A 20-Minute Dumbbell Shoulder Workout for Your Upper-Body Days

Adding a dumbbell shoulder workout into your routine can help improve posture, mobility and overall strength.
Image Credit: kali9/E+/GettyImages

When you get ready to tackle an upper-body workout, oftentimes you might focus on your biceps and triceps. But you might just be missing the best part of upper-body day: shoulders!

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Working your shoulders can improve your posture, mobility and overall upper-body stability and strength. Your shoulders are a big part of your ability to move through your day-to-day activities — like lifting and carrying groceries, boxes or even your kids and pets — and strengthening them will make those tasks so much easier. We love that, right?

As for why dumbbells are such a great muscle-strengthening tool, they're great for beginners and advanced lifters alike, they build balanced muscle and strength by providing resistance to each side of your body and they allow for greater range of motion as opposed to, say, an exercise machine.

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So, give this five-move dumbbell shoulder workout a try on your next upper-body day — at the gym or at home! Perform each exercise for 50 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between. After performing all the exercises in order below, rest 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat the circuit two more times. The whole workout should take around 20 minutes, depending on how long you rest for.

Things You'll Need

  • A set of medium-weight dumbbells

  • An exercise mat is optional, but recommended

​​Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.​

1. Lateral Raise

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Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a slight bend in your knees holding a dumbbell in both hands at your sides, palms facing inward.
  2. While standing upright, slowly lift the dumbbells out to your sides with a slight bend in your elbows until your arms reach shoulder height.
  3. Pause for 1 second, then slowly lower your arms back down to starting position.

2. Rear Delt Fly

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Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Push your hips back behind you and bend your knees slightly as you lean your torso forward with a flat back. Maintain this hip-hinge position throughout the exercise.
  3. Let the weights hang down toward the floor with your elbows slightly bent and palms facing each other.
  4. Keeping your shoulders down away from your ears and a slight bend in your elbows, lift the weights out to your sides until they're in line with your shoulders.
  5. Lower the dumbbells with control.

3. Kneeling Arnold Press

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Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Start kneeling, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of your chest as if you’ve just performed a biceps curl: Your elbows should be bent, palms facing your body.
  2. Maintaining an upright torso and not over-arching your back, press the dumbbells straight up while simultaneously twisting your hands out so that your palms face forward.
  3. At the top of the move, you should have a slight bend in your elbows, and your palms should face forward as at the top of a standard dumbbell shoulder press.
  4. Reverse the move, twisting your hands as you control the weights back down and bend your elbows to return to the starting position.

4. Kneeling Narrow Overhead Press

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Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Start kneeling, holding a dumbbell in each hand over your shoulders. Your arms should be at 90 degrees with a slight 45-degree angle forward and your palms facing inward.
  2. Brace your core.
  3. On an exhale, press both dumbbells up and in toward each other.
  4. Lower the weights back to the starting position with control.

5. Front Raise

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Dumbbell Workout
Body Part Shoulders
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, with a soft bend in your knees.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs, palms facing down.
  3. Brace your core and raise the weights in front of your body until they reach shoulder height, keeping a slight bend in your elbows the whole time.
  4. Lower the weights back to the starting position with control.

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