Tone your shoulders with dumbbells by doing these 7 exercises for shoulders.
The most important shoulder muscles in the upper arm are the deltoid muscles and the four rotator cuff muscles:
Teres minor muscles
While these muscles are relatively small muscles compared to some of the bigger muscles in the upper body (like the chest, back and biceps); it’s important to strength train the shoulder muscles.
Especially if you want to avoid a rotator cuff injury.
Benefits of shoulder exercises for women:
Prevent shoulder injuries. Shoulder injuries are some of the most common injuries doctors see in regular gym-goers (NBC). Strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint provides more stability, and can reduce risk of injury.
Train multiple upper body muscles. Several of the exercises that engage the shoulder muscles also work the other muscles in your arms. Specifically your other ‘push muscles’ — chest and triceps.
Toned arms. While strength training the shoulder muscles has more benefits than the aesthetics of toned arms, it’s a nice added benefit.
These dumbbell shoulder exercises for women are designed to target the shoulder muscles from multiple angles to create definition and tone the arms.
What weight dumbbell should a women use?
How heavy should your dumbbells be? That all depends on your fitness level, experience and goals.
Beginner: start with 5 lb dumbbells for this shoulder workout.
Intermediate: start with 8-10 lb dumbbells.
Advanced: looking to really build shoulder hypertrophy (muscle building) start with 15-20 lb dumbbells.
How many times a week should a woman lift weights?
Again this all depends on your fitness level, experience and goals.
On average, I would suggest lifting weights three days a week.
If strength training three times a week you can expect to see noticeable muscle growth within six to eight weeks of starting a new strength training routine.
30 Minute Shoulder Workout for Women
Sculpt your shoulders and build strong, toned arms with these 7 best shoulder exercises for women.
From Arnold Press to lateral raises, this 30-minute shoulder workout for women specifically targets all heads of the shoulder (but also engages the chest and triceps too).
Medium to heavy set of dumbbells for dumbbell shoulder exercises.
I recommend between 5-20 lb dumbbells.
I used 10’s, 12’s, 15’s and 20 lbs.
Note, if you don’t have dumbbells, you can do the majority of these shoulder exercises with a resistance band.
You can approach this shoulder workout four different ways:
20-Minute AMRAP Shoulder Workout — AMRAP or ‘as many rounds as possible’ workout. Set a timer for 20-minutes. Complete 10 repetitions of each shoulder exercise. Repeat as many rounds as possible, or AMRAP, in 20-minutes; taking breaks as needed.
7-Minute EMOM Shoulder Workout — EMOM or an ‘every minute on the minute’ workout. Set a timer for 10 minutes. At the start of the first minute complete 12 repetitions of the first shoulder exercise. Then rest for the remaining time left in the minute. At the start of the second minute complete 12 repetitions of the second shoulder exercise. Then rest for the remaining time left in the second minute. Repeat this format for all 7 minutes. Option to repeat for a 14-minute shoulder workout.
Make it a Shoulder Burnout Workout that you add onto the end of your upper body workout — Complete 15-20 repetitions of each shoulder exercise one time through. This will ‘burnout’ or fatigue the shoulder muscle at the end of your arm workout. Burnout workouts are great for building muscle. Pushing the muscle to fatigue allows it to grow! I suggest doing this 10-Minute Upper Body Workout, then finish with this burnout shoulder workout.
See an example of each dumbbell shoulder exercise below.
1. Arnold Press
What does the Arnold Press work: the Arnold Press involves moving in multiple planes of motion, so you hit ALL heads of the shoulder. But it specifically tones and strengthen the deltoids (the triangular muscles on top of your shoulders).
How to do a dumbbell Arnold Press:
Hold both dumbbells with an underhand grip (palms facing you), elbows at shoulder-height in front of your body and dumbbells at about eye level.
Engaging your core and maintaining a slight bend in your knees to protect your low back, rotate your palms away from your body as you press the dumbbells overhead. This movement is a big range of motion. Think of drawling a half circle with your hands before you press overhead.
Then reverse the motion, rotating your wrists inward (ending with palms facing you) as you lower down to starting position. Aim to keep your elbows at shoulder height rather than letting them drop down.
That’s one rep, repeat for 10 reps.
2. Push Press
What does the Push Press work: mainly the shoulder, triceps, rear delts and upper back muscles (with some assistance from the lower body).
How to do a Push Press:
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, slight bend in your knees, holding dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing in towards each other (neutral grip).
Drop into a shallow squat; about a 2-inch dip. Then press through your heels, and push the dumbbells overhead until arms are fully extended. Think of peeking your head through your arms as you lock out the dumbbells overhead.
Lower dumbbells down to starting position at shoulder-level and repeat.
That’s one rep, repeat for 10 reps.
3. Upright Row + Front Raise
What does the Upright Row work: shoulders and upper back; specifically the front and middle heads of the deltoids (shoulders), as well as the trapezius and rhomboids (back).
What does the Front Raise work: front dumbbell raises primarily target the front of the shoulders, known as the anterior deltoid.
How to do a dumbbell Upright Row + Front Raise:
Start with feet hip width apart, slight bend in your knees. Hold dumbbells in your hands, palms facing in towards your body.
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.
With control, lower the dumbbells back down to staring position. This is an upright row.
Keeping your arms straight, lift the dumbbells straight out in front of your body until they reach shoulder height.
With control, lower the dumbbells back down. This is a front raise.
The combination of these two shoulder exercises is one rep, repeat for 10 reps.
4. Neutral Grip Press + 2 Count Goal Post Drop
What does the Neutral Grip Shoulder Press work: mostly the anterior head of the deltoids, but it also hits the lateral head of the deltoid.
How to do a Neutral Grip Overhead Press + Goal Post Drop:
Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart, slight bend in your knees. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, elbows in line with your shoulders, palms facing in towards each other (neutral grip).
Press the dumbbells straight overhead, keeping elbows narrow. At the top of the dumbbell press, rotate the dumbbells so your palms face out (away from you).
As you lower the dumbbells, elbows go wide and arms bend ato 90 degrees (like goal posts). Keep your elbows in line with your shoulders, rather than letting them drop down.
At the bottom of the goal post, pull rotate the dumbbells so palms face in towards each other like they did at the start of the movement.
That’s one rep, repeat for 10 reps.
5. Lateral Raises
What does the Lateral Raise work: primarily targets the lateral head of the deltoid, but also engages the anterior and posterior heads. A great isolated shoulder exercise.
How to do a Lateral Shoulder Raise:
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.
With slight bend in each arm at the elbow, squeeze to lift the dumbbells, slightly rotating them as you lift so the dumbbells end parallel to the floor. Lifting just to shoulder height.
With control, return to starting position, palms facing inward.
That’s one rep, repeat for 10 reps.
6. Uneven Push Up + Shoulder Tap (5 per side)
What does the Uneven Push Up work: the pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders), triceps and core. The uneven push-up is a great way to add intensity to challenge the core while also targeting the muscles from different angles.
What does the Shoulder Tap work: the core and shoulders. Specifically the transverse abdominals (deep core muscles that wrap around your midsection like a corset) and obliques.
How to do an Uneven Push Up + Shoulder Tap:
Start in high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, weight evenly distributed amongst all 10 fingers. Pull your kneecaps up towards your belly.
Then place your right hand on top of a stable platform (in this case I’m using the head of my 20 lb dumbbell), but you can use a book or yoga block.
Hold the high plank position, maintaining a straight line with your body, gaze slightly in front of you.
Slowly lower your chest down towards the ground, with elbows falling back towards the hips. Maintain a straight line with your body — head, chest and legs in one straight line.
Once at the bottom of your push up, exhale as you push back up into high plank position.
With a tight core, take your left hand off the mat and tap your right shoulder. Keeping both hips stable and square to the ground.
That’s one rep. Complete 5 reps on the right hand and 5 reps on the left hand.
Modification: perform the push ups from the toes and then pop back up to the toes for the shoulder tap if you can.
7. Half Kneeling Hinge + Single Arm Press (10 per side)
What does the Single Arm Shoulder Press work: a great exercise to increase unilateral (single-sided) demands of stability and strength on the shoulder muscles.
How to do a Half Kneeling Hinge and Single Arm Press:
Start in a half kneeling position — right knee on the ground and left foot on the ground.
Hold one dumbbell in the right hand with a neutral grip (palm facing your body).
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).
From here perform a single arm shoulder press. Press the dumbbell straight overhead, locking out the elbow, right bicep should be near right ear.
Slowly lower the dumbbell back down towards the right shoulder and return to the starting position with the dumbbell between the legs.
That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps on the right shoulder and 10 reps on the left shoulder.