Programming your workouts correctly can be just as important as nutrition and sleep. Muscles almost never work on their own, they assist each other to have the best strength output possible. Because of this, muscle groups may need time to recover even when you don’t train them directly. A perfect example is not training shoulders after chest day, since your pecs and delts usually work together.
In today's article we’re answering the question “Should you train shoulders after chest day?” Spoiler alert: NO. We’ll explain why that is, what compound movements are, how chest workouts impact your shoulders and even give you a better training split you can follow.
Why Are Your Shoulders Sore After Chest Day
Ever had a really great chest workout, only to wake up the next day with really sore shoulders? That’s because every time you train your chest, you’re also training your shoulders indirectly.
To understand why that is, we first need to talk about compound movements and their role in weight training.
What Is a Compound Movement?
In simple terms, a compound movement is any exercise that uses more than one muscle group to perform the movement. These are great because they allow you to lift a lot of weight and make more gains. However, they are also the reason why you shouldn’t train your shoulders after chest day.
Let me explain, when you perform a compound movement - like the bench press - there is always a primary muscle group, and secondary muscle groups. In the case of the bench press, your chest is the primary muscle, while your shoulders provide assistance.
How much work your shoulders put in will depend on how “shoulder dominant” you are. Some individuals are very “chest dominant” and don’t really feel a lot of shoulder fatigue. Others are “shoulder dominant” and their shoulders end up taking over and doing most of the work. However, in both cases your shoulders still do some work, so they won’t be 100% recovered for you to train shoulders after chest day.
To make things even worse, when doing compound movements that target the shoulder - like the overhead press - the chest acts as a secondary muscle. This means that if you train shoulders after chest day, noth your shoulder AND your chest will be fatigued. Training with fatigued muscles will limit your potential and can even lead to injury.
Is It Good to Do Chest and Shoulders on The Same Day?
If you want to train your chest and shoulders on the same day, you start running into the same issues. If you train your shoulders after chest, you won’t be able to push your shoulders as hard as you should. If you train your chest after your shoulders, you won’t be able to push your chest as hard as you should.
However, many great training routines still have you train both of these muscles on the same day, how? The answer lies in volume and training frequency, if you want to do only one chest/shoulder day a week, then this is a poor approach. As we said above, one muscle group is always going to suffer because you prioritize the other. Luckily, you can fix that by training your chest and shoulders twice a week.
By hitting these muscle groups twice a week, you can prioritize your chest on one day, and hit your shoulders with less intensity. Then rest up for one or two days, and hit shoulders first, then chest with less intensity.
In fact, this strategy may even be better than just training each muscle group once per week. Studies have shown that muscle protein synthesis - building muscle - only lasts for up to 48 hours after weight training. So waiting a full week between training sessions is leaving gains on the table!
How Many Days of Rest Between Chest and Shoulders Should I Take?
Following the advice above, you should have at least one day of rest between chest and shoulders. However, when we say rest, it doesn’t mean not going to the gym or working out, it means not training your shoulders directly.
You still should be doing some form of work on the days that your shoulders and chest are recovering. It could be your arms, your legs, your back, even cardio. So? What should you train after chest days? That’s what we’re getting into next.
Is There a Best Muscle Group to Work After Chest Day? if So, What Is It?
Alright so now we know that there are plenty of options to hit after chest day, let's break them down and see which one’s better.
Arms After Chest Day
Arms are a solid choice after chest day. It’s usually a really fun day since you walk out with a pump, and most bicep and triceps exercises wont burden your shoulders or chest. If you are like me and you like training your biceps and triceps on the same day, then this is good news you can work them on the same day after chest day and then cool off and rest. Same for other exercises that work the arms like the Zottman curl, alternating dumbbell presses.
However, you might remember I mentioned that when working your chest you are also hitting your triceps, so they might not be at 100% capacity. To make things even more complicated, if you hit your biceps before your back, then you won’t be at full capacity on back day.
All in all, arms after chest day are not a bad combo, if you’ve already hit back earlier in the week. Though I still think you could do better.
Legs After Chest Day.
Nothing wrong with hitting legs after chest day in my opinion. Maybe if you’re extremely shoulder dominant, you might have some issues with heavy deadlifts but 99% of people should be just fine.
At this point, it's about preference. If you went really hard on chest day and you’re feeling tired and sore, maybe leg day isn’t the best choice. Your legs are the largest muscle group on your body, so if you’re lacking energy there’s no way you’re gonna train them appropriately.
Back After Chest Day.
This is my favourite way to go about it. Your back is literally opposite to your chest. That means that there is ZERO crossover from one to the other. That way you can still train your upper body, while giving your chest and shoulders a much needed rest.
Even better, training your back puts a lot of stress on your biceps as well, while chest training hits your triceps. If you have a chest day and then a back day right next to each other, you’ve had an arm workout without even trying!
What Does a Good Training Split Look Like?
There are thousands of training splits out there, because there are thousands of people who train, each with different priorities. Some people love the gym and want to go 6 days a week, others only have time for 3. For convenience sake, I’m giving you an example of a 4 & 5 day split, since that is what most people do.
4 or 5 Day Split - Chest and Shoulders on The Same Day.
This is known as an “Upper/Lower” Split, since you don't just train your chest and shoulders on the same day, you train your entire upper body one day, your legs the other. You’ll do one or two exercises for each muscle group and repeat that multiple times a week.
Five days on an upper lower split:
- Day 1 - Chest-Back-Shoulders-Arms
- Day 2 - Legs
- Day 3 - Back - Chest - Shoulders
- Day 4 -Legs
- Day 5 - Shoulders - Back - Chest - Arms
You’ll notice that you're hitting your legs less than you’re hitting your upper body. This is just an example and because the upper body is more fun for me. However, if your legs are your weak point you could switch it up or maybe add a sixth day for legs. Likewise, if you would rather do 4 days, just remove one of your upper days.
Doing Shoulders After Chest Day – Is It Worth It?
We’ve established that hitting shoulders after chest day is not the best idea. However, sometimes you don’t have a choice, maybe due to poor planning, maybe because life got in the way.
Whatever the reason, what should you do on those days that you can only train shoulders after chest day?
I’ve trained shoulders after chest day plenty of times in my life. A few because I didn’t know better, others because I had a busy week and that’s the only time I could. Let me tell you, it's HARD. You feel weak, so you won’t be breaking any PRs, and your shoulders get gassed out really quickly.
With that said though? Is it better not to work out than to have a crappy workout? No. For most people, getting to the gym is more important than having their absolute best workout.
Think about it this way, even if it isn’t a great workout, you’re still pushing yourself, burning calories, and hopefully even making some gains. That's much better than just sitting around at home.
FAQ: Shoulders After Chest Day
Now we answer a few questions about doing shoulders after chest day.
Is It Ok to Train Shoulders Before Chest Day?
No, the same logic applies. Your shoulders will be weakened the next day, which will in turn make you weak in chest oriented compound movements. In fact, even your chest will be weakened since the Overhead Press also recruits your chest muscles.
Can I Train Triceps and Chest on The Same Day?
Yes! Training your chest and triceps on the same day is very common, and useful. As long as you don’t hit shoulders the next day. Your triceps are a much smaller muscle group, that doesn't take as long to recover, and that doesn’t require big compound movements to grow.
What to Train After Chest Day?
As I said above, you can go for either arms, back or legs. In my opinion either back or legs are great choices, arms not so much since you already taxed your triceps the previous day.
What to Workout After Shoulder Day?
Your choices are pretty similar to what you can do after chest day, either arms, back or legs. However, I wouldn’t hit legs if you plan on doing heavy deadlifts since weak shoulders can harm your form.
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