Two dumbbells and four moves to build stronger arms and shoulders

Build upper-body strength and make everyday carrying tasks easier with this short, low-equipment routine

Woman doing a dumbbell curl in her living room
(Image credit: Getty)

Lifting weights is can be an effective way to build. And if you're working out from home, forget fancy gym equipment — a pair of dumbbells is all you need to develop strength in your arms.

There are more than 20 muscles in the arms, so it's important to plan that you workouts are varied and target a range of muscles. Fortunately, you can hit every muscle group with just a few weights. 

If you have a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells, you can increase the load you're lifting over time, without investing in a brand new pair of weights which will help you to progressively overload your workouts and get stronger.

While full-body workouts have their place, especially if you're tight on time, this upper-body session from certified personal trainer Berenice Salazar is ideal for targeting your shoulders and triceps. 

The triceps are an often neglected muscle located down the back of your arm, which is responsible for the extension of the elbow. Strengthening the triceps will help you improve your upper-body strength, both practically and aesthetically.

For this routine, you'll want to grab two different dumbbell weights, or pick up a set of adjustable dumbbells. Salazar uses 10lb and 15lb dumbbells, opting for the lighter pair during the front and lateral raises. 

Watch Ladyfit's four-move upper-body workout

Front raises engage your chest and some of the smaller upper-body muscles that isolation exercises like biceps curls don't often reach. You'll also want to ensure that you keep your core tight to isolate your upper-body muscles. 

If you are struggling to move without bending your legs or swinging your hips, it's worth switching to a lighter weight. Or you can do the curls and Arnold press sitting down, which makes sure your legs aren't involved. 

Dumbbell workouts can be quite intense, especially if you're new to resistance training. Handily, you can try these bodyweight exercises for the shoulder instead, which will help you build up strength.

Either way, you'll be working muscles across your upper-body, and will likely feel the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the next day. This is caused by tiny muscle fiber tears that your body needs to repair. 

Your body uses protein to build muscle, repair those tiny tears, and strengthen the fibers. This is why many people blend up a post-workout smoothie with one of the best protein powders for weight loss after a resistance training session.

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.