When MuscleTech-sponsored athlete Dylan Thomas prepares for a bodybuilding competition or a photo shoot, he has a go-to workout that primes his shoulders and his arms for the cameras or judges. It may look daunting on paper, but if you keep up the pace, you can pack a ton of density into a short workout.

Dylan Thomas' Pre-Shoot Shoulder and Arm Workout
Clean and press
3 sets, 6 reps
+ 7 more exercises


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Dylan's Technique Keys

Clean and Press: Thomas does a modified version he calls the cleaned push press, a variation of the standard Olympic lift but more geared toward bodybuilding. Instead of dropping the weight to the floor after each rep, Thomas hangs the weight in front of him. From that position, he shoots the weight up to his clavicles before loading with his thighs to push the weight overhead. This explosive movement is great for developing your shoulders.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press: You can use moderately heavy weight on this move before you jump into the high-volume, density-packed supersets and giant sets to come. Pyramid your weight, meaning, go heavier on each successive set.

Dylan Thomas Pre-Shoot Shoulder and Arm Workout

Arnold Dumbbell Press: This is the first of a triset designed to blast your side delts. By not locking out your elbows, you can keep a ton of tension on those side delts.

Standing Barbell Press Behind Neck: Using a wide grip on this exercise turns it into what Thomas calls a "Y" press. Combining the wide grip with a rhythmic tempo helps keep tension on your shoulders through the entire rep range.

Lateral Raise: When Thomas performs lateral raises, he likes to flare his shoulders and lats. He says this engages his side delts more effectively.

Face Pull: Thomas uses the face pull to pre-fatigue his rear delts. Don't try to move too much weight on this exercise. As Thomas points out, the rear delt is a very small muscle and it takes a precise range of motion and movement pattern to get it to pre-fatigue and engage. Put on big weight and your traps will jump in, which you don't want. Use moderate weight and focus on form.

Dylan Thomas Pre-Shoot Shoulder and Arm Workout

Bent-Over Dumbbell Rear-Delt Raise with Head on Bench: Thomas does this without the bench support, which just adds some extra protection for your back. As with the face pull, use a weight that allows you to target that smaller rear delt muscle.

Triceps Push-down with V-Bar Attachment: Start your triceps superset using the V-bar to help you get into a neutral grip for this exercise. The idea is to touch your biceps with your forearms to fully lengthen your triceps muscle. As you press down, slightly twist your thumb downward to engage the long head of the triceps.

Bench Dip: Thomas sees a lot of lifters slapping 45 after 45 onto their waists to do these dips. Instead, he focuses on the contraction at the top of the range to blast and fatigue the muscle. Do it that way and you won't have to add all those weights to get the job done.

Reverse Barbell Curl: Now it's time for a biceps superset. Thomas starts with the reverse curl to pre-fatigue the forearms and the biceps before moving into the standard barbell curl. Targeting the overlooked forearm will help you develop your entire arm, not just the big guns.

Dylan Thomas Pre-Shoot Shoulder and Arm Workout

Barbell Curl: With your forearms pre-fatigued, take this classic exercise to failure.

Seated Triceps Press: At the bottom of the triceps press range, where the triceps is fully lengthened, Thomas likes to allow the weight to pull his arm back slightly—but only slightly. This offers a deeper stretch before he raises the weight up and contracts the muscle. This movement can place considerable stress on your elbow, so don't let the weight fall too low.

Flexor Incline Dumbbell Curls: Thomas' intention with this last exercise is to completely blow out the biceps and take them to complete failure. To do this as a "21" means to do 7 partial reps at the bottom of the motion, 7 partial reps at the top of the motion, then 7 full reps from top to bottom. Take it easy on the weight selection for this exercise. With 63 reps ahead of you, you need to choose a weight that allows you to maintain form until the finish.

Thomas likes to start these exercises using conservative weights, then move up gradually. When he's getting ready for a photo shoot or a competition, he'll do this workout every five to seven days to reduce body fat while retaining as much muscle tissue as possible.

About the Author

Hobart Swan

Hobart Swan

Hobart Swan formerly wrote and edited for Bodybuilding.com. He also worked as a producer of health content for CBS Radio, and as a health-content specialist at Healthwise, the nation’s...

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