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10 Of The Best Shoulder Exercises With Dumbbells

Dumbbell workouts can offer you impressive benefits but what are some shoulder exercises you can do with dumbbells at home or in the gym?

Dumbbells are handles with weights attached to them. They are one of the most popular types of gym equipment and for a good reason. You can use dumbells in many exercises for a wide variety of muscles, including your shoulder muscles.

How heavy your dumbbells should be, varies from exercise to exercise and individual to individual. If you are not sure which weight would be right for you, you can start with light dumbbells and slowly build up from there.

Keep in mind that even though there are upsides, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

1. Dumbbell shoulder press

The shoulder press with a barbell is one of the most popular exercises for growing shoulder muscles. You can also easily do the same exercise with dumbbells instead. To do a dumbbell shoulder press take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at about shoulder height with your hand palms facing forward. Your elbows can point slightly more forward than just a horizontal line with your shoulders.
  2. Slowly move the dumbbells up until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back into starting position in a controlled motion.

The dumbbell shoulder press mainly works your anterior and medial deltoid muscles, your front and middle shoulder muscles.

2. Bent-over reverse fly

To do a bent-over reverse fly take the following steps:

  1. Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart, an upright posture, and one dumbbell in each hand with your hand palms facing each other. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  2. While keeping your back straight bend your knees and slightly bend forward until your upper body is as close as horizontal to the ground while keeping your posture good. Let gravity do its work on your arms so that they point vertically to the ground.
  3. Slowly raise the dumbbells out to the side until they are at shoulder height.
  4. Move the dumbbells back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.

This exercise will focus on your rear, your back, deltoid muscles.

3. Lateral raise

To do a lateral raise take the following steps:

  1. Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart, an upright posture, and one dumbbell in each hand. Your hand palms should face your body. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  2. Slowly raise the dumbbells out to the side until your hands are at shoulder height.
  3. Lower your hands back into starting position in a controlled motion.

The lateral raise is the next exercise that engages your middle deltoid muscles.

4. Dumbbell front raise

To do a dumbbell front raise take the following steps:

  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one dumbbell with both of your hands. In starting position you just let the dumbbell rest against your body. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  2. Slowly move the dumbbell upward until your arms are horizontal.
  3. Lower the dumbbell back into starting position in a controlled movement.

The dumbbell front raise exercise focuses on your anterior, your front, deltoids.

5. Dumbbell upright row

As the name implies the dumbbell upright row is similar to a resistance training row but standing up straight. To do a dumbbell upright row take the following steps:

  1. Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand. Your hand palms should point backward. Your arms start stretched.
  2. Raise the dumbbells straight upward in a controlled manner until your hands are at about shoulder height.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back into starting position.

Because of this change in position the dumbbell upward row targets your middle deltoid muscles instead of your back like with the regular row.

6. Shrug

To do a shrug take the following steps:

  1. Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart, an upright posture, and your arms hanging by your side with a dumbbell in each hand. Your hand palms should face your body. Let gravity do its work on your arms so they point downward. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  2. Raise your shoulders as far as you can in a controlled manner.
  3. Slowly lower your shoulders again.

The shrug does not look like the most impressive motion but this dumbbell exercise can be great to help you improve your trap muscles.

7. Arnold press

To do an Arnold press take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at about chest height with your hand palms facing toward your body.
  2. Move the dumbbells upward by stretching your arms. Twist your wrists 180 degrees throughout the exercise. At the top of the movement, you should stand straight up with stretched arms holding up the dumbbells with your hand palms facing forward.
  3. Lower the dumbbells back into starting position in a controlled motion. This means twisting your wrists 180 degrees back.

The Arnold press engages all three of your deltoid muscles.

8. Dumbbell figure 8

To do a dumbbell figure 8 take the following steps:

  1. Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stretch your arms and raise them until they are in a horizontal line while holding one dumbbell in your two hands. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  2. Make a horizontal 8 movement with the dumbbell.
  3. Repeat in the other direction.

By making a regular front hold more dynamic it becomes more effective for building shoulder muscles.

9. Dumbbell face pull

To do a dumbbell face pull take the following steps:

  1. Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart, an upright posture, and one dumbbell in each hand with your hand palms facing each other. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  2. While keeping your back straight bend your knees and slightly bend forward until your upper body is as close as horizontal to the ground while keeping your posture good. Let gravity do its work on your arms so that they point vertically to the ground.
  3. Slowly raise the dumbbells straight upward until right below shoulder height. Your hand palms face the same way throughout the exercise.
  4. Lower dumbbells again into starting position in a controlled movement.

The dumbbell face pull engages your back shoulder muscles.

10. Dumbbell press out

To do a standing dumbbell press out take the following steps:

  1. Start standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one dumbbell in your two hands at about chest height. The dumbbell starts against your chest.
  2. Push the dumbbell away from you horizontally, so in a straight line forward, in a controlled motion until your arms are stretched.
  3. Return the dumbbell to your chest.

Besides your shoulder muscles, the dumbbell press out will also engage your chest muscles. Keep your own limits in mind when doing this exercise. You don’t want to drop the dumbbell involuntarily.