Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises To Build Mass And Strength

If you want to build a muscular body, developing your shoulders is likely to be one of your top priorities. Dumbbell shoulder exercises are one of the best ways to build up shoulder mass and get full, dense shoulders.

Unlike the fixed motion of barbells and machines, dumbbells allow for a wider range of motion and increased stabilization demands. It allows you to better isolate the heads of the deltoids: the anterior deltoids (front), lateral deltoids (side), and posterior deltoids (back).

Using dumbbells to train your shoulders is easier on your wrist, elbow, and shoulder joint because they give you more freedom to move. Dumbbells is used by beginners and advanced lifters to build a strong foundation of strength.

To effectively train the shoulder, first, we will understand the shoulder anatomy, and then we will look at the how-to effectively train with dumbbells and the best shoulder dumbbell exercises and pro-tips

The Anatomy of the Shoulder

You should know your shoulder muscles to train them effectively With Dumbbells. In fitness, “shoulder exercises” refers to resistance exercises that target the deltoid muscle.

The deltoid is the superficial muscle that forms the rounded contour of your shoulder. While the deltoid is technically a single muscle, anatomically speaking it has three distinct sets of muscles fibers and muscle bellies, which are referred to as “heads.

The shoulder is made up of several muscles groups that allow it to have a wide range of motion and versatility in movement. Understanding the main shoulder muscles involved in dumbbell exercises can help improve your training.

1. Deltoids

The deltoids make up the rounded contour of the shoulders. There are three sections of the deltoids:

  • The anterior deltoid (In front), – Run along the collarbone and lift the arms forward and upwards.
  • Lateral deltoid (at the side) – Form the widest part of the shoulders. Lift the arms out to the sides away from the body (abduction).
  • Posterior (rear) deltoid – Located on the back of the shoulders. Draw the arms backwards.

2. Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is made up of 4 smaller muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint:

  • Supraspinatus – Runs along the upper shoulder blade. Initiates arm abduction.
  • Infraspinatus – Covers the rear-outer shoulder blade. Rotates arm outward.
  • Teres Minor – Below infraspinatus, also externally rotates arm.
  • Subscapularis – Front inner portion of shoulder blade. Internally rotates arm.

3. Trapezius

The trapezius is a large, triangular upper back muscle. It has several roles:

  • Middle fibers – Retract shoulder blades together.
  • Upper fibers – Elevate shoulder blades.
  • Lower fibers – Depress shoulder blades downwards.

The shoulders are shallow ball and socket joints that can move in multiple directions and require a lot of muscles and flexibility to do this. This is why it’s important to work on the shoulder from all sides to make the shoulder stronger.

How To Structure Dumbbell Shoulder Workout Plan

To structure an effective dumbbell shoulder workout to increase mass and strength, the number of reps and sets will vary based on your fitness level, weekly workout frequency, and strength training goals. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • For strength gains, do 4 to 6 sets of 1 to 6 reps for each exercise with a weight that is at least 85% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM). The fewer reps you perform, the closer to 100% of your 1RM you should strive for.
  • If you’re targeting muscle growth, or hypertrophy, perform three sets for each exercise with a weight load that is 70 to 85% of your 1RM, completing 8 to 12 reps in each set.
  • For endurance training, it’s generally advised to perform higher reps—around 15 to 20 per set—with a moderate weight that is approximately 50 to 70% of your 1RM.

How To Get Bigger Shoulder With Dumbbell

To get bigger shoulders with dumbbells, you can perform a variety of exercises that target the different parts of the shoulders.

Weight training with dumbbells can be beneficial for achieving hypertrophy and putting an increased impact on the specific muscle group.

One of the best ways to put on some serious shoulder mass and get full, dense shoulders is by doing dumbbell shoulder exercises.

There are two basic kinds of dumbbell shoulder workout, Presses, and Arm Raise.

  • In Dumbbell Shoulder Presses Exercises, you begin with your arms bent, the weight up to about shoulder height, and lift the dumbbells straight up over your head. Presses involve both the deltoids and the triceps.
  • Dumbbell shoulder raises Workouts involve lifting your extended arm upward in a wide arc, which better isolates the heads. You need to do raises to the front, to the side, and the rear. When you do raises, you do not involve the triceps but almost completely isolate the various heads of the deltoids.

To strengthen your shoulder, you should try increasing the intensity of your workout. The drop-set, forced reps, and the pause and go method are some methods for intensifying your workouts.

However, with dumbbells, you can easily increase the intensity of your workout on your own.

For example, if you want to do drop sets on the barbell bench press, you’ll need a partner to drop the weight from the barbell.

Benefits Of Doing Shoulder Workout With Dumbbell

There are multiple reasons that motivate you to do shoulder dumbbell exercises, and below I’ve mentioned the seven of them.

  • Dumbbell shoulder workout requires more balance than barbells or machines, that can lead to greater muscle fiber recruitment.
  • It requires more muscular control than barbells, enhancing kinaesthetic awareness.
  • When you are doing an upper shoulder workout with dumbbells, it’s impossible to take compensating movement from your strong side. This reduces the risk of muscle imbalance.
  • It allows for greater joint safety and stabilization and allows the joints to move naturally within their range of motion.
  • It affords a greater level of variety, which prevents physical and mental burnout.
  • Dumbbells variations allow for a greater range of movement (ROM), which leads to an increased number of muscle fibers recruited.
  • It allows unilateral training (training one limb at a time), increase core stability, and improve muscular imbalances.
  • Dumbbell workouts are perfect for the at-home exerciser with the limited space.

Here are some of the best shoulder workouts with dumbbells to build muscle in your shoulders, and how to add them to your training routine

10 Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises

Dumbbells are among the most easily available free weights, so exercises using them are ideal for beginners and can be easily included in home workouts.

Here is a list of the 10 best dumbbell shoulder exercises and a workout that will help you build well-developed shoulders.

1. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Press exercises are an excellent variation to barbell shoulder Press. The fact is that the dumbbells allow a full range of motion.

The dumbbell shoulder press is one of the best exercises for building shoulder mass and strength.

The dumbbell press is a very important exercise for building the front and side deltoid muscles.

Whenever you want to add more sets to a dumbbell shoulder workout, do it with this exercise.

Performing the exercise while seated shoulder press is a stricter version than standing and prevents cheating the weight upward using momentum generated by the legs.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

How To Do Dumbbell Shoulder Press

  1. Sit at the end of a flat bench holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward.
  2. Lift the dumbbells overhead until they nearly touch at the top, and then lower them as low as possible.
  3. Feel a good stretch at the bottom and then continue the next rep.
  4. Repeat the steps for your chosen number of reps and sets. Try to keep the weight the same throughout your workout.


  • Exhale when you’re working hard, and inhale when you’re resting.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerks.
  • Go as heavy as you can possibly go.

2. Arnold Shoulder Press

The Arnold dumbbell shoulder press is a great exercise for building shoulder muscles. Arnold’s press stands out from the crowd when it comes to the best dumbbell exercise for shoulder muscles with the best range of motion.

It gives a wide range of motion as you lower the dumbbells well down in front, giving that maximum stretch other shoulder exercises lack.

Performing the exercise while seated press is a stricter version than standing and prevents cheating the weight upward using momentum generated by the legs.

Arnold Shoulder Press

How To Do Dumbbell Arnold Shoulder Press

  1. Stand straight, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Raise the dumbbells to shoulder position with palms facing you.
  2. Now press the dumbbells overhead just like dumbbell presses, but twisting them so that palms face forwards at the top of the movement.
  3. Now lower the dumbbells in a reverse movement.
  4. Repeat the desired number of reps.


  • Inhale when you lower the weight and exhale when you lift.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Keep a strict form. Do not lock your arms overhead.

3. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The side lateral raise with dumbbells works the side of the shoulders, also called the lateral head. It’s an isolation exercise that primarily targets the lateral head of the shoulder. 

With isolation exercises, you might need to use lighter weights as more load is placed on a specific part of the body.

As a lighter weight is used, a higher number of reps can be used — anything from 10 to 20 reps.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

How To Do Dumbbell Lateral Raise

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bring the weights together in front of you. The palms should be facing each other.
  2. Now bend your elbows and raise the dumbbells to your sides.
  3. Lift them to a point slightly higher than your shoulders. Hold at the top for a second.
  4. Now lower the dumbbells in a controlled manner back to the starting position.


  • This exercise is important, and the form is a big part of it.
  • Don’t just swing your arms. Keep controlled motion throughout the exercise.
  • Perform a warm-up with 50% weight for 1-2 sets.
  • You should always use weights that you can handle comfortably.

4. Dumbbell Front Raise

Dumbbell front raise is an excellent exercise to isolate the anterior deltoid Muscle. This exercise helps to build muscle mass in the front head of deltoids.

Front dumbbell shoulder raises exercises can be done standing as well as seated with a pair of dumbbells. This exercise is done in an alternating movement also.

This exercise can work well with a medium to light weight for higher reps.

It’s a challenging exercise to do with heavy weights, so focus on growing the muscles rather than maxing out on a heavy load.

Alternating Dumbbell Front Raise

How To Do Dumbbell Front Raise

  1. Stand holding a pair of dumbbells across the front of your thighs. Your feet are shoulder-width apart, and your knees are slightly bent.
  2. Raise one dumbbell (say right hand) in front, until it reaches just above shoulder level.
  3. Now lower the weight (of the right hand) while raising the left in front of you.
  4. Perform this exercise in this alternating manner.
  5. Aim for 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps.


  • Pause for a moment at the top before slowly lowering the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Avoid arching of the lower back.
  • Concentrate on training the front delts, raising dumbbells in front of you, and not raising outside the body.

5. Dumbbell Upright Row

The dumbbell upright row can be used to target your shoulders or traps, depending on how wide or narrow you keep your elbows during the movement.

The narrow grip focuses on Trapezius and wider focuses on the entire shoulder girdle.

Furthermore, the wider grip allows some cheating movement, thereby allowing you to lift more weight.

How To Do Upright Dumbbell Row

How To Do Dumbbell Upright Row

  1. Hold a bar with a narrow overhand grip and let it hang in front of you.
  2. Lift the bar, get it as close as possible to the chin using your arms, and elevate your shoulders to squeeze your trapezius muscles.
  3. Hold this position for a second and return slowly to the starting position.
  4. To work the traps more, keep the weights closer together inside the thighs.


  • Remember to exhale while you exert.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Keep your back straight.
Read More: How To Do Upright Row, The Muscle Worked,  Proper Form, Benefits and Its Variations

6. Dumbbell Bent Over Raise

The dumbbell bent over raise is one of the best shoulder exercises for working on the rear deltoid muscles. Bent-Over Raise is one of the best to isolate and work specifically on For complete shoulder muscle development, dumbbell bent-over raise is a must-do.

This exercise hits specifically the rear deltoid head and isolates it better than any other shoulder exercise.

This exercise can be performed in both standing and seated positions. Prefer the seated version as it calls for strict movement.

Bent Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Bent Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise

How To Do Dumbbell Bent Over Raise

  1. Sit at the end of a bench with a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Bend forward and let the dumbbells hang on your sides.
  3. Lift the dumbbells, raising them on your sides to a level slightly uppermore than your shoulders.
  4. Now lower the dumbbells back to your sides.


  • Your arms should be parallel to your shoulders.
  • Do not lift backward or forward.
  • Keep form strict to isolate the rear delts.

7. Dumbbell Shrug

The dumbbell shrug is a variation and one of the best shoulder exercises to build bigger, stronger trapezius muscles.

This exercise can be done extremely heavily to thicken the traps, which really helps you in doing back poses. This is one of the best isolation exercises for trapezius muscle.

Traps, being a stubborn muscle group for many, can be trained with a fairly high frequency during the week.

Dumbbell Shrug

How To Do Dumbbell Shrug

  1. Stand upright, keeping arms at sides and with a heavy dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Raise your shoulders as high as you can, as if trying to touch them to your ears.
  3. Hold at the top for a moment, then release and return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the desired number of Reps.


  • Try not to move anything but your shoulders.
  • Inhale when you lower the weight and exhale when you lift.
  • Adding a pause at the top of the movement can help to enhance the mind-muscle connection.
  • Limit momentum and excessive jerking or bouncing of the weight.
Read More: Shrug Exercise: Benefits, Variations, Muscles Used, Tips

8. Seated Neutral-Grip Overhead Dumbbell Press

The seated neutral-grip dumbbell overhead press is a very effective exercise that targets the deltoids’ anterior (Front) head.

Now, the benefit of using dumbbells over a barbell for this movement is that you develop more stabilizer muscles and have a freer range of movement.

But, using a neutral grip is also more challenging and makes for a great variation since it still works the same muscle.

Seated Neutral-Grip Overhead Dumbbell Press

How To Do Neutral-Grip Overhead DB Press

  1. Sit on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height.
  2. Begin with your palms facing toward each other and your elbows just below shoulder level.
  3. Push the weights straight up, stopping just short of locking out your elbows.
  4. Then control the dumbbells all the way down until your upper arms are parallel with the floor or slightly lower.


  • Keep your back and neck neutral.
  • Do not lock out your elbows.
  • Always warm up before training heavily to prevent shoulder discomfort.

9. Dumbbell one-arm lateral raise

This dumbbell shoulder exercise is performed with one arm at a time. Dumbbell one-arm lateral raise is an excellent exercise to isolate and build side deltoids.

To build the middle head of the deltoid muscle, make Dumbbell one-arm lateral raise a part of your shoulder workout.

One Arm Dumbbell Lateral Raise

How To Do Dumbbell one-arm lateral raise

  1. Stand holding a dumbbell with one hand. Feet are shoulder-width apart and knees are slightly bent.
  2. Now bend your elbow and raise the dumbbell to your side.
  3. Lift them to a point slightly higher than your shoulder. Now lower the dumbbell in a controlled manner back to the starting position.
  4. Perform all reps on one side and then repeat with the other arm.


  • Pause for a moment at the top before slowly lowering the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Avoid arching of the lower back.

10. Incline Bench Rear Lateral Raise

The incline Bench Rear Lateral Raise is an upper-body exercise that targets the posterior or rear deltoids and the postural muscles of the upper back.

Because it targets such small muscles, this exercise is usually performed with lightweight for high reps, such as 10-15 reps per set or more.  

The incline bench takes away the potential of using momentum, making the movement more challenging. Rear delt exercise develops bigger, more balanced, and healthier shoulders.

Incline Bench Rear Lateral Raise

How To Do Incline Bench Rear Lateral Raise

  1. Sit in reverse direction on an incline bench ( 45 degrees) while holding dumbbells with neutral grips.
  2. Hold the dumbbells so that they hang straight down from your shoulders.
  3. Slowly lift the dumbbells up and out to the sides of your body, pulling through the rear delts and middle traps.
  4. Pause a moment at the top of the motion before slowly lowering the weights back down to the starting position.


  • Do not lift backward or forward.
  • Set a bench at about 30-45 degrees inclined.
  • Keep form strict to isolate the rear delts.

Dumbbell Shoulder Training For Mass

Training the shoulders for strength is a must, and beginners can build up a very solid strength foundation with dumbbells alone at home and at the gym. However, as you become more advanced, it’ll be important to work in heavy low rep presses with barbells to increase your maximal strength. 

We are here to build up some boulder shoulders. So, we will concentrate on moderate to a heavy loads for reps between 8 and 15.

The number one driver for shoulder hypertrophy is an increase in volume, which leads to increased time under tension.

The exercises in the workout below include some compound movements and a few isolation exercises, which are optimal for shoulder hypertrophy. Here are some general recommendations for programming dumbbell shoulder workouts for muscle growth.

Training Volume (Sets and Reps)

Of course, the number of sets and reps will be determined based on your fitness journey, but here is a great starting point:


  • Beginners: ~10 sets per week.
  • Intermediate: ~15 sets per week.
  • Advanced: ~20 sets per week.

When a certain amount of volume stops being effective and your progress stalls, you can add sets to increase volume and use that as a driver of renewed progress. 


The best rep ranges and loads to work with.

  • 6-8 reps with heavy load
  • 8-15 reps with moderate load
  • 15-20+ with light load

The load should bring you to or near failure within the given rep ranges to be effective. 

A proper warm-up is a must. You need to prepare your body before you work out. Do some arm rotations, arm swings, and basic shoulder and arm movements for 2-3 minutes.

Training Plan As Per Your Goal

  1. For muscle endurance: Aim for 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps, with a moderate amount of resistance.
  2. For muscle strength: Aim for 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps, with a heavier amount of resistance.
  3. For muscle hypertrophy (increased muscle size): Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, with a moderate to heavy amount of resistance.

It is always best to start with a lower number of reps and sets, and then gradually increase as your strength improves.

Furthermore, it is important to allow for adequate rest between sets, typically 60-90 seconds.

Incorporating a mix of bodyweight exercises, cardio, and weight training can help to achieve a balanced and well-rounded workout routine.

Workout Samples For Beginner, Intermediate & Advance

This workout contains multiple dumbbell shoulder exercises that are designed to target all the muscles in your shoulder and increase overall muscle mass.

This workout plan is a starting point and can be adjusted based on individual fitness levels and goals.

Dumbbell Shoulder Workout Routine For Beginner

Here’s a beginner shoulder exercises routine with dumbbells that you can do at home:

Dumbbell Shoulder Press3-48-10
Dumbbell Lateral Raise3-48
Bent Over Raise48-10

Workout Routine For Intermediate

Here is an intermediate shoulder dumbbell workout routine that can be done anywhere:

Arnold Shoulder Press48-10
Seated Neutral-Grip DB Press3-410-12
Dumbbell one-arm lateral raise410-12
Dumbbell Upright Row38-10

Dumbbell Shoulder Workout Routine For Advance

Here’s a sample dumbbell only shoulder workout plan for advanced individuals:

Dumbbell Shoulder Press:48-12
Dumbbell Front Raise3-410-12
Incline Bench Rear Lateral Raise48-10
Dumbbell Upright Row310-12
Dumbbell Shrug38-10


It’s a good idea to add a variety of exercises to your shoulder workout routine to target the muscle from different angles and provide overall muscle growth.

Be smart: don’t limit yourself to dumbbell shoulder exercises. Get the benefits they offer and use other shoulder exercises to supplement them when needed.

A dumbbell workout can be easily added to your shoulder training program.

It can be especially effective when used with a bodyweight barbell, machine, or cable to build the biggest, strongest shoulder possible.


How can I work my shoulders with dumbbells at home?

You can work your shoulders with dumbbells at home by doing exercises such as:

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise,
  • Dumbbell Front Raise
  • Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly
  • Dumbbell Upright Row.
  • Dumbbell Shrug

Start with lighter weights and gradually increase as you build strength and control.

Are dumbbell shoulder exercises safe?

Dumbbell shoulder exercises can be safe if performed correctly with proper form and technique.

It is important to warm up well before each workout. Start with lighter weights and work up to heavier ones.

Can I do dumbbell shoulder exercises every day?

Doing dumbbell shoulder exercises every day is not recommended.

It is recommended that you give your shoulders at least 24–48 hours of rest between workouts in order to allow for adequate recovery and prevent injury.

How many shoulder exercises per workout

It is recommended to perform 3-4 different shoulder exercises per workout session.

When performing a dumbbell shoulder workout, it’s important to target all three heads of the deltoid muscle: Anterior head, medial head, and posterior head.

The best way to do that is by doing exercises such as overhead press, lateral raises, bent laterals, and reverse flyes.

For most workouts, it is recommended to perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise.

How do you target the three parts of the shoulder?

There is no single exercise that can effectively target all three heads of the shoulder (anterior, medial, and posterior) in isolation.

However, incorporating a variety of exercises into your routine can effectively target all three heads of the shoulder and provide a well-rounded shoulder workout.

Some of the best exercises for hitting all three heads of the shoulder include:

  1. Dumbbell Overhead Press—Mainly targets the anterior, lateral head of the shoulder
  2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise—Mainly targets the medial head of the shoulder
  3. Dumbbell Front Raise—Mainly targets the anterior head of the shoulder
  4. Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly—Mainly targets the posterior head of the shoulder
  5. Dumbbell Upright Row—targets all three heads of the shoulder to a lesser extent


These dumbbell shoulder exercises are highly recommended for anyone interested in building a wider shoulder and who wants to gain strength.

It not only allows for targeted muscle development, but also provides an overall 3D look to the shoulder. It is easy to do and requires no more scientific details and fancy equipment.

Dumbbells can be used to perform compound and isolation exercises and, best of all, they’re ideal for home and gym workouts.

If you do these dumbbell shoulder workouts consistently, the results will speak by themselves.

10 Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises To Build Mass and Strength

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