Add these four movements to your upper body exercises to build bigger shoulders using two dumbbells. If you only have one weight, you can still try this while working on one side at a time.
To build rounded shoulder definition, you'll need to target all three heads of the shoulder — the anterior, posterior, and lateral deltoids. This means using your weights in different planes of motion to hit all the muscle groups responsible for shaping your shoulders.
If you're ready to build rock-solid shoulders, grab a set of the best adjustable dumbbells and try the four-move workout below.
What is the four-move dumbbell shoulder exercise?
YouTuber Marino Katsouris shows these four moves to build bigger shoulders. You only need two dumbbells to challenge your muscles without losing your shape.
Here are the four shoulder exercises:
- Lateral raises
- Straight rows
- Bentover row posterior deltoid focus
- Alternating hammer shoulder press exercise
- 10-12 reps, rest 90 seconds and repeat x 4 rounds
The dumbbell exercise for the upper body loads the three parts of the shoulders responsible for muscle definition. Each move is programmed to use two dumbbells, but you can split or double the reps to work one side of your body at a time if you have limited access to the best gym equipment.
You can read how to do lateral raises in more detail, but try to push the weights out of the way as you lift them up, and then control the landing as you lower them back down. Avoid swinging the weights while lifting the dumbbells as this indicates that the weights are too heavy, and keep your core active throughout the two phases of the exercise – raising and lowering.
Katsouris recommends leaning forward slightly to do the upright row, a popular move for targeting several muscle groups, including the lateral and anterior deltoids, trapezius, and biceps. It is also known to aggravate your shoulders if you don't perform it correctly. When your elbows are near shoulder level, gently pull your shoulder blades together and squeeze your back muscles in a rowing motion. As long as your shoulders don't rotate inward while rowing, it shouldn't aggravate your joints.
As you approach the bent-over dumbbell row, assume a wider arm position to help focus on the posterior deltoids. Keep your back flat as you stand on your hips and support your stomach, making an overhand grip with your palms facing your body.
Finish with an overhead press using a neutral hand position with the palms facing each other; It's a narrower version of the dumbbell press called the hammer grip shoulder press. This time, switch arms and keep it strict, meaning you'll be relying on core strength without using your legs to help (known as a push-up) while also targeting your chest and triceps.
It's not clear from the video how many reps you should do for each move, so we recommend sticking to 10-12 reps and then resting between rounds. Katsouris recommends four rounds to get to that sore shoulder, resting between rounds to recover briefly.
Benefits of dumbbells for shoulders
If there's one technique I've learned from years of teaching weightlifting, it's that free weights are first class compared to gym machines for building functional strength and muscle. Dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells are elite for improving your mobility, stability and range of motion, recruiting more muscle groups and helping you learn better, more efficient movement patterns.
Building strong shoulders provides the foundation for all upper body exercises that involve pulling, pushing or holding. Whether you're an experienced powerlifter or you're a newbie to powerlifting and learning the ropes, strengthening your shoulders will help you lift more weight and be safer.
Each of the above movements relies on activating the core muscles responsible for providing stability and proper posture, as well as the rotator cuff muscles that stabilize and mobilize the shoulder joints, so you can ensure you're getting a lot of bang for your buck (or torch for your shoulders).
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