Open up any bodybuilding magazine and you see headlines such as “Delts to Die For” or “Sexy, Strong Shoulders.” Bodybuilders take their shoulder training seriously because they know that these muscles play a huge part in improving your appearance. But strong shoulders are also necessary everyday arm movements. Whether you’re throwing a ball, passing food across the table, or lifting a suitcase that’s a little too heavy, virtually every upper-body exercise involves your shoulder muscles to some extent.
We speak with two-time Mr. Singapore and Musclemania Asia Pro winner Adrian Tan of UFIT to guide us through 5 dumbbell exercises he uses to strengthen his shoulders and build that world-class physique.
This workout is meant to target specific muscle groups so complete all the sets for each exercise before moving on to the next one. Remember form is all-important so feel free to adjust the reps and sets to ensure you are able to perform each exercise safely and with proper form.
1. Seated Dumbbell Press (12 Reps x 3 Sets)
Tip: This exercise can be performed while sitting on the end of a flat bench, but a back rest is preferred - especially for those with lower back problems. Always use the longest range of motion possible and control the dumbbells throughout the set.
Benefits: The seated dumbbell press is one of the most popular mass builders for the shoulders, and as a secondary benefit it also works your triceps.
2. Side Lateral Raises (12 Reps x 3 Sets)
Tip: To ensure that the side delts are performing the bulk of the work, always make sure that your hands and elbows are directly in line with eachother as you raise the weights up, and that one is not higher or lower than the other.
Benefits: Side lateral raises target that often hard-to-hit lateral head of the shoulder (also referred to as the “side delts”), which is the most important of the 3 shoulder heads to develop if you really want to maximize your overall delt width and thickness.
3. Bent Over Dumbbell Laterals (12 Reps x 3 Sets)
Tip: This exercise can also be done standing, just remember do not bounce your knees and rock your upper body to add momentum to your reps.
Benefit: This exercise works your deltoids, with a primary emphasis on the rear head of the three-headed muscle.
4. Upright Dumbbell Rows (12 Reps x 3 Sets)
Tip: When dumbbells are raised, wrists should be in front or just below of shoulders; elbows should be to sides, not pointing forward.
Benefit: A shoulder-building mainstay since the days of Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno, the upright row hits the delts, it builds the traps, and you see results fast.
5. Shoulder Shrugs (12 Reps x 3 Sets)
Tip: Do not roll your shoulders backward, which does nothing for your upper traps and may result in a shoulder injury.
Benefit: Shoulder shrugs target your upper trapezius muscles, also known as the traps. From an aesthetic point of view, well-developed upper traps result in a powerful-looking physique, and many bodybuilders work hard to develop this muscle.
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