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7 Best Shoulder Exercises (25-Minute Dumbbell Shoulder Workout For Women)

Build strong, sculpted shoulders and arms with this shoulder workout for women! Seven of the best dumbbell shoulder exercises at home in a challenging, 25-minute shoulder workout.

Increase functional strength and improve definition with these shoulder exercises with dumbbells.

The upper body has historically been undertrained by women, but as a mom of three, I’m all about a strong upper body.

I especially love a push day workout targeting the shoulders, chest and triceps. The shoulder muscles, or deltoids, are essential for performing various daily activities and functional movements, such as lifting, pushing, pulling, and carrying objects.

Strength training the shoulders specifically can improve posture, mobility, and reduce risk of injury. Strong shoulders will make everyday activities like carrying groceries or lifting babies easier.

The strict set format found in today’s workout is particularly helpful if your goal is muscular hypertrophy, or muscle growth.

two women performing a dumbbell arnold press as part of dumbbell exercises for women post

7 Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises For Women

External Rotation

Targets: Shoulders (deltoids) and rotator cuff muscles.

Shoulder stabilization exercises like this one are great for improving shoulder health and strengthening the muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint, specifically the rotator cuff muscles.

two women performing external rotations with dumbbells - dumbbell shoulder workout for women

How To Do External Rotations

  1. Start standing, feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent, core engaged.
  2. Hold a light dumbbell in your right hand. Hold the dumbbell near your left hip, right elbow bent at a 90 degree angle and upper arm close to your body. Palm is facing in towards your body. Shoulder blades are pulled back and down.
  3. Keeping your elbow bent and your upper arm stable, slowly rotate your forearm and the dumbbell away from your body.
  4. Rotate until the dumbbell is in front of your shoulder, or you feel a stretch in your shoulder. Range of motion will be different for everyone.
  5. Then slowly and with control, bring the dumbbell back to starting position, maintaining a 90 degree bend in your right elbow.

Narrow Overhead Press (Dumbbell Shoulder Press)

Targets: The shoulders, triceps, rear delts and upper back muscles.

two women performing narrow dumbbell shoulder presses as example of best shoulder exercises for women

How To Do Narrow Overhead Shoulder Presses

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, holding dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing in towards each other (neutral grip). Shoulder blades are pulled back and down.
  2. Engage your core, slightly tucking your pelvis to protect your low back. Then push the dumbbells overhead until your arms are fully extended.
  3. Slowly and with control, lower the dumbbells down to the starting position at shoulder level and repeat.

Upright Row and Front Raise

Targets: Shoulders and upper back; specifically the front and middle heads of the deltoids (shoulders), as well as the trapezius and rhomboids (back).

two women performing upright row and lateral raise combo dumbbell shoulder exercise

How To Do Upright Rows and Front Raises

  1. Start with feet hip-width apart, slight bend in your knees. Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your hips, palms facing in towards your body.
  2. Leading with your elbows, pull the dumbbells up until your elbows reach shoulder height. As you pull the dumbbells up, think of pulling your shoulder blades down. Be sure to keep the dumbbells close to your body as you pull them upwards. This is an upright row.
  3. With control, lower the dumbbells back down the front of your body, returning to starting position.
  4. Then, lift the dumbbell in your right hand straight out in front of your body, raising the weight until it reaches shoulder height. Keep your right arm relatively straight, with a slight bend in the right elbow. This is a front raise.
  5. Slowly and with control, lower the dumbbell down, returning to starting position.
  6. Perform another upright row with both dumbbells, then perform another front raise, this time raising the dumbbell in your left hand.
  7. Continue this pattern, alternating one upright row with one single arm front raise.

Lateral Raises

Targets: The lateral deltoid (also engages the anterior deltoids and posterior deltoid).

two women performing lateral raises as example of best shoulder exercises for women

How To Do Dumbbell Lateral Raises

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, slight bend in your knees, holding a dumbbell in each hand at hip level, palms facing in towards each other.
  2. Engage your core, then lift the dumbbell in your right hand out towards your right side, keeping a slight bend in the elbow. Lift just to shoulder height.
  3. With control, slowly lower the dumbbell to starting position.
  4. Then repeat, this time performing a lateral raise with the dumbbell in your left hand.

Dumbbell Punches

Targets: Shoulders, triceps, upper back, mid-back, abs and core muscles.

two women performing dumbbell punches as example of best shoulder workout for women

How To Do Dumbbell Punches

  1. Start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Elbows bent at 90 degrees and palms facing in towards each other (hammer grip).
  2. Alternate punching each dumbbell forward a few inches, then returning to center.

Modification: The further you press the weights away from your body, the harder this exercise becomes.

Single Arm Half Kneeling Arnold Press

Targets: All three heads of the deltoids, also known as your shoulder muscles.

The kneeling version of the iconic Arnold Press takes out any assistance from the lower body – increasing the upper body focus.

two women performing both a standing and kneeling single arm arnold press as example of best dumbbell shoulder exercises

How To Do Single Arm Half Kneeling Arnold Presses

  1. Find a half kneeling position. Feet shoulder width apart, right knee on the ground and left foot planted on the floor. Shoulders are stacked over hips.
  2. Hold one dumbbell in your right hand in front of your face at eye level, palm facing in towards your face.
  3. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes to protect your low back as you slowly raise the weight in your right hand overhead. As you raise the dumbbell, rotate your wrist so that the palm of your hand is facing outward (away from the body) when your arm is fully extended.
  4. Hold, then slowly reverse the movement, rotating your wrist as you lower the dumbbell to return to starting position, palm facing in towards your body.

Modification: Perform this exercise from a standing position if kneeling is not comfortable.

Single Arm Half Kneeling Hinge and Shoulder Press

Targets: The rear deltoids and front deltoids (shoulders) and core.

A great exercise to increase unilateral (single-sided) demands of stability and strength on the shoulder muscles.

two women performing a hinge, swing and dumbbell shoulder press as part of best dumbbell shoulder workouts example

How To Do Single Arm Half Kneeling Hinges and Shoulder Presses

  1. Start in a half kneeling position — right knee on the ground and left foot on the ground.
  2. Hold one dumbbell in the right hand with a neutral grip (palm facing your body).
  3. Perform a half kneeling hinge swing by hinging at the hips with the dumbbell between your legs. Then drive your hips forward, powering the dumbbell up to your right shoulder; elbow in line with your shoulder (maintaining a neutral grip).
  4. From here perform a single arm dumbbell shoulder press. Press the dumbbell straight overhead, locking out the elbow, right bicep near right ear.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbell back down towards the right shoulder and return to the starting position with the dumbbell between the legs.

Modification: Perform this exercise from a standing position if kneeling is not comfortable.

25-Minute Shoulder Workout for Women

Sculpt your shoulders and build strong, toned arms with these seven best shoulder exercises for women.

This shoulder workout for women specifically targets all heads of the shoulder, as well as the rotator cuff muscles. Building strong shoulder muscles, and preventing shoulder injuries and shoulder pain.

Add upper body workouts like this one to your home training program 1-2 times a week to build muscle mass and increase endurance.

Workout Equipment:

Medium pair of dumbbells. I suggest anywhere from 5-20 lbs. I used 10-20 lb dumbbells for this shoulder workout.

Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Shoulder Workout video on YouTubeled by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 7 Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises
  • Timed Intervals (40 seconds of work per exercise, followed by 20 seconds of rest)
  • Strict Sets (repeat each shoulder exercise x 2 sets, back-to-back)

Note: we re-filmed this shoulder workout to improve video and sound quality (and changed up some of the moves). You can find the original best shoulder exercises for women video here if you’d like to compare them.

two women performing a single arm raise as example of dumbbell shoulder exercises

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Shoulder Workout

Workout Outline

  1. External Rotation
  2. Narrow Overhead Press
  3. Upright Row and Front Raise
  4. Lateral Raises
  5. Dumbbell Punches
  6. Single Arm Half Kneeling Arnold Press
  7. Single Arm Half Kneeling Hinge and Shoulder Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Workouts FAQs

Why Is It Important To Train Shoulders?

Strength training the shoulders enhances posture and strengthens the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. This creates more stability and reduces injury risk (the shoulder joint is one of the most delicate joints). Shoulder workouts are an essential part of any workout routine.

What Muscles Are In The Shoulders?

The shoulders are made up of the deltoid muscles (anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid and posterior deltoid) and the four rotator cuff muscles (subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor muscles). While these muscles are relatively small compared to some of the larger muscles in the upper body (like the chest and back), it’s important to strength train the shoulder muscles, especially if you want to avoid a rotator cuff injury.

How Often Should Women Train Shoulders?

That depends on your fitness goals and workout schedule. Shoulder exercises are included in most general upper body workouts. If you are trying to build muscle mass in the shoulders, add one dedicated shoulder workout to your fitness routine each week.

Can You Build Shoulders At Home?

Yes, you can strengthen the shoulders with dumbbells at home — no bench, barbell or fancy gym equipment needed. Choosing the right weights plays a large role in effective strength training workouts. You want to fatigue the shoulder muscles while continuing to maintain good form throughout the workout. The last 2-3 reps should be challenging to complete with good form – that’s a sign you’ve chosen the correct weights.

Pin this Shoulder Workout for Women

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  1. I love all your videos! We need one just for Biceps! I love this shoulder workout and the back, tricep and chest! All so challenging and so quick! Thank you!

    • Candace! I’m so glad you’re loving the workout videos! And yes, we’ll need to add one of these split training workouts for biceps too. Stay tuned I have a legs, back and biceps workout coming soon! Keep up the great work! -Lindsey

  2. I can’t wait to try your best shoulder exercises. I love your workouts. I’ve been using them for about a year and have seen a huge difference in my body. Thank you so much for the motivation and know how to make strength training a part of my workout routine. I am almost 50 and look better than I have in years thanks to your blog and workouts. Thank you!