Build big shoulders-with dumbbells

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You can build big shoulders with dumbbells in the gym or at home, all you need is a set of dumbbells. They don’t take up much room and they’re easy to store if you work out at home.

Developing muscular shoulders can’t go unseen very well, especially when you wear a tank top. A well-developed set of shoulders can stand out on the beach or anywhere spectators may pass by and gaze at your set of shoulders and dream of having an impressive muscular build that you do.

There can be a lot of enjoyment out of training shoulders because there is a wide range of exercises that you can do, and you don’t need a gym to train shoulders. Quite often I do my entire workouts just with a pair of dumbbells.

For this type of shoulder training, you not only need a pair of dumbbells, but you can also do similar workouts with kettle bells. Today’s subject we will be talking about weight training with dumbbells and how you can arrange your workouts with a versatile style of exercises just with dumbbells.

Why dumbbells?

Training heavy has always been a mainstay of bodybuilding. Generally where heavy training is perceived, most bodybuilders go about training heavy incorporating barbells, this gives them the ability to train heavier.

When incorporating dumbbells, a person is not able to train as heavy as they can with barbells, but the advantage with using dumbbells is you can get to a wider range with your exercises and you can also accomplish twisting and rotating your hands to achieve a further range of motion to develop the muscle.

There are other variations to dumbbell exercises that you can achieve with other equipment most commonly found in gyms such as upper and lower cable systems and kettle bells.

For example, you can imitate the dumbbell side lateral with a lower cable weight machine. Often gyms have weight machines that you can attach a single grip handle to a lower pulley and replicate the side lateral.

Often you can find gyms that have these low and high cable pulley system machines positioned where you will have one on each side of you and ,you can replicate the side laterals with both hands at once, you can also do the same with rear laterals.

Other typical dumbbell shoulder exercises that you can replicate with a low pulley system and a short handle attachment are the upright rows and the front laterals.

There are always other various options you can do with other equipment, but the advantage of using dumbbells is your range of motion and your ability to do a wide variety of exercises targeting all muscle groups with minimal equipment that can be done in your own home.



Training heavy

Take a look at many of the top bodybuilders today, how do you see them training, most of the time you see them pumping out heavy weights with barbells. Barbells give you the ability to accommodate a heavier working load which will induce muscle stimulation to a greater degree.

That’s why all those power lifting moves you see like the bench press, squat, dead lift, snatch and clean and jerk are always performed with a barbell.

These exercises can be performed with dumbbells, but you won’t be able to lift as much and you won’t achieve the same stability performing these exercises with dumbbells as you would with a barbell.

Barbells will give you greater muscle stimulation than dumbbells when it comes to your overall working load, “how much you can lift”, but dumbbells will give you a greater muscle stimulation when it comes to versatility in motion and a wider range of targeted muscle development through targeted angels.

An example of versatility in motion is the Arnold press. To develop the front head of the shoulder, “anterior head”, to achieve the greatest amount of weight pressed overhead, you would need to do the military presses or the press behind the neck.

To get a wider range of motion by a slight rotation to the hands, you can do the dumbbell presses. When you perform the Arnold press, your hands make a 180° turn while the Arnold press is in motion.

An example of a wider range of targeted muscle development through targeted angels would be the rear laterals. The rear laterals target the rear head of the shoulder, aka “posterior head”.

There are barbell exercises that will have a degree of negative impact on the posterior deltoid, basically any exercise you do for your back will have some effect on the posterior deltoid.

In order to work the posterior deltoid to a 100% execution level, it is necessary to perform the rear laterals. This is another relevant form for keying in full muscular development through incorporating dumbbells.

Is versatility the key?

Can you build a well-developed set of shoulders with one or two exercises? You can develop your shoulders to a degree and you will no doubt achieve a muscle pump which will feel good and probably lead you to believe that you are doing something positive towards having a future set of developed deltoids.

But in all reality, your deltoids will not have a balanced look, they will lack in appeal, especially if you are involved in body shows, and if one area of your body is under- developed, it can result in a weak link and possible injury in the future.

So when we are talking about versatility, what exactly is meant? Training versatility could mean training at different times, frequencies or duration. But to be more precise, I am talking about targeting a specific muscle group with a wide variety of angels and training systems.

There are three heads to the deltoid, first there is the front, “anterior head” of the deltoid which is worked through doing overhead pressing exercises and front laterals. This region is also negatively impacted by other exercises like the bench press.

Second is the side head of the deltoid, “medial head”. This region of the deltoid comes into play when raising your arms out to their sides as in doing any form of the side laterals, either done with dumbbells, kettle bells or low cable systems.

Another exercise that will target the medial head of the deltoid is the upright rows. Upright rows can be accomplished either with barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, low cable systems, or anything of an adequate amount of weight and with a little imagination.

An advantage to performing the upright rows with dumbbells is a little tweak to your wrists. When holding the dumbbells at arm’s length down, your palm’s will be facing inwards, “palm’s towards your thighs”.

Keep the outside of the weight high and the inside of the weight tipped slightly lower, doing this and keeping a shoulder width grip will help to target your medial deltoid to a fuller degree.

Third is the rear head of the deltoid, “posterior head”. This head of the deltoid is targeted through doing rear laterals. You will also achieve some posterior deltoid activity through performing rowing exercises when training back.

Training systems

One of the most common training systems that I believe works great with doing shoulders is tri-sets.

Tri-sets are when you perform three exercises back-to-back with no rest between each exercise, between tri-sets you will rest a minimum of 60 seconds, no longer than 90 seconds.

What I find works the best is when you set up the format of your tri-sets, is to have one exercise target your anterior head, a second exercise target your medial head and the third exercise target your posterior deltoid.

Example 1 tri-set

  1. Dumbbell presses /front deltoid
  2. Side laterals, palm’s down/side deltoid
  3. Rear laterals, palm’s down/rear deltoid

Example 2 tri-set

  1. Arnold press/front deltoid
  2. Side laterals, palm’s up/side deltoid
  3. Rear laterals, palm’s back/rear deltoid

*The first exercise for either example can be alternated with front laterals.

*The second exercise for either example can be alternated with upright rows.

After you do 5 tri-sets of 3 exercises, this would be basically the same as doing 15 straight sets of the same exercises. Doing your shoulder training performed as tri-sets will reduce the duration of a workout but will increase the intensity.



A list of dumbbell exercises

Below is a list of the more common shoulder training exercises, as performed with dumbbells.

Frequency and volume

Is frequency and volume important when it comes to training shoulders? Training frequency is how often each week you train a body part, volume is the duration of each workout, or how long you’re training session is per day.


In the example of this content, here is an idea that you can base you’re training schedule from, for your weekly shoulder training schedule.

*This is based on following a push-pull method


  • Sunday-rest day
  • Monday-chest, shoulders, triceps
  • Tuesday-thighs, calves and core
  • Wednesday-back, traps and biceps
  • Thursday-shoulders, chest and triceps
  • Friday-thighs, calves and core
  • Saturday-traps, back and biceps

In this example, you are giving your shoulders a minimum of 72 hours rest, or ‘three days’ in between training sessions.


The total volume of you’re training can be based on your actual weight-training session, and any cardio involved.

If you do an overall 15 sets for shoulders, this should take approximately 30 minutes. Based on this outline, below is an example of a typical push-muscle day and your overall training volume for that day.

  • 15 sets for shoulders/30 minutes
  • 15 sets for chest/30 minutes
  • 15 sets for triceps/30 minutes

Total- 1 1/2 hours + 30 minutes for cardio = 2 hours total volume

Many pro-athletes would take a program like this example and split it up into 2 training sessions per Lean bodybuilderday. 1, ‘one hour session’ in the morning and 1, ‘one hour session in the evening’.


This post should give you a pretty good idea of how to form a training routine and what it takes to build muscular shoulders.

Your own personal training program should be like your fingerprint, it should be your own, designed for your own specific needs and formulated around your goals.

If everyone’s training involved the same principles and the same tactics, it would be pretty easy to come up with a training program, just do what some other guy is doing, but everything isn’t always so straight forward.

Coming up with your own unique tailored training program is something that needs to fit your schedule, your own personal preference, you’re training style and last but not least is something that you are going to be happy with doing.

If you are not happy with what you are doing in the gym, it will affect your results and if you even stick with it.

I hope this information has been helpful to you and will guide you in coming up with a sound training program of your own that you will be proud of the results that can benefit you.

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If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below and I will be happy to get back to you as soon as possible.


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