The Best Simple Tri-Set to Smoke Your Shoulder Workouts

Sep 30, 2022 | Effective Shoulder Workouts, Strength & Conditioning

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Are you doing the same movements over and over again to build beefy shoulders, but not really seeing the beef? For hard-gainers, the struggle is real. Maybe you need a little inspiration to think outside the box when it comes to your shoulder work. We’re here for it.

Marc Lavallee has trained Canadian military units in the Search and Rescue Technician (SAR-Tech) program along with members in their active duty and selection phases. He currently coaches for a policing agency. In this blog, Marc lets you in on his favorite tri-set to set your shoulders on fire.

Mark Lavalee
Marc Lavallee

Change the Way You Train

Level Up Your Shoulder Training

Are your shoulder workouts getting stale? Have you been following the same program for too long, doing the same exercises every week forever? Are you bored yet?

We’ve all seen those people in the gym every week, month and year doing the exact same routine and looking no different than they did when they started. Sometimes we are those people. It’s amazing that they’re taking positive steps toward improving their health. But maybe if they changed their programming from time-to-time, they would see better gains.

Don’t get stuck in a training rut. Especially when it comes to your upper body and shoulders.

It can be really hard to see muscle growth in your shoulders if you’re a hard-gainer. And if you’re not shaking things up once in a while, your delts are just going to adapt to whatever stimulus you give them.

It’s time for me to share my favorite tri-set (aka triplet) to fry your shoulders at the end of your upper body workout. Proceed with caution.

    Upper/Lower Split Training

    When I work on programming for my athletes and clients, I prefer to use an upper and lower body split throughout the week. This gives the muscles the frequency they need to see faster and better gains.

    Training with a split by body part during the week usually does not provide the stimulus frequency needed to grow each muscle. You know what I’m talking about: hit chest on Monday (International Chest Day), wait seven days and hit chest again the following week. But with an upper/lower split you will hit the majority of your muscles multiple times a week, giving them more overall volume.

    Typically, the layout of your workouts will start with the compound (multi-joint) lifts. For upper body, you start with bench press variations, row variations, dips and pull-up variations. These are all movements that recruit multiple muscle groups and joints.

    After compound lifts you move into your accessories or isolation exercises. This is where we fit this shoulder tri-set. And to wrap up your workout once you complete this tri-set, you could work on some bicep/tricep movements or add in some rotator cuff work.


    What’s a Tri-Set?

    A tri-set is three slightly different exercises that work the same muscle group in dynamic ways. The idea is to perform these movements back-to-back with little rest so you force the muscles to stretch and tear, which induces hypertrophy.

    A tri-set is also sometimes called a triplet. Whatever you choose to call them, hammering a muscle group like this should leave you shaking and totally gassed. You should have nothing left in those muscles and be barely able to hold them up when you’re done.

    The King of All Shoulder Finishers

    Complete 3 sets of 12 reps each, going in order:


    A. Seated DB Cleans

    B. Incline Prone DB Y-raise

    C. Standing DB Shoulder Press

    Why These Three Shoulder Exercises?

    We need to take a 3D approach when we look at the muscle fiber orientation in your shoulders. This particular combination of movements hits the three different orientations of the shoulder fibers to help get that nice “boulder” look.

    The seated DB cleans hit numerous muscles in your upper body: your traps, rotator cuff, and all three delts (anterior, medial and posterior). The incline prone DB Y-raises work your lower traps, upper back, rhomboids and posterior delt.

    The standing DB shoulder press isolates all angles of the delts. Performing them standing (instead of seated) fires a ton of stabilizer muscles in your core, glutes, low back and traps. Shoulder presses also get the triceps involved with that overhead position, extending the elbow to a lockout.

    If you’re performing traditional lifts, the DB shoulder press is probably already in your repertoire. It’s a solid staple. The other two exercises may be new movements to you and will help progress your upper body (and probably bust some plateaus).
    Performing these three movements back-to-back in a nasty tri-set puts a huge demand on your shoulder muscles. The lack of recovery between each exercise really challenges them.

    Once you perform all three movements, take 60-90 seconds of rest, then get right back into your next set for a total of three sets. If you can do four, increase the weight or volume next time. You shouldn’t be able to make it to four sets.

    Give this tri-set a try to spice things up in your current upper body workouts. You won’t regret it. (Well, maybe a little… when you can’t lift your arms later.)
    Coach’s Tip: See these other blogs for extra shoulder workout mojo…

    4 Uncommon Movements to Build Massive Shoulders
    4 Reasons Your Shoulder Workouts Need More Overhead Pressing
    Upright Rows: The GOAT for Shoulder Workouts


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