Strong Like Shaw: Strongman Brian Shaw’s Chest and Shoulder Workout

Brian Shaw

An inside look into a day of strongman Brian Shaw and a great upper body workout.

We all look for new and great ways to build our upper bodies and when a pro comes along to share their helpful tips, we all come running. Strongman Brian Shaw took over the Olympia Instagram page to show a day in his life as he walks us through a solid chest and shoulders workout, a solid nutrition plan, and the business side of his career. As the first strongman to take over the Olympia page, he offers an upper body workout at just how he stays on top of his game each and every day.

Shaw is a professional strongman who has had an incredibly successful career thus far. With wins at the 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2016 World’s Strongest Man competition, he became the first competitor to ever win the Arnold Strongman Classic and World Strongest Man in the same calendar year. His success is brought on by both a strict workout regimen and a healthy diet mixed with his sheer determination to be on top of the field.

This behind the scenes look at Shaw’s chest and shoulders workout is great for everyone to replicate, whether you are an aspiring strongman or not. Having a professional guide to work off of is invaluable and his helpful hints and tips regarding exercise and nutrition can help boost your overall strength and performance to the next level.

Brian Shaw

The Warm-Up

Shaw typically starts his day with some soft tissue work and an incline walk on the treadmill. It allows him to physically kick his body in gear and focus on the day ahead while clearing his mind of all the unnecessary thoughts that may creep in.

For soft tissue work, he uses a machine called a Swisswing, a vibration device that helps to eliminate pain, improve flexibility and reduce soreness. It looks like a big drum that vibrates and oscillates at the same time. A great tool to really loosen up the muscles, this strongman loves to start his day with the Swisswing. He then hops on the treadmill, sets the incline to 2.5, and walks for around 10 minutes to really get his day started right.

Brian Shaw

The Workout

Brian Shaw’s chest and shoulders workout is an effective 5-exercise routine to really work your pecs and delts. With hard work and great form, this workout will elevate your strength goals and overall performance leaving you feeling and looking great.

Exercises Sets Reps
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 10
Rear-Delt Flyes 3 10
Bench Press With Chains 3 8
Cable Lateral Raise 3 10
Smith Machine Bench Press 3 8

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The seated dumbbell shoulder press really lets you work the delts with heavy loads. As a prime shoulder building exercise, it allows for increased stress on the muscles. Using dumbbells forces you to move the weights individually and works the stabilizer muscles for added balance and support of your upper arms (1). It can help achieve symmetry since each arm cannot rely on the other for compensation.

How to: With a dumbbell in each hand, sit back into the bench and plant your feet on the ground. Bend your elbows so the weights are at ear level and as you engage your core, push the weights up over your head. With a controlled motion, lower back down to the starting position.

Rear-Delt Flyes

Rear-delt flyes will help work to strengthen the rear delt, rhomboids, and your traps for a great shoulder pump. By increasing strength in the rear delt, you allow for more stability and better posture by targeting an often-overlooked part of the delt. The benefit of these hitting your traps is that you can really work for that desired physique.

How to: Lay on your stomach on an incline bench with the weights at your side. With a strong upper body, lifts the weights so they are at shoulder height and close to parallel to the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades with a brief pause and gently lower to the starting position.

Bench Press with Chains

As one of the big three powerlifting exercises, the bench press is a great way to increase total chest strength as you improve with more and more weight (2). By improving your weight training, it can also lead to increased flexibility and bone density, while also working the smaller muscles around the pecs for added stability. A big bench press will make you a monster in the gym and adding chains will only add to your growth.

How to: Lying on your back under the bar, position yourself in a comfortable position with your grip at around shoulder-width apart. Unrack the bar and gently lower to your chest. After you touch your chest, drive through your feet, which are planted on the ground, and push the bar back up to the starting position. Maintain good form and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Cable Lateral Raise

The cable lateral raise works the outer portion of your delts and as an isolation exercise, can really work for your overall shoulder growth and support. By leaning your body slightly away from the pulley, you can increase the stretch and work a greater range of motion.

How to: Standing perpendicular to the machine, make sure your back is straight. Grab the cable with one hand and place the other either on your hip or behind your back. With the hand that has the cable, lift and straighten out your arm to around shoulder height and lower back to the starting position.

Smith Machine Bench Press

Very similar to the traditional bench press, using a smith machine will allow for lighter weights and the bar will slide easier on the cables. The constant tension of the cable is good for growth and the fixed plane of the machine allows for increased strain on the muscles.

How to: Set yourself up similar to a traditional barbell bench press. With your feet planted on the ground. Unrack the bar and lower to your chest. Drive through your feet and chest to get that bar back to the starting position and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Brian Shaw


The three meals Shaw showcased are packed full of the essential macronutrients, as well as everything he needs to gear up for the big workout of the day. While replicating exactly what he eats is not absolutely necessary, following the ideas around proper nutrition is key to help you with your dietary goals.

Meal #1

This first meal consists of 6 eggs, 6 ounces of bison patties, waffles, and of course, syrup.

Meal #2

Bison patties are a favorite of Shaw’s and this meal consists of bison patties, 2 cups of rice, an apple, and duck fat.

Pre-Workout Meal

To boost his workout performance, Shaw’s pre-workout meal is chicken, rice, sweet potato fries, and for that sweet treat craving, a Rice Krispies treat.

Wrap Up

Strongman Brian Shaw certainly knows how to get it done. By taking us through a day in his life of training and work, we are able to see just how this strongman stays on top of his game. This chest and shoulders workout is a great way to promote upper body strength and his nutrition tips will keep you on a great dietary plan. Follow this four-time World’s Strongest Man winner and see how this workout can benefit you.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Brian Shaw Instagram


  1. Williams Jr., Martin R.; Hendricks, Dustin S.; Dannen, Michael J.; Arnold, Andrea M.; Lawrence, Michael A. (2020). “Activity of Shoulder Stabilizers and Prime Movers During an Unstable Overhead Press”. (source)
  2. Baz-Valle, Eneko; Schoenfeld, Brad J.; Torres-Unda, Jon; Santos-Concejero, Jordan; Balsalobre-Fernandez, Carlos (2019). “The effects of exercise variations in muscle thickness, maximal strength and motivation in resistance trained men”. (source)
Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.