This five-move shoulder workout will build upper body muscle and burn fat

This short resistance session is designed to grow your upper body muscle, particularly your shoulder muscles

The back of a woman lifting dumbbells above her head
(Image credit: Getty)

If you're looking to devote more attention to your shoulder muscles and are ready to build muscle mass and definition in your upper body area, then incorporating some resistance training into your workout is an excellent place to begin. This five-move routine will run you through some of the basics for developing shoulder muscle.

If you've used some of the best workouts for arms in an upper body session before then you've probably noticed that dumbbells are a very popular piece of equipment for building upper body muscle. These are classed as free weights and are staple equipment in most gyms but if you're working out from home, we recommend getting your hands on a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells

Even though this shoulder routine designed by personal trainer Lisa Lanceford (opens in new tab) only includes five exercises, it varies the way you engage your shoulder muscles in order to work out all shoulder muscles. So you will need to use both dumbbells and a cable machine. However, if you don't have access to a cable machine you can simply use a long rope resistance band and loop it around an object like a tree or stair banister. Our guide to the best resistance bands provides suitable options if you'd like to try this workout at home.

Lanceford shows how each exercise should be performed so take your time to learn the correct form. This will not only help to avoid injury but the better your form, the better your results will be.

Watch Lisa Lanceford's Five-Move Shoulder Building Workout

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The shoulders are an obvious place to work on if you want to achieve a more muscular physique as they stand out along the upper body. But having strong shoulder muscles will also enhance everyday activities and exercise. Daily tasks that require the movement of your arms can be made easier when there is power coming from the shoulders and other upper body exercises like the overhead barbell press or performing a pull-up will be easier too. 

The most effective way to continue building muscle and avoid hitting a plateau in your upper body gains is to apply progressive overload to your training. This is where you gradually increase the load or number of reps to your exercises once your muscles get used to the current load or volume of reps you have been working with. This is easy to do with a shoulder dumbbell workout as you just have to move up a weight. Similarly, with the cable machine, you can adjust the load by moving the pin up a weight plate.

If you'd like to try Lanceford's five-move shoulder-building routine, we've listed all the moves you will need below.

  • Alternating lateral raise with hold 3x16
  • Lateral to frontal raise variation 3x10
  • Single arm cable reverse flyes 3x10 on each side
  • Cable upright rows 3x10
  • Single arm cable frontal raises 3x10

Alternatively, if for any reason you would like to mix up your shoulder resistance routines with some bodyweight moves you can experiment with these shoulder bodyweight exercises and find out what works best for you.

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.