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4 Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Dumbbell Military Press

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Why Train Shoulders?

Legs, chest, and back get all the press but shoulders need to be right up there. Neglect your shoulder training and you're going to notice. Strong healthy shoulders are going to help you with everyday tasks like lifting and carrying a bag of groceries. It's also going to greatly improve your posture and aesthetically broad shoulders are going to help you achieve that v-tapered look. So the bottom line is you should train your shoulders because you'll look better and it will help you lift heavy stuff in your everyday life!

Got Dumbbells?

If you have a pair of dumbbells and it's shoulder day we can get to work. In my previous post, I wrote that I bought the Bowflex SeclectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells to start my shed gym. They are outstanding for a shoulder workout adjusting for lighter weight on lateral raises (as low as 5 pounds) and heavier lifts like the Military press (52.5 pounds). These dumbbells also save a lot of space in my shed because instead of having a whole rack of dumbbells with different poundages I just have one set.

When it comes to working out the shoulder muscles with dumbbells there is a huge variety of exercises. I like to keep it simple and concentrate on the basics so these are my 4 best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises. I recently took some videos of the exercises I do for my shoulders in my shed gym. Of course, it's December here in Michigan so it was a brisk 30 degrees today!

Dumbbell Military Press

If there is a number one exercise for shoulders it would be the military press. Any article you read about a shoulder workout will include the military press to get things started. I use dumbbells but a barbell is great too. This pressing exercise is a compound movement because it hits multiple muscles specifically the anterior deltoids. If you do enough of them you'll feel it in your triceps the next day. It's a must-lift for overall shoulder development and functional strength.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

If you want to make improvements on your lateral deltoids (side of shoulders) you have to do a lateral move (duh!). This is where you grab a pair of dumbbells and perform some lateral raises. The military press is a compound movement but the lateral raise is an isolation move. That means you want to lighten the load and do higher reps for this exercise. I know when I'm trying to lift too much weight because I catch myself using momentum and cheating. Really concentrate on the movement. Focus on not just lifting the dumbbells up (concentric phase), but also the lower phase (eccentric) for the best pump!

Dumbbell Bent-Over Raises

We've hit the front and side of the shoulders now we need to address the rear delts. The rear deltoids are the redheaded stepchild of the shoulders. People tend to focus on presses and lateral raises but don't give any love to the rear. The Bent-Over raises are going to do the job. Just like the lateral raises, it's primarily an isolation move. Put a weight on that you can lift without jerking or rocking. Just like the lateral raises focus on the lift (concentric) and the lower (eccentric) equally for the best muscle gains.

Dumbbell Shoulder Shrugs

This exercise hits your traps which are the muscles on top of your shoulders and neck. Anytime you carry something heavy you are activating your traps. 100 years ago I bet every guy had muscular traps because they were carrying heavy things on a farm, factory, or construction site. Now we just don't stimulate that area because a lot of us sit at a desk. Building your traps will not only make you look better but it's going to make carrying groceries and other things an easier task. Because the exercise movement is really small you'll be able to lift heavier. Personally, I like 12 to 15 reps for a great burn!,

Putting It All Together

4 great exercises to attack your shoulders from all angles. You may spread these exercises throughout the week or do them all on a "shoulder day". I like having a "push day" that includes chest, shoulders, and triceps. After a dumbbell bench press your shoulders start to warm up so I'm ready to go for a millitary press. You may lift light/heavy weights for low/high reps. Personally, I do 3 sets of most exercises for 8-12 reps and hit each body part twice a week. That's going to be your choice depending on what your goal is. The bottom line is you're going to hit your shoulders and do it from all angles!

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