If you’re looking for a free, easy-to-follow, and effective shoulder workout program that can bolster your deltoids, forge your traps, and improve the appearance of your upper body, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I’ve shared an ultimate 12-week shoulder workout plan that includes workouts of popular fitness coaches and bodybuilders like Jeff Nippard, Arnold, Jay Cutler, and Ronnie Coleman.
This routine will help build rounded, toned, and muscular shoulders at the gym, enhance pulling and pushing ability, improve posture and upper body appearance, and minimize the risk of rotator cuff injuries.
Whether you’re an intermediate or pro bodybuilder, you can use this program to take your shoulder strength and mass to the next level.
Here’s the outline of the 12-week shoulder training program:
- Week 1 – Jeff Nippard Shoulder Hypertrophy Program
- Week 2 – Jay Cutler Shoulder Workout
- Week 3 – Phil Heath Shoulder Workout
- Week 4 – Ronnie Coleman Shoulder Workout
- Week 5 – Arnold Shoulder Workout
- Week 6 – Athlean X Shoulder Workout
- Week 7 – Dorian Yates Shoulder Workout
- Week 8 – Chris Bumstead Shoulder Workout
- Week 9 – Abel Albonetti Shoulder Workout
- Week 10 – John Meadows Shoulder Workout
- Week 11 – Jeremy Buendia Shoulder Workout
- Week 12 – Dwayne Johnson Shoulder Workout
You may also like: 12 Week Body Transformation Workout Plan
Instructions to Follow the Program Properly
Adjustment: Feel free to adjust the sets, rest time, and reps to suit your fitness level.
If you’re a Beginner: This shoulder workout routine will be challenging. So, if you’re a newbie, you can split one session into two and complete this program in 16-24 weeks.
Suitable split for a dedicated shoulder program: Keep your shoulder day between your leg and arms. This will avoid movement repetition and allow you to train your shoulder from every angle. For example, you can follow this split to train your shoulders effectively:
- Monday – Chest
- Tuesday – Legs and Core
- Wednesday – Shoulders
- Thursday – Arms
- Friday – Glutes and Core
- Saturday – Back
- Sunday – OFF
If you follow upper/lower, PPL, or full-body split: You can split shoulder exercises into multiple parts and fit them into your training program to do them throughout the week. For example, you can divide six exercises into two parts and do them on two different days.
Warm-up: Warming up shoulders helps improve performance and minimize the risk of injuries. You can do the following exercises to get your delts ready before lifting weights.
- Floor YTW Raises: 15 reps x 2
- Dumbbell Internal and External Rotation: 30-sec/side x 2
- Band Pull-Apart: 10 reps x 2
- Banded Lateral Raise: 15 reps on each side
- Banded Face Pulls: 15 reps x 2
- Pick a couple of exercises and perform them for 5 minutes before starting the main workout.
- Additionally, you can perform your usual warm-up exercises, such as jogging on the treadmill and stationary bicycling.
12-Week Shoulder Workout Program for Strength and Mass
Let’s see how you’ll train your shoulder every week to build muscle, strength, and mobility.
Week 1 – Jeff Nippard Shoulder Hypertrophy Program
Jeff is a natural bodybuilder, powerlifter, and fitness coach. He helps people achieve their desired shape through his YT channel and training programs. His method of training works and helps many people achieve their fitness goals.
Jeff has also designed a dedicated shoulder hypertrophy program for those who want to build sculpted and sizable delts.
I’ve included the main part of his shoulder training in this 12-week routine.
|Cable External Rotation||12-15||2||–||45-sec|
|Standing Barbell Overhead Press||8-10||1||50%||2-min|
|Standing Barbell Overhead Press||4-6||2||70-80%||2-min|
|Standing Barbell Overhead Press||AMRAP||1||90%||3-min|
|Lean-away Cable Lateral Raise||12-15||3||–||3-min|
|Incline Dumbbell Lateral Hold||10-sec||2||–||No Rest|
|Banded Lateral Raises||15/side||2||1-min|
|Reverse Pec Deck Fly||15-20||3||1-min|
Note: I haven’t used the exact wording of his program, so that it may look slightly different than his original program
Week 2 – Jay Cutler Boulder Shoulders
Jay Cutler is a renowned professional bodybuilder who has won multiple bodybuilding competitions, including the Mr. Olympia title four times (in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010).
He has an impressive physique with massive muscles and is known for his dedication to training and his strict diet.
Many people follow Jay’s training method to build a sizable and muscular physique.
He followed different routines for his shoulder muscle development. I’ve included one of them that can help you grow your delts.
|Seated DB Overhead Press (Warm-up)||12-15||2||30-45%||45-sec|
|Seated DB Overhead Press (Working Sets)||8-12||3||50-65%||1-min|
|Side Delt Dumbbell Raises||8-12||2||50-60%||1-min|
|Barbell Front Raises||8-12||2||50-60%||1-min|
|Reverse Cable Crossover||8-12||4||50-60%||1-min|
|Lateral Delt Machine Raise (Bent-arm)||8-12||2||50-60%||1-min|
Week 3 – Phil Heath Shoulder Workout
Seven-time Mr. Olympia winner Phil Heath is a popular name in the fitness community.
He has a well-defined, muscular physique with highly developed chest, arms, shoulder, back, and leg muscles.
His muscularity is balanced and symmetrical, with each muscle group complementing the others to create an overall aesthetic physique.
Phil typically follows a split-training routine, which means that he focuses on training specific muscle groups on different days of the week.
His workouts often involve using heavy weights and doing multiple sets and repetitions to build muscle mass and improve strength.
Below, I’ve included one of his shoulder workout plans that primarily involves machine exercises.
|Seated Machine Overhead Press||8-10||3||2-min|
|Smith Machine Military Press||8-10||3||2-min|
|Dumbbell Lateral Raise (Dropset)||20, 25, 12, 10||3||2-min|
|Machine Lying Rear-Delt Raise||12-15||3||2-min|
|Dumbbell Front Raise||10-12||3||2-min|
Note: Phil Heath alternates dumbbell lateral raises with lateral machine raises, machine rear delt raises with reverse pec decks, and dumbbell front raises to one-arm machine front raises.
Week 4 – Ronnie Coleman Shoulder Workout
Eight-time winner of Mr. Olympia Ronni Coleman is known for his impressive size, strength, and muscularity.
He would typically use heavy weights and high volume to stimulate muscle growth and strength, and he placed a strong emphasis on maintaining proper form and technique during his exercises.
I’ve also included his shoulder workout routine in this program so that you can try his workout.
|Seated Barbell Shoulder Press||12-20||5||2-min|
|Cable One Arm Lateral Raise||20-25||4||2-min|
|Dumbbell Front Raise||8-10||3||2-min|
|Reverse Machine Fly||15-25||4||2-min|
Week 5 – Arnold Shoulder Workout
Seven-time My Olympia champion Arnold Schwarzenegger is known for his impressive physique and training style.
He had a particular focus on building strong, well-developed shoulders, which helped to create his iconic V-tapered physique.
Arnold’s shoulder workout places a strong emphasis on using heavy weights and compound movements to stimulate muscle growth and strength.
He also includes isolation exercises, such as the dumbbell lateral raise and rear delt fly, to target specific areas of the shoulder muscles.
Here’s one of Arnold’s shoulder workout programs you can try to bolster your delts and forge your traps.
|Seated Barbell Shoulder Press||4||12, 10, 10, 8||90-sec|
|Dumbbell Lateral Raise||4||12, 12, 10, 8||1-min|
|Smith Machine Shoulder Press||4||12, 10, 10, 8||90-sec|
|Seated Rear Delt Dumbbell Fly||4||12, 10, 10, 8||1-min|
|Barbell Upright Row||4||12, 10, 10, 8||1-min|
Week 6 – Athlean X Shoulder Workout
The AthleanX shoulder training program is created by Jeff Cavaliere. Jeff is a popular fitness YouTuber, licensed physical therapist, and certified strength and conditioning specialist.
He is known for his unique approach to training, which combines elements of physical therapy, strength training, and functional movement to help his clients achieve their fitness goals while avoiding injury.
Jeff shared his complete shoulder workout routine on his website and Youtube channel. I liked his routine and included it in this three-month program.
|Overhead Band Press (Warm-up)||2||15 (3-sec hold/rep)||1-min|
|Overhead Shoulder Press||4||10, 8, 6, 6||2-min|
|Banded Overhead Dumbbell Press||1||15||1-min|
|Delt Stretch Tri-set (21’s)||2-3||7/delt||2-min|
|DB One-arm Cheat Laterals + Push Press (Superset)||3||Failure||–|
|Cable or Band Face Pulls||3||15||2-min|
Week 7 – Dorian Yates Shoulder Workout
Dorian Yates is six times My Olympia winner from 1992 to 1997. He uses heavy weights and compound movements to stimulate muscle growth and strength during his workout.
Dorian believed in training to failure, which means pushing each set to the point where it’s impossible to complete another repetition with proper form.
He used to perform only one working set (till failure) for every exercise he did. He tried to perform each exercise at the highest intensity possible.
Dorian’s High-Intensity Training (HIT) method is simple, effective, and scientifically aligned. And it helped him win many titles during his long career as a professional bodybuilder.
|Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press||1||8-10|
|Seated DB Lateral Raise||1||8-10|
|Standing Cable Lateral Raise||1||6-8|
|Bent-over Rear Delt Machine||1||10-12|
|Bent Over Rear-delt Db Flys||1||8-10|
|Standing DB Shrugs||1||12-15|
Instructions to perform Dorian’s Shoulder workout:
- Before doing the working sets, perform at least one warm-up set (10-12 reps each) of each exercise.
- Lift weight at 50-60% of your 1RM during warm-up.
- Lift as heavy as possible during the final sets.
- Keep the rest time as short as possible between sets.
Week 8 – Chris Bumstead Shoulder Training Program
|SM Shoulder Press (Controlled Warm-up Sets)||3||6, 3, 3|
|Smth Machine Overhead Press (Working Sets)||3||10, 8, 12|
|Seated Hammer Shoulder Press (Warm-up Sets)||2||3, 2|
|Seated Hammer Shoulder Press (Working Sets)||4||15, 8, 10, 15|
|Single-arm Machine Lateral Raises||4||15/side|
|Reverse Pec Deck Fly||3||6, 10, 6|
|30-Degree Incline Prone Front DB Raises||2||10-15|
|Bent-Over Rear Delt DB Fly||2||10, 6|
Source: CBum YouTube Channel
- Start with the Smith machine shoulder press and perform one set of six reps, followed by two sets of three reps each.
- Exercise 2 (SM Shoulder Press): Reduce weight in the final sets and aim for 12 reps.
- Exercise 4 (Seated Hammer Shoulder Press): Perform the first two sets with a heavy load, then de-load the plates in the subsequent sets.
- Keep the rest time between sets as short as possible.
Week 9 – Abel Albonetti Shoulder Workout for Mass
Abel Albonetti is a fitness model, personal trainer, and YouTuber who is known for his impressive physique and intense training style.
Abel’s shoulder workout routine is designed to build strength and size while also focusing on shape and aesthetics.
He often performs his exercises with strict form and a controlled tempo to maximize muscle activation and minimize the risk of injury.
He also varies his rep ranges to ensure that his muscles are challenged in different ways and to promote overall muscle growth.
Here’s one of his intense shoulder workouts that focuses on each delt properly.
|Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press||5||6-12|
|Standing Behind The Neck Barbell Press||5||8-10|
|DB Lateral Raise + Upright Row (Superset)||4||10-12|
|Reverse Flyes + Facepull (Superset)||4||10-12|
|Smith Machine Shrug||6||10-12|
Source: Bodybuilding YouTube Channel
Week 10 – John Meadows Shoulder Workout Program
John Meadow’s shoulder routine fits nicely in this program. The uniqueness of his routine is that he starts his training with lateral delt and ends his workout with the overhead press.
Not only is his training pattern different from what you usually do, but it is also effective and helps you build toned, beefy, and rounded shoulders.
|Standing DB Lateral Raise||2||25|
|Two-arm Cable Rear Delt Fly||2||25|
|45-degree Prone DB Y raises||2||25|
|Machine Overhead Press||2||25|
Week 11 – Jeremy Buendia Shoulder Workout Routine
Jeremy Buendia is a four-time Mr. Olympia Men’s Physique champion known for his impressive and aesthetic physique.
His shoulder workout emphasizes using a combination of compound and isolation exercises to build strength and size in the shoulder muscles while also promoting a balanced, aesthetically pleasing physique.
Jeremy typically focuses on using lighter weights with strict form and slow, controlled movements to target the muscle effectively and minimize the risk of injury.
|Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press||4||10, 8, 6, 10-20|
|Dumbbell Lateral Raise||5-7||10-20|
|Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises||4–5||10–15|
|Cable Behind-the-Back Lateral Raise||3–4||10–15|
|Cable Front Raise with Rope||3–4||10–15|
|Barbell One-Arm Lateral Raise||4||10–15|
Week 12 – Dwayne Johnson Shoulder Workout
|Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press||3-5||10–15|
|Dumbbell or Barbell Front Raise||3–4||10–15|
|Dumbbell Lateral Raise||3–4||20-25|
|Bent-Over Lateral Raise or Reverse Pec-Deck Flye||3–4||10–15|
|Heavy Dumbbell Shrug||3–4||10-12|
Source: Muscle and Fitness
Download The Shoulder Workout Plan PDF
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How many exercises should you do on shoulder day?
You can perform around five exercises on your shoulder training day to have a balanced workout. And it must include at least one exercise for every small muscle group, such as the front delt, rear delt, lateral delt, and upper trap.
Can you train shoulders 2 times a week?
Splitting the shoulder workout into two parts is a good idea. This way, you can train your delts effectively without overtraining them. You can follow this six-day push/push/legs program to perform shoulder workouts twice a week.
Are 12 weeks enough to build bigger shoulders?
You can achieve decent results in 12 weeks, but it is not enough to build bigger shoulders. You need to train your shoulders consistently and eat nutritious food for six months to one year to grow strength and size.