Dumbbell shoulder workout: Shoulder training is a crucial part of any good fitness routine. Not only will the right exercises do wonders to help you achieve your fitness goals, but they are also essential for strength training.
Indeed, stronger shoulders mean that you are less likely to be injured during sessions with heavier loads.
Here's what you need to know about the best shoulder exercises to do with dumbbells at home.
Table of Contents
- The different muscles of the shoulders
- Shoulder muscles: A few precautions
- The 7 Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises
- Get the most out of these dumbbell shoulder exercises
- How to Avoid Shoulder Injuries
- Adjustable dumbbells for your sessions
- Dumbbell Shoulder Strength Training – Conclusion
- Lose weight without waiting
The different muscles of the shoulders
The shoulders are one of the easiest muscle groups to develop with the right exercises. With a little rigor and consistency, you can expect relatively quick gains. But it's important to have a varied routine to target all the muscles.
Also, you should keep in mind that these are delicate and complicated joints that require a smooth development so as not to end up with injuries.
From the trapezius to the rotator cuff, there are approximately 20 distinct muscles that all play a role in stabilizing the shoulder and controlling its movement.
The most basic include:
- Trapeze: Traps are made up of 3 beams connect your shoulders in the back and extend to support your neck. They go down to half of the back.
- Deltoid: The deltoids together form 3 muscle bundles that give the shoulder its round shape
- Large and small rhomboid: Back muscles that connect your shoulder blades to your spine and help raise your shoulders.
- Serratus anterior muscle (serratus anterior): You can find this muscle on the side of your chest, directly under your armpit. It is a deep muscle composed of 3 bundles.
- Rotator cuff: A set of 4 muscles (teres minor, infraspinatus, subscapularis and supraspinatus) whose role is to support the joint between your arm and your shoulder.
You will find out more by consulting this article on the different muscles of the body.
NOTE : there is an important connection between the shoulders and the pectoralis major. Unfortunately, it is very easy to put too much pressure on the shoulders by doing push-ups and bench or incline presses.
Shoulder muscles: A few precautions
Lifting too heavy a weight is always a mistake no matter what part of the body you're working on, but it's really disastrous when performing shoulder exercises. Unfortunately, I have been paying for it myself for more than 30 years because I was badly advised in the gym when I was in my twenties (how far away 😅).
However, it is also essential to schedule specific shoulder exercises in your workouts because without it you will fail many sessions, especially when training your chest and back.
So start with light loads by learning to master each movement.
The deltoids are composed of an anterior bundle (front of the shoulder), a middle or medial bundle (top of the shoulder), and a posterior bundle (back of the shoulder). And you have to work them all 3 bundles as well as the traps in the upper back for a really satisfying session.
The 7 Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises
You will need a pair ofadjustable dumbbells and a tiltable weight bench. The videos will show you each exercise.
Done 3 sets of 12 repetitions for each of them.
Video of the first 6 exercises
To help you visualize, I made this video with Millhau for the first 6 movements to perform to strengthen the shoulders with dumbbells:
1. Military press with impulse (push press)
Stand straight with the dumbbells across the front of your shoulders. Feet are hip width apart. Keep your core tight throughout the set. Slightly bend your knees to give a small push and bring the dumbbells above your head, arms straight.
Master the descent of the dumbbells to the starting point.
2. Arnold press (seated)
The back of your bench must be raised at 90° for this dumbbell press.
Sit down holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of your shoulders with your hands in a supine grip (palms facing you). Raise them above your head, rotating your wrists as you go, so you end up with your arms straight and your palms facing outward in an overhand grip. Control the movement to return to the initial position.
3. Lateral Raises
This exercise can be done sitting or standing. What I don't really like when you're sitting on a weight bench is that the dumbbells often hit the metal structure. It's up to you to see if it works on your bench or not.
If you're standing, take a dumbbell in each hand in a neutral grip along your thighs, elbows slightly bent. Keep the bust straight by engaging the abdominal strap. The shoulders should stay centered, neither forward nor back.
Take light dumbbells and then, leaning very slightly forward, raise them to shoulder height. The elbows always remain slightly bent. Take a very short break at the top if possible, then control the descent to return to the initial position.
4. Front raises
Standing upright with your chest straight, with your abdominal strap contracted, hold the dumbbells at arm's length slightly in front of your thighs.
Extend your arms forward to shoulder height. Always control the descent of the weight to the starting position.
5. Bird (reverse flye)
This exercise can be done sitting, like in my video, or standing leaning forward. Personally, I prefer the seated position to avoid excessive tension in the square of the loins.
The dumbbell weight should be light and the muscle burn comes pretty quickly on this move.
Leaning forward, let your arms hang at your sides, holding the dumbbells in a hammer grip (neutral position), elbows slightly bent. Raise the dumbbells on both sides as if you wanted to fly away, which certainly won't happen 😆
As always, control the movement to return to the starting point.
6. Chin pull (high pull or rowing chin)
This movement is very bad with a long bar because it causes a lot of pain and various injuries.
On the other hand, it is great for strengthening the deltoids and trapezius if you do it with dumbbells or a resistance band because your shoulders can rotate your arms backwards at the end of the movement.
Watch carefully in the video how Millhau raises the wrists when the weights pass above the shoulder line.
The starting position is the same as the front raises, except you should be able to take a heavier load for this one.
Raise the dumbbells in front of you as if to bring them above your chin, but let the shoulders turn backwards when the weights reach their height to go up a little higher. Try the near-empty motion the first time to fully understand its process.
Besides these 6 basic exercises, I recommend that you finish with shrugs to complete the trapezius muscles and add volume to each side of the neck.
I find this to be the best exercise with dumbbells or elastic bands to complete the trapezoids.
Take a dumbbell in each hand in a neutral grip along your thighs, keeping your arms straight. Keep the bust straight by engaging the abdominal strap. The shoulders should stay centered, neither forward nor back.
Shrug your shoulders as if you want them to go up to your ears. Hold this top position for a second, then return to the starting position.
This exercise allows a higher load than for the others because it does not put pressure on the shoulder joint, but on the upper back.
Do 3 sets of at least 12 reps. If you still feel up to it, add reps at the end of the 3rd set.
If you train in the gym, you can also consult this site to know everything about shoulder training. You will find other variations with dumbbells, bars, pulleys and machines.
Get the most out of these dumbbell shoulder exercises
To make this the best shoulder workout program for you, be sure to stick to the stated sets, reps, and break times for performing the exercises, and start light.
When you feel that some series are too easy, add a little weight. Do this workout twice a week for a month and you'll see your shoulders gradually transform.
Make large movements
Do your series with great freedom of movement. This is because working the muscles to their full range will engage a lot more muscle fibers than doing partial reps or cheat reps (where the momentum moves the weight). The more fibers you strain, the faster your muscles grow.
Reduce the amplitude only if a problem or a medical history prevents you from doing so.
Keep your rest periods short
In each set of 3, take only 10 second break between the 1st and 2nd series, and 2 minutes maximum at the end of the 3 series. Respect these rest periods to subject your muscles to increased fatigue, which will create more micro tears in the muscle tissue. This phenomenon is important to promote muscle growth during the recovery phase.
How to Avoid Shoulder Injuries
The strain of a hard workout can increase the risk of injury in all parts of the body, but the shoulder joint is an area where you need to be especially careful. This means that you must prepare meticulously before your session to reduce the risks.
This preparation begins with the mobilization of the shoulder joints. Before touching a weight, gradually move the joints to activate the rotator cuff muscles and allow you to increase your range of motion during the workout.
Personally, for example, I do exercises called spike planks. You start in a straight-arm plank (or push-up) position and push up on your arms to bring your butt as high as possible (the top of the peak).
This mobilization is part of your warm-up, but it is not enough for the shoulders. Before you begin your main sets, do a nearly empty set of 20 reps of military press. This will accustom the shoulder to the movements it is about to do with weights so as not to attack cold.
Then, once you're in your workout, it's essential to do not force. If you start to struggle with too much weight, reduce the weight you use. You might be used to pushing yourself to the limit to complete the last reps of a set, but when you're training your shoulders, it's just not worth it.
Adjustable dumbbells for your sessions
In Europe, you'll find great value at Avalon Gear with free 4-5 day shipping on top selling models. Here are some sample prices on BowFlex models:
Here are the most interesting models on Amazon at the moment (list regularly updated):
Dumbbell Shoulder Strength Training – Conclusion
These 7 isolation exercises will work wonders for you if you like training with dumbbells in your home gym. You can even use them in a super set circuit with no rest time. I know that some bodybuilders like this type of session.
For example, you can align the 7 exercises in a row, then take a breather for 1 or 2 minutes before starting another circuit. After 3 circuits, you will have finished your shoulder session.
Leave a message in the comments box below to ask your questions or tell me if there is another exercise you like for dumbbell shoulder training. THANK YOU !
Lose weight without waiting
Subscribe to our free newsletter and receive your gifts!
FREE: Guide 25 exercises, fitness program and free advice to lose weight
Join the 4400 members of our private group:
Use our free calculators
Calories per sport
Related words: infraspinatus l-fly muscle portion polyarticular exercises rotator cuff tear
Last update on 2022-11-04 / Affiliate links / Some images are from the Amazon Product Advertising API