Muscle Mass Training: Big Shoulder & Tricep Day


Monday, March 7th, 2006. Empire Fitness Club, Hoboken, New Jersey. 6:30 am. Yes, 6:30 AM. Blame it on my training partner, Kostas, who forced me to get up before the sun was even up to train in the morning (to avoid the Monday night gym crowds). Actually, I’m usually a fairly early riser (between 6 and 7 am), and I enjoy being up early, but usually the first couple hours of the day are dedicated to becoming caffeinated, reading and just waking up mentally and physically. My preferred weight training time is late morning after I’m fully awake and a couple of meals are in me. High intensity weight training in the early AM was never my cup of tea. Surprisingly though, we blasted out a killer mass-building shoulder and tricep workout today. Check it out…


A1 Seated Military press (barbell)
3 light warm up sets
Set 1: 165 lbs X 6 reps
Set 2: 175 lbs X 6 reps
Set 3: 185 lbs X 5 reps
Set 4: 135 lbs X 13 reps + 3 forced reps (pump set)
B1 Standing Dumbbell Side Lateral raise (descending weight, ascending tempo)
Set 1: 40 lbs X 12 reps X 1010
Set 2: 35 lbs X 10 reps X 2010
Set 3: 30 lbs X 8 reps X 3010
Set 4: 20 lbs X 7 reps partner assisted forced negative, then 10 reps X 1010
C1 Bent Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise (rear delt raise)
4 sets X 35 lbs X 12, 12, 10, 9 reps X 2010 tempo, 45 seconds rest between sets


A1 Tricep Pushdown (cambered tricep bar)
Warm up: 60 lbs X 15 reps
Warm up: 80 lbs X 15 reps
Set 1: 110 lbs X 12 reps
Set 2: 120 lbs X 10 reps
Set 3: 130 lbs X 7 reps
B1 Two hand dumbbell Tricep extension behind head
Set 1: 85 lbs X 12 reps
Set 2: 90 lbs X 10 reps
Set 3: 95 lbs X 8 reps + 1 forced rep
Set 4: 40 lbs X 15 reps (pump set)
C1 one arm reverse grip tricep pushdown
2 sets X 45 lbs X 12 reps

Note: 4-point tempo prescriptions are as follows:
2010 tempo =
2 = negative/eccentric action
0 = pause in stretch position
1 = positive/concentric action
0 = pause in contracted position

Tempo is noted where it is important to achieve a desired effect. When no tempo is noted, reps are simply “controlled”, (not fast, not slow – usually 2010 or 3020)

Workout Commentary

After loosening up my shoulder joints with my usual dynamic warm up/flexibility routine which consists of stuff like forward arm circles, backward arm circles, lateral raises (“flap wings’), rear arm raises, rear upright pulls, front arm raises and so on, it was onward to barbell military presses.

We started with a few light warm up sets first (I warm up thoroughly, without fatiguing myself), then it was a heavy day with sets of 5-6 reps, working up to 185 lbs. I have room to keep getting stronger. My personal record on these is 225 lbs X 6 reps. Definitely not strongman or power lifting material am I, but I use enough weight when it counts to get the growth I’m after.

This is the first time in a year and a half I’ve built back up to 185 lbs on Military’s. I wasn’t sure how the “minor” pec tear from a year and a half ago might affect heavy overhead pressing, but so far it seems like not at all. It only seems to have affected my poundages on direct chest movements.

Actually, I’ve found that I can get excellent growth without super heavy weights all the time – it just takes moderate weights with tweaks in form and body position, changes in tempo and alterations in mechanical advantage and leverage. After 23 years of training, you gotta take care of your joints and soft tissues. I want to do this for 23 more years. And then 23 more!

That said, I firmly believe that you MUST do some heavy training at least some of the time to reach your max potential in muscle fiber thickness and growth. If you do nothing but pumping, super strict, super slow and isolation work, I believe you are missing an important element in achieving that “thickly muscled” and “dense” look. Instead, you only get “sarcoplasmic hypertrophy”, increased capillarization, or what many trainers today call “non functional hypertrophy.”

As a bodybuilder, your goal should be to hypertrophy everything – so “non functional” hypertrophy is not a bad thing for bodybuilders. Everything inside the muscle cell takes up space and contributes to size increase. But you also want maximum stimulation and growth of every muscle fiber, not just a muscle pump. read Fred Hatfield’s classic scientific approach to bodybuilding books for more info on this subject. Fred was the first guy, to my knowledge, to emphasize this approach.

After heavy shoulder presses, it was standing dumbbell side lateral raises using a descending weight pattern and increasing tempo. Specifically, we increased the negative/eccentric portion of the rep tempo with each set. There is a time and a place for heavy laterals just like any other exercise. The trouble is, you CANNOT do this exercise with heavy weights and a slow negative. Go heavy enough and sure enough you will be dropping the dumbbells on the way down, you just cant fight it.

Your concentric lateral raise strength, because you can use a little body momentum to get the weight up, will outpace your ability to lower that same weight eccentrically under control (usually it’s the reverse, you can lower more than you can lift, but on laterals, you’re in a mechanically weak position and gravity is pulling those dumbbells down).

Just by focusing on slowing your negative on the lateral raise will give you some extra deltoid growth if you are used to “dropping” the weight. Try it. I recommend using both: strict form/slow negative, and heavy with only semi-strict form. Today we did both, and on the last set we did partner assisted forced negatives (partner pushes down on arms with more resistance at the bottom where the “dead spot” usually is).

The last delt exercise was bent over dumbbell lateral raise. This was my first time on these in a couple of months because I was taking it easy on the low back. To keep the strain off your lower back on these, you have to maintain that neutral or slightly arched low back position, with head up and a tight core/torso. To compensate for the lighter than usual weights on these, I shortened my rest interval, controlled the negative and did four sets.

Without wasting a minute, we moved right into triceps, starting off with pushdowns. A couple warm up sets to get the blood in the elbows, then three sets with 110, 120 and 130 lbs respectively. Felt real good today… like “deep” into the muscle fibers. Just a tiny bit of elbow discomfort, which I always take as a warning signal to maybe not go heavier next time but to use a different technique or even change exercises. Elbow trouble can really set you back if you’re not careful, because it interferes with all upper body pushing exercises, and heavy tricep pushdowns and extension are a common cause.

The second tricep exercise was two hand single dumbbell extension behind the head, going up to a 95 pound dumbbell with very strict form and a nice slow negative and full tricep stretch at the bottom.

The final exercise was one arm reverse cable pushdowns, which is not a great mass or strength builder, but always a good finishing movement.

I’ll be back in the gym tonite for abs and cardio. Cardio is currently three times a week for 20-30 minutes, either high intensity intervals or steady state at a moderate (not low) intensity, whatever I’m in the “mood” for. With cardio, it’s important to understand your body type, and I have the body type where I get fat if I don’t do some cardio year round.

Until next time, train hard and expect success all-ways.

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Comments on Muscle Mass Training: Big Shoulder & Tricep Day Leave a Comment

March 8, 2006

Konstantin @ 12:49 pm #

Hi Tom,
Once again a wonderful post. Great advice about listening to your body while working out (elbow trouble is the last thing anyone needs!). I was wondering if you can start posting how long your workouts usually take. I find myself spending around 75 minutes in the gym (that’s w/o any cardio I prefer to run outside). However I think that’s about 20 minutes too long. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Tom Venuto @ 1:07 pm #

Konstantin, My weight training workouts usually last about an hour. Sometimes I get through in 45-50 minutes when I train solo, and sometimes it goes up to 75 minutes when I’m with a training partner and the volume is high, but average is about an hour.

Cari Brentegani @ 5:58 pm #

Hi Tom,
I would like to build more muscle in the chest and shoulder area, more bulk really and I’m doing about 45 minutes of cardio a day. Is that too much cardio to build muscle. Also, I’m a woman if that makes any difference.

Jessica Britt @ 7:45 pm #

One thing I noticed in this workout (and a lot of your workouts)is that just about every set you do is different. You dont just do “three sets of 10” or whatever). It really does make sense and is true. Every workout has to be different for me or I will hit a plateau. Keep up the good work with the mass building.
P.S. I went to Ivan’s website and I really liked it. Seems like he is the “real deal”.

Steven @ 10:54 pm #

Hi Tom,
I hate working out early too especially intense cardio because it takes forever to wake up physically and mentally. Did this mean that you had to eat meal 1 at like 5am? (that would suck!) I’m training bis and tris tommorow but with two-arm db tricep extensions I have trouble b/c I can’t help arching my back so I gravitate to dips and pushing movements. Glad to see ya’ gaining and good luck in the coming workouts.

March 9, 2006

Tom venuto @ 9:10 am #

Steven. Im glad you pointed that out about the pre workout meal. I ALWAYS eat a FULL meal before early morning weight training sessions. I will do cardio for 30 minutes or so fasted on a fat loss program, but not on a muscle growth phase. Things change around when you’re training for weight/muscle gain. Weight training on empty stomach is not a good idea. If I train early, like 6:30 am, Im up very early (like 5:30 am) to eat meal #1 and give it a good 30 minutes to start digesting.

March 16, 2006

Mark @ 11:56 am #

What I gained most from this post was how you explained the method of gaining width and thickness to the muscle bellies, as opposed to just a pump.
While I was reading, though, I started to think that something was missing from your posts: pictures! Even if there is one picture to capture your workout, I think that it would frame each post as very unique. I learn best visually, and I believe that others would appreciate them, too.
We look up to you, Tom. Keep it up!

March 24, 2008

Dark Hitman @ 7:01 pm #

Hi Tom. . I came across your blog via Google. . . And hands down the best and most helpful site I have EVER come across. Believe me, have been training for 4 years and have bought dozens of muscle mags and tried the routines out only to burn out my muscles through over training.
Most websites out there are pretty crap really and seem to be aimed towards beginners as opposed to intermediates like myself. . .
I have never really thought about rep tempo or concentrating on the negatives as much as you do, I sometimes superset, try heavy and light days. But anyway I did this routine, reduced my regular weight on the lateral raises and really focused all my strength on negatives and WOW! This morning I woke up and felt like someone had stuck metal a steak through each deltoid! It was a really deep pain all the way down to the bone!
The only tweak I made was to add in some front raises, again really concentrating on the negatives. I do triceps with biceps on a different day dedicated to arms.
You are a dangerous guy. . . Would love to train with you alas. . . Im in the UK. 🙂
Peace, carbs and protein. He he
Dark Hitman

September 11, 2012

Lucas Ebert @ 4:43 pm #

Tried this one on yesterday. Love your site. Tom, thanks.

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