Strongman Brian Shaw's Chest Workout: Unleash Beastly Power

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: July 18, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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As a personal trainer with over 9+ years of experience, I always seek inspiration and helpful tips from pro athletes.

And when I saw the fourth most decorated strongman competitor, Brian Chaw, taking over Mr. Olympia's Instagram account, I knew I had to put together Brian Shaw's inspired chest workout routine.

So, whether you aspire to compete in a strongman competition or want a chiseled chest, try this Brian Chaw-inspired upper body workout routine.

Brian Shaw’s Chest Workout Routine

1. Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press


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A post shared by Brian Shaw (@shawstrength)

In my experience, this exercise is a game-changer for building chest and shoulder strength, something I've focused on in my own routines.

How to do this exercise:

  1. Sit on a bench with two dumbbells.
  2. Bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height.
  3. Push the dumbbells above your head until they are entirely straight while keeping your elbows in line with your hips and shoulder blades back.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat.

2. Barbell Flat Bench Press

How to do the barbell flat bench press:

  1. Lay down with your back on a flat bench and your feet planted firmly on the ground.
  2. Lift the bar off the rack and hold it with straight arms.
  3. Bend your elbows to lower the bar above your sternum slowly.
  4. Push the bar back to the top to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for your desired number of reps.

3. Incline Bench Press

Strongman Brian Shaw's Chest Workout, lifting barbell on an inclined bench

How to perform this exercise to target your upper chest:

  1. Set an incline bench to around 45 degrees.
  2. Lay on the bench and grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Slowly lower the bar to your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  4. Pause for three seconds, then push the bar back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for several sets and reps using light weight if you’re a beginner, then gradually increase the weight to prevent injury.

Also Read: 12 Best Bench Press Alternatives For Chest Workout

4. Cable Cross

How to perform this exercise:

  1. Adjust the pulley handles to the highest position and grab them with your palms facing down.
  2. Take a few steps forward, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart, and slightly bend your knees.
  3. Pull the handles down and together in front of your body.
  4. Slowly release the handles back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for your desired number of reps.

5. Chest Fly Machine

Using the chest fly machine

How to perform this exercise:

  1. Start by adjusting the weight to a comfortable level, and then sit on the machine with your back pressing into the padded backrest.
  2. Grab the handles with elbows slightly bent.
  3. Slowly bring your arms forward and together, keeping them slightly bent throughout the movement.
  4. Maintain the contraction at the top of the motion for a few seconds before slowly returning to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for several reps, feeling the burn in your chest muscles.

Workout Principles

Four-time World's Strongest Man and three-time Arnold Strongman Classic champ Brian Shaw's workout routine is a mix of grit and strategy.

  • Mondays are for great exercises to build leg muscles like squats and other leg-focused exercises
  • On Tuesdays, he hits the chest, shoulders, and triceps
  • On Wednesday he chills
  • Thursday is reserved for deadlifts and back exercises

Yet, Shaw's not just about lifting heavy; he's smart, mixing in compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses to target multiple muscle groups at once.

Focusing on the upper body, especially the chest and shoulders, Shaw starts with dynamic stretches and light cardio, getting his muscles and mind game-ready.


The bench press, his go-to for chests, works multiple muscles, perfect for strength and mass. He mixes it up with incline and decline variations for a well-rounded chest.

This powerhouse chest strength supports his strongman feats and other lifts.

Shaw's shoulder routine is tough, too. Seated dumbbell presses work his deltoids, triceps, and core, beefing up his shoulder width and overall upper body strength.

His training isn't just about muscle; it's about balance and symmetry, crucial for strongman competitions where it's all about using strength effectively.

Moreover, Shaw also taps into mental techniques like 'flow state' and 'mind-muscle connection' to boost his chest workouts and utilizes foam rolling, preparing his muscles for the grind and speeding up recovery.

Brian Shaw’s Diet Plan

Reflecting on my own diet, I've found similar high-protein meals crucial for muscle growth and recovery.

  • Meal #1 - 6 eggs, 6 ounces of Trifecta bison patties, and waffles with syrup.
  • Meal #2 - Bison patties, 2 cups of rice, an apple, and duck fat.
  • Meal #3 - Chicken, rice, sweet potato fries, and a Rice Krispies treat.

“My favorite meal is grass-fed beef, but I do switch up my protein sources—everything from salmon, eggs, chicken, turkey, to bison.”

- Brian Shawn, Professional Strongman

Nutrition principles

Top view of high protein foods

Brian Shaw follows a high-calorie intake diet eating around 2000 calories a day.

He typically gets his protein from lean meats like chicken, fish, and beef.

Brian recommends eating a few good meals with slow-release carbs like brown rice and sweet potatoes for gradual absorption and sustained energy throughout the day.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, healthy fats are essential for hormone regulation, brain function, and providing your body with energy [1].

Brian consumes healthy fats from avocado, nuts, olive oil, and omega-3s.

Staying hydrated is also crucial for maintaining proper bodily functions and aiding in recovery after workouts, as shown in a 2021 study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics [2].

Which Supplements Does Brian Shaw Take?

Supplements that Brian Shaw takes are protein, creatine, and recovery supplements.

  • Whey Protein - Brian Shaw’s go-to whey protein powder is Persist ISO by Undefined Nutrition, which packs 24g of protein.
  • Recovery Supplement - Shaw turns to Undefined Nutrition’s Recovery, which contains hyaluronic acid to help promote muscle recovery, based on a study published in the American Journal of  Physiology [3].
  • Creatine - Brian Shaw relies on Structure by Undefined Nutrition, which contains creatine monohydrate, creatine chelates, magnesium, adenosine, and calcium.

His Stats

  • Age: 41 years old
  • Height: 6’8”
  • Weight: 440 lbs


What Are the Best Chest Exercises Strongmen Do?

The best chest exercises strongmen do are seated dumbbell shoulder presses, incline bench presses, barbell flat bench presses, chest fly machine, and cable cross.

How Do You Train for Strongman Physique?

To train for a strongman physique, you need grip strength, back strength, overhead and pressing strength. You must perform deadlifts, tire flipping, heavy kettlebell swings, large grip lace pulldowns, atlas stone lifting, and prowler pushing.


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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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