The Only 7 Dumbbell Exercises You Need for Sculpted Shoulders

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Dumbbell lateral raises are a great shoulder exercise.
Image Credit: Vadym Pastukh/iStock/GettyImages

Your shoulders are essential for a stronger, more defined upper body (and overall physique). And if you want to add serious strength or mass to your delts, all you need is a pair of dumbbells and a well-structured workout.

A good shoulder workout will include exercises that hit all three parts of the muscle (the front deltoid, middle deltoid and rear deltoid). Mathew Forzaglia, certified personal trainer and founder of Forzag Fitness on the NEOU App, has you covered with six of the best shoulder exercises that will strengthen your entire shoulder muscle.

1. Dumbbell Front Raise

Type Strength
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Begin either seated or standing, dumbbells in hand at your sides.
  2. Brace your core and raise the weights in front of your body, until they reach shoulder height.
  3. Then, lower the weights back to the starting position with control.

Tip

Alternate right and left if raising both dumbbells is too difficult.

2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Type Strength
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, holding the weights at your sides. Keep your back flat, knees slightly bent.
  2. Keeping your body stable, core braced, raise the weights up at your sides until they reach shoulder height.
  3. Lower the weights slowly to the starting position.

Tip

To make this move more difficult, perform the exercise either seated or kneeling. This adjustment limits your ability to use momentum to raise and lower the weights, making the lateral raises more challenging.

3. Dumbbell Front and Side Raise

Type Strength
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Start standing tall with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbells in each hand.
  2. Brace your core and raise the left dumbbell in front of your body to shoulder height.
  3. At the same time, raise your right dumbbell out to your side, in line with the shoulder.
  4. Lower back down to the starting position with control.
  5. For the next rep, alternate, lifting the right dumbbell in a front raise and left dumbbell in a lateral raise.
  6. Alternate arms for each rep.

4. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Type Strength
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Begin standing tall or seated with a flat back, feet rooted to the ground.
  2. Holding a pair of dumbbells, bend the elbows at 90 degrees, holding the weights above your shoulders.
  3. On an exhale, brace your core and press the both dumbbells overhead.
  4. Lower the weight back to the starting position with control.

Tip

With all shoulder exercises (especially barbell overhead presses), you want to avoid over-arching your back as you press the weight up. If you feel your lower back arching, lower the amount of weight you're lifting.

5. Dumbbell Scaption

Type Strength
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides. Hold the dumbbells in a neutral grip with your palms facing your body.
  2. Brace your abdomen and lift the dumbbells in front of your body at about a 45-degree angle.
  3. Raise the weights until they're slightly above shoulder height.
  4. Then, lower the weights back down with control.

6. Dumbbell Rear Deltoid Raise

Type Strength
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Begin standing with feet hip-width apart, dumbbells in hand at your sides.
  2. Shoot your hips back, bend the knees softly and lean the torso forward, keeping a flat back. Maintain this hip-hinge position throughout the exercise.
  3. Let the weights hang down toward the ground.
  4. Keeping the neck long, raise the weights out to your sides until they're in line with your shoulders.
  5. Then, lower the dumbbells back down with control.

7. Dumbbell Shrug

Type Strength
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
  1. Start standing tall with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. On an exhale, shrug your shoulders up toward your ears, keeping your neck in line with your body.
  3. Slowly, lower the shoulders down and back with control.
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