This dumbbell workout only uses five moves to build and define shoulder muscle

Train your upper body to increase muscle mass and strength with this short, five move dumbbell shoulder routine

Woman performing shoulder press with one dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty)

Nearly all upper body movements and exercises use your shoulder muscles in some way or other, whether that be lifting heavy bags after grocery shopping, moving furniture, or weight training at the gym. Therefore, it's a good idea to build muscle here and make everyday tasks and exercise that little bit easier for yourself.

If upper body strength is something you're already working on then you may have already been targeting certain areas and using effective exercises from this tricep and chest workout. Training your upper body with some of the best adjustable dumbbells is a great way to build muscle at home and is the only piece of equipment you will need for this shoulder routine.

This dumbbell workout for the shoulders comes from certified personal trainer Lisa Lanceford (opens in new tab), also known as Lisafiitt. Lanceford posts regular muscle and strength-building workouts to her 2.8 million followers on Instagram.

If you're using adjustable weights or if you have different sizes of dumbbells available to use do allow yourself to start off light. This way you can ensure that you nail down the proper form for each exercise, meaning you will learn to engage the right muscles and avoid injury.

Lanceford demonstrates each move for you. You will perform each exercise for 12 reps, repeating the first four moves for three sets. The fifth move involves one partial rep followed by one full rep that you will perform for eight reps in total and also repeat this for three sets.

Watch Lisafiit's Dumbbell Shoulder Workout

A post shared by Lunges & Lols with Lisa (@lisafiitt) (opens in new tab)

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Another good reason to work on improving muscle mass in your shoulders is that it can help avoid lower back pain. If you have a weaker upper body you may find that your lower body muscles have to compensate for the work your arms and shoulders struggle with due to being weaker. 

If you don't have much experience lifting weights for upper body movements you can always just use some lighter household items to practice with at first such as, food cans or bottles. You will still be performing each exercise the same but just building up your strength more gradually to be able to include weights with the five moves listed below.

  • Lateral raise 3 x 12
  • Single arm lateral raise 3 x 12 each arm
  • Around the world 3 x 12
  • Front raise variation 3 x 12
  • Shoulder press with 1 partial rep + 1 full rep 3 x 8

As with any healthy and sustainable fitness program whether you're doing more cardio training, strength, or both, it's important to consume a good diet. Food not only fuels us but can also boost muscle growth. 

Protein is the building block for tissue growth and repair so consuming lean options of protein like chicken, fish, lentils, and beans will all help with recovery and growth. Or adding one of the best protein powders for weight loss to oats or a smoothie can be a useful way to increase your intake.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 


When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.