shoulder exercise with dumbbells

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises

To get a fully muscled-out, yet balanced and proportional physique, you have to spend time targeting each of your separate muscle groups. 

Today, we’re going to go over some dumbbell exercises that you can use to focus your workouts on your shoulders.

A strong, bulky shoulder helps create an athletic physical aesthetic that’s narrow at the waist and wider at the top, similar to an inverted triangle. 

dumbbells workout shoulders

Beyond the added benefit of visual appeal, a strong shoulder helps to stabilize and support your posture, as well as your arms and back throughout daily activities that involve pushing, pulling, and lifting.

Ready to work your shoulder muscles? Keep reading to learn five shoulder exercises you can do with a dumbbell at home or in your local fitness spot.

5 Dumbbell Exercises For Your Shoulder Muscles 

1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

How To Do A Dumbbell Shoulder Press | Coach

Target Muscle Groups: Shoulders (Deltoids), Core (Abdominals), Arms (Triceps), Back (Trapezius), Upper Chest (Pectorals)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Stand on your exercise mat with your feet shoulder-width distance apart and your back straight through to your neck.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip, keeping your knuckles pointed up towards the ceiling. Hold your dumbbells at or just above shoulder level, with your elbows pointed down. This is your starting position.
  3. Drive through your shoulders to press your dumbbells up towards the ceiling. Press through until you lockout your arms at the top of your press.
  4. Hold at the top of your shoulder press before returning your dumbbells to shoulder level and resuming the start position to complete the rep.

Reps X Sets: Beginners should aim for 1-2 sets of 8-10 reps when doing a shoulder press. As you improve, increase to 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Youtube: For a quick visual overview of how your dumbbell shoulder press should be performed, click here. You can also check out this video to learn about some common mistakes you should avoid while doing your dumbbell shoulder press.

2. Lateral Raise

The 7 Biggest lateral raise mistakes! – Super Human Power

Target Muscle Groups: Shoulders (Deltoids), Back (Trapezius)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Stand on your exercise mat with your feet shoulder-width distance apart and your back straight through to your neck.
  2. Hold your dumbbells with your palms facing forward and in towards your body. Let your arms hang so that you’re holding your dumbbells out to your sides at thigh-height. This is your starting position.
  3. Raise your arms out a few inches to either side and pause to engage your deltoids and disengage your trapezius from overtaking the movement.
  4. Keep raising your arms out to either side of your body until your arms are parallel with the floor and your elbows are in line with your shoulders.
  5. Pause at the top of your raise, making sure to breathe throughout the exercise.
  6. Slowly lower your weights back down into the starting position to complete the rep.

Reps X Sets: Start off with 2 sets of 8-10 reps of the lateral raise, or if you’re looking for a challenge, try 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Youtube: Click here to see a short video of lateral raises as performed by a professional trainer, or click here for a longer format video with extra tips to help you maximize your shoulder workout.

3. Shoulder Shrug

5 Unique Shrugs to Get You Yoked | Muscle & Fitness

Target Muscle Groups: Shoulders (Deltoids), Back (Trapezius)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Stand on your exercise mat with your feet shoulder-width distance apart and your back straight through to your neck.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in towards your body. Let your arms hang down by your sides so that your dumbbells are at thigh-height.
  3. Keep your core engaged and allow your knees slightly bent so that they come to just above your toes. This is your starting position.
  4. Inhale, and slowly lift your shoulders up towards your ears, as high as you can, or until you feel a stretch in your shoulders.
  5. Pause at the top of your lift.
  6. Exhale as you slowly lower your shoulders and resume the starting position to complete the repetition.

Reps X Sets: Beginners should try to complete 3 sets of 10 reps. As your shoulder muscles strengthen and your shoulder shrugs become easier, increase your shoulder workout to 3 sets of 20 reps, or 4 sets of 15 reps.

Youtube: Need a quick visual to help guide you through your shoulder shrugs? Click here. Or, for a longer, more instructional video on how to better engage your traps, click here.

4. Arnold Press

Make The Arnold Press Better — Advanced Human Performance Official ...

Target Muscle Groups: Shoulders (Deltoids), Back (Trapezius), Core (Abdominals)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Stand on your exercise mat with your feet hip-width distance apart and your back straight through to your neck.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in towards your body and your elbows bent; they should come to about shoulder level. This is your starting position.
  3. In one fluid movement, drive your elbows out to your sides and rotate your hands so with palms facing forward. Staying in one motion, press your dumbbells up over your head until you lockout your elbows at the top of your press.
  4. Hold at the top of your press.
  5. Slowly, reverse the movement to return to the starting position and complete the rep.

Reps X Sets: Try to do 2 sets of 8-10 reps to start off and up your reps to 10-12 for 3 sets as it gets easier.

Youtube: Click here or click here to check out an instructional video to help you as your work through your Arnold presses.

5. Deltoid Raise

Tip: Replace the Rear-Delt Raise | T Nation

Target Muscle Groups: Shoulders (Deltoids), Chest (Pectorals)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Stand on your exercise mat with your feet hip-width distance apart and your back straight through to your neck.
  2. Hold your dumbbells with your palms facing forward, towards your body and your knuckles pointed down towards the floor.
  3. Hold your dumbbells across the front of your thighs and keep your knees slightly bent. This is your starting position.
  4. Raise your arms up straight until your elbows are in line with your shoulders.
  5. Pause as you lockout your elbows at the top of your raise.
  6. Slowly lower the weights and return to the starting position to complete the repetition.

Reps X Sets: You should aim for 1-2 sets of 8-10 reps and work your way up to 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps as you improve.

Youtube: To see a quick video of what your deltoid raises should look like in less than a minute, click here. Or, click here for a longer-format instructional video to help guide you along as you work out.

Dumbbell Recommendations

Powerblock

PowerBlock Series Adjustable Dumbbell Set (PB-SERIES)

For heavy lifters who are looking to save space and money by using an adjustable dumbbell set, you can’t get much better than Powerblock. 

That’s why Powerblock’s Adjustable Dumbbells have secured themselves as my number 2 pick when it comes to dumbbell recommendations.

To find out more about Powerblock’s Adjustable Dumbbells, click on that link for my comprehensive review.

Bowflex

Amazon.com : Bowflex SelectTech 552 - Two Adjustable Dumbbells ...

The SelectTech series of adjustable dumbbells from Bowflex is currently my number one dumbbell recommendation. 

Although Bowflex dumbbells are more expensive than some of their competitors in the fitness equipment market, their quality of materials used and product durability are simply unrivaled.

Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells are ideal for workout enthusiasts and fitness junkies who plan on putting their dumbbells through some serious use.

For more information, you can check out my full, in-depth review of Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells by clicking here.

Ironmaster

IronMaster QUICK-LOCK ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELL SYSTEM - 75 LB SET ...

Ironmaster’s Adjustable Dumbbells are more inexpensive than most other adjustable dumbbells currently for sale to the public. 

Additionally, they feature a unique weight adjustment system that allows you to adjust your weights in convenient 2.5-pound increments.

If you’re looking for a solidly built set of dumbbells that will last through years of regular use, then Adjustable dumbbells from Ironmaster are perfect for you. 

The Ironmaster Adjustable Dumbbells are currently featured as my number 3 recommendation for adjustable dumbbells.

Hex Dumbbells

BodyMax Rubber Hex Dumbbell Sets - Shop Online - Powerhouse Fitness

Hex dumbbells are, by far, the most affordable option for in-home dumbbells. 

However, they are not adjustable, come in limited weights and sets, and are often made out of cheaper materials like rubber or plastic.

For this reason, hex dumbbells are best for those who are new to working with weights, or who aren’t looking to use dumbbells as a regular part of their fitness routine.

Check out my review of the top 5 most affordable rubber hex dumbbells currently on the market by clicking here.

Bottomline

shoulder routine with dumbbells

You can get stronger, bulkier shoulders without going to the gym or spending thousands of dollars on large pieces of gym equipment. 

With a set of dumbbells and an exercise mat, you can successfully target the muscles throughout your shoulders, from virtually anywhere large enough to set down your mat.

To help get you started working on your shoulders, try out this example workout routine below the next time you’re working with your dumbbells.

Example Routine For Beginners:

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 8-10 Reps x 1-2 Sets
  • Lateral Raise: 8-10 Reps x 2 Sets
  • Shoulder Shrug: 10 Reps x 3 Sets
  • Arnold Press: 8-10 Reps x 2 Sets
  • Deltoid Raise: 8-10 Reps x 1-2 Sets

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