Dumbbell shoulder exercises should be added into every athlete’s programming. Weak shoulders can prevent an athlete from performing overhead movements like overhead squats, snatches or jerks and gymnastics exercises like handstand walks, pull ups or HSPU properly.
According to the NHS, the shoulder joint is an incredibly complex joint with a very wide range of movement. This means you should take care when training them, but also that strong shoulders are less likely to be injured.
In order to achieve well-rounded shoulders, you’ll want to work them from the front, sides and back. This means spending time developing your deltoids, which are formed by three distinct sets of muscle: the anterior, medial and posterior deltoids. These allow the shoulder to flex, rotate, extend and more.
The shoulders are amongst the most important muscles we use in daily life and help us push, pull and lift things overhead.
Add these dumbbell shoulder exercises into your training to strengthen your shoulders all-round and target potential weaknesses.
Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises – DUMBBELL SHOULDER PRESS
To perform a dumbbell shoulder press stand with your feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Bring the dumbbells to the sides of your shoulders and press them upward until your arms are extended.
Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout. Lower the dumbbells back to the side of your shoulders to finish the movement.
If you feel yourself using other parts of your body to complete the movement try this exercise seated.
“For targeting the anterior deltoid, the dumbbell shoulder press elicited significantly higher muscle activation than any other exercise tested,” a study by the American Council on Exercise and scientists from the Clinical Exercise Physiology program at the University of Wisconsin found.
DUMBBELL BENT OVER ROWS
This is a good exercise to target muscles that you don’t normally use during classic CrossFit workouts. Dumbbell rows from a bent forward posture develop your rear deltoids.
With a dumbbell in each hand, bend your knees slightly and bend your torso forward until you’re almost parallel to the ground. Make sure to keep your back straight and core engaged.
The weights should hand directly in front of you, with your arms hanging perpendicular to the ground. Keeping your elbows close to your body, lift the dumbbells to your side.
DUMBBELL INCLINE ROW
This exercise provides the most muscle activation for the medial deltoid and the posterior deltoid out of all exercises tested in a study focused on strengthening shoulders by the American Council on Exercise.
This exercise should be performed like the dumbbell bent over rows, except the athlete should lye on an incline bench instead of holding their own weight forward.
DUMBBELL LATERAL RAISEThis exercise targets the posterior deltoid and is the one athletes should start with, as this is typically the weakest of the shoulder muscles.
How difficult this exercise is can be altered based upon the loading, tempo, range of motion, and even slight angular differences in the sides. Variations include the bent-arm lateral raise and the seated rear lateral raise.
In a standing position with your legs hip-width apart, start with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms hanging on your sides. With your arms extended slowly raise the weight until you reach shoulder height, pause, then bring your arms back down slowly.
If an athlete isn’t able to perform this exercise without momentum whilst standing, they should take a seat.
HALF KNEELING DUMBBELL PRESS WITH BAND ROW
“The combination of push and pull into a single exercise is a great way to challenge your brains motor control and your mastery of different movement patterns,” says Functional Bodybuilding.
“There’s not one best exercise for targeting the shoulders,” says John P. Porcari, Ph.D., head of the University of Wisconsin’s Clinical Exercise Physiology Department in a study published by Ace.
“Because the shoulder is such a complex joint, Porcari explains, it is impossible for one exercise to maximally activate all three heads of the deltoid muscle at one time,” the study cites.
It found that you have to target the shoulder with more than one exercise and be aware of which area you’re specifically targeting.
“If you’re doing front raises, shoulder presses and lateral raises you’ve actually just doubled up on the anterior deltoid, hit the middle and then totally neglected the posterior deltoid. You’re not getting a well-rounded workout,” said lead researcher Samantha Sweeney, M.S. on the paper.
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