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 The Best Dumbbell Shoulder Workout For Mass Monster Status

Best Dumbbell Shoulder Workout For MassThe best dumbbell shoulder workout for mass places your Deltoids in a titanic battle from front to back and side to side.

The best dumbbell shoulder workout for mass places your Deltoids in a titanic battle from front to back and side to side. All you have at your disposal is this information-filled article and the desire to grow. Right now you may have some questions like…

How do you get big shoulders with dumbbells?

What are the best dumbbell shoulder exercises to get to mass-monster status?

By the end of this read, you will be fully prepared to go into to battle!

Table of Contents

1: Function of each Deltoid Head

2: Workout 1

3: Workout 2

4: Reps & Sets

5: Intensity Techniques

6: Build The Rest of Your Physique

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Psymon HPsymon H., 51 Year Old Natural Bodybuilder

Hi, I’m Psymon H., your online training partner, and the driver behind undoubtedly the best muscle-building home workout program, the BIG-UP Training System; and in this article, I'm going to get straight down to business and help you build bigger, wider, and rounder shoulders. With that being said, massive shoulders aren’t free; you have to pay your dues and put time inside and outside of the gym.

Before we kick off the show, it’s important to have some understanding of the shoulder area because once we understand this, it’s much easier to appreciate and recognize why certain exercises make the best dumbbell shoulder workout for mass.

What are the 3 shoulder muscles and their function?

The deltoid muscle is the major muscle of the shoulder and is made up of three muscle heads, the anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid, and posterior deltoid.

Each deltoid head has different insertion points which allow for a full range of motion and control at the shoulder joint. The anterior deltoid head (aka, the front deltoid) works closely with the pectoralis major muscle and is the hardest of all three deltoid heads to isolate because the pectoralis major (a much bigger muscle) does the same three jobs as the anterior deltoid…

1: Forward flexion of the shoulder (lifting the arm from the front)

2: Abduction of the shoulder (transverse or horizontal adduction as in a chest press)

3: Medial rotation of the shoulder

Of the three deltoid heads, the anterior deltoid is the head that is most likely to be overdeveloped because it acts as a helper's muscle and is involved in every chest exercise.

The lateral deltoid head gives your shoulders their width and rotates the shoulder joint laterally moving the arm outward. This is often referred to as abduction; and as the origin and insertion points are in line with each other, the medial head doesn’t have the same rotation role as the Anterior and Posterior deltoid.

The Posterior Deltoid (aka the rear delts) has three roles…

1: As it originates from the back-side of the body, it will extend the shoulder backward and hyperextend the shoulder, pulling it back behind your Back.

2: When the arm is in an abducted position, it will pull that back in what is called Transverse abduction

3: Since it wraps around the arm and inserts on the lateral aspect, when it pulls it will externally rotate the shoulder.

With the anatomy and motion of the rear Deltoid, and because they have the opposite functions of the anterior deltoid: extension, horizontal extension, and external rotation of the shoulder joint, you have to get your arm and elbow up and behind the line of your back to get full contraction of the muscle. Now we know the motion and importance of each deltoid muscle, let’s go ahead and raise some dumbbells.

Look after your rearmost view by reading our Dumbbell Rear Delt  Fly Master Class article. 

Rear Delt Flies

What’s The Best Dumbbell Shoulder Workout For Mass?

As I'm a firm believer in having training options and also because I like to over-deliver, I'm going to give you two dumbbell shoulder workouts that will target and grow all three deltoid heads. Each exercise will come with pictures and cues to help you to be up and running on your next workout.

Not only will I show you what I consider to be the best dumbbell shoulder exercises, and how to grow your shoulders with dumbbells, at the end of the two workouts, I will also give you some example of sets and reps for beginners, intermediates and advanced and an intensity technique to take your shoulder mass training with dumbbells to a new level. 

Mission Jacked Tip: Bookmark this page so you always have it available as a reference.

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Delt Flys

Workout 1:

Exercise 1: The Seated Arnold Press

The Seated Arnold PressThe Seated Arnold Press - Position One

While the Seated Dumbbell Press is an excellent compound mass builder, I figured you may have done your fair share of dumbbell presses, so I thought we would shake things up with an equally solid shoulder mass builder as our first movement. This exercise will terrorize more than your three deltoid heads; it will go after your Trapezius, Triceps, Rotator Cuff muscles and upper chest in the process.

Items Needed: One pair of dumbbells and an upright bench.

Cue 1: Sit upright on a bench with your back firmly resting against the pad. Have a dumbbell in each hand and have them set at a 90-degree angle to your shoulders with palms facing away from you. Tense your core and take a deep breath in.  Exhale as you press the dumbbells directly overhead. Slowly bring the dumbbells down to the start position.

The Seated Arnold Press - Position TwoThe Seated Arnold Press - Position Two
The Seated Arnold Press - Position ThreeThe Seated Arnold Press - Position Three

Cue 2:  After lowering the dumbbells, bring your elbows in front of you, maintaining a 90-degree angle from the dumbbells to your shoulders.

The Seated Arnold Press - Position FourThe Seated Arnold Press - Position 4

Cue 3: You will feel your rear delts activate as you bring the elbows back to the start position for the second repetition.

The Seated Arnold Press - Position 5The Seated Arnold Press - Position 5

Seated Rear Delt Fly

The Best Dumbbell Shoulder Workout For Mass – Exercise 2:
Seated True Lateral Raises

Seated True Lateral Raises - Position OneSeated True Lateral Raises - Position One

If you find yourself using lots of movement during a lateral raise, a great way to focus your mind on the lateral deltoid head is to flare your Lats out at the start of the movement which naturally places the dumbbells in a higher position instead of starting with them touching your Thighs. By doing this, you can stop momentum and limit the involvement of the rotator cuff muscles which initiates the first 15-degrees of the movement when you start with the dumbbells touching your thighs. This is the reason why I call this version True Lateral Raises and added it to the best dumbbell shoulder workout for mass.

Items Needed: One pair of dumbbells and one flat bench.

Cue 1: Sit upright on a flat bench with dumbbells in hand and flare out your Lats, making sure the dumbbells are not touching your thighs or the side of the bench.

Cue 2:  With almost straight arms, concentrate on smoothly leading the dumbbells up to shoulder height with your elbows, rather than throwing the weight up using momentum. At the top of the movement, pause briefly before returning to the start position.

Rear Delt Flys

The important note to make here is that the start position isn't by your thighs but almost halfway up. Your speed needs to be slow enough to feel the movement. If you don't suffer from any shoulder impingements, you can also aim to bring your little finger higher at the top of the movement. 

Dumbbell Rear Delt Fly

Exercise 3: Single-Arm Reverse Fly Variation- Bent Over Underhand Dumbbell Row

For this single-arm rear delt exercise, we're going to get the elbow up and behind the line of the back to get a full contraction of the muscle. Start light and get the feel of the movement first before progressing in weight. If you need to focus on additional rear delt work, take a peek at our 5 Best Rear Delt Dumbbell Exercises For a 3 Dimensional Look article.

Items Needed: One dumbbell

Cue 1: Take the dumbbell in your left hand with a reverse grip and hinge over at the hips. Spread your feet shoulder-width apart and have the dumbbell in between your legs.

Cue 2: Keeping your torso square on with the reverse grip, bring the dumbbell up to shoulder height while squeezing the rear Deltoid. 

Because knowledge is power and power builds muscle, learn more about the db rear delt fly.

Rear Delt Dumbbell

The Best Dumbbell Shoulder Workout For Mass Workout 2:

Exercise 1: Kneeling One Arm Band/Bell Press

Kneeling One Arm Band/Bell Press - Position One

When it comes to the best dumbbell shoulder workout for mass, we're going to kick things off with another dumbbell press variation. This time we take a knee and decide between option 1: doing the kneeling single-arm press with one dumbbell, or option 2: taking things to the next level and adding a band to add more tension at the top of the movement…You Decide!

Start with a moderate weight and keep your torso as upright as possible throughout the movement. If you start to bend excessively to the opposite side you're pressing on, the weight is too heavy.

Items Needed: Light resistance band and one dumbbell.

Cue 1: Kneel on one knee and secure the band under your front foot. Place the other end of the band in the palm of your hand (on the side you’ll be pressing), and pick up the dumbbell.

Cue 2: Start with the dumbbell set at a 45-degree angle and keep your torso as straight as possible. Tighten your core and lift your chest.

Kneeling One Arm Band/Bell Press - Position 2Kneeling One Arm Band/Bell Press - Position 2

Cue 3: Smoothly press the dumbbell overhead before returning it to the start position.

Bent Over Fly

Exercise 2: The Face-Forward Lateral Raise

This lateral raise variation squeezes its way into the best dumbbell shoulder workout for mass simply because it will put your Lateral Delts on notice. With just a few tweaks to the traditional side raise, you can throw a slightly different stimulus on the muscle. If you need to focus on additional lateral work, you can look at our 7 Dumbbell Side Raise Variations article.

Items Needed: Incline bench and a pair of dumbbells.

Cue 1: Set up your bench at a high incline and sit facing in. Start by flaring out your Lats and moving the dumbbells away from the side of the bench.

Cue 2: Rather than raising your dumbbells out to the side, you’re going to raise them out at a 45-degree angle in front of you to shoulder height.

Cue 3: As you reach the top of the movement, slightly tilt your dumbbells as if you are pouring coffee. Smoothly and under control, bring the dumbbells back to the start position.

Cue 4: Flare your Lats out at the start of each repetition.

Bent Over Flys

Get Your shoulder fly muscles popping

Exercise 3: The Rear Delt Sweep (aka Bench Rear Delt Fly)

This is a great exercise to add to the best dumbbell shoulder workout for mass because it overwhelms the Rear Deltoids and activates growth. Like with every movement, execution is crucial. I call this reverse fly variation a Rear Delt Sweep simply because when you concentrate on sweeping the dumbbells in a bigger semi-circle motion, you create better tension in the rear delts.

Rear Delt Fly Like Your Deltoids Depend On It!

Items Needed: Incline bench & a pair of dumbbells.

Cue 1: Lean over an incline bench set between a 45 and 60-degree angle. Make sure to walk your feet right under your shoulders to add more stability.

Cue 2: With dumbbells in hand, palms facing each other, and arms remaining almost straight, raise the dumbbells out to the side in a sweep motion, until your elbows are slightly higher than the line of your Shoulders.

Cue 3: Hold for a brief second before lowering the dumbbells to the start position, trying to maintain as full a motion as possible.

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Best Dumbbell Shoulder Workout For Mass Reps, Sets, and Reps in Reserve:


Your sets will depend on whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced lifter. For beginners, I would recommend up to 3 working sets per exercise, and for intermediates and advanced lifters, using upwards of 5 sets per exercise. Your ability to recover will dictate your performance.

Reps & Reps In Reserve:

For reps and reps in reserve (RIR), you could use anything from 5 – 20 repetitions per set, aiming to leave 2 repetitions in reserve on all working sets. This will ensure that you are achieving maximum motor unit recruitment. If you train shoulders twice per week, you could train in the 6-8 rep range on workout one and in the 10-15 rep range on workout 2.

You must warm-up and warm down on every workout session to help avoid injuries and aid recovery.

Training Blocks:

I would recommend implementing training blocks of 4 weeks to focus on mass building. On the fifth week, you should take a Deload week when intensity and volume are reduced for the whole week to give your body time to lose the fatigue and for your Ligaments and Tendons to heal.

Intensity Techniques For The Best Dumbbell Shoulder Workout For Mass

Rep Targeting:

For this muscle-building technique, you choose one of the above movements, set a rep target, and obtain that repetition goal no matter how many sets it takes to achieve. Here's an example of what it could look like using Rep Targeting.

• Our target is 50 repetitions with a weight that may allow you 15 reps to failure (of course, you could use 30 -40 reps but no lower than 30 repetitions. Say on set one, you achieved 15 reps.

• Rest up to 30 seconds

• You perform 10 more reps to failure

• Rest up to 30 seconds

• Achieve 8 reps to failure

• Rest up to 30 seconds

• Complete 7 reps to failure

• Rest up 30 seconds

• Perform 5 repetitions to failure

• Rest 30 seconds

• Perform 5 reps to failure

• Complete!

I consider this to be the best dumbbell shoulder workout for mass. I hope this article has been helpful in answering the question of how do you get big shoulders with dumbbells?

If you've enjoyed this read, I would greatly appreciate it if you would link to, and share this information on your social media platforms by using the share buttons 

dumbbell shoulder fly

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