Should You Work Shoulders After Back Day?

You can work your shoulders the day after back day provided your shoulder workout focuses on the front deltoids and lateral deltoids. These are the muscles on the front and sides of your shoulders. Avoid exercises that work your rear deltoids. These muscles on the back of your shoulders are recruited heavily during back workouts. Working them on back-to-back days can result in injury or overtraining.

Shoulders after back day

Does Back Day Work Shoulders?

Back exercises often target the rear deltoids, which are the muscles on the rear of your shoulder blade. Cable rows, barbell rows, and reverse flyes work the rear deltoids in addition to targeting back muscles such as the rhomboids, lats, and trapezius. So, in fact, back day will work the rear of your shoulders.

  • Back exercises such as rows and reverse flyes work the rear deltoids, which are shoulder muscles.
  • To prevent overtraining your rear deltoids, on shoulder day target the front and lateral deltoids.
  • Shoulder exercises for the front and lateral deltoids include overhead press, lateral raises, and front raises.

Because back workouts target the rear deltoids, it’s important not to overwork these muscles on shoulder day. Your shoulder workout should instead focus on the anterior (front) and lateral (side) heads of the deltoid muscle. You can target these muscles with overhead press, front raises, and lateral raises.

Are the Rear Delts Shoulders or Back?

Because they are worked by “back” exercises it’s safe to consider rear deltoids as a back muscle for the purposes of working out. This may not be strict biology, but it’ll lead to the best results in the gym. Your rear deltoids, among other muscles, are responsible for pulling your arms backward. They are used when you open your arms wide during a reverse fly or when you pull the bar toward yourself during a barbell row.

  • For the purposes of weightlifting, think of your rear delts as a back muscle.
  • Your rear delts are responsible for pulling your arms back and shoulder blades together.
  • When done with proper form, back exercises will almost always recruit your rear delts.

Because the rear delts are essential for the range of motion that activates large back muscles such as the traps and lats, they cannot be removed from the equation during a back workout. So, although the rear delts are essential for moving your shoulder joint, they’re best thought of as a back muscle.

Shoulder and Back Workouts: How 3 Popular Training Methods Schedule Them

Now that you know exactly how to split your shoulder and back workout, you may be wondering how to schedule your shoulder and back days. For some insight, let’s look at 3 popular training programs to see how it’s done.

PPL (Push, Pull, Legs)

The PPL program stands for “Push, Pull, Legs.” On “Push” days, you’ll perform exercises that target the chest, shoulders (front and lateral delts only), and triceps. The following day you’ll do back exercises (including rear delt work) and biceps exercises. After this, it’s leg day. Here’s how back and shoulder workouts fit into a typical PPL weekly 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

As you can see, the PPL program works shoulders the day before back. However, there is no harm in reversing these days in your training program if you prefer. If you enjoy it more, you can do your “Pull” workouts of back and biceps, followed by a “Push” workout of chest, shoulders, and triceps. As long as you stick to your schedule and allow 2–3 days of rest before working the same muscles again, you can work shoulders the day after back.

Upper/Lower Split

The popular Upper/Lower split works all the major muscles in your upper body on the same day. The next day you work out, you’ll perform only lower body exercises. You’ll typically perform 2 upper body workouts and 2 lower body workouts each week. Unlike only one rest day like PPL, here’s what an Upper/Lower split week looks like:

  • Monday: Upper Body (Chest, Back, Shoulders, Arms)
  • Tuesday: Lower Body
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Upper Body (Chest, Back, Shoulders, Arms)
  • Friday: Lower Body
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

On this program, you’ll be working your shoulders and back on the same day. This is completely acceptable and can be very effective. Just keep in mind that most Upper/Lower programs will have you complete chest and back exercises before moving on to shoulders and arms.

Body Split

The body split or “bro split” is a common workout plan. Typically, it includes 5 weekly workouts, each focused on a different body part. This program has fallen out of favor in recent years because it only works each muscle group once per week. However, it is still a common routine for beginners to get acquainted with. Here’s how it schedules back and shoulder workouts:

  • Monday: Chest
  • Tuesday: Back
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Shoulders
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

This program is designed to allow the shoulders 2 full recovery days after chest day. This is ideal because the shoulders are worked hard on chest day. As with every other program on this list, shoulder workouts are meant to target the front and lateral delts only, not the rear delts.

Is it Okay to Do a Back Workout the Day After a Shoulder Workout?

As long as you are not working your rear delts the day after back day, it’s safe to perform a shoulder workout the day after you worked your back. In most workout programs, back day is followed by a lower-body lift. However, some programs (such as PPL) can be shifted so that you perform shoulder workouts the day after a back workout. For best results, follow a weightlifting program designed by professionals and tailored to your skill level.

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