rear delts. Face pulls are good too.

  • probably the shoulder exercise is most prominent and difficult part for a female but with the help of any supportive supplement like superior muscle x can help your to perform frequent workout sets! love to read information on your blog.!

  • Great Stuff Mike. Your content Is Top Notch! Your progress shot were good and a noticeable difference in gains! check out my latest article and my perspective on shoulder training 🙂 http://www.ihfit.com/training/training-articles/item/43-the-only-shoulder-routine-you-need

  • Chad B

    Do you believe hand-stand push-ups are a good alternate to military press? And if so, do you have a proper visual example of the movement?

    • Not really, no, because you have a very limited range of motion. That said, they’re all you can really do for shoulder pressing without weights so if you’re doing a lot of bodyweight training, you can include them.

  • Pingback: Best Shoulder Exercises For Men | Lean and Mean()

  • Alfredo Trujillo

    Love the good info! Thanks for linking us to videos Mike.

    • Thanks!

      Yes that’s right. If you’re combing shoulders and legs I recommend you to 9 to 12 for legs and 6 for shoulders: 3 heavy presses and 3 heavy side raises.

      You can add 3 rear raises to back day for time’s sake.

  • Pasquale

    Hello Mike. Been following your Beyond BLS workout and it was going great but I hurt my shoulder ( not your workouts …lol my form and too much weight on incline bench. I think i flared my elbows a bit benching about 275 on incline. Im 6’3 and 220 but….. 38 years old so joints are always a consideration. any reccomendations on what do during the waiting game till I heal? luckily I was cutting anyway:) so less weight would be ok. I just don’t want to lose the mass in my chest and shoulders. It been 2 weeks already and still not healed. thanks..

  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide on How to Build a Workout Routine | Muscle For Life()

  • Nick

    I have done the varations of rear delt dumbbell raise and I really dont prefer it. I really like doing the cable rear delt exercise, is there a major difference between besides the free weight aspect

  • Ctrue

    Great article! Not often you google shoulder routine and find something worth reading. Thanks for helping me supplement my workout today.

  • Pingback: The Best Forearm Workouts to Increase Grip Strength | Muscle For Life()

  • Azouri

    Hey mike great articles and i really like your program I have been seeing the strength gains come in faster than before, I was wondering what do you of upright barbell row for shoulders is it a good exercise to do?

    • Azouri

      think of*

    • Thanks! Really glad to hear it. I don’t like that exercise. It puts a lot of stress on the joint when you start going heavier.

  • Azouri

    Would this be an okay workout for shoulders?
    Seated Military Press: warm up and 3 sets
    Side Raises: 3 sets
    Rear Delt Raises: 3 sets
    Dumbbell shoulder press or arnold press(optional): 3 sets

    • thyfere

      Hi Azouri,

      Seated Military Press, Side Raises and Rear Delt Raises are already there on that day but this whole workout starts with Incline BB bench press which confuses me.

      Second, I don’t know, I always find standing military press is easy on shoulders. Mark Ripptoe has a very nice and detailed video on it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnBmiBqp-AI

      And here is the research shows that Standing Military Press is better than seated. BTW, I do front BB squats; therefore, my lower back is not being stressed that much anyway 🙂

      • Azouri

        Thanks thyfere for the info!

      • The reason why the workout starts with incline bench is it’s meant to be an upper body day. Many guys find their chests lag and need a bit more work each week that’s all.

        • thyfere

          Thanks Mike for the reply… I really appreciate it..

  • thyfere

    Hi Mike,

    I bought and read your Bigger, Leaner Stronger and following 4 days split. In regards to shoulders, I have a quick question. In your 4 days split Phase 1, you start the upper body workouts with Incline Bench Press + warm up sets and then you move to BB overhead press (again with warm up sets). I couldn’t understand why BB incline bench press on shoulder day because if I feel, my shoulders are working in incline press, I must be doing it wrong because it’s a chest exercise. Then, when I move to BB overhead press, it will be very difficult to lift heavy weights because I will be already exhausted.

    Can I remove BB incline bench press on that day, if yes, what can I add instead?

    • Thanks for reading my book and writing! I really appreciate it.

      It’s just to give you a bit more chest work in the week but you can leave it out if you’d prefer. Many guys do like to work their chests a bit more that’s all.

  • Cliff Rutledge

    Read the book and have been on the program for 3 weeks now. On military press what angle for the bench. Is 85 ok or does it need to be 90 and how much difference will it make.

  • sachin

    sir your articles are very motivational and inspirational…but other than shoulders i have other problem and that is that my belly is curved outward near my navel though i have very less fat on my belly…will you please suggest me that how i make my belly flat…….

  • mahir814

    can you explain why doing 6-8 reps is better than doing a pryamid system of 12,10,8 ?

  • thyfere

    Hi Mike,

    These days, I am suffering with shoulder injury but it’s weird, I can do lateral raises, bent over db but can’t do vertical pushes including inclined bench press. Well i can do inclined bb bench presses but with pain. So what else can I do as an alternative to bb or db shoulder presses?

    • Interesting. Have you seen a PT/sports doc?

      • thyfere

        No, not yet. By the way, it’s right shoulder only and it started while doing dips.

        • I see. I would back off anything that aggravates it. You need to let it heal up. You can do different exercises and/or reduce weight.

          • thyfere

            Hi Mike,

            Thanks for your reply. What exercises do you recommend other than military is press? I can also do front raises too.

          • YW! Front raises are okay. Just don’t go too heavy with them. Can you do any type of DB press? Arnolds?

          • thyfere

            Hi Mike,

            I went to doctor and he diagnosed it as minor rotator cuff injury. He said, if you got insurance coverage or can afford, go for an MRI to isolate the injury. So, now, I don’t want to stop working out. I will take rest for a week may be but what other exercises can I do or the exercises where rotator cuff is not used?

          • Damn okay. Sorry I’m not sure. Rehab/working around injuries isn’t my specialty…

  • Tony

    Any recommendations to achieve this after a SLAP tear and rotator cuff surgery? Seems like every doc says to never do military press again and to never use heavy weight….

    So bummed- always was careful with shoulders in gym but tore it with a bad reach one time.

    • Sorry but rehab/working around injuries isn’t really my specialty because it can be really finicky. Lot of variables. I usually just recommend people work with a good PT/sports doc.

  • Adel-Alexander

    This is more or less a short rant, but I’m so tired of not being able to feel anything in my shoulders when I work my medial deltoid. Just like Scott says in the first video, where he does the front raises. Where he demonstrates the differences of just ”lifting the weights” vs ”reaching towards the wall in front of you” I tested it out, and I could definitely feel the difference for sure.

    But every time I do my side lateral raises, it’s like I’m just lifting the weights.
    I do EXACTLY as Scott says in the video, pinching my shoulders blades together, and then lift the weights, but I feel little to nothing. And it’s so frustrating because I don’t know what to do. I started BLS last august/september, and my ego was so big that I completely ignored the importances of form.. It makes me sad to know the amount of gains I could have made if I didn’t just now realise the errors that I did until now.. And yet, it makes me even more sad knowing that, there are still some workouts that I still struggle with because for some reason my body simply refuses to do it right. 🙁

    I want to ask you… What do you think could be the reason?? I’m 6’4” so lifting the weights with completely straight arms is a bit awkward.. maybe I need to bend them or something? I need some advice on this, my shoulders have always been the most difficult to train 🙁

    • Some people run into this with certain muscle groups. It’s interesting. (Chest is the common complaint.)

      Have you tried different rep ranges? Hanging single-arm raises?

      • Adel-Alexander

        I googled another tutorial, and I think I may have gotten it down (I think). I’ll have to try it out when I work shoulders again.

        What other rep ranges other than 4-6 do you recommend exactly? Thought that, and 5-7 (for women) was the one you recommended only. 😛 Except for abs where you have to do it 10-12

        • Okay let me know.

          Some people find 6-8 is more comfortable on side and rear raises.

          • Adel-Alexander

            Sure thing! If I ain’t feeling a thing, then I need to change something clearly 🙂

            Also, I have a mild case of food poisoning… any advice? Should I just stay out of the gym ’til that is cleared out?

          • Cool lemme know how it goes.

            Yeah I would.

  • TonyFinlay

    Hi, Michael, ive been following your training for a few months now and have seen more progress than Ive ever seen before in most areas.

    I’m struggling moving up weights on side raises, I’m currently lifting 7.5kg (and hitting the Max of 6 in all sets) but the next dumbbell up is 10kg on which I can do just about the minimum 4 reps but with poor form; with good form I can’t hit the minimum of 4 reps.

    I was wondering if you could suggest a possible way of getting over this hurdle?

    Thanks, Tony

    • Awesome! I’m really glad to hear it.

      Side raises are a bitch. Work with 7.5kg up to 8 to 10 reps an dthen move up.

      Let me know how that goes.

  • Alastair

    what do think of using 0.5 – 1kg wrist weights to “micro-load” when using dumbells? Im stuck on 4 reps at 25kg for dumbell presses and can do 3 sets of 8 with 22.5kg. I cant even get 27.5 kg dumbell up for 1 rep. Would this be a good work around?

    • Yeah could be a good workaround. Or you can work up to 8 to 10 reps and then move up.

  • Patrick

    Hey mike was just wondering about a ab workout for ripped abs

  • Tony

    I’ve been having trouble making strength gains with my shoulders on the standing military press, and so far I’ve managed to strain my shoulder twice, by trying to push myself an extra rep at my current weight. Being out of commission for a week on my shoulders only makes the situation worse, obviously. Would it help at all to switch from barbell to dumbbells for a while, like a Standing Alternating Press?

    • Make sure your form is in on the standing military press. You need to make sure you stay healthy and injury free. As to the strength plateau, check this out:


      Imbalances are common and it usually resolve with proper training. Let’s give it 6-7 months and see. If, after that time, it’s still an issue, we can address it with some extra sets for the lagging parts.

      What do you think?

  • Affan

    Hi mike
    i have recently purchased bigger and leaner and it is indeed a challenge to modern mindset made by the bodybuilding magazines

    I was excited to try these tips however i happened to have injury in my front delt while doing bench press , the reasons were 2 (as in your book ..:)

    1. Not warmed up properly

    2. Tried to lift more weight than my capacity

    I have given it rest , have used compression , have massaged it but i feel it is increasing with time , although not severe but is a constant pain . Can you please advise . I want to recover and restart my workouts ASAP

    Many Thanks

  • JOHN

    Hi Mike,
    I’m making great strides with my chest. I’m pushing more and more weight but am afraid I am developing too much and that it might look like I have man-boobs. Any hints on how to flatten out?

    • Cool on the chest progress. 🙂

      You can reduce the working sets if you want to prevent further growth. How many working sets are you doing a week on chest?

      • JOHN

        I’m doing one day of straight chest: incline, half-incline, flat (4×10 each) then flies. I also do pushups as part of supersets on other days.

        • Cool.

          How about trying 9-12 sets per chest workout of 4-6 reps.

          What do you think? It would bring down the volume a bit, but you should be able to continue making strength gains.

          • JOHN

            I’ll definitely try that for a few weeks. Thanks for the advice!

          • Cool! YW. 🙂

  • Nikola

    Hey Mike,
    I really like your approach to heavy compounds,it fits to my style of training.Anyways,i wanted to ask,isn`t it better to focus on side delts more instead of front delts/pushes,because side delts give that illusion of wideness more?

  • G

    Hey Mike,
    I was wondering if mixing up the back workout and chest workout together would be a good ide, because i don’t have time to do each workout separately.

  • William Jackson

    It’s very useful and wanted to inform you that I have downloaded your Maximum Muscle guide and I’ve been following your training for a few months now and have seen more progress than I’ve ever seen before in most areas. One question wants to ask. One of my friends has been recommend me to take EggWhite24/7 supplements as his words it is the best supplements. Is it good for health?

  • harender

    Can we do biceps, triceps,and shoulder workout at the same time?

    Or should i prefer a time for a unique muscle workout….

  • Justin G

    I’m looking to do add some shoulder shrugs to you already killer shoulder workout. What are your recommendations for the most effective way to build traps with the appropriate equipment?

    • TBH, if you’re doing heavy deadlifting and military pressing, you probably won’t need to do any trap isolation work.

      If you’re really interested (or lagging), barbell or dumbbell shrugs are good.

  • Vespin

    Loving your site Michael! I have a couple of questions:

    Is it okay for me to do 5 cycles of HIIT and jogging on the same day I train a major muscle group at the gym? If so, should I do it before or after I lift my weights?

    • Glad you’re liking it!

      5 HIIT sessions is the max I recommend. Ideally, they’d be done completely separate (one in the AM and one in the PM), but if that’s not possible, do the weight lifting first, then the HIIT.

  • MattyD

    So I’m sat here on my lunch chewing down on a chicken breast spinach and cherry tomato salad with a homemade mustard dressing….. pondering the comments of one of the trainers at my local gym last Friday. He commented that my shoulder mass is very uneven with the majority is on the anterior, I hadn’t really noticed until he said it and now it keeps playing on my mind.

    I’ve made great gains since finding your site and moving to a heavy weight based routing, my seated dumbbell press is up to 2x38KG for 6 reps per set or 70KG Military press on the smith machine (no bench) almost at 6 reps per set (next week it will be 6, I’m determined!).

    So with his comments in mind I’m back here again checking out your routine in this article, my current routine is Dumbbell or Mil press, Lat raises, Arnie Press and Front raises. Always aiming for 3 sets of 6 reps and sometimes with a 4th of a higher weight and only 2-4 reps.

    Shoulders for me is always a Mon morning, loaded with fuel from my less disciplined weekends, after a short warm up I’m on the bench and exhaust a large amount of energy in my presses which is great for the anterior, by the time I get to the latter exercises I’m obviously fatigued already. So to finally get to my question:

    “If I want to even up my bulk, should I be focusing this initial energy into going heavier on exercises like the raises and Arnie press or is there a better exercise that would help me even out?”

    I’m also aware that my posture does not help, I spend my working days in front of multiple computers and keep trying to tell myself to sit up straight but normally after 10 minutes I find myself adopting the usual hunched over tip tapping away at a keyboard position!

    • Awesome on your progress so far!

      Anterior delts are small muscles. I doubt yours are so big as to look imbalanced next to the side and rear. Wanna post a pic?

      • MattyD

        Actually I think he meant anterior and medial combined, I don’t yet have the definition to be that particular. The more I think about it the more I believe it is just posture and my shoulders dropping forward, when I adopt good posture in front of the mirror they look fine to me.
        I spent some time yesterday messing with my office chair, of all things I sorted out the arm rests and moved my keyboards/laptops closer, I never really used the arm rests before and always rested my forearms on the desk, is still feels a little unnatural/unfamiliar but makes me far more aware of my body position and alignment.
        It’s stupid really as I know how my posture should be, I just ignore it like I suspect a lot of people do!

        • Medial is the real bitch IMO. That’s what really makes the shoulders “pop.” Rears add to this effect too and they’re beyond stubborn.

          Posture can be huge too. Good catch!

  • Jamie Sisson

    Hi Mike, I was just wondering about your take on the behind head press over or even with the military press.

  • Yep, when you’re lifting as heavy as you can for 4-6 reps, you’ll need the rest to continue lifting that much weight.

    At your age, I recommend starting light and working in the 8-10 rep range to get the form down, get comfortable and then work your way down to the 4-6 rep range.

    Happy to help!

  • Kimber1185

    Hey Mike,
    So my gym doesn’t have an adjustable pulley machine so I was wondering what an alternative to the face pull would be? Unfortunately the pulleys are either from the ground or up high :-/


  • Andrew

    Ok cool that’s what I’ve been doing, I will stick with that for the next few months. I also do IF because I like the energy I get for work but clearly it’s tough eating 3,000 calories in a shorter window than it was eating 2,000 when I was cutting. So I was wondering do you think by doing IF during my clean bulk it will help my insulin sensitivity and convert more carbs to muscle rather than fat? Is that logical to think or regardless of when I eat it’s all about my numbers and nothing else matters? I’m just wondering since that’s what I am doing right now. My numbers are spot on, all the carbs help my workouts and I’m getting stronger every week esp not having to train fasted anymore. Incline bench went from barley 185 x 4-6 to 205 x 6 within the first 3-4 weeks of bulking.
    Thanks for all your help!

  • Danial Nawab

    Hey Mike,
    Whats an alternative for Seated Barbell Shoulder Press?

  • James

    For the last couple weeks, when I’ve done the dumbbell side raise I’ve gotten a decent amount of pain in my left shoulder joint (I believe it’s likely to do with my rotator cuff rather than the joint itself as I’m a 19 year old with no history of joint problems). Do you have any recommendations for how to help it, like less weight or just skipping side raises for a while?

  • Aikas

    Hey brother,
    What do you think about Wide-grip Upright Rows? I’ve read an
    article that says when you do them with a wide-grip, it’s harder, but it’s as effective as the military press?

  • Austin

    Hey Mike I have been trying face pulls for the last couple of weeks but I don’t think they are going to work either, is there anything else to work the rear delts besides flyes and face pulls?
    Also I have been bulking for about a month and have gained an inch on my chest/back and an inch on my shoulders but I have also gained some fat. I’m curious, if 4 pounds of fat is an inch on your waist is there a rough calculation to determine how much fat it takes to put an inch on the chest or shoulders, that way I know if I am gaining mostly muscle or fat?

    Thanks MIke

  • Lucas

    Is smoking cannabis bad for our results?

    • There is some evidence that regular use can impair muscle growth.

  • Aikas

    Mike, can I do the military press on a bench with a slight decline as not to have to move my head up and back.. Like you are doing it here – https://instagram.com/p/i6p7WCRUbh/ – (I guess you are using 80-85 degrees angle for it?) 🙂

    • That’s actually an upright bench. The key is arching your back and leaning your head back so it’s not in the way of the bar path.

      I don’t recommend doing it on an incline because it’ll become more of a chest exercise.

  • Olvin

    Hi mike i wanted to ask you wich are the best exersice to develop my traps and should how much reps and and days a week should i train them

    • Heavy shoulder presses hits the traps pretty hard. You can also add barbell and/or dumbbell shrugs.

      1-2 times a week is good.

  • SolomonBicakcic

    Hey Mike, you mentioned that last year you were eating pretty much around maintenance (w calorie cycling) and you hit your delts and lats also on your weak point day, my question is, can lagging muscle groups catch up by slowly eating around maintenance and keeping fat gains to minimum?

    • Yep, they can. The progress is of course slower than if bulking, but you can make slow progress while staying relatively lean.

  • SolomonBicakcic

    Hello Mike, when doing dumbbell shoulder press, is it okay to rotate hands at the bottom of the rep, the same way like you suggest when doing incline db presses? Cheers

  • Peter

    Hey Mike, not sure if you read these but I was reading Leaner Bigger Stronger and there are contradictions in what you say on rest periods between workouts and the workout routines you recommend. Several of the routines have a incline bench (chest day) and the same exercise on Wednesday. Also having shoulder day after a chest or a back and including rear deltoid exercises a day after working them out in your back training. Why doesn’t the routine and research match up?

    • Peter

      The recommendation after the intense lifts was 3-7 days, you personally recommended at least 4 I believe.

    • Hey Peter,

      I’m not sure what you mean. The BLS routine doesn’t conflict with anything in this article. It simply has you do a bit more upper body work every week because the upper body always takes more time to develop than the lower body.

      • Peter

        chest/calves, back/abs, shoulder/calves, upperbody/abs, legs shoulders
        -This has anterior deltoid monday, wednesday, thursday, friday

        • Ah I see what you’re saying.

          No anterior on legs day. Just side raises and rear.

          As you continue training the chest pressing won’t cause issues with anteriors.

          That said, I AM doing a little update to the program to reduce some of the volume. The shoulder work on legs day is coming out.

  • Bill

    Since shoulders are a small and stubborn muscle group, why not doing 12 instead of 9 heavy sets?

    • Honestly because they can only take so much of a beating in one workout.

      I would rather save those additional 3 sets for 3 days later.

  • Shoulders have always been one of my weakest body parts. Michael, you’ve done a great job at showcasing some of the most effective shoulder exercises in this post. I definitely need to do more isolation shoulder exercises instead of the traditional military, upright rows and lateral raises 🙂

  • Jo


    In bodybuilding, there are some movements workout that arouse admiration. There is one more than the other that does not leave anyone indifferent: it is the muscle-up . Exercise body building complex but very complete, requires strength, speed and coordination. Urges the whole upper body: the back, shoulders, chest, arms (biceps and triceps), forearms and even your abs.Follow our tips and techniques for training the muscle-up .
    The challenge of the month: being able to do the muscle-up , a body building exercise that requires strength, concentration and above all … a few training sessions

    It is a combination of traction and dip : instead of stopping at the top in motion, continue directly with a dip. The exercise is broken down into three movements:
    traction: I shot my body upwards, behind the bar (and not under the bar as a traction Classical)
    the transition: I move the body above the fixed bar
    the decline or dip: push the arms to get up top


    Before you can exercise the muscle-up , some are essential pre-requisites. To obtain the strength required for the execution of the movement, you must be able to achieve fifteen tractions and also a twenty dip with the weight of the body. Take this as a reference, it does not mean at all that you will be able to force you to make a muscle-up arrived at this stage. Even if your power level is sufficient, the technical mastery of the movement and speed of execution will be decisive in the success of the muscle-up.


    Each exercise body building requires heating a quote … and the muscle-up in a particular way because urges the almost totality of the body. The risk of getting hurt on this movement is rather high, in particular during the transition phase (the supraspinatus muscle and shoulder) and also at the time of the descent (the elbow joints and shoulder).
    Muscles involved : the latissimus dorsi, teres major, teres minor and secondary arm muscles (biceps, anterior brachial, brachioradialis), trapezoids, rhomboids and posterior deltoids. The numbers, the anterior deltoid, triceps, back (latissimus dorsi), trapezoids, abs.
    Execution of the exercise : position with outstretched arms, hanging bar fixed, the hands are spaced with a power greater than the width of the shoulders. The arms are almost stretched (avoid stretch them fully to protect the joints), the feet are parallel. Pull up and pull the body up: put the pelvis at the bar then gently lean forward to get his body tense (dip). Return to the starting position with arms stretched.

    Breathing : inhale and exhale on the way up when go back down.
    Education Safety : stay well straight during the entire exercise, not arched back. The movement has to be controlled in particular during the descent. Make no parasitic movements with the body, stay contracts and gently lean forward to go back.

    Before you start, get away from 30 to 50 cm from the bar. This will allow you to benefit, at the time of taking of an effect of the rocker back and forth, to facilitate the ascent of the body. The grip of the bar is different from traditional traction: here your palms facing toward the ground (pronation) with your thumbs on top of the bar, to facilitate the transition between traction and dip.
    The muscle-up has to be realized in speed, in explosive, in order to ensure the change of grip during the transition.
    During the movement, help yourself to the maximum with his chest, abdominals and shoulders to keep a position behind the bar (and not below).
    To ease the traction phase, you can help with the climb of the knees.
    If you repeat the movement several times, throw your legs forward during the descent to have more momentum and maintain the effect of balance.
    To be able to realize muscle-up , stay patient for several sessions … In all cases, there are no secrets: to succeed, you have to train. Work unhurriedly and stay motivated … persevere!


  • Sam K

    Hey mike! I’m on week 2 following your 5 day workout. I’m beginning the week with shoulders and legs and so on as I dance on the weekend. Love it. My shoulders today I did 1. DB press 2. DB lat raise 3. Bent Over Delt 4. Arnold Press. Is the Arnold redundant? I might change rear delts to face pull as I find it tough to get a decent range of motion as I fade rapidly – so weak on delts, only lifting 12.5lb DB at 6 reps. Next question is how many warm up sets? I do 3 sets at 12/10/8 reps with a slightly heavier weight. Then the 3 sets at 6-8 reps heaviest weight.

    • Cool you’re rolling on the program!

      No need to do both DB press and Arnold press. Whichever one you prefer to do is fine.

      Totally fine if you want to switch out bent over rear delt raises with face pulls too.

      I recommend 4 warm-up sets to begin each workout. Check this out:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Sam K

        As usual, you’re amazing Mike. I’m really loving the warm ups and thought they would be a pain to do, but they feel part of the training. Did back today and really feeling it. I’m stronger in some exercises this week already and deadlift felt more natural.

        • Happy to help Sam. 🙂

          Glad you’re enjoying them. Awesome to hear on the progress on back day.

          Nice haha. I’m a big fan of the Arnold press.

          Sounds good! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Георги Лозанов

    Dear Mike,
    I am 4th month into hybrid program, meaning something I have put together based on BLS book & your articles here.
    I do have the issue of my shoulders being to small & weak. This is also hindering my bench press & dumbbell press progression. I feel I can go heavier but my shoulders say “maybe in a few months pal”.
    What I used to do is Military press (85% RM), Side dumbbell raises, read dealt raises and some dips going as far dawn as I can.
    The issue after 3 months was that, nothing went up in weights but my Military press. I was advised, in order to exhaust the shoulders, to do high rep (10-15) sets on shoulder press machines, two variations of it. This indeed destroyed my shoulder (had proper soreness in the shoulder for a very long time).
    Although this could built some more endurance in the shoulder and possibly strength, I am not convinced it is going to make my shoulder bigger & ultimately stronger where I need it to be for heavy bench pressing.
    I also added Face Pulls and I got told off that this is really complicated exercise that a beginner should not be doing as we can’t do it properly.
    What are your thoughts on best exercises to stick with as beginner with very weak shoulders? Should I stick to the aforementioned exercises in the article or try different high rep things?
    Many thanks

  • For side lateral raises and a lot of other exercises, I often find that I’m able to do a certain number of reps perfectly before I’m only able to do them 90% perfectly. For example, with side lateral raises, I’ll be able to bring the dumbbells up to my neck-level for three or four reps, but then, I’ll only be able to bring them just a little below my shoulders for many more reps, before total failure. What should I count as a full rep? If I can’t do an exercise 100% perfectly after a certain number of reps, should I stop the set, even if I think I’m able to do a bunch more reps 90% perfectly?

    • I know exactly what you mean!

      You should only be doing and counting the reps you can do with good form. You shouldn’t be doing any reps with bad form.

      Stick to the proper form and progressively overload while maintaining the form.

  • JR

    I’m in phase 3 of 3-day split A. My limit is 15 sets per day (excluding abs) so I want to skip either the side lateral raise or the seated dumbbell press. Do you have a recommendation for what to skip? Thank you.

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike,

    I know that you’re doing your Side laterals one arm at a time but I can still control the weight I’m using so I go with the standart form. However, recently I tried doing them seated on a 90° bench, which resulted in lowering the weight but completely eliminated cheating, if any. It also felt a little weird. Anyway, which one do you think is the best option? Or none of them and I should start using your form?

    Happy Holidays <3

    • For me I switched when I got to 45s or 50s standing simply because it became very unwieldy…

      • Aikas

        And do you still recommend a Warm-up set with 50% of the used weight in your Side Laterals? After my Military Press I rest for 2 minutes, do a Warm-up set and have 1 minute rest before my actual sets. And I suppose that you don’t feel the need to Warm-up again before working your Rear Delts as your last exercise..?

        • Nah. You only need to go through the warm-up sets for the first exercise. After that, you’re already warm.

  • Luc Masset

    Hey, Mike can I let the dumbbells touch my shoulders on seated dumbbell shoulder press before bringing them back up? The reason I’m asking is sometimes in imstructional videos they do, other times they don’t. For instance, Scott Herman only lets them touch when he’s first setting up. On another note, I find my shoulders shrink and are smaller now since doing this slightly reduced ROM. Erx and Mike Vacanti let the dumbbells touch their shoulders as well before asdending as well.

    Sorry about the long post but Happy New Year and all the best in 2016 for your fitness endeavours!


    • Yep! I recommend full ROM.

      No worries! Happy New Years to you as well. 🙂


  • Christof Peyper

    Hi Mike… I am a reader of most of your books and I really try to get other people to read them as well.

    . I am a 15 year old boy and I am considering to switch entirely to your workout program..

    Now to start off with I am not in horrible shape. I have been doing bodyweight exercises for well over a year and I have made gains since I was very skinny…

    The only concern I have about switching from bodyweight to weighted training.. is the myth that weighted training stuns your height growth…

    Since I am only 15 I am still growing..I just want your opinion since I dont trust the web… will i stop growing in height if i start with your workout routine and progressive overload and weight traning
    instead of my usual bodyweight routine.? Or is it safe to switch to weights. Sorry for the long question .. let me know. Thanks!

    • Thanks for reading my books and spreading the word. I really appreciate it!

      Cool on what you’ve been doing. No need to worry about the weights stunting your growth. I do recommend working in the 8-10 rep range for now though and keeping strict form.

      LMK how it goes!

  • Christof Peyper

    I posted about half an hour ago and would just like to apologize for my question not involving shoulder training… I just didn’t know how else to ask you that.. thank you

  • Frank Morrow

    Hi Mike,

    Love the book. I didnt know it at the time, but my workout partner was using your workout to get us started. A year later, I told him I read an amazing book and he said “Thats the book I used to create a plan”! Pretty funny.

    I have a question, it could be about shoulders or any other body part. On my compound lifts, I lift pretty heavy but still in higher rep ranges. Is it ok to do accessory lifts as well as long as I dont neglect the compounds?

    • Glad you liked it!

      That is a crazy coincidence haha.

      I recommend sticking to the lower rep range. Check this out:


      And yep, totally fine to do accessory work. Just make sure the focus is always on the heavy, compound lifts.

      • Frank Morrow

        Thanks Mike! I’m a 43 year old 14 months into the weightlifting world. Went from 32%bf to 16%. 285lbs to 213 (for now). It’s been a journey and your book (and website) helped tons. It’s hard to sort through all of the info out there. The problem is, everything you read and hear seems reasonable regarding workout plans. I had been doing 3×6 heavy sets for awhile, but recently switched to high reps based on the advice of a pretty fit dude. I have seen muscle size and strength increase and my joints have stopped hurting so his advice seems to have merit.

        Can you explain why I have seen good results from the high rep exercises that I switched to? Any info to help clear things up would be great!

        Thanks again!

        • That’s awesome. Great job.

          Sometimes just doing something new is enough to stimulate a change, especially if you’re still progressing in your reps and weights.

          Also keep in mind that generally speaking your muscles are going to be more “pumped” from high-rep training, which gives the illusion of more growth.

          • Frank Morrow

            Right on, Mike. Thanks for the feedback. Keep up the good work and I look forward to the app!

          • Welcome! Will do, and I’m glad you’re excited for STACKED!

  • JR

    The video for the dumbbell shoulder press suggests to only go down to 90-100°. Is that also your preference? Is there something wrong with going down as deep as when using a barbell? Thank you.

    • As long as you go below 90, that’s fine. I prefer full ROM though, and no, definitely nothing wrong with doing the full ROM.


  • diCk McMaster

    This was a killer shoulder workout. I was looking to change up what I’ve been working. And this was killer. Hey Michael, do you have an Instagram I can follow?

  • Brandon Watson

    Hey Mike I have your Year One Challenge Book.
    Could this also be another possible 4 Day Routine?
    Day 1: Arms and Abs
    Day 2: Back and Calves
    Day 3: Chest and Abs
    Day 4: Legs and Shoulders

  • Miroslav Kovar

    I am used to high volume and after just 12 sets, I feel like I could do much more. Do you think that adding some higher rep isolation exercises on top of your workout would be detrimental?

    • I get it! If you’d like, you can add 2-3 higher rep sets at the end of the workout.

      • Miroslav Kovar

        Thanks for your respons, Mike, but that still feels like too little. My current shoulder workout is:
        5 sets of 4-6 dumbell shoulder press
        4 sets of 6-8 barbell shoulder press
        4 sets of 12 cable lateral side raise (drop sets)
        4 sets of 12 front raise (drop sets)

        4 sets of 12 reverse delt machine
        4 sets of 12 upright barbell row
        4 sets of 20 dumbell shrugs
        with 1 – 1.5 min rest between sets. My other workouts are similar, with 1 – 2 higher set/lower rep/high intensity, followed by cca 4 exercises of 4 sets with moderate intensity + calves or abs. I really do train in the range, meaning I can’t do more reps per set.

        When I do less than that I hardly feel I worked out at all. This is much more than is recommended in yours and almost all workout plans, is this because they are targeted more to beginners, or am I doing something wrong? Maybe some people need higher rep ranges?

  • Jared

    Hi Michael,
    I’ve just started doing your ultimate workouts from the blog as I’m not done with the book yet and I’m wondering if a torn A/C is either dangerous while doing shoulder strength training or if it makes it more difficult to get results on that side? (I feel like I have more of that “round pop of the delts” look on the uninjured side and sort of an undefined slope on the torn A/C side.)

    Thanks for any insight you can give!

    • Hey Jared. I’d check with the doc on that. I don’t recommend doing any upper body exercises until you get the okay from him/her.

      Not sure how it’d effect results in terms of muscle development on that side either…

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. LMK how it goes.

  • Fitnessnut

    Hi Michael: I have bi-lateral rotator cuff tears (diagnosed 7 years ago) and doc said only 70% success rate if I underwent surgery. Long story short, I’ve got limitations when it comes to side lateral raises and I was warned to NEVER do overhead presses or upright rows OR sleep with my hands behind my head..lol However, I did tons of research and by trial and error, I found that I can, by progressing slowly, perform land-mine presses. I can easily prop the olympic bar in the corner and place a 25lb plate on the bar and bang out 8-10 reps. But I think my stronger shoulder was doing most of the work, so I started doing single arm. I place the EZ Curl bar in the land-mine base, I have to kneel of course, and press away isolating and building each side. I am up to 5lbs on this – quite a milestone for my shoulders. I have no pain. My questions is: do you think replacing this exercise with the shoulder press is acceptable?

    • Sorry to hear about the RC. 🙁

      Sure, if you aren’t able to do the military press with the barbell or dumbbells, that’ll work.

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      • Fitnessnut

        Doing fabulous, I’ve made amazing progress despite the shoulders – no issues at all. I just posted on your FB page. Made a typo, I mentioned how strong I’ve gotten in 8 weeks – I’m on week 13, just started Phase 2. Thinking about getting a custom meal plan from you. I’m promoting the heck out of your program at the gym. BTW, I teach Spinning 3-4x week. Not sure how it’s affecting progress. On each weight training day I have a protein drink upon waking and then again when I return home. On teaching days (I teach at 5:30am) I have a protein drink upon waking, lift weights and then have one right before I teach class. Hoping this process helps preserve my muscle. During class I burn 400-590 calories. I don’t add the workout to MyFitnessPal because it increases my calorie intake. I believe I read in your book that you don’t want us to deduct our calories burned during exercise, right?
        Thanks for taking the time to respond 🙂

        • Awesome. Really glad to hear that and thanks for all the support. You rock. 🙂

          I like what you’re doing and personally I don’t add/subtract based on workouts because I find it unnecessarily complicated.

          Instead, I just go with approximate TDEE based on total weekly exercise time and eat that every day. That means that my deficit is slightly larger one certain days than others, but that’s fine. It works. 🙂

  • Tim Martin

    Hello Michael,

    I’m two weeks in to implementing your Ultimate Chest/Shoulder/Back/Arms/Legs/Abs routines and have already had tremendous success! Thank you SO very much for your articles – they’re truly inspiring!

    I’ve been lifting six days a week for 9 months now and have made decent gains which I’m very proud of (from weighing 70kg to 87kg now – 17kg total growth, with 12kg of lean mass) by being incredibly focused with my training, diet and sleep patterns.

    But with those gains my BF% has risen from 13% to approx. 18%, and my lean mass gains have all but stopped in the last 2 months for some reason…

    My question is – would you recommend I focus on losing the BF% first before giving my all to the 8 week challenge (staying in surplus)? If I were to cut now, do I just stick to the routines even though my strength/mass gains will likely stall while in deficit, or focus on other routines entirely?

    Apologies if they’re silly questions, I’m just feeling confused. I’m loving the routines and don’t want to stop…but this suddenly soft tummy is getting me down 🙂

    Thanks for your time!

    – Tim, Sydney

    • Hey Tim! Happy to hear on the results since you started following my ultimate workout routines.

      Great job on the successful bulk!

      Yeah, let’s go ahead and cut. You can set up your cut diet here:


      And yeah, you keep the routines the same. The goal while cutting is to maintain strength.

      No worries. Happy to help. 🙂

      Talk soon.

      • Tim Martin

        Thanks for the quick reply Michael! 🙂

        I’ll start cutting the fat now then and follow your advice before bulking again. I’ve ordered your books, and am looking forward to learning as much as I can!

        • Welcome, Tim! Sounds good.

          Thanks for picking up the books. LMK how you like them. 🙂

  • Brian Giffin

    Mike is form super important with side lateral raises ? I can do 40 lbs 5-6 reps if I don’t stress my form. Doing raises like Scott Herman with my shoulder blades pined back I need to go down to 35lbs .

    I thought side raises was one you didn’t have to stress form on?

    • Yep, form is important on all exercises. If you can’t lift the weight for 4-6 reps with good form, the weight is too heavy.

  • Robert

    Mike great article my question is my chest and back are far ahead of arms and shouldersi would like to bring up my arms and shoulders what do you recommend?

    • Thanks, Robert!

      We can add some additional sets to the lagging parts to help catch them up. What routine are you following right now?

  • ashokraju7

    Hey Mike. I’ve been following your BLS workout and had a question about the amount of exercise it requires. On some days (i.e. Chest) I feel pretty tired coming out of the workout. I feel like I’ve given it my all and the next day I feel sore (i.e. in my chest). However on other days, namely shoulder days, I feel like I have a lot left in the tank. I’m doing Military Press, Side Lateral Raise, Bent over Rear Delt and Front Raises. ANd then I end it off with two calf exercises (this is how’s laid out in the book). The thing is, I feel like I can still do more military press. I’m pressing as heavy as possible (I can barely hit 5 reps) and moving up as needed. But 3 sets doesn’t seem like enough. Or I feel like I need to throw in a dumbell press after the barbell press. Should I just ignore this feeling of “I can do more” or should I throw in a dumbell press as well (or do more sets of the barbell press)?


    • Hey hey! Cool you’ve been rolling on the program.

      I get what you’re saying. There are definitely harder days than others (like back and legs) in the program.

      As long as you’re getting in your 9-12 heavy sets per workout with good form, you’re doing it right. And you should see results to prove it–your strength should go up and you should gain muscle. That said, if you’ve been training for quite some time, I recommend bumping the workouts up by 3 more sets. Just add one more exercise, and do 3 sets.



      • ashokraju7

        Hey Mike!

        Thanks for the response! I’ll definitely add 3 more sets of dumbell presses on shoulder days and see how that feels. I’ve been working out for 2 years already so I’m not a beginner, which is probably why the shoulder day feels a little easy for me. Will see how that goes!

        Btw, feeling really good progress on all lifts this week!


        • YW! Sounds good! LMK how it goes.

          Great to hear on the progress this week!

          Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Jordan Stein

    I’m doing the 3 day routine. Chest/tris, back/bis and legs/shoulders…. I try to put a day in between if possible, especially between the back and shoulder day. My question is about rear shoulders vs back. Should I be doing face pull on shoulders or back day? What about rear delt rows? It seems like there is an overlap between shoulder and upper back muscles. Thanks!

    • Cool you’re doing the 3-day split.

      I do face pulls on my pressing days (chest and shoulders). Rear delt raises and rows are done on shoulder day. Barbell rows are done on back day.

      Hope this helps! My pleasure.

      • Jordan Stein

        Thanks. Love it. I’ll try the 4 day bc I like the layout better. What about days off? The 3 day has a day of rest in between each workout. Is there an ideal rest day between one of these days? What about back to back days with any of these workouts?

        • Welcome! Sounds good!

          Regarding days off, you can take your 3 days off whenever you like within the 7 day week. You can do the workouts 4 days in a row or you can put rest days between workouts. It’s up to you.

  • Matt

    Hey Mike,

    I have a lot of trouble getting the dumbbells into place on the seated dumbbell press when I doing sets of 5 reps or lower. Do you have any advice on being able to get the dumbbellsame into position because I can get 6 reps with 85’s but when I move up too 90’s I can’t get them into position to start the set.

    • I hear you, Matt. It can be annoying to get them into the starting position.

      To help, set the dumbbells up on your knees and when you kick them up, make sure you’re really kicking as hard as you can. At the same time, make sure you’re gripping the dumbbells tight and curling the weight up as hard as you can as well.

      Hope that helps! LMK how it goes.

      • Matt

        That helped a lot, thanks! It’s just technique and a fair amount practice, I prefer to do the dumbbell version of exercises because it feels better on my shoulder joints and lower back for some reason, so I really only use barbells for deadlift and back squat

  • Rodolfo Ferreira

    Hey Mike. I’m 18 years old and I’m doing the 3 day routine. I work out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Right now, I don’t have time to do cardio in a separate day, as you suggested in your book “Bigger, Leaner and Stronger.”. I use the gym bicycle after weightlifting, and I’ve started doing the HIIT training. Is it going to hinder my hypertrophy goals, if I keep doing this right after lifting weights? I spend 15 minutes cycling… Should I reduce to 10 minutes and put more high intensity intervals?

    • Hey hey! Thanks for all the info.

      Nope, that’s fine. Just make sure you stick to doing cardio after the weightlifting.

  • Marks

    Hello Mike,How are you?

    I would really like to do a Face Pull,but i dont have an adjustable cable pulley at my gym.

    So,i’ve been thinking,what if i do this exercise on my knees,look how Greg Plitt does it (skip to 3:09) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0H4yzysUUn0
    Seems such a Great variation.
    Well,but then i heard Scott Herman saying : “..you dont want to be pullying from too high” That pulley should be at chest high. Maybe it can cause problems to rotator cuff muscles or not fully activate the rear deltoid?

    What are your thoughts Mike?

    • This is a bit different than the face pull. This is more for back than RC.

      • Marks

        Does it work rear deltoids? Anyway if you wouldn’t had the adjustable cable pulley,would you still go for this exercise? Or rather use the dumbbell bent over raise?


  • Imran

    Hi Mike,

    If I understood correctly, it looks like the BLS book says we should do 4-6 reps for all the shoulder exercises, but this article says we should have different rep ranges for the side and rear delt raises. Can you please let me know if I should stick with the 4-6 reps or follow this article’s guidelines? Thanks for all your help!

    • I like to stick with the 4 to 6 if possible but if some people find their form falls apart on certain lifts like the side and rear raises, in which case 5 to 7 or 6 to 8 is fine.

  • less-a-moron

    Show off…time for another revision. As always, thanks!

  • Jerd Guillaume-Sam

    Mike is the grip significant? https://youtu.be/HSoHeSjvIdY?t=3m15s

    • This is a good point actually. I’m going to update the video in the article.

  • Claudio Tonelli

    Hi Mike.
    I’m experiencing a problem.
    I always warm up before lifting heavy.
    Today on the 90% military press warm up,i felt like a cramp in my left shoulder blade, and i couldn’t even lift the weigh for 1 millimeter.
    Completely blocked.
    And it was only the warm up set.
    I tried again.The same.
    So i stopped training shoulders.
    This problem happens also when i bench press.
    I use dumbbells
    My left arm (because of the same problem of the shoulder press)make a different range of motion.
    The range of motion is wider.
    This is making develop my chest different from the right.
    I’m worried because shoulder blades are involved in many esercises.

    What do you think?

    • Huh. That’s odd. I’m not sure what’s going on.

      I recommend checking with a doc or PT to see what’s up.

      For now, rest from any exercises that cause pain or discomfort.

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help! Welcome!

  • Ryan O’Toole

    In BLS 2.1 Phase 3, you have standing barbell press followed by seated dumbbell press then side lateral raise? What are the back to back pressing movements accomplishing? Can I mix in face pulls at the end?

    • Just increasing the volume on the anterior delts for a phase. If you’d rather do the face pulls, sure. Stick with one press, one side lat, face pulls.

      • Ryan O’Toole

        Awesome thanks! Love the workouts and diet plan! Might give two times in a row pressing a shot.

  • David Dietsch

    I thought I posted a question but cannot find it:/ Any who, I have a question. My pulling is weaker than my pushing. I can push weight in the 4-6 reps with good form but cannot do the same with back exercises. I have back that needs to get stronger. I can only do 8-10 repetitions with my back. I notice my posture isn’t the best because of this… Do you recommend I work in this rep range of 8-10 for chest, shoulders, and back? In the 8-10 rep range for building muscle, I know it’s not as beneficial or as good as the 4-6 rep range, but if I get stronger could some gains be shown if I increase weight over time? Last buy not least, if recommended should I increase sets with a higher rep range… or keep it the same?

    • Sorry about that, David!

      Nah, I still recommend focusing on the 4-6 rep range. You can still get results working in the 8-10 rep range, but you’ll get better results in both strength and muscle mass working in the 4-6 rep range.

      If you do decide to work in the 8-10 rep range, you can stick to 9-12 sets per workout.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Arafat Sultan

        Just sharing my experience, I am a newbie and at fast I was doing 8-10 reps range as per the suggestion from MFL team as I was struggling much with forms. It was almost impossible for me to maintain form with 80-85% rep max. But gradually I got comfortable with 4-6 rep range. So hope everything will be fine with time 🙂

  • Angelo

    Hey Mike i had a question about isolation excersizes such as side lateral raises and bent over raises. I asked a few different people but i still haven’t gotten a clear answer yet. I doubt anyone will reach 100lb side lateral raises due to the nature of the exersize. Say i get stuck of 25lbs or 30lbs like i have been for weeks. then i would just be repeating the same workout over and over progression on solation exersizes comes to a halt real fast. What do i do in these cases? Or in cases where i reached the excersie “limit” another example would be using all the weight on the lat pulldown machine for 4-6 reps? then what?. Id really appreciate a response. Thanks!

    • Great question! First, check this out:


      Apart from those there are a couple other things you can do.

      1. Prioritize the exercise you’re having trouble progressing on. So, if it’s the side lateral raises, start your shoulder day with them.

      2. Increasing the rep range. With the shoulder raises in particular, increasing the rep range can help continue the progressive overload.

      Welcome. Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Angelo

        would i be able to add sets like say 4 sets 10-12 rep range. do adding sets keep progressive overload going? what about using methods for them such as rest pause training. And say i max out on the lat machine(which im close too) is it deemed an ineffective excersize then?

        • Sure, you could add 2-3 higher rep sets to the end of the workout if you’d like. It could help with progressive overload, and it’d be a nice way to just add some volume to the shoulder training.

          I wouldn’t recommend rest pause training for an isolation movement like that actually, TBH.

          When you max out on the lat pulldown, you can just move on to weighted pull-ups. You could continue the progressive overload by increasing the rep range at the max weight, but you’d get better results going heavier and keeping the focus on the 4-6 rep range. Check this out:



  • Pranav

    Hi mike .. Really started to see a difference in my body development and its just been 2 weeks since i strted following ur workouts .. Only thing the shoulder workout u’ve suggested thou amazing but doesnt it lack trap development exercises like shrugs and upright rows ? What about those ? Should I incorporate them in this workout ?

    • That’s great, Pranav! Glad to hear it.

      Personally, I don’t do any trap specific exercises because they get enough of a workout from my heavy military pressing. If you find your traps lagging, I recommend adding 2-3 sets of barbell shrugs to the end of your back day.


  • Ransom

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve had some rotator cuff and shoulder pain problems in the past that I’ve honestly half-assedly trief to fix myself and now doesn’t usually both me when I do overhead press or bench press (where it used to hurt). Though, sometimes it gets a little more sore after OHP.

    In reading this post I can’t help but notice you say facepulls are good for the rotator cuff muscles, but it looks like the proper for for this exercise is the pulling version of exactly what you’re NOT supposed to do shoulder wise for the bench press: elbows flared and level or above the shoulder as you move it back and forth. And from my little knowledge of how impingement works with the shoulder, it looks like your forcing this to happen.

    Am I crazy here?

    • It’s a very different movement than the bench press (and isn’t done with nearly as much weight).

      • Ransom

        I know it’s less weight, but it seems like the motion of the elbow being at or above level with the shoulder joint is bad.

        Also, the video demonstration of it on this post is very differnt in form from the video demo in your post on 4 Rotator Cuff You Should be Doing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSoHeSjvIdY

        The form in that video seems to make a ton more sense since you keep your elbows under your wrists and actually perform external rotation as opposed to the form in the video on this post.

  • Hi Michael, your article is really nice and informative. Thanks for the sharing.

    It has been my experience, through my life as an Operator, that shoulders are an over used poorly trained body part. It actually surprises me that more damage isn’t done when I see what guys are doing or not doing.

    Consisting of four of the best deltoid exercises in the world, this training program will target all facets of shoulder development: strength, size, stability and even overall shoulder health.

    Here’s The Workout

    A) Push Press
    Sets: 3
    Reps: 8
    Rest: 60 seconds between sets

    B1) Half-Bent Lateral Raise
    Sets: 2
    Reps: 12
    Rest: 30 seconds, then proceed to B2

    B2) Y-Press
    Sets: 2
    Reps: 15
    Rest: 30 seconds, then return to B1. After your second set, rest 90 seconds and proceed to C

    C) Overhead Barbell Pass
    Sets: 2
    Reps: 6-8
    Rest: 60 seconds between sets.

    Try this workout if you’re crunched for time, or if you just need to shake things up a bit.

    For more information about “The Best Shoulder Workout”, you can visit at http://alphanation.com/fitness/the-best-shoulder-workout

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    Hi Mike! I couldn’t find a related article, so I’m kind of randomly posting this here. The entire left side of my body (with the exception of my abs I guess) is significantly smaller/weaker than the right. I’ve always heard this will even out over time, but I’ve been lifting three times a week for over a year now. I am always conscious of it and making a conscious effort to ensure that I’m not lifting unevenly and applying equal weight to both sides when I workout. Any thoughts?

    • Is this due to a medical issue of some kind? Lifestyle?

      • Elijah Laughinghaus

        Not as far as I know. I used to play a lot of right-sided sports but not anymore. I have always assumed it was just a result of being right-handed?

        • Ah okay. A slight imbalance is common but not significant.

  • Sri

    What do you do to prevent impingement in the side lateral raise

  • Ainslee

    Hey Mike,

    Just a quick question — I’ve noticed with the shoulder exercises, that lifting heavier is difficult — i.e., with side lateral raises 5lbs feels light (and I can push out 10 reps) but 10 lbs (no 7.5s at the gym) feels heavy and very difficult to do with good form. Is this normal?


    • Hey Ainslee,

      That’s pretty normal, and what I suggest to clients in this case when there are no 7.5s, is to do as many 10s as you can with good form, then finish the set with 5s, and keep pushing to increase the number of good reps you can do with 10s until you can complete a solid set.

      • Salah El Mackawi

        Hey Roger,
        As per the article “how to break through a plateau”
        We were advised to stretch the rep range or microload.
        In Ainslee case the microload is not possible, why do not you advise to stretch the range to 15-12 maybe.

        • True. The most effective way to build strength is to lift heavy, and once you go past 10 reps, it’s more inefficient. Assuming Ainslee was able to pull off 7-8 passable reps, I say continue with the current weight.

          Stretching the rep range definitely can help, and rest-pause is also an option:


          • Salah El Mackawi

            Thx for ur replay
            I am now able to do 50 lb dumbell press for 6 reps when i move to 55lb i get 3 reps only.
            Should i go back to 50lb in the next set and try for 8 reps or keep progressing on 55lb until i can get 6 reps?
            What I mean if i did not hit the bottom of the rep range from the first time should i take action or give it a try for 3 weeks probably.
            Sorry for my frequent questions.

          • No problem at all! Happy to help.

            Use 50lbs, go to 6-8 reps, then try the 55lbs again. Usually, when someone can do 3 sets of 6 reps, the next weight increase should be fine hitting 4 reps.

          • Salah El Mackawi

            Thx Roger

  • The broad shoulders always look good. Be it the physique or the fitting of clothes a it gives a complete look. The workouts mentioned above for having the broader shoulders are good to adhere to. thanks for this.

  • Dylan Kennedy

    Great article Mike!
    What do you think of barbell upright rows? They are my favorite exercise in the gym but do you think they are safe or ineffective?
    Dylan K

    • Thanks Dylan!

      Eh. I’m not really a fan of them. I much prefer the pendlay row. Better ROM.


  • Jesse Vera

    Hey Mike! I’ve practically become obsessed with all of your articles in a matter of a few days. It’s unbelievable all the things I learned (and how incorrectly I was doing some workouts lol).

    But I was wondering if you had like a general warmup that you thought was best before any workout. Or do you think warmups should vary based on the workout?

    Thank you in advance!
    Jesse Vera

    • Happy to hear it, Jesse! Warm up the target muscle group like this:
      12 reps @ 50% set weight, rest 1min
      10 reps @ 50% set weight, rest 1min
      4 reps @ 70% set weight, rest 1min
      1 rep @ 90% set weight, rest 2-3min

      Of course! Take a look here for some routines:

      Hope that helps.

      • Jesse Vera

        Thank you very much! That helps a ton 🙂

        I can’t wait to start seeing results soon!

  • Hi Mike –
    Great article as always. I’ve been following progressive overload training for a while and have hit a sticking point with DB shoulder presses. Specifically, I’m at the next progression but without a spotter, can’t seem to manage the weight from knees to shoulders. Generally I can mange to get my right side kicked up and into position but then struggle to get the left side up. I can get it to the shoulder but positioned for the actual press is lost.

    If my wife is handy, she can provide enough of a spot to get me into position. Without her though, I’m stuck even though I can press more, set-up is my sticking point. Any tips on how to work on this?

    I’ve ‘Googled’ and pretty much come across ‘rope setups’ to serve as a spotter, BB press as an alternative or standing and swinging the DBs into position. Swinging with 80s (which is where I”m stuck) isn’t an option. I love the seated DB shoulder press.. just need to blow past the plateau. Funny what a difference 5 lbs can make. 75s, up and press, no problem – 80s… left side says ‘no go’ 😉 (for the time being).

    Thanks in advance!

  • Zeljko Markanovic

    hey mike,

    is the time under tension not important for muscle grow? i read everywhere that 4-6 reps is more focused on strenght, 8-12 mass and 12+ endurance…

    is this a wrong theory??


    • Hey Zeljko. Great question. Check out this article on muscle growth and how to stimulate it:


      • Zeljko Markanovic

        wow great article mike thank you a lot.

        btw what do you think about having also boxing included in a weekly program for example:

        monday: chest, biceps
        tuesday: boxing
        wednesday: back, triceps
        saturday: legs,shoulders

        i realy need some tips from a pro and you the right guy i think haha

  • AnnaD

    Hey Mike, I’ve been doing your TLS program, 3 day split, for about 8 months now and it’s going well! I would really like to get a bit more size and definition in my shoulders though. Would it be ok to throw in a few of these exercises each session to bring them up?

  • Michael

    That routine seems like a ton of volume for a smaller muscle group? I usually go with around 9 sets total….Thoughts?

  • Wayne

    Mike, thanks for all you do. Since I switched from my overly complicated minimal rest magazine interval type workouts to your simple and straightforward heavy lifting/progressive overload program, I have made tremendous strides in both muscle growth and fat loss.

    With regards to the DB Lateral Raise and Bent Over Rear Delt Raise, what do you think about cable variations? With the DB versions, I seem to only get tension in the top half of the movement. With cables, I feel constant tension and the lift feels alot more controlled (instead of explosive). Am I ok just doing cable variations of these 2 exercises?

    • Awesome to hear you started following my program and are already seeing results. 🙂

      Yep, totally fine to use cables!

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Abhishek

    Hi Mike,
    Should I do the face pull with my shoulder routine or my chest routine as mentioned in ur 5 day workout spit.
    Also, a bit silly but isn’t the bend over rear delt raise very similar to barbell rowing. Could u plz diffentiate it in short.????

  • aseem puri

    Mike, can you please share the year one challenge for men book with me? I bought the bigger, leaner, stronger but never got the supplement copy. thanks!

  • anuj
  • Brian Giffin

    Mike is there any benefit to doing bar Bell military press behind the head? Or rear Lat pull downs?

  • On this page you link to this video:

    But in your bonus report you link to this video:

    The seem contradictory and like they do different things. They each have a different grip and the one on this page says not to pull exactly how the one in the bonus report says to pull.

    Which is correct?

    Also, once I get to a certain weight, I can only get enough leverage to get the rope to my face by starting out leaning pretty far back. Is this correct?


  • Dan

    Hi Mike, been doing BLS since April, making good progress on all my big lifts except for military press, where I’ve only added 5kg. I’ve always chosen to do the standing version, but wondering now if I might see some progress using the sitting version? I also struggle with form, trying to base it on Rippletoe’s video, but sometimes the lifts seem easy, and the next rep incredibly hard. Suggestions?

  • John

    Hey Mike, another awesome Overhead Press Variation is the Single Arm DB OHP (standing). It’s nice because the free hand can help get the DB into position for heavy pressing without wasted energy, which tends to be a limiting factor in the seated dumbbell shoulder press. Jeff Alberts of 3Dmj has a video on it that’s worth checking out. Personally it’s my favorite OHP Variation. You can also do single arm for dumbbell benching (flat and incline).

  • Mark

    Since Bench Pressing and Overhead Pressing basically only significantly used the anterior delt for a shoulder development perspective, would it make more sense to use all your volume budget for lateral and rear delt work since your getting the anterior delt hammered from benching and the OHP is a anterior delt and tricep exercise with the other heads of the delts having very little involvement. So spending your limited volume budget on OHP would seem counterproductive since your getting the same hypertrophy benefits for flat/incline benching and dips. It’s just a thought that popped up that’s bugging me lol

    • Thanks for the comment Mark but I don’t agree that bench pressing builds the anterior delts as effectively as the OHP… Remember too that the OHP doesn’t JUST train the anteriors…

  • Blake

    Hey Mike, Check out the 45 Degree Incline Row. The American Council of Exercise did a study looking at the best delt exercises and found the 45 Degree Incline Row hit the middle delt as hard (slightly harder actually) than the dumbbell side lateral raise. Its also safer, and it’s a compound exercise. Another perk is it achieves the same middle delt stimulation at the lateral raise but also hits the rear delts really good as well, so possible good for helping bring up the rear delts in addition to rear delt flys. There recommendation for the best shoulder workout is
    – Standing OHP (BB or DB)
    – 45 Degree Incline Row
    – Rear Delt Fly

    • Thanks for the comment Blake. Funny you bring this up as I’ve been doing it myself for the last 4 weeks or so and am liking it.

  • Ondrej

    Hi Mike, Scott Herman says in this video about Standing Military Press this: “Push all the way to the top to reach full stretch”. I my opinion it’s pointless (no more deltoid activation) and it’s dangerous, it doesn’t feel right during exercise. Stretching is better to do after workout, not during. What do you think about it? Should we push all the way to the top?

  • Mance_Lotter

    Mike, my schedule pretty much allows me to only be at the gym between 5:00am and 6:30am (don’t worry, I’m a morning person). However, that creates problems for my pre-workout meal…laugh out loud, I’m not going to get up at 3:30am to eat some brown rice…am I? What do you recommend?

    • Oh that’s a tough one. Your best bet is a fast digesting simple carb and fast protein like whey first thing when you wake up.

      Otherwise, you’re in a great position for fasted training!

  • Peter26

    Hey Mike, Iv been following your BLS program for about 6 months now but i have a question regarding the strength goals for BBLS
    You mention these goals:

    Squat: 1.75 x body weight for 4-6 reps
    Deadlift: 1.75 x body weight for 4-6 reps
    Bench Press: 1.35 x body weight for 4-6 reps
    Seated Military Press: 1 x body weight 4-6 reps

    But i have also seen you comment on various articles saying doing 1 rep with these weights is enough for us to advance to BBLS.
    Which goals should i set?

    • Hey Peter, I’ve updated the prereqs to 1 rep of those weights. Hope that clear it up!

      • Thomas

        So if I’m a 175 lb male a 306 1RM Deadlift is enough to move on to BBLS? When I started deadlifting my 1RM was 325 but I don’t feel like I’m at the advanced level, I’ve only been deadlifting for a few months. Maybe I’m just genetically well suited to that lift. Should I stick with the 4-6 rep double progression method in BLS until I stall and then move to BBLS? My bench and ohp are at those levels as well but I haven’t been doing them very long.

        • You can start with BBLS once you’re able to perform those specified lifts at that weight. You can still make progress with BLS though.

  • Edward Jose Rodriguez

    Hey mike, how about a neck workout routine ?

  • john creedon

    Im 29 ,Irish and lifting weights since im 21. Read these articles on chest, shoulders legs and back a year ago and said id give it ago. By far the best programme I have ever tried. Progressive over load using 3 sets of 6(aiming for 4 or 5 reps on 3rd set) is awesome for building strength fast. Highly recommend. Im now lifting heavier than I ever did. I weight 85kgs and can now(on my last set) bench 120kgx5, squat 150kg x5 db shoulder press 42kgs x 5 and deadlift 210kg x4. Winner !

    • Awesome! Glad to hear you’re getting great results. Keep it up!

  • Alex

    What would a good alternative to face pulls be if I dont have cables?

  • Ravindra Singh

    Can I do military press with dumbbells instead of barbell ?

  • Greg Holden

    Hey mike, Got your book real eye opener on how train. However I try and go heavy training shoulders ,but I don’t feel a contraction in my posterior deltoids when doing a bent over rear delt raise. my back seems to rock ( more like I have to throw the weight up using momentum )when working in to 4-6 rep range, would you recommend going slightly lighter and working in 6 – 8/ 8-10 rep range or choosing a different rear delt exercise? Thanks Greg

    • Reducing the weight to work on form and nailing it down before moving to a higher weight is a great idea!

      • Greg Holden

        Thanks for that Rodger I’ll go lighter and work in the 10 to 8 rep range, that a big help!

  • Ryker

    Hey Mike,

    Due to a shoulder injury I can only do dumbbell pressing (for both chest and shoulders) without pain. Will I still be able to develop a good chest and shoulders even if I’m only able to use dumbbells? Barbells allow for 2.5 increases in weight/side where dumbbells only allow for 5 lbs increase in weight/side. To make up this difference I thought about getting magnetic 1.25 lb plates to put on the dumbbells or just tape (gym doesn’t care) cheap 1.25 lb plates on the side of a dumbbell when needed so that I can increase the load by 2.5 lbs per side just like a barbell. Do you think this will give me the same benefits in regard to load progression as with a barbell?


    • Tyler

      With BLS Progression you increase load in 5 lb per side jumps when you hit the top of the rep range. So for pressing in the 4-6 rep range using a double progression works fine with dumbbells. I think barbells are better for more advanced progression schemes like wave loading but double progression is a tried and true system that works with dumbbells. If the jump in dumbbell load causes you to get lower than 4 reps try expanding the rep range to 4-7 or 4-8 and once you hit the top of end of that range increase the load. So long as your progressing in reps or load with a “heavy enough” weight you’ll be getting bigger. Hypertrophy training is far broader than training for 1RM Strength and doesn’t need too be near as complicated.

    • Hey Ryker,

      You’ll still be able to make great gains with just dumbbells as long as there is progressive overload. What you propose works as well!

  • Phillip

    on the 5 day BLS, on leg day, you add 2 lighter shoulders exercises, but never for the medial deltoid.

    Why is that? Do i need to be worried about overtraining if I do the 5 day split, but on the Legs/Shoulder day I incorporate overhead press, lateral raise, and a rear belt raise?

    • Huh? One of the two exercises on Day 5 is the side lateral raise which is a medial deltoid exercise…

      Also, that’s the routine from BLS 2.0. The most updated routine is in BLS 2.1. Feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected], and I’ll send you a PDF of the newest edition free of charge. 🙂

  • KevinLphotography

    Hey @michael_matthews:disqus I needed to find out something from you if possible. I have been on team legion facebook page a lot and have bought both of your books. I had shoulder surgery in February 2016 (rotator cuff) and did great in therapy. I can’t do really heavy right now. It strains my shoulder too much and ends up hurting. I’m 65 and have lost 50 lbs over the past 16 months. My body fat is about 25% and my goal for 2017 is to make it to 20%. I also am a regular customer of Legion Athletics and I love your products. Believe me i have so much fat to continue to lose and want to use the BLS program but just find it hard to do 4-6 heavy post RC surgery. Any advise you could give me would be appreciated so much. Thanks, KEVIN

    • Glad you’re enjoying the content and supps! Sorry to hear about your shoulder…but that’s awesome you made a great recovery. No problem if you can’t lift heavy right now. Lift with higher reps for the upper body and keep up the calorie deficit while doing HIIT cardio. For your lower body, stick to exercises that don’t hurt your shoulder. If you look at the bonus report from BLS, you’ll find a list of approved exercises you can pick from to make substitutions.

  • Dan

    How come side lateral raises are 4-6 rep range (assuming good form) but barbell rear delt rows are 6-8 rep range? Is there a reason for the distinction?

    • It’s just because it’s a bit harder to maintain proper form in the lower rep range with the rear delt work. Going heavy is good, but ultimately, as long as you progressively overload in the rep range you’re working in, you’ll get results.

  • bowden

    Hey, I am just wondering what exercises you’d recommend specifically for traps? I am working on my week spots so looking at adding one or two exercises in on my chest days.

  • Joe

    This is great, thank you! Do you have something to replace face pulls? I have only barbell and dumbbells at my location.

  • Dan

    Question for the team: when I do seated military presses, I can feel a gentle popping feeling in my right shoulder anteriorly. It feels like the long head of the biceps is popping in and out of the bicipital groove. It doesn’t hurt, or seem to limit the pressing, but as a trainee in his 40s, I’m extra careful about injury. Does anyone know whether this feeling is a sign that I am doing something wrong form-wise, or should I worry about injury, or can I ignore it?


  • Johan Du Toit

    Dear Mike,

    Thanks for a great article and love BLS! My question is about posture. I have rounded shoulders from years of bad form and sitting infront of the computer. Lately I’ve been doing some excercises which definitely seem to be helping, stretching my pecs being one of them. I’m also consciously trying to walk correctly (tighten core, pull shoulders up and back, etc)

    This is a “well duh” statement I’m about to make, but I noticed in the mirror today that if I pinch my shoulder blades/lats together (really pinching hard), then my whole posture improves dramatically. My chest comes up and my shoulders pull back. Even my biceps look bigger because they now roll outwards too. Pinching lats seem to be instrumental in a lot of excercises we do. They’re the same muscles I pinch when I do bench press, shoulder curls and lat raises. I try to consciously walk with my shoulder blades pinched, which can get slightly uncomfortable, but I think it’s probably just because I’m not used to shortening those muscles. My quetions:

    1. Does it make sense to focus on exercises to tighten those lat muscles (not sure which exact muscles those are), specifically to improve rolled shoulders/bad posture?

    2. If so, which excercises would you recommend for this?

    Would be great if these exercises caused me not to cosciously focus so much on posture – it’s kind of a pain to try and remember to walk correctly all the time!

    Thanks so much for your advice!


  • Marvin

    Hey Mike!

    Another well-researched article that focusses on what’s important, as usual 🙂

    I looked at this article in particular because I feel like my shoulders seem to progress way slower than every other major muscle-group.
    I’ve been doing BLS for about 9 months now, after doing years of high-rep workouts and the likes.
    The problem I’m facing is this: While I progressed to 2*BW on squats / deadlifts and 1.5*BW flat barbell benchpress, I can’t seem to get post 0.75*BW military press (been stuck here for about 4 months). It bothers me a lot, because I make consistent strength-gains every week on every other major lift, but for some reason, my shoulders won’t follow suit. Is that something you have experienced yourself / with clients, being stuck for an extended amount of time on a specific muscle-group while making gains in every other? If so – what can I do to break the plateau?
    Some things I already tried:
    Implementing more strength weeks into the programm (essentially did Starting Strength for a month – didn’t help at all)
    Eating far more (didn’t help either, I’m currently bulking as well, so I didn’t think it would help)
    Eating more carbs prior to my workout (I’m really into energy drinks, please don’t judge :/ – they didn’t help either)
    I always start my shoulder days with military presses so it’s not like I’m exhausted from prior sets.

    I really hope there’s something you can tell me that I didn’t think about 🙂

    Best wishes and keep up the good work,


  • Chase Alexander

    Hey Mike, I’ve been working dumbbell side lateral raises and dumbbell rear lateral raises in the 4-6 rep range, but I have issues with moving up weight after hitting 6 reps. When I move up 5 lbs my form gets sloppy and I can’t hit 4 good reps. Should I stick to the lighter weight and work in a higher rep range, and if so what rep range would you recommend? Any advice you have would be appreciated.

    • Hey Chase, no problem. If you have the option of moving up 2.5lbs, you can try that. Otherwise, shoot for 8 reps with the original weight before moving up again. Also, what can help is double checking and working on your form.

  • Yusuf Karakaya

    Hey Mike, what do you think about upright rows?

    • Eh. I’m not really a fan. It puts a lot of undue stress on the shoulders.

  • Dave

    Hi Mike,
    I’m a big fan of your program. I’ve been doing the BLS program for more than a year and I have been seen very good progress. I’m 6’3, 180 pounds and around 15% body fat and I’m focusing now on volume although my shoulders and arms are my weak point and they just won’t grow as I expect.
    I am doing the 5 day routine program. What do you think I should change:

    Monday: -Incline Barbell
    -Incline Dumbbell bench
    -Dip ( Chest Variation)
    – Barbell Bench press
    – Skull Crusher
    *Ab circuit

    Tuesday: – Chin up
    – Lat pulldown
    – Dead lift
    – One arm dumbell row
    – Barbell Curl
    *Calves circuit

    Wednesday: – Seated Dumbbell press
    -Side Lateral Raises
    -Bent over real delt
    *Abs circuit

    Thursday: – Incline Bench press
    – Dip (tricep variation)
    – Rope pushdown
    – Hammer Curl
    * Calves circuit

    Friday: – Squat
    – Leg Press
    – Dead lift
    – Abs circuit

    (All of the exercises 3 sets, of 4-6 reps except the side lateral raises)

    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thank you so much for your help.

  • Jeffrey Toppe


    I’m on day 30 of my “journey to jacked!” Totally killin’ it.

    Anyway, I’m sure somebody has already asked this, but I’m too lazy to comb through all 500+ comments. My shoulder joints have always been “messed up.” Whenever I do any overhead motion, my shoulders pop/click. It becomes painful to do pretty much any shoulder exercise that involves me lifting things over my head. My question is this: If I’m not able to military press, etc., what are some other ways I can work the same muscles with less stress on the joints/rotator cuff? Thanks in advance!


  • Jeff


    I’m on day 30 of my “journey to jacked!” Totally killin’ it.

    I’m sure somebody has already asked this, but I’m too lazy to comb
    through all 500+ comments. My shoulder joints have always been “messed
    up.” Whenever I do any overhead motion, my shoulders pop/click. It
    becomes painful to do pretty much any shoulder exercise that involves me
    lifting things over my head. My question is this: If I’m not able to
    military press, etc., what are some other ways I can work the same
    muscles with less stress on the joints/rotator cuff? Thanks in


    • Awesome, Jeff! you can try dumbbell front raises. If taking a break doesn’t help, I recommend that you get your shoulders checked out by a physical therapist.

  • David Dietsch

    Is there anything wrong on shoulders day to do 3 sets of dumbbell overhead press for 4-6 reps and 3 sets of dumbbell overhead press for 6-8? On chest day I’m just doing 6 sets of incline press and 3 sets flat. Overtraining or is this fine? Not a lot of volume on my legs because with work, genetics, and past training, they definitely never lose size. This bulk I’m focused on upperbody.

  • Brian Skull

    I am currently taking on the legs, chest, back, shoulder, and arms workout routines provided with the abs workout mixed in 2-3 times a week. What I was wondering is, what is the best way to split these up in your opinion throughout the week?

  • Jack96

    Hi, Mike I want your opinion on this.

    1. The number 1# exercise for the middle delts is the one-arm dumbbell side raise while leaning to the side. I was in the first phase in which I was doing side raises. It was uncomfortable for me even in the begining to keep proper form even in the 6-8 rep range. I tried the side raises with bent arms but it wasnt the same. Then I found a research on the internet that said that said that the 45 degree incline dumbbell row is much better for the activation of the middle deltoid than the side lateral raise with bent arms. It had also had great posterior deltodid activation, not as big as with the rear delt raise but nearly.This would be a great finisher. Whats your opinion on this

    2. I dont like to do rear delt raise.I prefer doing the incline rear delt raise. Is it better to do on 30 or 40 degrees. Your opinion?

    3. Do rear delt flyes develop the rhomboids a little bit as well?

    So I like this shoulder workout

    Seated shoulder dumbbell press 3×12 3×4-6
    One-Arm Dumbbell side raise 3×4-6
    Incline rear delt raise
    45 degree incline dumbbell row

    On chest day I also do
    Face Pulls 3×8-10

    And on weak points day
    Front raises 3×8-10

    4. I have very big lats. There is a very big gap between the peak of my lat and chest. It a little bit hard to explain. But I think that my serratus anterior isnt developed enough and i deadlift heavy every week. So what is your opinion about doing some dumbbell pullovers on weak point day?

    5. I found a research that says that reverse grip bench press activates the clavicular portion of the pectoralis major 30% more than the incline bench press. I usually do this routine

    Incline Barbell Bench Press 3×12 3×4-6
    Flat Barbell Bench Press 3×4-6
    Incline Dumbbell bench press 3×4-6
    Dips 3×4-6

    As well some moderate weight lifting on arms day

    3×10-8 Incline Bench Press

    I want to concentrate on getting my 1RM of the Flat Bench Press bigger while maximising the development of the upper chest. So I want to do this routine for the next few months

    Flat Barbell Bench Press 3×12 3×4-6
    Flat Dumbbell Bench Press 3×4-6
    Reverse grip Bench Press 3×4-6
    Dips 3×4-6

    Arms day
    Incline Bench Press 3×8-10

    Did you do this routine before? Do you think that the reverse grip bench press is much better for the development of the upper chest, while the incline bench press is the best overall chest devolopment exercise?

    • Hey Jack, to answer your questions:
      1. Side raises.
      2. Flatter is better. 30 degrees, out of those two choices.
      3. Sounds good! On weak point day, it’d help to work on your other 2 parts of the delt too.
      4. Sure, but also be aware that it takes a low enough bodyfat % for the serratus to show.
      5. We’re more in favor of the incline press over reverse. Otherwise, your flat bench routine looks fine.

  • Star Walker

    serious question…..should i wear a condom when doing this?

  • Valentina Goren Loguercio

    Hey Mike, which excercise is better or do you recommend between standing or seated bent over rear delt rise? Thank you!!!

    • Either one works. You can change it up every couple months

      • Valentina Goren Loguercio

        Thanks Mike!

  • Cuzjudd

    Personally, I’ve found higher rep shoulder exercises (military press, lateral raises) work better than the 4-6 range. I was seeing barely results in that range but when I went to 8-12 and higher I saw growth much much quicker. Also, with lateral raises, it’s extremely important to keep shoulders depressesed while lifting so as not to recruit traps which we all tend to do if we’re not conscious of it. That little track worked wonders.

    • Yeah, it’s fine to increase the reps if 4-6 is preventing you from using proper form. I’m glad it’s worked for you 🙂

  • Lefteris Georgizas

    Hello once again Mike ,
    In shoulder workout i do usually most of times seated dumbbell presses cause my gym doesn’t have the bench for the seated barbell press . Now i am working about 62lbs for about 5 reps. I am seeing some improvement but i really cant get the 1 x bodyweight set for 4-6 reps. I am about 164 lbs but i find it still difficult to catch that number. Any suggestion for improving the strength on presses ? I saw that you said about front raises. Us there anything else ?

  • Lefteris Georgizas

    Hello once again Mike ,
    In shoulder workout i do usually most of times seated dumbbell presses cause my gym doesn’t have the bench for the seated barbell press . Now i am working about 62lbs for about 5 reps. I am seeing some improvement but i really cant get the 1 x bodyweight set for 4-6 reps. I am about 164 lbs but i find it still difficult to catch that number. Any suggestion for improving the strength on presses ? I saw that you said about front raises. Is there anything else ?

  • Vman

    Hey Mike,

    First let me just say I am glad that you wrote this book and you have forever changed the way I look at food. I would be forever grateful if you could help answer some of the questions I have about your book so I can get started on your exercise plan. I was planning to do this earlier this year but was injured by someone sadly but I am getting into it now that I have recovered.

    Loved your book but I have a few questions and I’m not sure this book can be targeted towards a newbie like me who is 22 years old and has never exercised in his life and is weak as all heck. I can barely lift the bar so I think that is a bit misleading but nevertheless I did read your routine below. I am going to try doing body weight so I can gain enough strength to do those exercises.
    I have bolded where I have questions where I am confused. Apologies for the length!! I hope you can answers so I can start the program 😊. I read the below in your book:
    Push-ups to failure
    Rest 60 seconds
    Pull-Ups to failure
    Rest 60 seconds
    Squats for 30 seconds
    Question 1, NO REST HERE? Straight to Burpees?
    Burpees for 30 seconds
    Question 2, NO REST HERE? Just curious, I would of thought you’d need some rest
    Mountain climbers to failure
    Rest 90 seconds
    Crunches to failure
    Rest 60 seconds
    Start over with push-ups

    Question 3, so you basically set your watch for 20-30 minutes and go from push ups to failure, to crunches to restarting with push ups? That sounds insane to me, but I’ll likely divide that by 4 and get the trainers at my Gym to show me the correct techniques for burpees, squats and mountain climbers and crunches as I’ve never done these either and probably do them wrong.

    Eventually I suppose I will work my way up to weights. I think it’s a bit of a shame there was nothing about doing stretches or yoga in your book, as I think that would be beneficial especially in my case as I am very weak in the core and have back problems
    My other questions are related to your workout program (PDF). Before I start let me just say, I really think you should not overcomplicate this with so many different exercises to learn over 2 months as my gym I don’t think even has this equipment. I will ask or send them an email and ask if they have this equipment so I’ll get back to you. But I will likely just choose in PDF workout program, the 2 month part that has equipment e.g Barbell Squat, military press, deadlift.
    I have highlighted in bold the parts I do not understand at all below.
    In your first warm-up set, you want to do 12 reps with about 50 percent of your heavy, 4- to 6-rep set weight and then rest for 1 minute.
    Question 4, What is a rep-set weight? So I do 12 reps 50% of heavy then I do rep set weights… umm.. 50% of heavy again.. weights? I don’t understand this. What is a rep set weight?? What does that weigh. I found nothing in the book explaining this
    In your second warm-up set, you use the same weight as the first and do 10 reps this time at a little faster pace. Then rest for 1 minute.
    Question 5, So I use same weight. Um is that the 50% of heavy again but 10 reps.. or am I using rep set weights weight.. which is umm.. 50% I am guessing it could be less or more I don’t know here. I don’t know what a rep set weight is or the same weight as before what its referring to.
    Question 6, The rest makes sense, however how exactly do I do the warm up? DO I do that for each machine or… E.g Barbell Squat
    Seated or Standing Barbell Military Press
    Barbell Deadlift
    I believe you clearly wrote where and which machines to do it on so I think that clears things up.
    Though some days.. that’s a lot of warming up before you even do your exercises for that day. You’d have to be the hulk if that’s a warm up.
    Last question BELOW:
    Incline Barbell Bench Press – Warm–up sets and then 3 working sets
    Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 working sets
    Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 working sets
    Face Pull – 3 working sets of 8 to 10 reps per set
    3 ab circuits
    Question LAST (7), What exactly is a working set. We’re talking about Incline Barbell Bench Press here. Like how many repetitions is that.

    • Hey there! Regarding question 1 and 2, you’re correct. No rest between the squats, burpees, and mountain climbers. You can also give this bodyweight routine a shot: http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

      For question 3, after the crunches you rest a minute, and then you start the routine over.

      I wouldn’t recommend static stretching before lifting heavy. It’s much better to do a light warm-up, or dynamic stretches. Check this out:

      Question 4: For the first warm-up set, you use 50% of your working set weight. Your working set weight is the weight you use for the heavy sets of 4-6 reps. Make sense?

      Question 5: Same weight as the first warm-up set

      Question 6: It’s only one warm-up for each body part. So for example on Chest day, you do your 4 warm-up sets on your first exercise, then your 3 working sets and you move on to the next exercise. The warm-up only takes about 5 minutes.

      Question 7: A working set is your heavy set of 4-6 reps. Anything that’s not your warm-up would be a working set

      I hope this helps!

      • Vman

        Oh I get ya. So 4-6 rep set weight basically means 85% of your maximum. Some workouts 8-10 is this once again 85% of your maximum? I have literally no clue what my maximum would be. Depends on the machine. But I’ll try like 1 or two down from max rep and call that 4-6 rep set weights. I’m still very new but I think the idea is with working sets you do 4-6 which is like 85% of your heavy. If you can do 6 then you should move up weights. But if the above is still too hard then I guess stay at the weight for a week and try next week I guess? Atm I am just doing a generic program given by the Gym to get my strength up and skinnier and fitter. My goal is to gradually add other stuff and my eventual goal is to start this program and start making bigger gains. I’m also going to loosely monitor what I have for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as weight myself on a consistent basis. I think as I’m new I don’t have to obsess too much exact weight of all the meals I have. Do people really weight each meal exactly? And count the exact calories. I think I will do that and monitor each day what I have. I probably will not weight everything down to the dime but I think I will Try and hit my daily intake of protein, carbs, fat and calories. I think as someone who never exercises and is only starting. I’m 22 and I believe I’m overweight at the 30% body fat mark. I weight 65.7kg but have a big stomach. I’ll probably aim for 111 protein, 111 carbs and 27 fat. Not sure if that’s right though but I think I should probably eat less or maybe do more at gym as I work my way up and get fitter. Does sound alright for a newbie like myself?

        • No, you wouldn’t be able to get 8-10 reps lifting 85% of your 1RM. You’ll have to go a bit lighter, but it’ll just take a bit of trial and error to find the right weight. You don’t have to test your maxes, just work with the weights as you described: if you can do 6 reps, move up in weight. If you can’t get 6, stick with that weight until you can.

          Yes, a lot of people weigh their food and track macros/calories. Creating a meal plan and eating the same foods/meals each day makes it simpler and streamlines the process. For your macro targets, use this handy calculator:


          Let me know if you need help with anything else!

  • Jake

    Hey Mike I’ve tried your recommended work out and have a couple of questions..
    1) for the seated dumbbell shoulder press, on the video the man has his bench straight up… I normally have it slightly at an angle and I can lift 26/28 kg quite well and feel the burn on my shoulders. Today I tried it completely straight and just about managed to do 22 kg it just felt unusual and difficult.. even lifting it up wasn’t good, even the guy after me then readjusted the bench so it has a slight angle and was shoulder pressing well (he had decent size too). My q is if it’s okay to slightly angle my bench rather have it completely straight up like the guy has in the video?

    2) is there a replacement for the face pulls exercise? I tried it and hated everything about it and felt stupid doing the exercise..maybe my form isn’t right but yeah is there anything else I can do instead?

    Apologies if it sounds like I’m moaning i just had an awful session and am trying to find ways to optimise my performance!

    • Hey Jake!

      1. You want the seat/bench to be upright. The more it’s angled, the more you can incorporate your chest, which makes it easier to lift more weight. Most benches will have a very slight angle even in their most upright position.

      2. Sure! You can do any other posterior delt exercises, like rear delt raises or barbell rear delt row.

      I hope this helps!

  • Harry

    Hi Mike. My Shoulders are the only muscle group in which I don’t develop soreness after training. I know soreness is not essential to growth but also my strength gains are very slow. I follow the exercises that you recommended in your BLS book with the exception of a slightly higher rep range of 6 to 10, due to previous rotator cuff injuries. Is the lack of soreness for shoulders something common or am I doing something wrong?

  • Jay L

    Hi Mike!
    Why do ppl often say that for medial and posterior delts, lighter weight and higher reps are better?

    Is it true? What are the reasons why you recommend 4-6 rep range even for side and rear lateral raises?

Sign in to Muscle For Life
or use your MFL Account