Beginner’s Guide to Working Out With Dumbbells to Increase Shoulder Strength

Having wide shoulders can widen the appearance of your upper body, making you appear more strong, confident and athletic. 

Besides improving your appearance there are other benefits of having wide, strong shoulders. Strong shoulders allow you to lift things with more ease. Strong shoulders can also prevent injuries that may result from activities that you don’t normally do, such as using shoulder movements to lift heavy items while moving or perform some other repetitive activity, such as throwing a baseball. 

Even if your shoulders aren’t all that wide to begin with, you can build them up through targeted exercises to make them appear wider and stronger. Here’s how. 

Can You Really Make Your Shoulders Wider and Stronger?

It is possible to increase width and strength of your shoulders. Here are some brief descriptions of dumbbell shoulder exercises to consider. Then check out these best dumbbell shoulder exercises complete with pictures, so you’ll know how to execute all the exercises correctly.

1. Dumbbell Front Raise

Front dumbbell raises target the anterior deltoid muscle, but they also work the lateral deltoid and trapezius. To do this exercise: 

  • Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms at your side. 

  • Extend your left arm out in front of you, palm facing down, with your elbow slightly bent, and the dumbbell in a horizontal position. 

  • Raise your arm in that same position until it’s little higher than straight out in front of you. 

  • Pause and lower your arm back to your side. Do up to three sets of 20 repetitions. 

  • Repeat with the other arm. 

2. Seated Rear Lateral Raise

The seated rear lateral raise benefits the posterior deltoids. To do this exercise: 

  • Sit on the edge of the bench or a chair with dumbbells down by your side. 

  • Bend forward until your torso is resting on your thighs, while making sure your back is flat. 

  • With your elbows slightly bent, slowly lift the weights up until your elbows are at shoulder height. 

  • Hold the position for several seconds

  • Lower the arms back to your side slowly. Do up to four sets of 15 reps. 

3. Overhead Dumbbell Press

The overhead dumbbell press works the anterior deltoid muscle and the trapezius. To do this exercise: 

  • Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand just over the tops of your shoulders with your arms bent and palms facing.

  • Press the dumbbells straight up toward the ceiling. 

  • Lower and return to the starting position. 

  • Do up to three sets of eight repetitions. 

4. Incline Row

The incline row works the latissimus dorsi muscles, the trapezius and the rhomboids. To do this exercise: 

  • Lie down on your stomach on a 45-degree incline bench and allow your arms to hang straight down. 

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand. 

  • As you bend your elbows and lift your arms, squeeze your shoulder blades together. 

Keep your upper arms close to your body. 

  • Pause once you’ve lifted the dumbbells as high as they can go. 

  • Slowly return the dumbbells to the starting position. 

  • Do up to three sets of 12 reps. 

Considerations Before Working Out With Dumbbells

1. Consult With Your Doctor

Before starting a new exercise program, it’s always wise to consult with your doctor. This is even more important if you have prior injuries, heart problems, high blood pressure or any other medical or physical condition. 

2. Take the Time to Warm Up

Anytime you exercise without warming up first, you risk injury. Instead, take the time to get the blood flowing and warm up your muscles before diving into dumbbell exercises. Even a couple of minutes of arm circles can suffice. 

3. Don’t Overdo It

Only do the amount of reps your body feels comfortable with. Don’t strain or force movements. And do not overtrain. Start with an appropriate amount of weight and never continue exercising if you experience severe pain. And if you’re concerned about proper form, you may want to work with a certified personal trainer at first. 

4. Don’t Rush Through the Exercises

Proper form is key when exercising. Not only can you injure yourself if you’re not maintaining proper form, but you also won’t get the full benefit of the exercises. Take your time to be able to execute each exercise properly. 

5. Breathe Properly

Another important consideration when exercising is to breathe correctly, which helps get oxygen to your muscles. You’ll want to exhale during the most strenuous part of the exercise. So, take a deep breath before you lift the weight. Then, exhale through your mouth as you lift. Finally, inhale through your nose as you lower the weight back to the starting position.