The Ronnie Coleman Shoulder Workout | The Ultimate Guide!

Ronnie Coleman is the greatest bodybuilder of all time. He won the Mr. Olympia competition 8 times in a row from 1998 – 2005 and set a new standard in bodybuilding for size, symmetry and conditioning.

Ronnie Coleman was known for having some of the biggest and strongest shoulders in the bodybuilding world. Ronnie could overhead press the 160 pound dumbbells and military press 315 pounds for reps!


  • Part 1: Ronnie’s Barbell Shoulder Workout
  • Part 2: Ronnie’s Dumbbell Shoulder Workout
  • Part 3: Ronnie’s Training Split

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you how to build cannonball delts with Ronnie Coleman’s high-volume shoulder workouts.

But first you have to watch this video of Ronnie overhead pressing the 160 pound dumbbells:

Talk about strong shoulders!

Ronnie Coleman trained his shoulders twice per week using high-volume workouts with lots of exercises to hit his shoulders from many different angles. Ronnie’s shoulder workouts were similar to each other. However, he used completely different exercises for each workout to build maximum muscle and prevent boredom in the gym.

Here is Ronnie’s first weekly shoulder workout:

Ronnie Coleman’s Barbell Shoulder Workout

  • A1: Seated barbell military press, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Standing DB lateral raise, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: Barbell front raises, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Rear delt pec dec, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Bent-over DB rear delt raise, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • F1: Standing DB shrugs, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is Ronnie’s training video for this workout:


Ronnie starts off his shoulder workout with some heavy barbell overhead presses. Ronnie performs several heavy warm up sets followed by 1 all-out set to failure with 315 pounds!

Most bodybuilders in the modern era avoid overhead presses entirely. They think that you can build maximum muscle mass focusing on isolation exercises and “chasing the pump.” This is a huge mistake! If you want to build maximum muscle mass then overhead presses are an absolute must!

Other famous Mr. Olympia champions like Dorian Yates and Arnold Schwarzenegger also swore by overhead presses for building up the shoulders.

After the seated barbell overhead press Ronnie performs a handful of isolation exercises for the front, side and rear delts.

This is a great shoulder training strategy for advanced bodybuilders: you perform 1 heavy overhead pressing movement followed by a handful of isolation exercises to really isolate each head of the shoulders and get a great pump.

Other bodybuilders like Justin Harris are also big fans of this “powerbuilding approach.”

Ronnie Coleman’s second weekly shoulder workout was similar. Check it out:

Ronnie’s Dumbbell Shoulder Workout

  • A1: Seated DB overhead press, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B1: Machine lateral raise, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B2: Machine overhead press, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C1: DB front raises, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Cable standing rear-delt pull-apart, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1: Cable bent-over rear-delt pull-apart, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

Here is Ronnie’s training video for this workout:

Ronnie starts his second shoulder workout with some heavy dumbbell overhead presses. Once again Ronnie performs several warm up sets followed by 1 all-out working set to failure with the 160 pound dumbbells. Talk about some incredible pressing strength!

Ronnie was known as the strongest bodybuilder in the world and it really shows in this video. After his main compound exercise Ronnie moves onto a handful of isolation exercises for his side and rear delts. Once again these exercises were designed to really isolate the side and rear delts and to give him a great pump.

The shoulders are easily one of the most complex muscle groups in the body. Most people believe that there are three deltoid heads:

  • The front or anterior head
  • The side or lateral head
  • The rear or posterior head

In reality the deltoids have 7 separate muscle heads! This has been confirmed by many scientific studies. The front delts have 3 separate muscle heads, the side delts have 1 muscle head and the rear delts have 3 separate muscle heads.

If you want complete shoulder development then follow Ronnie Coleman’s lead and use a wide variety of exercises to train your deltoids.

A great strategy is to perform 1 “power” movement at the start of your routine like the barbell or dumbbell overhead press. Then perform a handful of smaller isolation exercises for your front, side and rear delts for higher reps.

If you are an advanced bodybuilder then Ronnie Coleman’s shoulder routines will work awesome for you.

If you were curious Ronnie trains every body part including his shoulders twice per week using a modified 6 day push / pull / legs split. Check it out:

  • Monday: Back / Shoulders / Biceps
  • Tuesday: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves
  • Wednesday: Chest / Triceps
  • Thursday: Back / Shoulders / Biceps
  • Friday: Quads / Hamstrings / Calves
  • Saturday: Chest / Triceps
  • Sunday: Off

Ronnie uses a similar high-volume approach with every other body part. Of course Ronnie isn’t just a “pump artist.” He was a human forklift in the gym! Ronnie lifted weights that other bodybuilders couldn’t even lift in their wildest dreams. This combination of heavy weights and high volume / frequency was what made Ronnie Coleman’s training program so special.

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Let’s wrap this article up with one of my favourite bodybuilding quotes by Ronnie Coleman:

“Everybody wanna be a bodybuilder but nobody wants to lift no heavy ass weight!”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck with your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to take your training to the next level, then you've come to the right place... My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world!

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