The right chest, shoulder, tricep workout is key for building strength and power with clients of all ages. Whether it is an older adult looking for independence and better functionality or an elite athlete seeking to improve performance, power is vital. The right upper body workout to target these muscle groups will include pairing a common strength exercise with a power, or explosive exercise. For example, a dumbbell bench press as the strength movement. Then, a medicine ball chest pass for the power. These two exercises together target the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Further, they provide the right combination of strength and power to improve daily function and athlete performance.

Before throwing together a program, however, there are a number of key factors to take into consideration. For example, make sure you start off with a comprehensive fitness assessment. This will help you determine a client’s upper body flexibility and range of motion. If a client can’t move the shoulder through its full range of motion, you risk injury. Then, you’ll also want to know their starting maximum strength level. A one rep max bench press will give you a way to more accurately calculate starting weight. Once you have this information, you can use the chest, shoulder, triceps workout and guidelines provided here. 

Keep Reading: How to Structure an Upper Body Workout for Beginners

Key Upper Body Power Factors

When designing chest, shoulder, tricep workout programs for power it’s important to understand that power is the product of force times velocity. Often, enhancing the velocity or speed of a movement will improve power; however, this is not always the case. Some need to improve force-producing capability, whereas others need to move weight faster. Determining this variable is key to developing a training program designed to improve power.

In addition, the first question to ask is what is the client’s fitness goal? Are they a shot putter seeking to improve throw distance through shoulder and upper arm strength? Or, are they a powerlifter seeking to specifically improve bench press strength? Maybe they’re a fighter seeking to improve punching power? Answering questions such as these will determine the exercises and vectors to employ. 

For the sake of simplicity and clarity, the rest of this article will assume the client needs to improve the velocity spectrum of the force-velocity curve for the upper body. In addition, specific training methods will be recommended along with an example of a training day.

Keep Reading: 5 Tactical Fitness Strategies to Use With Your Clients

How to Use Prilepin’s Chart

I often tell my undergraduate students that you must first cook rice until you can make your sushi; an analogy that describes the process of learning and perfecting fundamentals. A Prilepin chart is especially useful in this case. 

This chart was assembled after researchers and practitioners combed through decades of training logs from Russian athletes in the 1960’s through the 1970’s. Now, do practitioners exceed the bounds of this chart? Of course. But it serves as a guidepost for exercise prescription. Using this chart requires knowing a client’s 1RM for an upper body compound exercise, like a flat bench press. Then, it identifies what training intensity(how much weight to add) the client will need to train at (and for how many repetitions and sets) to achieve a specific adaptation (power, hypertrophy, endurance, etc.). Basically, it provides guidance on knowing how long a muscle fiber (or muscle fiber type) needs to be under tension to yield a specific response. 

I would not recommend use of such a chart for hypertrophy training. However, when attempting to periodize training to improve the most elusive physiological variables (power), careful planning that mitigates fatigue and overtraining is essential. Learn more about Prilepin’s Chart and how to use it in this how-to video from Alexander Bromley.

Develop Your Training Plan

Before developing and analyzing the training plan, it’s important to first be aware of the following key considerations:

Intent is Key

When training for power, the intent must be 100 percent. The goal is to move the bar at the highest velocity possible, so clients need to be completely committed.


Rest Periods Matter

Power training may not seem taxing, thus, it’s tempting to shorten the rest periods. This is to be avoided at all costs. A minimum of 2 minutes of rest is needed to perform optimally. You may not feel fatigued at the end of the set, but the nervous system is acutely tired. 

Your nervous system is frantically screaming from the balconies of the brain down to the periphery of many muscles. This is known as rate coding and rapid rate coding can quickly cause fatigue if too much stimulus is applied and not enough rest is prescribed.

Furthermore, without taking an adequate recovery period, you’ll end up recruiting the wrong muscle fiber type. Type ii muscle fibers are recruited first. These are the types involved in max strength and power. However, without adequate rest, the fuel supply won’t fully restore.

Keep Reading: Does Cardio Burn Muscle? What You Need to Know


Example Chest, Shoulder, Tricep Workout

The following workout blends strength exercises followed by explosive movements. This form of power training is known as complex training. Complex training works by way of post activation potentiation, a phenomenon that increases power of the proceeding exercises after lifting a heavy load. Lim et al. (2016) provides the following requirements before clients use this training method:

  • At least two years of resistance training experience
  • Relative strength of 1.4 x 1RM
  • Rest periods of 3-4 minutes





Dynamic Upper Body Warm up (5-10 min)


1A. Push Press

5 x 2


3 minutes

1B. Supine medicine ball chest throws

3 reps


2A. Bench Press

5 x 2

80 %

3 minutes

2B. Plyometric Push up

3 reps


At first glance this session may seem too simple and not contain enough volume. However, more is not better when it comes to training for power. Avoid the mistake of overdoing volume.  Also, moving the bar with maximum intent requires a rested nervous system, so remember to  avoid rushing through the workout. 

You’ll also see this exercise includes only compound exercises and variations of a pushing exercise. This is because the muscle group around the shoulder are intended to work together, Further, it doesn’t make functional sense to develop power in a singular, smaller muscle only (like the triceps or anterior deltoids). Regardless of whether you’re working the front of the body (chest, triceps, shoulders), the back (latissimus dorsi, biceps, rear deltoid, etc.), or lower body (glutes, hamstrings, quads,), how you design a power workout will remain the same. 

Want to further your skill set? Learn more about our Exercise Science Bachelor’s Degree


Develop a A Chest, Shoulder, Tricep Workout Program With Power in Mind 

When programming for power, it’s important to take a step back. The chest, shoulder, tricep workout I’ve shared here is very different from any program you might use for standard hypertrophy-focused resistance and strength training where the goal is simply to increase muscle mass. As such, there are a wide variety of elements to take into consideration to keep the client safe and ensure results. Use these strategies to create an upper body power program that boosts power.

Regardless of the fitness client you’re looking to train, one thing is for certain. Education is critical. Clients need to be kept safe while still achieving their goals. The elite reputation of Lionel in the fitness education space makes it an ideal choice for any strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, or other fitness professional. History, credibility, and reputation are important when it comes to an exercise science degree program. Lionel has all three.

Regardless of whether you’re pursuing an associates degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree. And, at Lionel you earn multiple certifications and specializations along the way. This will earn you a Master Trainer Certificate, allowing you to work with clients before graduation day! 

And, with the help of financial aid, earning your exercise science degree is even more of a possibility. Check out our programs and contact Lionel today!

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