Dumbbell shoulder exercises are usually the ideal type of workout to train deltoids.

If you have ever had a personal trainer writing down a workout routine for you I am sure he/she included shoulder exercises with dumbbells.

You can obtain good results with cables and machines too, but dumbbells and free weights in general are always preferable.

So, what exercises are we talking about?

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises for Your Home Workout

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises Seated Lateral Raise FinishLet's take a quick look at the dumbbell shoulder workouts:

  • Seated Shoulder Press
  • Standing Front Raises
  • Standing/Seated Lateral Raises
  • Incline Bench One Arm Lateral Raises
  • Bent Over Reverse Fly
  • Arnold Press
  • Upright Rows

Dumbbell Press Exercises

Dumbbell shoulder exercises can be grouped into two main types: dumbbell press and dumbbell raise exercises.

Shoulder Press

Shoulder press is the most complete workout for deltoids. If you have limited time to spend in the gym or for your home workout and you have to choose only one exercise for shoulders, go for the shoulder press.

Sit on your bench with a 90 degree backrest to support you during the execution.

Make sure that your feet are flat and stable on the ground, and your back well in contact with the bench (I see people touching just the upper back and that puts a lot of stress on the lower back).

Grab two dumbbells and lift them like in the left picture so that the elbows form a 90 degree angle, palms face forward and the dumbbell bar is more or less on the same line of your ears or eyes.

Shoulder blades should be tight and your chest out.

From that position start pushing up vertically. You may want to use a spotter to assist you, especially for the first rep, and follow the movement to back you up in case you lose balance.

Amongst dumbbell shoulder exercises, it's easy to make mistakes during the shoulder press execution. Balance is very important to avoid injuries to joints like shoulders and elbows.

Having a backrest is crucial for keeping the balance and focus on the movement, and for preserving your back from injuries.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises - Shoulder Press Start
Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises - Shoulder Press Finish

Note: when you lower the weights don't go too low, it's really unnecessary. Just stop when you lower them down to your ears line.

Arnold Press

Shoulder press and Arnold press are two very similar dumbbell shoulder exercises. This one takes the name from the person who introduced it as a new custom type of shoulder press: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The difference between the two is the initial position.

With the Arnold press you start with palms facing you and the elbows close like in the left picture.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises - Arnold Press Start
Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises - Arnold Press Finish

Then you start pushing up while rotating your wrists so that by the time your get to the final position your palms face forward like for the standard shoulder press.

Dumbbell Raise Exercises

The second type of dumbbell shoulder exercises is about raises. Front, lateral and bent over raises, respectively for anterior, lateral and rear deltoids.

Front Raises

Front raises work the anterior area of our shoulder muscles. You do this exercise from a standing position.

Keep your feet shoulder width apart and slightly bend your knees. Grab the dumbbells and extend your arms down, with palms facing you like in the first picture.

One arm at the time, raise the dumbbell straight in front of you without swinging your body or bending backwards or forwards. Just focus on your arm movement.

Elbows should be slightly bent, and then be fixed for all the duration of the exercise.

Raise the dumbbell till you arm is horizontal, and then go back to the initial position, slowly.

Repeat with the other arm.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises - Front Raises Start
Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises - Front Raises Finish

Lateral Raises

There are two dumbbell shoulder exercises for lateral raises. One is the seated or standing lateral raises, the other one is the one arm incline bench lateral raise.

Standing Lateral Raises

Stand and hold the dumbbells with arms extended along your sides and palms facing inside. Keep your elbows slightly bent as always (there's no exercise where you should lock joints like elbows and knees).

Then raise the dumbbells laterally without bending the elbows, and stop when you reach the height of your shoulders (arms parallel to the ground).

Slowly return to the initial position.

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises - Lateral Raises Start
Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises - Lateral Raises Finish

Seated Lateral Raises

The same exercise can be done sitting on a bench, better if you have a back support. You'll find this one a little bit harder, just because it's more difficult to "cheat"...

Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises - Seated Lateral Raises Start
Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises - Seated Lateral Raises Finish

One Arm Incline Lateral Raise

Incline lateral raises are hard, beware of that. In fact if you're used to do lateral raises with, let's say, 25 pounds...you'll have to move down when you try incline raises.

I would imagine down to something like 20 pounds if not less than that.

Lay on your side, on a 45 degree incline bench and do the lateral raise one arm at the time.

In the initial position your arm is 45 degrees to the ground, in the final position it should be 90 degrees up. This means the angle between your body and your arm is 90 degrees (if you have noticed, all the dumbbell raises require a range of motion of 90 degrees).

Bent Over Reverse Fly

Bent Over Reverse Fly

Also known as bent over lateral raises, this has been discussed in the dumbbell back exercises page, but it definitely fits also in the dumbbell shoulder exercises.

Looking to Buy Dumbbells? Here Some Ideas

I realize that not everybody can have a set of N dumbbells at home, because the truth is...they take a lot of room. That's why, if you're looking to buy dumbbells to use at home, I strongly recommend the following types. My favourites are the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells, even though I have different types. In fact, they're not the only ones out there. For example I have a different type of adjustable dumbbells, those where you add the plates to obtain the desired weight. I prefer the Bowflex dumbbells because you can change the weight in one "click". I had a chance to use the last model I showed you when I trained in a hotel gym...here is the actual pair I used:


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