It is not a good idea to perform a chest-focused workout the day after you did a shoulder workout. Your shoulders are a secondary muscle used during many chest exercises. If they’re fatigued from the previous day’s workout, your shoulders will fail, limiting your ability to perform chest workouts. This not only prevents you from truly working your chest, but it also causes you to work your shoulders too much. Doing chest day after shoulder day can contribute to shoulder injury and overtraining.
Why Should You Avoid Chest Day After Shoulder Day? [4 Reasons]
So your shoulder muscles just received a workout and you’re considering hitting flat bench, dips, and incline bench press the next day? Not so fast. There are several reasons you shouldn’t try to work out your chest muscles directly after a shoulder workout. Here’s why:
Your Shoulders Will Be Fatigued
Bench press, dips, and cable crossovers may all be billed as chest exercises, but the truth is they recruit the shoulder muscles as well. If your shoulders are well-rested, you can perform these chest exercises to the best of your ability. However, if you just worked out your shoulders the previous day, your shoulders will fail on chest exercises. You won’t be able to complete chest lifts up to your full potential.
- Shoulders are an essential secondary muscle during chest exercises.
- Muscle groups (including shoulders) need 48–72 hours to recover after a workout.
- Working out chest the day after shoulders only allows 24 hours for shoulder recovery.
- Your shoulders will fail on chest day, limiting your performance on key upper body lifts.
You should plan for 48–72 hours of rest for each muscle group before working it again. This means that if you worked out your shoulders, wait 2–3 days before tackling your chest. Working out your chest the day after shoulders only gives your shoulders 24 hours to recover. This simply isn’t enough time for them to bounce back.
You’ll Hinder Chest Development
Maybe you’re thinking that working out chest when your shoulders are fatigued isn’t that bad. After all, what’s the problem? The fact is, because your shoulders will fail and hold you back on key chest exercises like the bench press, you won’t get a good chest workout. This leads to decreased strength and muscle mass gains for your chest.
- Fatigued shoulders will limit the weight you can lift on chest day.
- Poor performance due to fatigued shoulders means your chest won’t get a full workout.
- Working out chest the day after shoulders results in fewer gains in chest strength and muscle mass.
For best results training your upper body, focus on the largest muscle groups first. Train your chest while your shoulders and triceps are fresh and rested. This ensures you’ll be able to fully exhaust your chest. That’s truly the best way to build a bigger, stronger chest.
You Risk Shoulder Injury
Shoulders are perhaps the most complex joint in the human body. By working your shoulders on back-to-back days with chest and shoulder exercises your shoulders are pushed to perform while fatigued. This greatly increases the chance you’ll suffer a lifting injury to your shoulders. Muscle pulls, tears, and joint pain can all be caused by working out your chest the day after your shoulders.
- Working out fatigued shoulders with a chest day increases injury risk to shoulder muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
- Prevent injury by resting shoulders and triceps for 48–72 hours before a chest day.
- Practice proper technique during regular strength training to further decrease injury risk.
To promote optimal health, make sure your shoulders and triceps are allowed 48–72 hours of rest before taking on chest day. Although maintaining proper form throughout the entire range of motion for each exercise is key to preventing injury, so is an adequate rest cycle. Don’t push your chest too hard or you may injure a major muscle.
You’ll Overtrain Your Shoulders
Rest and recovery for muscle groups are essential not just for your following workouts but also so you can reap the rewards of your initial shoulder workout. Muscle fibers only repair from a workout if they are provided 2–3 days of rest. If you work out your muscles too soon, they won’t rebuild after the first workout. By working out chest after shoulder day, or even every other day, you interrupt your body’s natural recovery cycle.
- Your muscles only increase in size and strength if they are allowed 48–72 hours of recovery after a workout.
- Working out shoulders two days in a row means your shoulders will be worked twice in a 24-hour period.
- Your shoulders will be worked twice by this schedule but will only experience one recovery period. This means you’ve worked your shoulders 2 times and received the benefit of 1 workout.
Here’s a good way to look at it: a muscle only builds size and strength when allowed to fully recover from a workout. If you work out your fatigued shoulders with chest day before they recover, you’ve essentially done twice as much shoulder work. However, your shoulders only get one round of recovery (after chest day) where they can build size and strength. Why work out twice as much and receive the same gains as you would from one workout?
What is the Best Way to Train Chest and Shoulders?
So, now that we know that chest should not be worked the day after shoulders, what is the best way to work both these muscle groups? Let’s look at two popular training plans to see how an optimized strength training program works to provide gains and adequate rest to both your chest and shoulders.
Upper/Lower Split Training
The Upper/Lower split schedule combines all upper body exercises into a single day. This means you’ll do chest and shoulders on the same day. It’s important to note that on an Upper/Lower split you’ll start by working the largest muscle groups first. This means you’ll begin with chest and back exercises such as flat bench and lat pulldowns. Then, you’ll move on to shoulder-focused exercises. Finally, you’ll target the arms. A typical Upper/Lower split schedule looks like this:
- Monday: Upper body (chest, back, shoulders, triceps, biceps)
- Tuesday: Legs
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: Upper body (chest, back, shoulders, triceps, biceps)
- Friday: Legs
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday: Rest
As you can see from the program above, each upper body workout is followed by 72–96 hours of rest. This means that the day after chest and shoulders are worked, you’ll work out your lower body, followed by 1–2 days away from the gym. This allows you to fully exhaust those upper body muscles and allow them to recover before you tax them again.
PPL Workout Programs
Similar to the Upper/Lower split, the PPL (Push, Pull, Legs) program works the chest and shoulders on the same day. The only difference is that back and bicep workouts won’t be included alongside these exercises. On a Push day, you’ll begin your workout with chest exercises, then move on to shoulder exercises before finishing with tricep work. Here’s a sample PPL schedule:
- Monday: Push (chest, shoulders, triceps)
- Tuesday: Pull (back, biceps)
- Wednesday: Legs
- Thursday: Push (chest, shoulders, triceps)
- Friday: Pull (back, biceps)
- Saturday: Legs
- Sunday: Rest
The PPL schedule is a very advanced and taxing program for experienced weightlifters, but as you can see it still allows 48–72 hours between chest/shoulder workouts. These day splits provide a relatively short rest, but it’s still far more effective and safer than working out your chest the day after shoulders.
What is the Best Workout After Shoulder Day?
Following shoulder day, wait 48–72 hours before working your chest, shoulders, or triceps again. This means that your options for a workout the day after shoulders are back and biceps, legs, or taking a rest day.
- After a shoulder workout perform a back workout, leg workout, or take a day off from the gym.
- Avoid working chest, shoulders, or triceps the day after a shoulder day.
- Research-backed weightlifting programs have back or lower body exercises on the schedule after shoulders.
It’s important to note that most scientifically-backed workout programs combine chest and shoulders into a single day, with chest exercises performed before moving onto shoulders. The day after chest and shoulders, these programs ask you to perform workouts that do not recruit the shoulders.
Can You Work Out Chest After Shoulder Day?
Do not work out your chest the day after a shoulder workout. The reasons this should be avoided are:
- Your shoulders will be fatigued, causing you to perform poorly on chest day.
- Poor performance on chest exercises due to fatigued shoulders results in reduced chest development.
- Working out chest the day after shoulders increases your risk of injuring your shoulders.
- You will overtrain your shoulders by working them on back-to-back shoulder and chest days.
In order to build the strongest physique and resist injury, follow an established weightlifting program that works chest and shoulders on the same day, followed by a back workout, lower body workout, or rest.