Shoulder / Arm Workout to Get Bigger - FTM Fitness

Feel free to download and/or share this workout!

Feel free to download and/or share this workout!


This workout is a mass builder. For my second 12 week bulk of 2018, I used this workout to help increase the width and size of my shoulders along with strengthening my arms. This workout puts emphasis on the triceps to put real size on your arms. It hits the biceps but the focus is not definition but overall mass building. This workout is best done twice a week as part of a 2 body part split. Using this workout twice a week for 12 weeks, I was able to increase my shoulder military press working weight by 10 lbs and increased the size of my forearms by half an inch.

The workout is built around Arnold Schwarzenegger's Intermediate Training Plan in The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. I slightly modified the workout to fit any big box gym where you do not have free barbells or olympic training style equipment/space. I did have trouble sticking to the 6 days a week schedule. If you find that 6 days a week is too much, switch off week to week which split you only do once and you should be fine with even muscle building.

Arm progress, July 2018

Arm progress, July 2018

Arm progress, July 2018

Arm progress, July 2018



  • Military Barbell Press: If you find a bench that can bend to 90 degrees, use that. If not, do not sit at an incline on a bench and leave it flat (no backrest). You want to be as upright as possible for the movement so that you utilize your shoulders and not your chest. Sit up straight with a firm back and grip the bar with a slightly wide grip. The bar should just miss the front of your face. Bring the bar off the rack and lower to your chin. Press straight back up while trying to not lean back. Warm up with 1 set in the 20 rep range, then another in the 15 rep range. Follow up with a heavy set in the 1-4 rep range. Finish with 3 working sets in the 8-10 rep range.

  • Upright Barbell Row: Ready to get your shoulders on fire? Stand up straight and firm, your body should be a firm tree trunk. Stand very close to the bar and grip the barbell tight with your hands less than a foot apart. Pull the bar up straight until you get to about armpit height. Hold for a brief moment and then lower. Do not swing or gain a bunch of momentum. Do not lean back or hunch at the end. Do 3 sets of a weight you can lift 10-12 reps.

  • Single Arm Dumbbell Lateral Raise: These are great at isolating the lats and not relying so much on the traps to lift the weight. Stand straight with a dumbbell in one hand. Raise that arm up and out to your side. You can slightly bend your elbow. Focus on the top cap of your shoulder lifting to the ceiling. Try your best not to swing but rather lift controlled. Pick a weight that you can do for 10-12 reps, repeat on the other side. Do a total of 3 sets.

  • Barbell Shrugs: Before doing this movement, try it with zero weight and no bar. Lift your shoulders up in a shrug utilizing only your traps. Once you feel the mind/muscle connection then start. Stand with feet slightly apart and grip the barbell in front of you with your hands near your sides. Shrug your shoulders up slowly, envision them touching your ears. Slowly drop down low, don't jerk or use momentum. Squeeze tight at the top. For your 3 working sets, aim to hit 8-10 reps each set. Go slow and controlled for a heavy burn.

  • Close Grip Barbell Bench Press: Now that we have the shoulders nice and hot, it's time to get the arms really firing. This workout places the close grip bench press as the first arm movement in order to utilize a compound movement that builds tricep strength. Set up a rack and bench as if doing a flat bench press. Place the bench slightly further back than you would for a bench press. Lay down and grip the bar with your hands about 6-10 inches apart. I do a slightly wider grip than some because I notice stress on my elbows with too tight of a grip. Do what feels right to you as long as your arms are doing the work and not your chest. Bring the bar down slowly to the chest and then back up. Find a good rhythm but don't go too fast. Start with a lightweight warm up set of around 15 reps. Follow up with 3 working sets at a weight that you can press for 8-10 reps.

  • Barbell or Cable Curls: If you have access to a loadable free barbell, use that for curls. If not, the cables work well too. I use the ez grip bar for cable curls to ease pressure on my wrists. Keep your lower body strong and steady. When curling the bar, start with arms almost straight down but keeping your elbows lined up to your sides (don't let them swing back). Curl the bar all the way to the chest, squeeze, and then lower slowly. Do not swing or lean. Start with a warm up set of 20 reps. Follow with 2 heavy sets in the 4-6 rep range. Finish up with 3 sets at a weight that you can curl 8-12 reps.

  • Dips: I do these on an assisted machine. If you do not have an assisted dip machine and can't do full bodyweight dips, try a variation where you place your hands behind you on a bench and dip. For assisted dips, grab the handles at the close position. Get yourself lined up so that when you dip your triceps are parallel with the ground. This will send your chest slightly forward and not straight up. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

  • Alternating Hammer Curls: In a similar stance to the barbell curls, grab a weight in both hands so that the weight portion is facing forwards (not to the side). Grip tight and curl one arm up. Do not lean sideways or swing the weight up. Slow and controlled on the way up and down. Alternate arms for 8-10 reps each arm for 3 sets.

  • Tricep Pushdown: Head over to the cable area and grab the rope attachment. Place up at the tallest setting. Grab the rope with each hand and pull down straight in front of you. Step up pretty close to the cable and stand up either strong and straight... or you can do into a slightly lunge position. The most important thing is that you are not pushing with your back but rather your triceps. Once in a firm position, let the rope come up slowly with your hands close together. Once your forearms touch your biceps, lower back down by pressing with your triceps. Use a light weight until you really connect with the muscle. This exercise is often performed with too much weight and with improper form. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

  • Abs: Finish off this training session by training your core. Pick 2-3 ab exercises and aim for a total of 3 sets for each exercise. See an example ab routine here

Try this workout as part of a two body part split. I guarantee you this workout will build up your upper body in a big way. Each week push yourself to go up in weight on at least one exercise. If you can't do that, then go up in reps or the weight you push on those first heavy Bench Press sets. This workout can be done for all levels of lifters by modifying the weight accordingly but it is best reserved for lifters that have built up some stamina and are looking for a challenge.

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

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

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