The best dumbbell shoulder workout includes more than just the typical overhead press—it also includes moves that work the sides and back of your shoulders, too.
Your shoulders, which are officially known as your deltoids, are divided into three distinct parts, or “heads:” the anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear), ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, founder of Strong With Sivan in Baltimore, MD, tells SELF. Each has different functions, which makes training all of them vital in keeping your upper body balanced.
In order to keep your joints stable, you need strength in all of the muscles that surround them. That’s why it’s important to train both the front of your body (with “pushing” movements, like in chest workouts) and the back of your body (with “pulling” movements, like in back workouts), she says.
Your shoulders are unique in that they pretty much play double duty in this regard: “The front and lateral parts of your shoulder work with pushing movements,” she says. “And the rear delts do work with pulling variations like rows.”
This dumbbell shoulder workout from Fagan will hit each part of your delts. You’ll start with the hardest move—the overhead shoulder press, which is a compound movement—while you’re still fresh and able to lift the most weight. A front to lateral raise rounds out your first superset, which will hammer the front and lateral parts of your shoulders.
After that, you’ll go into your second superset, where you’ll use the AMRAP protocol (as many reps as possible) to really feel a pump. You’ll begin with the halo, which keeps constant tension on your shoulder muscles, while hitting your upper chest and tricep muscles, too. You’ll end with a single-leg reverse fly, which not only works your rear delts, but also doubles as a core move, says Fagan—“you’re going to have to brace your core to resist rotating toward to side.”
Ready to get started? Here’s what you need for an amazing at-home shoulder workout with just four exercises.
Demoing the moves are Rachel Denis (GIFs 1, 2, and 3), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York State powerlifting records, and Cookie Janee, (GIF 4), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve.
What you’ll need: Two pairs of dumbbells—a heavier pair for the overhead press and halo (you’ll just use a single weight for the latter), and a lighter pair for the rest. If you don’t have access to dumbbells, you can use things around your home, like water bottles, laundry detergent bottles, or milk jugs.
- Overhead press
- Front to lateral raise
- Single-leg reverse fly
- Complete 10-12 reps of each exercise in the first superset. Do four rounds, and try not to rest between them.
- Complete as many reps as possible for both exercises in the second superset, stopping each when you find your form beginning to falter. Do four rounds, and try not to rest between them.