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Why have one when you can have all three?

Yes, we know this makes us sound greedy. And we might be, but instead of training the chest, shoulders, and triceps on separate days, we’re going to introduce a concept that may completely blow your mind.

RELATED: Upper-Chest Workout 

You guessed it, training all three muscle groups on the same day.

We’ll explain exactly why you should consider adding a chest, shoulders, and triceps workout to your weekly regimen. Then, we’ll move into the workout, before explaining how to do each exercise in detail. 

You’ll see that there are multiple benefits to this training split, including better recovery, saving time, and, when done correctly, more muscle growth (that’s what we came here for, right?). Let’s get started!

RELATED: How Many Reps to Build Muscle 

Why Work Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps Together?

There are many reasons why the chest, shoulders, and triceps can be worked together. Here are the most important:

Allows for Better Recovery

The main issue with doing separate workouts for the chest, shoulders, and triceps is that none of these muscles really get time to recover because they all complement each other. If you train your shoulders on a Monday and then do an upper chest workout on Wednesday, you may find that you can’t bench press as heavy because your delts are still tired from Monday’s session. 

Then, if you decide to train your triceps on Friday, good luck with that. Monday’s and Wednesday’s workouts may have already destroyed them. You can possibly get away with separate workouts when you’re younger, but as you age, it can take longer to recover after doing intense strength training1. Therefore, training all three muscle groups together may give your chest, shoulders, and triceps time to recover properly.

RELATED: How to Speed Up Muscle Strain Recovery

Time Management

Although our recommended workout (shown below!) may take longer than doing an individual session for the chest, shoulders, or triceps on separate days, you’re essentially targeting three muscle groups for the price of one. Even if you do two chest, shoulders, and triceps workouts per week, that’s still fewer overall sessions. This could save you time and energy in the long run.

RELATED: Superset Workouts: Save Time and Build Strength

May Lead to Increased Muscle Growth

As mentioned above, grouping all three muscle groups together may mean that you can work them more often. With dedicated chest, shoulders, and tricep workouts, you’re only going to hit each muscle group once per week. Training them together may mean that you can target them at least twice, which can result in more volume and muscle growth.

The Workout

Before explaining each exercise for this chest, shoulders, and triceps workout step-by-step, I will go straight into the workout. I’ve programmed it based on my 10 years as a personal trainer and what does and doesn’t work for clients.

You’ll want to warm up before doing this training program; I suggest light cardio and dynamic stretching. 

RELATED: Best Mobility Exercises

Then, perform the following exercises:

ExerciseSetsReps
Barbell bench press36
Military press36
Dips38

After each set, rest for between one and three minutes. These exercises are compound exercises, so they’ll work multiple muscle groups. They can also be pretty intense, especially when the weights get heavier. This is why they’re standalone exercises (as opposed to the ones shared below). 

Once completed, for hypertrophy benefits, do the following:

  • Superset 1: Dumbbell chest fly (3 sets of 8 reps) with dumbbell lateral raise (3 sets of 10 reps)
  • Superset 2: Push-ups (3 sets of 8 reps) with triceps pushdown (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • Superset 3: Skullcrushers (3 sets of 8 reps) with dumbbell front raise (3 sets of 10 reps)
chest-shoulders-triceps-superset

Rest for between one and two minutes after each superset. If this is too much total volume, or you simply don’t have enough time for this workout as written, reduce the total number of sets in the superset exercises to two sets each. Don’t reduce the sets in the multi-joint exercises, because this is where you’ll see the most muscle growth, as well as improvements in muscle strength and maximal oxygen consumption2.

RELATED: How Long Should Your Workout Be?

Now that you know why it makes sense to train the chest, shoulders, and triceps together, as well as my suggested workout, let’s get into each exercise. We’ll explain which muscle groups each exercise targets and how to perform them step-by-step.

3 Chest Exercises

  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Chest Fly
  • Push-Up

Barbell Bench Press

Muscles targeted: This compound movement targets the pecs (pectoralis major and pectoralis minor), front deltoids, serratus anterior, and the triceps.

How to do it: 

  1. Add your preferred weight plates to the barbell.
  2. Lie back on the flat bench. Place your feet flat on the floor and adjust your body so the bar is parallel to your eyes.
  3. Take hold of the bar using a firm grip, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  4. Breathe in to activate your core, then take the bar off the rack. 
  5. Bring the bar to your chest in a controlled manner, pausing when it lightly touches your chest. 
  6. Reverse the motion by straightening your arms.
  7. Press for reps.
woman doing bench press

Dumbbell Chest Fly

Muscles targeted: The chest muscles, shoulders, and triceps. 

How to do it: 

  1. Set your bench so it’s flat or inclined at a 30 to 45-degree angle (either works for this exercise).
  2. Lie back on the bench, taking the dumbbells with you and placing them on your quads.
  3. Extend your arms above the body so the dumbbells are touching each other to get into the starting position.
  4. With a slight bend in the elbows, lower the dumbbells out to the side.
  5. Pause when you can’t lower any further, then bring them back up.
  6. Continue for the desired number of reps. 

RELATED: Best Weight Bench

dumbbell fly

Push-Up

Muscles targeted: Push-ups are one of my favorite bodyweight exercises, they are a great chest exercise that primarily works the pec major and minor, deltoids, and triceps. They also activate the core, glutes, lats, traps, serratus anterior, and the biceps.

How to do it: 

  1. Get onto the floor or an exercise mat, then go into the plank position with your hands pressing down and positioned hip-width apart.
  2. Activate your core and glutes by breathing in.
  3. Bend your elbows to lower your body toward the floor, ensuring that your elbows don’t flare outward. Keep lowering your body, ideally until your chest touches the floor.
  4. Hold, then push yourself back up into the plank position.
  5. Keep going until you’ve hit your target reps.

RELATED: Best Exercise Mats

push up demo gif

3 Shoulder Exercises

  • Military Press
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise
  • Dumbbell Front Raise

Military Press

Muscles targeted: The overhead press helps build muscle in the front and rear delts, as well as the traps and triceps.

How to do it: 

  1. On a squat stand or power rack, position the J-hooks around shoulder height. Then, add your preferred weight plates to the barbell.
  2. Step underneath the bar with the bar resting on your upper chest. Your feet should be around hip-width apart and you should use an overhand grip.
  3. Breathe in to activate your core, then stand up to unrack the bar. Take a couple of steps backward, making sure to firmly plant your feet.
  4. With a neutral head and spine, press the bar upward until your arms are straight. You’ll need to tilt your head backward in order to do this.
  5. Slowly bring the barbell back down in a controlled manner. 
  6. Keep pressing for reps. When you’re done, re-rack the bar and step away.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Muscles targeted: A great addition to any shoulder workout, lateral raises target the lateral and front deltoids.

How to do it: 

  1. Take hold of a pair of dumbbells, then stand up tall with your chest up and core engaged. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  2. Position the dumbbells so they’re on either side of your body, near your hips.
  3. Raise your arms to the side until they’re in line with your shoulders. A slight bend in the elbows is common here.
  4. Hold for a moment, then slowly lower the dumbbells back down.
  5. Repeat for reps.
dumbbell lateral raise gif

Dumbbell Front Raise

Muscles targeted: This isolation exercise is a good way to work the front deltoids and the upper chest muscles.

How to do it: 

  1. Similar to the dumbbell lateral raise, grab a pair of dumbbells and stand up straight.
  2. Position the dumbbells so they’re near your pelvic region, in front of the body.
  3. Engage your core, retract your shoulder blades, and slowly raise the dumbbells upward by lifting your arms.
  4. Keep raising until the dumbbells are at shoulder height, then pause before reversing the motion.
  5. Continue for the desired number of reps.
dumbbell front raise

3 Triceps Exercises

  • Skull Crushers
  • Triceps Pushdown
  • Dips

Skull crushers

Muscles targeted: My all-time favorite triceps exercise, skull crushers isolate the triceps brachii.

How to do it: 

  1. Grab an EZ-bar and add your desired weight to it.
  2. Lie down on a flat or incline bench, taking the bar with you if you don’t have someone to spot you (this can get slightly awkward once the weight gets heavier!). 
  3. Position the bar above your body with your arms extended, and your hands shoulder-width apart.
  4. Lower the barbell toward your forehead, keeping the elbows tucked in.
  5. Hold when you can’t lower any further, then steadily push the bar to its original position.
  6. Repeat for reps.
Woman doing skullcrushers

Triceps Pushdown

Muscles targeted: The medial and lateral heads of the triceps.

How to do it: 

  1. Position a cable machine in the top position, then fasten the rope attachment to it.
  2. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, with a slight bend in the knees. Take hold of the rope with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  3. Bring the rope down slightly so it’s within a few inches of your upper chest to get into the starting position. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Tuck your elbows in, then straighten your arms by bending at the elbows until they’re fully extended.
  5. Pause, then slowly return the rope back up.
  6. Repeat the movement for reps.
woman doing cable machine tricep pushdowns

Dips

Muscles targeted: Popular in the bodybuilding world, dips target various muscle groups, including the triceps, pecs, deltoids, lats, rhomboids, and biceps.

How to do it: 

  1. Take hold of parallel bars or a pair of gymnastic rings and lift yourself up, with your palms facing each other. (Dips can also be performed on a dip machine or using the side of a weight bench.)
  2. Bend your legs behind you so the weight is on your arms (your arms should be straight).
  3. To start the movement, look straight ahead and then lower your body by bending at the arms. Keep going until your arms are at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Pause, then reverse the motion by extending your arms.
  5. Continue for the desired number of reps. If you need extra resistance, weighted vests or placing a dumbbell between your legs should do the trick.

RELATED: How to Do Triceps Dips

Chest, Shoulder, and Triceps Workout: Final Thoughts 

If you’re looking to save time, allow optimal recovery, and potentially increase your muscle growth, consider trying our chest, shoulder, and triceps workout. If you don’t have all of the equipment, you can, of course, adapt it according to your needs.

  • Focus on form. We all want to bench and military press for heavy sets, but it’s important to get your form right first to help you prevent injuries. You can always increase resistance later, but it can be difficult to amend bad form.
  • Leave enough time. Doing nine exercises in a workout will take time. Don’t rush it by reducing your rest times. This is especially important when your weights increase. If maximal strength development is the training goal, three minutes of rest is better than one3.
  • Contract the muscles. As always, contract the muscles you’re working on and feel the mind-muscle connection. Don’t ignore this training aspect just because you want to add more weight to the bar.

Chest, Shoulder, and Triceps Workout: FAQs

Can I train chest, triceps, and shoulders together?

Yes, you can train your chest, triceps, and shoulders together. They’re all push movements and complement each other. When you do a chest workout, you will work the shoulders and triceps in some way. Likewise, some shoulder exercises activate the upper chest and triceps. 

You probably won’t do as many exercises for the individual muscle groups as you would on a dedicated chest or shoulder day. The benefit, however, is that you may be able to do more than one chest, shoulder, and tricep workout each week.

What order do you do chest shoulder tricep workouts?

The order that you do chest, shoulder, and tricep workouts depends on a number of factors. Some people will prefer doing chest exercises first, then shoulders, then triceps. This is because the chest is the biggest muscle group out of the three, so you’ll benefit from lifting heavier on exercises such as the barbell chest press and incline dumbbell press.

While I like this logic, I would order it slightly differently. I’d start with the compound and bodyweight exercises, then move on to isolation exercises. Doing tricep dips after you’ve just done five or six exercises for the chest and shoulders, for me, is near impossible.

What is the 6-12-25 workout routine?

With the 6-12-25 workout routine, you usually pick one body part and three different exercises. Let’s use the shoulders as an example. You could do a dumbbell shoulder press for 6 reps, then upright rows for 12 reps, and finish with cable lateral raises for 25 reps. You won’t rest between exercises, only at the end of each set. 

Technically, you could do a training split, like a chest, shoulder, and triceps workout, using the 6-12-25 protocol. For example, you could combine a dumbbell bench press for 6 reps, an Arnold press for 12 reps, and a high-pulley overhead tricep extension for 25 reps.

Can you work out biceps, triceps, shoulders, and chest on the same day?

An upper-body workout that includes the biceps, triceps, shoulders, and chest only makes sense if you’re limited in the amount of times you can exercise each week. If this is the case, train the whole upper body on one day and the whole lower body on the other, alternating between the two. If you’re able to exercise more often, train the biceps on back day, and work the triceps, shoulders, and chest together.

References

  1. Fell J, Williams D. The effect of aging on skeletal-muscle recovery from exercise: possible implications for aging athletes. J Aging Phys Act. 2008 Jan;16(1):97-115. doi: 10.1123/japa.16.1.97. PMID: 18268815.
  2. Paoli A, Gentil P, Moro T, Marcolin G, Bianco A. Resistance Training with Single vs. Multi-joint Exercises at Equal Total Load Volume: Effects on Body Composition, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Muscle Strength. Front Physiol. 2017 Dec 22;8:1105. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.01105. PMID: 29312007; PMCID: PMC5744434.
  3. Willardson JM, Burkett LN. The effect of rest interval length on bench press performance with heavy vs. light loads. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 May;20(2):396-9. doi: 10.1519/R-17735.1. PMID: 16686570.

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