10 Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises You Can Do at Home

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The deltoid muscles, aka your shoulders, should be trained regularly for optimal health. They are essential for many biological functions which include upper-body strength, moving your arms, and rotating them.

Aside from wanting well-defined muscles, one attribute that motivated me to work on my shoulders was to improve my posture. Playing video games (especially on the PC) had put a massive toll on my body. And, as a result, I developed rounded shoulders.

My posture took several months to fix. But after consistently training my shoulder and back muscles, I am now standing straight as a toothpick. If I can improve my posture, you can as well!

In this post, I’ll be sharing my top 10 favourite dumbbell shoulder exercises. And of course, you can complete these exercises right at home—no gym required!

Here’s a list of equipment I use to perform these exercises:

1. Shoulder Press

Good ole shoulder press! A perfect exercise for those getting into fitness for the first time. Because it’s a compound exercise, the shoulder press works multiple muscles at once (with the anterior and lateral deltoids being the focus). Additional muscles worked in the movement include the upper chest and the serratus anterior.

A man performing a standing dumbbell press.

Steps:   

  1. Stand (or sit) straight with the dumbbells in your hands. 
  2. Using momentum, swing the dumbbells up to your shoulders. 
  3. Position your elbows slightly ahead of your shoulders.
  4. Push both dumbells up until your arms are fully extended. Hold for a second. 
  5. Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat desired repetitions. 

2. Arnold Press

Invented by the champion himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Arnold press is a unique variation of the traditional shoulder press. Rather than having the dumbbells above your shoulders, you begin (and the end) the movement in front of your chest. Research has shown that the Arnold press can provide increased muscle activation for the anterior and medial deltoid muscles compared to the regular dumbbell shoulder press.

I recommend using lighter dumbbells for this exercise as it puts continuous stress on your shoulders.

A man performing a standing arnold press with dumbbells.

Steps:   

  1. Stand (or sit) straight with the dumbbells in your hands. 
  2. Position the dumbbells in front of your torso with a supinated grip (palms up).  
  3. In a synchronous motion, push the dumbells up and rotate your hands until your arms are fully extended. Your palms should be facing away from you (pronated grip) at the end of the movement.
  4. Hold for a second.  
  5. Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat desired repetitions. 

3. Clean & Press

Another shoulder press alternative you can perform is the clean & press. This exercise incorporates your legs, back, and deltoid muscles in one seamless movement. The heavier the dumbbells, the more upper-strength required to complete the shrug. You have the choice of doing the clean & press with one or two dumbbells.

A man performing a clean & press with both one and two dumbbells.

Steps (single-arm):   

  1. Stand straight with your legs shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grab the dumbbell off the floor using a supinated grip (palms inward).
  3. With your hips back, push your legs into the floor and shrug the dumbbell up to your shoulder.
  4. Press the dumbbell overhead and hold the position for a second.
  5. Return the dumbbell back to your shoulder, lower your arm to the floor, and drop the dumbbell.
  6. Repeat desired repetitions. Alternate between arms.

Steps (both arms):   

  1. Stand straight with your legs shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grab the dumbbells off the floor using a supinated grip (palms inward).
  3. With your hips back, push your legs into the floor and shrug the dumbbells up to your shoulders.
  4. Press the dumbbell overhead and hold the position for a second.
  5. Return the dumbbells back to your shoulders, lower your arms to the floor, and drop the dumbbells.
  6. Repeat desired repetitions.

4. Neutral Grip Overhead Press

The neutral grip overhead press is essentially a shoulder press that focuses on the anterior deltoid muscles. From my experience, this exercise puts less stress on your shoulder joints compared to the other pressing exercises. Which means you can use heavier dumbbells if you choose to do so!

A man performing a standing neutral grip shoulder press.

Steps:   

  1. Stand (or sit) straight with the dumbbells in your hands. 
  2. Position the dumbbells in front of your torso with a neutral grip (palms inward).
  3. Push both dumbells up until your arms are fully extended. Hold for a second. 
  4. Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat desired repetitions. 

5. Seesaw Press

Want to switch things up? The seesaw press is a fun exercise you can use to replace the shoulder press as well as the neutral grip overhead press in your workouts. Rather than using both arms, you alternate from side-to-side when performing each set.

Unilateral exercises, like the seesaw press, are excellent for correcting any muscle imbalances you may have.

A man performing a alternating seesaw press with a pair of dumbbells.

Steps:   

  1. Stand with the dumbbells in your hands. 
  2. Position the dumbbells in front of your torso with a neutral grip (palms inward) or a pronated grip (palms outward). 
  3. Push the dumbbell up until your arm is fully extended.
    1. Twist your wrist into a pronated position (palms outward) to mimic a shoulder press.
  4. Hold for a second. 
  5. Slowly lower your arm back to the starting position and perform the same movement on the opposite side.
  6. Repeat desired repetitions. 

6. Front Raise

The front raise is an anterior delt exercise that I love to perform. My favourite thing about the front raise is that you don’t need a ton of weight to get results.

Want to feel the burn? Hold the top of the movement for several seconds then slowly lower your arms!

A man performing a dumbbell front raise.

Steps:       

  1. Stand straight with the dumbbells in your hands.
  2. Swing the dumbbell straight in front of you until it is parallel to the floor. Hold for a second.
  3. Slowly lower your arm back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat desired repetitions. Alternate between arms.

7. Lateral Raise

The lateral raise is an exceptional exercise that places a great amount of tension on your lateral deltoids. The key to this exercise is to lead with your elbows and not your hands. Also, avoid using momentum to carry out the movement. Let your shoulders do the work!

A man performing a standing dumbbell lateral raise.

Steps:       

  1. Stand straight with the dumbbells in your hands.
  2. Have your elbows slightly bent (this helps with lateral delt activation). 
  3. Swing the dumbbells to your sides until they’re parallel to the floor. Hold for a second.
  4. Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat desired repetitions. Alternate between arms if necessary. 

8. Hanging Lateral Raise

Isolation is the name of the game. When performing the hanging version of the lateral raise, you have a greater range of motion as well as improved stability. A win-win in my books!

A man performing a hanging lateral raise using the frame of a door.

Steps: 

  1. With the dumbbell in hand, stand up with your opposite hand anchored to a solid object (I use a doorway in this example).
  2. Have your elbows slightly bent. 
  3. Swing the dumbbell to your side until they’re parallel to the floor. Hold for a second.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat desired repetitions. Alternate between arms. 

9. Upright Row

The upright row is a beneficial exercise that works your lateral and anterior delts. However, performing upright rows with incorrect form can cause what is called subacromial impingement. I highly recommend using lighter dumbbells and a wide grip for this exercise. Safety first!

A man performing a dumbbell upright row.

Steps: 

  1. Stand up straight with dumbbells in both hands.
  2. Place your arms in front of you with a supinated grip (palms inward).
  3. Position the dumbbells just past your hips.
  4. Raise your arms up until the dumbbells reach your nipple region.*
  5. Hold for a second.
  6. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat desired repetitions.

**Keep your elbows at or below shoulder height to avoid the risk of subacromial impingement!**

10. Reverse Fly

Last but certainly not least is the reverse fly, my favourite posterior delt exercise. You have the option of performing these either sitting or standing in a bent-over position. Feel free to use one or two dumbbells for this exercise. Pick the option that feels comfortable for you!

A man performing a bent over dumbbell reverse fly.

Steps: 

  1. While holding the dumbbells, lean forward with your torso facing the floor.
  2. Have your elbows slightly bent. 
  3. Swing the dumbbells to your sides until they’re parallel to the floor. Hold for a second.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat desired repetitions. Alternate between arms if necessary.

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